I am so excited to be interviewing Elana Johnson today. I met Elana on the Query Tracker forum. I had posted a query and Elana offered to help me with it. That day changed my life. I emailed her and asked if she would read my manuscript. A week later we formed a critique group. That was more than nine months ago.
Since that time, not only has she helped me develop my craft as a writer, she has become one of my closest friends. I honestly can’t image writing a novel without her input, or going a week without one of our marathon chats.
When she told me she was writing her e-book, From The Query to The Call, I was so excited. Not only does this book fill an important niche, but Elana is able to do it with her trademark humor and style. More on that tomorrow.
I asked Elana if I could get in her head and ask her a few questions. She graciously agreed. So without further adieu, I present the fabulous Elana Johnson, author of From The Query to The Call.
Christne Fonseca (CF): What is the biggest difficulty you see with writing an effective query?
Elana Johnson (EJ): In my experience, writers have a hard time getting to the main conflict of their novel. They want to spend so much time setting everything up, from character details to the fancy world they’ve created to the relationships. And books are about conflict. Along with that is the fallout of the conflict. Most of the queries I’ve seen are missing the consequence if the MC can’t solve their problem. And if I don’t know what the stakes are, why do I care?
CF: What prompted you to write From The Query to The Call?
EJ: I wrote this ebook because I wish wish wish I had something like this when I started. From the Query to the Call is 63 pages, and it contains everything a writer needs to know from the time they decide they want to query literary agents to the time they sign with said agent.
There’s so much conflicting information out there, and the sheer volume of it is enough to scare away Hercules! I remember feeling like I was treading water, barely keeping my head above the crashing waves, as I searched for the information I needed on how to find a literary agent. I literally spent hours and hours searching for a single piece of information. Thus, I wrote this book so authors could have the one guide that has everything they need in one convenient place.
CF: Why did you choose an e-book format for the book?
EJ: You know, I actually went through the process of writing a non-fiction proposal for From the Query to the Call.And I just couldn’t see the book as an in-print book. There are over 130 clickable links in the ebook, something I couldn’t achieve with a piece of paper. The links go to websites and blog posts for fast, easy retrieval of the best information available. Information that I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t find when I needed it. The ebook is designed as a guide—no, THE guide—every aspiring author needs, with the information they need (or a clickable link to what they need) at their fingertips in one convenient place, by someone who’s been where they are. Done what they’re doing. Found what they need to find.
I wanted the book to be all-encompassing, without being overly long. And providing links was the way I decided to do it. Therefore, the ebook was born!
CF: What was the hardest part of the adventure for you?
EJ: Honestly? Compiling the darn thing into a .PDF! Oh, and then my husband said I needed to add a works cited page. That caused an hour or two (okay a whole day) of panic. Other than that, I think the one thing that’s the hardest for me is something that plagues every artist: self-doubt.
CF: What is your goal with the book?
EJ: My goal is to share what I’ve learned over the past two years with others. There is something about writers, something that bonds us together. We feel close to those that experience the same things we do. And I think I’ve been through just about everything on this grand adventure of query writing, querying and submitting.
I also want to hear agents everywhere saying the quality of the query letters they receive is increasing. We as authors need to send our very best letter—and From the Query to the Call provides step-by-step instructions for how to craft that killer query letter. We also need to present ourselves in a professional manner, and the ebook gives many examples of how to do this when sending submissions, receiving rejections and speaking with agents.
CF: What is the hardest aspect of finding an agent, in your opinion?
EJ: Finding an agent is like finding a spouse. And for those of us that are married, or have ever been married, or have tried to get married, we know how hard that is. When we’re rejected (both in querying and in dating) we wonder, Is it us or them? We always fear it’s us. The biggest obstacle, the hardest thing, is dealing with the fear. Because out of fear comes self-doubt. And that’s when people stop believing in themselves and just give up.
CF: What advice do you have for writers regarding the querying process?
EJ: Believe. Work hard. Don’t give up. Get better. Finish strong. (In that order. If you don’t believe, why would you work hard? Once you’re working hard, don’t give up. Just get better. And always, always finish what you start. And finish it strong.)
Thanks for stopping by Elana. I loved the chance to interview you.
Up tomorrow…a review of Elan’s new ebook. See you then!