We have a special edition of “People to Learn From in the Trenches” today. K. Kazul Wolf is an author who has had two agents and is back in the query trenches again. As querying authors, we often think the goal of getting an agent is one and done, but there are many authors who end up with more than one agent. Today we get to read a little about this perspective.
J: Welcome, K. Kazul Wolf. Thanks for participating in this blog series. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
K: Hi! I’m K. Kazul Wolf (though most people call me Bacon), I’ve been writing seriously for about ten years, and have a graphic novel out with an indie press. I live with a zoo of pets in upstate NY, and have been a professional chef and baker for many years.
J: Wow. Your life sounds so interesting.
J: How long have you been querying and how many manuscripts have you written/queried?
K: I’ve been agented twice, so I suppose I’ve been querying on and off for about four years? I’ve written at least a dozen manuscripts, but I’ve only queried four of those. I really wanted to “perfect” writing a novel before I started querying, but figured out perfect is a dangerous illusion. You can only make the MS the best you can with the readers and tools that you have!
j: Very true.
J: What genre do you write?
K: I write spec fic for young adults, most of it being fantasy. The weirder it is, the more I love it!
J: Have you had any works published? If so, please tell us a little bit about them.
K: Yes! I mentioned my graphic novel, SACRIFICES OF SHADOW, which is an urban fantasy exploring the dark underbelly of a secret fae world existing alongside our own, told in prose and illustrations. I also have a short story in an anthology called TIME TRAVEL TALES, featuring a strange circus and a couple of its performer’s trips through time, space, and dimensions.
J: Those both sound very interesting!
J: You’ve been through multiple agents and are in the query trenches again, correct? Will you tell us a little bit about that journey?
K: It’s been a bit of a rocky road! My first agent I signed with immediately after my initial time making it into the contest Pitch Wars, where I was one of those annoying out-the-gate success stories… until they suddenly dropped me three months later. (Don’t worry, they quit agenting shortly after—and after a lot of writerly-paranoid research, this sort of situation is ridiculously rare!) After two years, a second time as a mentee in Pitch Wars, and a failed book contract, I got my second agent and stayed with them for a year. Sadly, we didn’t see eye-to-eye on their revision process, nor the heart and themes of my manuscripts, so we parted ways amicably.
J: I think this is something we all wonder about as writers. We know major revisions are always ahead, but there’s always a question mark on how far we are willing to push the boundaries when it comes to the heart and theme of the story. Honestly, I don’t even know, but it’s a good thing to think about. I have also heard about agents leaving the industry and their clients being dropped. How heart-breaking is that to finally reach the goal of getting an agent only to have them stop agenting soon after!
J: In your opinion, what makes a good agent?
K: There are a lot of resources out there about the technicalities of choosing agents to query which are absolutely integral to finding someone who can sell your book (such as previous sales, sales in your genre, making sure new agents have a great house to back them, talking to other clients post-call to see their experience, etc.), but beyond that, a good agent is someone who works WITH you. It’s hard to remember with how we tend to respect agents to the point we’re slightly afraid of them in the trenches, but they’re your business partner—emphasis on “partner.” You should be working together to make something that’s shiny enough to attract editors, but understand and mutually respect the skills and passions that each of you brings to the table. Compromise is essential to any relationship, but remember that compromise works both ways.
J: You’re a Pitch Wars mentor, correct? Has being a mentor helped you as a writer/editor?
K: You meet so many amazing people just entering this contest, it would be hard NOT to have learned so much along the way. Being a mentee twice and now a mentor has put me in touch with so many different people, critique partners, advice, and overall a community that I would be lost without. If you enter, or even if you can’t, hanging around the hashtag in the contest season will teach you so much. Just remember that there’s a lot of advice and opinions, so do your research and recognize what’s right for you as a writer.
J: What are some challenges writers face once they get an agent?
K: The biggest thing, in my opinion, is that nothing actually changes. Having the validation of an agent wanting to work with you is amazing, but that’s a double-edged sword. The worry that your agent may not like your next book, or eventually not like you, feeds imposter syndrome. There’s also being on submission, which is querying 2.0 where the ball is out of your court. It’s another step in your career, and should be celebrated! (I’m terrible at that myself, whoops.) But remember in all things in this industry: ground yourself in what you have and what you’ve already accomplished, because “success” will always be a relative thing.
J: Great advice! To be honest, I haven’t met a writer yet who doesn’t have imposter syndrome.
J: Has querying gotten easier for you? What are tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way?
K: For personal reasons, I’d say it’s definitely harder now. After you have an agent and leave them (which most authors have multiple agents—if you’re back in the query trenches like me, you’re far from alone!), it’s very hard not to feel like you’ve had your chance and spent it. My top tip is to firmly decide what you want from an agent, and design your querying around that. Don’t settle, don’t push aside your ideals, or you’ll probably end up in the query trenches again. My first MS I fully queried went out to around two hundred agents in total. This most recent MS only went out to about thirty, as my definition of what’s important to me has been vastly changed by my stumbles along the way. Do your research and dig as deep as you can!
J: What is your favorite writing resource?
K: Deep POV! I’ve written quite a lot about it myself (here’s a link, if you’re curious), but the BEST resource to get started with, something a lot of writers have a hard time wrapping their mind around is this: https://t.co/MVqpuViGWO. There are SO many missed opportunities to build characters and worlds and plots when instead we use generic filler words that say nothing. My particular tick is using “said” or another dialog tag when you could instead use characterization and/or movement to show more.
J: Please share your best piece of writerly advice.
K: This business is absolutely brutal from beginning to end, and if it would be healthier for you to quit, do it. I feel like no one says it enough: it is completely okay to quit. But if you just can’t let go, find other outlets and things you care about. I know that writing is consuming, but since it can beat you black and blue, you need to have bandages in the forms of other passions (even simple things like casually playing video games, or gardening, or drawing, or cooking) to help tide over the times when it feels like you’re bleeding out.
J: Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us!