Sunday, 25 September 2011

Wolfborn Winners and Sue Bursztynski Author Interview!

Hey All,

Sorry I've been so slow on the uptake. As promised, a gazillion years ago, here are a collection of the questions and answers for my Sue Bursztynski author interview. Thanks to those who took the time to ask questions!

1. Have you ever been "orphaned" by an agent?
Can you define "orphaned"? If you mean did an agent disappear on me - I did once have an agent for about six months, who then closed down her agency to work on her own writing, but since she hadn't sold anything for me or even come close to selling anything, it wasn't a big deal. In fact, the only time I ever got a printed rejection slip for that manuscript it was when she had sent it out! Every other time I got a personal response.

 I tried and tried to get an agent for a while, but they all had full books or just didn't bother to reply to my inquiries. Only two agents gave me a go - one was Selwa Anthony, who at least read the first three chapters of Wolfborn, though she said no, the other was Cherry Weiner, an Aussie living in the US, who said sorry, she couldn't sell anything shorter than about 100,000 words and it had to be part of a trilogy. Things may have changed since then, but I believe Cherry's books are now full. However, after selling my first book I found that publishers were willing to read my work even if they said they only dealt with agents. So don't despair if you can't get one - there are other ways to sell.

2. Has there ever been a time where you gave up on a WIP?
I've got two unfinished novels on my computer right now. One is a mainstream YA book, the other is a prequel to Wolfborn, which is already as long as the whole of Wolfborn but is lacking a villain! I'm going to work on that when I can get some quiet time to myself, maybe take some long service leave to concentrate on it. As for the mainstream book, I froze after a few chapters. It just wasn't working. Sometimes you just need to put a manuscript aside and re-write from another angle. That works for me - one short story I wrote simply wasn't working, no matter what I did to it. One day I came back to it, trashed the whole thing and re-worked it from a completely different angle. Originally, the theme had been "what if the Holy Grail was in an op shop?" Didn't work. So I made the op shop only a small part of the story. The heroine had worked out what it was she'd inherited and had to go look for it in the second-hand shops to which her grandfather's belongings had been donated. When she did find it, it had been bought by someone who was making better use of it than she could. THAT worked - and it meant that it was not like a Neil Gaiman story on the theme of the Holy Grail in a second-hand store which I read AFTER  this one was published! My story, "Of Loaves, Fishes and Mars Bars" got an Honorable Mention in Kelly Link and Ellen Datlow's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, which was very nice! ;-)

I do have a few short stories unfinished on the computer, but every now and then I raid the pile and re-write/finish one I never thought would work.

3. I've just finished editing my MS. How long does it take for a book to be published after you sell it?
I have news for you. Even if you sell this novel tomorrow, you're unlikely to see it in print for about a year. At least. After editing and other stuff. They have a schedule. This year's books were commissioned t least a year, maybe a couple of years ago, on the average. I was very, very lucky - they had a hole in the schedule, so they could slot me in. That doesn't happen often. The good news is, it gives you time to promote.

4. Is there any truth to the idea that you NEED an agent in order to get a publisher?
Agents - who knows what goes on in their brains? I tried and tried to get one and ended up simply selling my own stuff. They all seemed to have full books. Mind you, this may no longer be the case, I haven't checked - I've seen several first novels - Aussie ones -  thanking "my agent". Still - stuff agents. I've sold ten books and many articles and short stories without one., unless you count my friend Natalie Prior, who got me my first interview. Still - after that, it was up to me. They could have said no. My first book was non-fiction for children (the monsters one) and that was easier to sell, at the time, than a novel. As long as you had a good subject and could tell your story well, they'd buy it. Non-fic isn't so easy to sell now. Best thing you can do is check out the editorial guidelines on publisher web sites. Once you have sold something, I don't care what anyone says about agents, you don't need one.

Once again, many thanks to Sue for being such a great sport and to anyone who is  interested in reading the first chapter of Wolfborn, Sue is more than happy to provide a copy if you email here HERE.

And now the competition winners: DRUMROLL!!!!!

CONGRATS to Tammi and Sabrina who have each scored a signed copy of Wolfborn. Hope you both enjoy Wolfborn as much as I did!


  1. GREAT interview! I'm impressed when people have the wherewithal to become their own agent.

  2. Peggy: I know right? I wouldn't be able to be my own agent but it's definitely worked for Sue!

  3. There are, all the same, still some companies that will consider unsolicited manuscripts and even give you a personal comment if they're impressed enough, even if they say no. Allen and Unwin was looking at unsolicited YA fiction - which your novel is - last time I looked. Ford Street? That's a small press specialising in YA. Paul Collins, the publisher, is very experienced - he was the first to publish SF/F in Australia, and came back after many years as a writer and editor. He will look after you if he says yes and probably at least give you a personal comment if he says no. There are a lot of SF/F small presses in Australia - check them out. I'll think of some more and get back to you by email. It's good to have an agent if you can get one, but it's not the be-all and end-all.

  4. Wow, I loved your answers, Sue!

  5. Sue: I am eternally grateful for all the advice you've given me!

    Sabrina: They are great answers aren't they?


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