#KissPitch Success with Sarah Smith and Sarah Younger
Sarah Smith is a copywriter-turned-author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. Her love of romance began when she was eight and she discovered her auntie’s stash of romance novels. She’s been hooked ever since. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate, and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and adorable cat Salem. Faker is her debut novel.
Sarah’s been with NYLA since 2011. She is specifically interested in representing all varieties of Romance, Women’s Fiction, Mysteries, Thrillers, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and select Non-Fiction. For romance she is interested in the following genres: Contemporary, Historical, Western, Sports, Regency, Inspirational, Category, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense, and any combination thereof. For women’s fiction Sarah is drawn to layered stories that don’t shy away from the realities, and often difficulties, of life. She particularly enjoys women’s fiction that has cross generational plotlines, and as always, meaningful pet characters are a plus along with happy endings. For non-fiction projects she would love to see anything involving animals, specifically inspirational equine stories, and she also is an avid sports fan and would love to see more athletic narratives in her queries.
Main attractions in romance submissions are: strong romantic relationships (chemistry is a MUST). Voice should be intelligent and unique. Plots should be well thought-out and original with touches of humor and whimsy. Sarah cherishes her rural southern roots and particularly enjoys stories with a supporting cast of animal characters: horses, dogs, cats; essentially all pets furry and friendly. You can find her on her personal twitter page here @seyitsme.
Congratulations on your #KissPitch love match, and all the feels for your outstanding new partnership! Sarah S., can you tell us about your book’s premise and your inspiration behind it?
I would love to! Okay, so in a nutshell, my book Faker is an own voices romcom/romance that follows a 26-year-old half-Filipino woman fighting to make her way in the male-dominated industry of power tools, while resisting her attraction to an office foe.
Many things inspired this book! Incredible romances like The Hating Game and Dating You/Hating You, Filipino telenovelas I watch with my mom’s family every time I visit them, my time working for a power tool company (that inspired a couple of—hopefully!—funny scenes in the book). But the gist of is it that I moved to a new city a couple years ago, didn’t know anyone, and then the worst winter in years hit. I was pretty much stuck indoors for five months with not much to do, so I was just reading romances and writing. I decided to try and see if I could write my own hate-to-love, slow burn romance, and as it turns out, I could!
Sarah Y., what was it about Sarah S.’s writing/manuscript that made you offer representation?
Her voice. Emmie’s voice was vibrant and felt real, which is the first thing I look for in a submission. The next few boxes are what is the concept, what are the hooks, do I think I can sell this, and as I kept reading I could answer (or Sarah S. had already already answered the aforementioned) in her pitch. 🙂
Sarah S., did you work with critique partners or beta readers before querying? If so where/how did you meet them? What have you learned about your own writing process during this story?
I worked with a particularly wonderful critique partner/beta reader before I queried this book. Her name is Lexi Banner and she is the single greatest CP/BR on planet Earth. I met her on Reddit of all places (we were in the r/writing subreddit looking for people to beta read our romances, which was difficult because there weren’t many takers for that genre). I will be forever grateful that she replied to my post and agreed to read my book because it was a hot mess back then. I had no idea what I was doing, but she was so helpful and honest in her feedback. She was kind, but she also didn’t hold back, which is exactly what I needed. Her honest critique helped make my book better, and I owe her everything for that.
What I learned about my own writing process is that I’m a wordy son of a gun. I also learned that I’m the queen of saggy middles. No one writes a saggy middle like me, and it’s likely because I’m so wordy. So seeing that flaw in my writing helped me address it. And honestly? It’s okay that I’m wordy. As long as I’m willing to go back and revise, cut, rewrite, it’s all fine. I don’t have to be a perfect writer to produce a good book. I just have to be willing to rewrite and edit to make it better. Learning that was very eye-opening and helps me to this day.
Sarah S., tell us about preparing for #KissPitch. What was the pitch that got Sarah Y.’s attention? How did you develop your pitches and query?
Preparing for #KissPitch was stressful and exciting. I had queried my book maybe a dozen times before that and received all rejections, so I was determined to do my best going into #KissPitch. I wrote and rewrote so many pitches, then posted them on the All The Kissing Facebook group to get feedback from other authors. That was the single most helpful thing I did. So many people gave excellent feedback. From there, I went back and rewrote my pitches, added better comps and hashtags (I realized that highlighting the #ownvoices and #poc angle would help me stand out. Previously I hadn’t thought to do that, but the awesome writers in ATK helped me realize that).
I honestly believe that without the help/feedback of ATK in this part of the process, I wouldn’t have done very well in #KissPitch.
I’m not 100% sure because it was so long ago, but I believe the pitch that got my agent’s attention was this one:
A copy writer who fakes everything shares a surprise hot kiss with the social media coworker she’s always hated. Their uncertain romance could destroy their work relationship…but it might be worth it. THE HATING GAME + Filipino telenovela #KissPitch #A #CR #POC #OWN
As far as my query went, I read A LOT of posts from Query Shark on how to write a solid query letter. I wrote and rewrote it so many times, I lost count. I also read the back of the book descriptions from my favorite romance/romcom books and tried my best to model my query after them. Overall I think I did a good job because a lot what I wrote in the query was used as part of the retailer copy of my book 🙂
Sarah Y., what was it about Sarah S.’s pitch that hooked you? Any advice for future participants about pitching and how to stand out?
I think the thing is with Sarah S.’s pitch I had an immediate visual as to the story. I’m not sure if that is helpful, but I could imagine what the story was/would be from her pitch, and I like it, and then when the pages came in…I wasn’t disappointed. Also hashtags are important! (I search pitch events using the hashtags, so use those!)
Sarah S., tell us about the call with Sarah Y.!
Oh my gosh, as cheesy as it sounds, I will remember that call forever! I work from home so I was holed up in my bedroom that day (in-laws were visiting and I didn’t want anyone to know about my agent call because I wasn’t sure how it would end up and I didn’t want to feel embarrassed in front of everyone if it didn’t work out). I remember when my agent Sarah Y. said she loved my book and wanted to rep me, I had to stop and take a breath before saying anything because I wanted to scream out of pure joy and excitement (I didn’t want to freak her out and come off as ridiculously unprofessional haha). Until that point, I had heard so many nos, I was pretty discouraged. It’s hard to describe the hope and happiness you experience when someone finally tells you “yes” after hearing “no” for so long. That moment was one of the best moments of my life, I’ll remember it forever 🙂
Sarah S., do you have any resources you’d like to share? Any words of wisdom for future #KissPitch participants?
The ATK Facebook group was such a helpful resource in the run-up to #KissPitch. I connected with some truly supportive and helpful authors who helped get my pitches into shape. Also, the writing community on Twitter has been a godsend. I’ve met some of the best CPs and BRs on there. The #amwriting and #amwritingromance communities on Twitter are so encouraging and supportive. People reach out to help each other all the time, it’s a really wonderful place to be a part of if you’re a writer.
As far as words of wisdom go, I advise all #KissPitch participants to make sure their manuscripts are as polished as possible before the big day (have fellow writers beta read it, rewrite/delete parts where you think it drags).
You want your book to be as good as can be so that when an agent asks to read it, you’re showing them your very best. Some writers I’ve talked to think they should query/pitch before they’ve revised, then revise while they wait to hear from agent, but I think that’s a big mistake. Yes, querying is a long process, but you never know when an agent will get back to you with a request to read part or all of your manuscript. You definitely don’t want to get a request and then have to make them wait while you revise, or send them an unrevised manuscript.
Also, have ATK writers read over your #KissPitch pitches before the big day. You’ll get some invaluable feedback which will undoubtedly make your pitches a million times better. And have some good comps ready to go–that can help you stand out.
Sarah Y., what are you looking for now—anything specific in romance? What’s on your wish list?
I’m looking for anything awesome! (Lol, I’m sure that’s not helpful.) So to get a little more specific, I’m looking for adult projects. I’m looking for projects that do have either a thread of romance, or a large romantic storyline, I’m game for something that will make me laugh and make me cry. I’m looking for women’s fiction, chick-lit, romantic comedies, contemporary, fantasy, scifi, romances of all kinds. I like really solid hooks or comps, a story that you would know where it is going to be shelved in the store and what other titles are going to be sitting next to it. If you want to know more about me and the projects I like feel free to check out my twitter and my bio on the agency website. 🙂
Sarah’s debut rom-com novel FAKER comes out Oct. 8, 2019. You can pre-order it here.
Congratulations to both of you on your #KissPitch Love Match! We can’t wait to see what good things come from this dynamic duo. Follow them on Twitter to keep up with their journey through the publishing industry at @teamechavarre and @seyitsme.