Guest Post: Agent Amy Brewer and Debut Author Dana Swift and Cast in Fireflight Giveaway
Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Dana Swift here with her agent Amy Brewer to share about her YA debut Cast in Fireflight. It sounds like a fantasy story with a unique magical system and hidden identities.
Here’s a blurb from :
The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.
Adraa[/b] is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.
Jatin[/b] is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who's mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.
Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery's most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.
Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross...and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.
Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery's fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it's complicated[/i] and bound for greatness or destruction.
Now here’s Dana and Amy!
So glad to be here today! Thank you, Literary Rambles.
I think the best place to begin is the beginning. So, let me start with how I met my agent, Amy Brewer. And yes, met!
In 2018 I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference, which is run and hosted by the DFW Writer’s workshop. At the time I was an active member and officer so I helped out where I could.
On the Friday night before the event, I was at a cocktail hour, surrounded by my writing found family and literary agents. At one point I had a question for the President of the Workshop and when I found her, she was talking to an agent. The President introduced us and said the nicest thing a fellow writer can say, “Dana has a great book,” before leaving.
This was my first pitch of that conference and I hadn’t even walked over to pitch my work. The notecards in my head were still undefined and scrambled. But I did it. I told this lovely woman who my main character was and what she wanted in the world and then blurted out bits and pieces of conflict and comparison titles. By the end I was a pile of nerves, wondering aloud if that pitch even made sense. And it must have because Amy Brewer from Metamorphosis Literary Agency asked for the full manuscript of what would become CAST IN FIRELIGHT. A book that will hit shelves tomorrow after ten years of striving for this dream of publication.
Anything you would you like to add in regard to our first meeting and my pitch? What drew you in and made you request? And what do you recommend when pitching an agent, be that in person or through cold querying?
I loved the casual nature of the DFW cocktail hour where the staff and DFW team got to
socialize and chat with the agents and editors freely. You may have felt like it was a messy pitch but the main characters, plot, and hook, got me immediately. Just like the title of the prologue in Cast in Firelight “I Meet the Love of My Life and Slap Him in the Face” That is the kind of attention getter that I love. You also had the time and grace to explain that your manuscript had beta readers and that you knew the YA fantasy genre inside and out and that was a real plus for me asking for the full manuscript and not just a few chapters. When I read it the first time, I knew the ending wasn’t right and I gave Dana a revise and resubmit. She must have worked night and day because she resubmitted it within two weeks. I knew that any writer that had that kind of drive and passion was/is the kind of writer I want to work with.
When pitching an agent, I recommend practicing with friends in writing groups and beta readers. Both for queries and in-person pitches. Even if you say or read the words out loud and get feedback from friends it will get better. I also recommend doing a practice Twit-pitch just so you can narrow down your concept into acceptable elevator pitch form. Know your genre, know your word count, know what your plot points and hook are… and breath.
Oh wow, thank you Amy! I actually love the editing process more than drafting. Since getting an agent and editor I seem to thrive when I know what direction to take the book and make changes for the better. Plus, deep down I think I also felt the ending was a little off. You pushed me and gave me enough freedom to create a much better ending. It’s a shame I can’t say more about what I did wrong and what Amy advised, but I don’t want to spoil anyone. Maybe in a few months I’ll talk about it in depth for fellow writers who want to see how I changed so much in such a short turn around.
From an author’s point of view, I think pitching in person is a little different than writing the query. First, I begin differently. On a query I start with why I am querying a particular agent, inputting the research I found that led me to think we’d be a good match, or the agent would like the book. In-person I start with a more basic introduction: my name, the books title and its genre. Second, I shorten my in-person pitch to be a more basic one or two sentence summary. Amy’s advice on practicing and perfecting your pitch for Twitter pitching opportunities like PitMad is a great idea.
After the introduction and shortened pitch if the agent seems interested or has immediate follow up questions it devolves into more of a conversation, which makes the whole thing more relaxed and casual. On a written query I make it look/sound similar to the blurb on the back of a book, which is how you want your query to read.
I know many people won’t have the opportunity to go to conferences, and especially in the last year and months to come. But, it’s always a good skill to learn how to verbally describe your book (though I know it’s difficult) to better understand the premise and selling points. I’ve also been hearing about virtual conferences opportunities.
What do you think of the virtual conferences? How are they different than in-person? Any advice for pitching authors?
I’ve had the honor of doing some virtual conference this year and I enjoyed them. When it came to pitches I feel like the authors were more comfortable because they were pitching from their own homes. They also asked more questions and I was happy to see that. What was missing from the online conference were the casual meet and greet situations that I really love about in-person conferences. Being online takes away my ability to alleviate author anxiety by being anonymous. I enjoy sitting down amongst authors and listening to them talk about books casually with their friends and conference mates. I like weighing in on questions and being part of groups without the gravitas of my title.
If I hear something that clicks with me, I will ask if the author is represented and then make a request. The brilliant and wonderful editor, Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks likes to have knit and pitch workshops where she knits and authors can knit or craft or color while they pitch to her and chat with friends in a casual environment. If authors can forget that you are an agent or editor and feel more comfortable chatting, we see deeper insight into the book, not just the highlights. Writing a book is personal and forcing that book into a one-page query or elevator pitch is painful because it becomes less personal, it is the authors first step toward making it a business. That is why the casual, at home, relaxed, knit-n-pitch is a great way to find authors.
I love how you try to make writers comfortable and knit-n-pitches sounds amazing. Overall, I miss events so much. 2020 has been such a year. For me, it’s meant a lot of learning how to debut in a time where debuting has changed in major ways very quickly. I think networking for one has been so hard. I had many plans to attend local writing events and meet more authors. So, there has been a feeling of isolation. But at the same time, I’ve gone to virtual events I would never have been able to and connected online with my debut group in such wonderful ways. The writing community has always been supportive, but this year I think so many fellow writers have lent a helping hand in regard to promotion and being there to listen to each other talk through our own struggles.
How did 2020 change work as an agent? What’s major differences in your daily routine and/or yearly? And if there aren’t any big changes what is an average day as agent like?
I feel very lucky because I’ve always worked remotely as an agent. I have to, I live in Oklahoma. Before 2020, I had no issues jumping on a flight to either coast to do what needed to be done. So, just like everyone else in 2020 it is all done by Zoom meeting now. It evened the playing field in a way for me, because now the New York and L.A agents are in a similar boat. I have found that some editors are more apt to chat on the phone now because they miss the office environment and all of the book talk that we so love.
My routine has changed because my boys are at home. I have two teen sons and though I feel immensely lucky that they are old enough to learn online without any guidance from me, I miss the quiet reading time.
I guess my routine has changed because I sleep later now. Now I sleep till a luxurious 7am. I have coffee and check social media and wake-up and start returning emails within the hour. If I send an email before 8 am there will be a grammar mistake in it, I guarantee. Then it is calls or zoom meetings with editors and clients. I try to lunch away from my desk and in the afternoons I read and I research editors and shop manuscripts. That has changed too, before Covid, I generally knew when staff meetings were and when editors were most responsive, that has all gone sideways. There were “seasons” for when it was a good time to shop, and all of that has changed. I think the biggest changes have yet to unfold. Penguin Random House acquiring Simon and Schuster will have huge ripple effects throughout the industry. BEA in New York has been permanently canceled and I look forward to seeing what develops out of that void. I could go on and on. Overall, I look forward to the future and I know that no matter what changes come to this industry both good and bad, we will still exist because people love stories.
It's so interesting how you were able to adapt and thrive because you were already working remotely. I know for me one thing in my routine that hasn’t changed is reading books. I’ve always loved Romance, but this year in particular I’ve been reading romance a lot more. Of course, I will always love fantasy stories as well. Some of favorites this year include: TWEET CUTE by Emma Lord, SHIELDED by KayLynn Flanders, BY THE BOOK by Amanda Sellet, and in adult romance, YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle.
2021 books I’m anticipating include: HAPPILY EVER AFTERS by Elise Bryant (which just came out Jan 5th), PRIDE AND PREMEDITATION by Tirzah Price, THESE FEATERED FLAMES by Alexandra Overy and A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN by Laura Rueckert. Plus so many more!
What books are you liking right now? Since I imagine readers want to know - any insights into what you want to see in your inbox?
This is a hard one for me because I rarely need to venture outside my in-box for entertainment. Almost everything I read and love is published 2-3 years after I read it. That being said, the minute I get my delivery of Cast in Firelight, I’ll be settling down with a big cup of tea to have a blissful reread. Today, I’m finishing the soon to be released Tasty Dish, by Kelly Cain. Tasty Dish is a diverse contemporary romance and the second book in her Everheart Brothers series. The brothers are all chefs and they all find love in different ways and I love them so much. All of the books combine my favorite things, food, humor, angst and love.
Outside my in-box, I’m a total fan-girl. To be fair, I’m a fan-girl of all of my authors too. I’m anxiously awaiting Gena Showalter’s next book in her Gods of War series. I am patiently waiting for Patrick Rothfuss to publish his next book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series. I also hope I can read your fellow Delacorte author Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series this year. I just bought N.K Jemisin’s, The City We Became and I can’t wait to dive into that one. I love her.
I was going to say that I’m reading more contemporary romance at the moment and enjoying light and positive works but I’m obviously waiting on several sci-fi fantasies too. I also think Bridgerton has inspired me to possibly take on another great historical romance author. As per my usual, I’m open to almost anything as long as it captivates my heart and imagination.
You can see her wish list and how to query her here:
Thank you so much Amy! You were the first person to see potential in CAST IN FIRELIGHT and now it is one day away from hitting the shelves and e-readers. The journey was long and filled with huge joys like seeing the cover for the first time and holding the final book in my hands to disappointments and hardship with a Pandemic, but thank you for being there with me through it all.
Thank you, Dana, I always appreciate to opportunity to chat about books. It is easy to recognize a wonderful book like your Cast in Firelight. Your imagination, creativity, and earnest heart have birthed brilliant, complex, and deep characters and you placed them in a world like no other. Your courage, strength, and work ethic has left little for me to worry about. You deserve every success. That being said… get writing on the next book.
I’m on it! In fact I can’t wait to dive back into edits for CAST IN FIRELIGHT’s sequel after the first one releases, and then onto starting a whole new book!
Thanks for all the advice, Dana and Amy! You can find Dana at:
Dana has generously offered a hardback of Cast in Firelight and Amy has generously offered a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by January 30th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. only and the critique query is international.
Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways
Wednesday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tricia Skinner and query critique giveaway
Monday, January 25th I have an interview with debut author Chrystal Giles and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Take Back the Block
Wednesday, January 27th I have an interview with author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of Everything That Burns as part of her blog tour
Wednesday, February 3rd I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Gruenke and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Of Silver and Shadow and my IWSG post
Monday, February 8th I have an interview with debut author Kristy Boyce and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Hot British Boyfriend
Wednesday, February 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Abigail Frank and a query critique giveaway
Hope to see you on Wednesday!