Please help me welcome YA author and booktuber Kim Chance! I have been following Kim for a while now, and her journey has been so inspiring. She shares wonderful tips on her YouTube channel, so definitely check it out! Today she will be answering some questions about writing, querying, & publishing. Her novel KEEPER will release with North Star Publications next spring!
Welcome, Kim! First off, congratulations on having North Star buy Keeper! What’s it like to know your book will be released Spring 2018?
It’s a completely surreal feeling! I’ve been dreaming about this moment for years, and to finally see it come to pass is a feeling that I honestly cannot put into words. I’m just so excited to hold KEEPER in my hands for the first time. I’m sure I will cry! To work so hard on something and then have that hard work pay off is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. I still can’t believe it’s really happening!
Describe your writing journey… What did it take to bring Keeper to publication?
A decade of sweat, blood, and tears!
I first started this journey in 2008. I was recently married, and my husband was deployed. I was living in a brand new city without any friends or family nearby. I spent most of my free time reading. One day, I had an idea for a story, and I thought to myself, “Hey! That would make a really cool book!” Then, it was like this little voice in my head whispered, “Yes, you should write it!” I’d never really given any thought to the idea that I could be a fiction writer, but I really loved the idea and figured I had nothing to lose. I wrote multiple bad drafts for that initial idea. It was pretty terrible and those drafts WILL never see the light of day! HA!
Over the next few years, I tried to write as much as possible, but life was pretty busy. During that time, I went to grad school and got my masters degree, and I also got pregnant and gave birth to twins. I wasn’t able to devote as much time to writing as I’d had in earlier days, but once my twins were a little older, I decided I really wanted to pursue writing with more gusto. I had decided that my original idea wasn’t going to work, and I had a completely new plot twist percolating in my head. That little element just wouldn’t go away, so I spent a lot of time thinking about the characters and the world that would go along with it. Thus, KEEPER was born! I started writing the first draft on June 17th, 2013. I finished that draft on August 8th, 2015. It was one of the coolest moments of my journey so far. I was sitting in a public library with tears pouring down my face because I was so proud of myself for finally finishing.
After that, I did multiple rounds of revising and editing. I recruited two freelance editors to help me whip the manuscript into shape and their feedback was so helpful! They are the reason KEEPER is what it is today. After I had a draft that I was really proud of and felt good about, I began the beta reading process and started entering writing contests. Both of those things lead to even more rounds of R & E. Finally, in March of 2016, I began to query literary agents. I received an R&R from Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (LKG Agency) on May 24th, 2016 and then on September 16th, 2016 after I had sent her the (yet again!) revised manuscript, she offered me representation. BEST. DAY. EVER!! From there, we did—yup! You guessed it!— ANOTHER round of revisions and then took the manuscript on submission. It took several months, but on February 8th, 2017 I was offered a publishing contract!
So, it literally took me a decade to make my dream come true! I don’t mind though—I’ve learned SO much along the way, and I know that everything happens in the exact right time it’s supposed to happen. I feel so incredibly lucky to be where I am today.
You found your agent, Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, through the good ol’ slush pile. Other than “don’t give up”, what is one thing you would recommend to a querying writer?
If you’re going to query, you need to do two things: Do your research and write a really solid query letter. A lot of writers go into the querying process without putting much thought into who they are sending their work to. Not every agents represents every single genre and category. Not all agents are open for submissions. Not all agents are looking for the same things. Without doing the proper research, you set yourself up for unnecessary rejections. Always make sure you know who you’re submitting to and that you follow his/her submission guidelines exactly.
Also, having a solid query letter is SO important—it’s what the agent will be reading after all! Queries can be particularly tricky and there is a format and structure you want to aim for. So do your research on this as well. You want your query to hook the agent’s attention, enough that they will request more pages. So many writers receive rejections because they’ve not written a proper query. So do the work and don’t be in such a hurry to hit “send” that the quality of your query suffers.
You have attracted quite a following over the years, across Youtube, Twitter, and many other social media outlets. How did you grow your platform prior to publication, and what are some tips you recommend for successful engagement?
It was a really organic process, really. The key is interacting with your fellow writers. I participated in a lot of writing contests, twitter chats, and hashtag games on twitter. Through those experiences, I met a lot of likeminded writers and we stayed in touch. From there, I began to branch out. I started my YouTube channel with the intent of sharing writing advice with others, but also to document my own writing journey. It was a slow start, but eventually the channel began to gain some steam. I really do my best to respond to every comment and message I get. Community is really important for writers, and I really try to help my fellow writers make connections. I started my own monthly twitter chat under the hashtag #Chance2Connect. (It’s on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 9pm CST! Everyone is welcome!) I met so many amazing people from those chats, and each month we have more and more people participate. It’s awesome! If you’re looking to grow your own platform, my best advice is look for places you can plug in and connect with others. Be willing to put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Also, building a following takes time. Don’t be discouraged when it doesn’t happen overnight. Be consistent and be as genuine as possible. =)
With a full-time life (wife, mom of twins, high school teacher), how do you make time to write? Do you follow a strict writing schedule, or squeeze it in when you can?
It’s definitely not without effort, and I’ve certainly not completely mastered it yet. In order for me to juggle it all, I have to follow a pretty strict schedule. Not just when it comes to writing, but life in general. I have a planner that I take with me everywhere, and I literally have to schedule my life down to the hour. I set long-term and short-term goals for myself and then I do my best to schedule the amount of time necessary to achieve those goals. It doesn’t always work out that way—life is messy after all!—but I really try to hold myself accountable.
Most of my writing time is scheduled for the evenings after my children are in bed. It’s not ideal; I do my best writing during the day when my brain is fresh, but my children are my priority and when I’m with them, my mom hat is the most important one I wear. I’m also pretty tough on myself, and I try not to get bogged down with excuses as to why I can’t write. This often means I write when I’m exhausted or sick or just generally don’t feel like writing. It’s not easy, and sometimes I only get a few paragraphs written, but I firmly believe that dreams don’t work unless you do. I’m certainly not one of those writers who can write every day, but I do my best to get at least 2-3 writing sessions in a week. I also work on my lunch breaks whenever I can.
I won’t lie, juggling writer life with real life is incredibly challenging, and I don’t always feel like I’m successful at it. However, writing is important to me, so I do everything I can to make sure it remains a priority, in spite of my crazy schedule.
Okay, this one’s a little personal… What is one of your fears going into publication? How do you cope with it?
My greatest fear going into publication is the reaction from readers. Every writer wants their book to be well received by those who read it, and I’m terrified people will read KEEPER and hate it. I’ve spent years on this book and it’s so near and dear to my heart. It would be absolutely devastating if readers hated it. I know you can’t please everyone and there will be people who don’t care for it or don’t enjoy it. I just hope the number of people who do like my book will exceed the number of people who don’t. In terms of coping, I’m just trying to think positively. I’m so incredibly proud of this little book and in spite of my fears, I’m going to keep viewing it as one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I also think I’m going to avoid reading reviews…or at least have someone screen them for me first! Ha!
Sometimes writers have an unrealistic expectation of what being agented/published is like. For those of us still on this side of querying, can you explain what having an agent entails (deadlines, edits, etc.)? Was it what you expected?
I think it’s probably a different experience for everyone. For me, working with Caitlen has been an absolute dream. She is so encouraging and helpful and never makes me feel like I’m merely just a name on her client list. She is just as invested in my writing career as I am, and we both want our working relationship to extend far beyond KEEPER. We get along really well, and I just think the world of her! Once KEEPER went on submission, Caitlen and I worked closely to determine what my next project would be. I wrote a synopsis and outline for several different book ideas I had and we decided together which one I should pursue. When I’m not working on KEEPER stuff, I’m working on that WIP and Caitlen gives me little deadlines to help keep me on track. She is always available to answer my questions (whether via email, phone, or text), and I honestly believe she has me and my books’ best interest at heart. I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, and I have no idea if the relationship we have is standard or not. However, I feel very lucky to have found an agent who is so invested in me and my work. This experience has honestly gone far beyond what I expected, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work with Caitlen in the future.
Now that Keeper has found a home, will you continue pursuing Shiny New Book Project, or focus on Keeper #2?
Shiny New Book Project is on an indefinite hold for now. (#SNBP was what I started working on while I was querying KEEPER). As mentioned in the last question, Caitlen and I discussed at length what my next project would be, and we both felt like Shiny wasn’t the best follow-up to KEEPER. I’d like to return to it one day, but for now I’m working on something that I think will be even better! I do have a sequel planned for KEEPER, but it has not been acquired at this time. I’m crossing my fingers that it will be though!
Alright, last one! A common interview question is “what advice would you give to another writer”. I want to instead ask, “What warning would you give another writer?” Is there any struggle or road bump that you’ve encountered along the way? How did you overcome it?
Don’t compare your writing journey with anyone else’s journey. It is so easy to look at others’ success and take it an indication that your own will never come. Writing is an emotional journey, and when we start asking the question of “Why them? Why not me?” it not only affects our writing, but it affects who we are as people. Don’t put yourself in the position. Success is not measured by how many book contracts you’re offered or how many times your name hits that NYT bestseller list. Figure out what your definition of success is and don’t let anyone or anything make you feel like you can’t achieve it. You can, and you will!
My biggest obstacle has always been self-doubt. I’m incredibly harsh and critical of myself and the things I write. I’m my own worst enemy you could say. I deal with it by relying on my support system and also by writing through it. Sometimes I just put my butt in my chair and write. Even if I know it’s going to be terrible or if I’m going to end up erasing it all later. I write anyway. I’m sure I will continue to struggle with self-doubt in the future, but I will continue to write through it. No matter what happens, I will write anyway.
Thank you so much for coming to visit, Kim! After following your journey from writing to agent, I am so happy that the world will get to see Keeper. Congratulations once again!
Thank you so much, Caitlin! And thank you for having me!
Kim Chance is a high school English teacher and Alabama native who currently resides in Texas, but is planning a big move to Michigan with her husband and three children. Kim is also a YouTuber who has a passion for helping other writers. She posts weekly writing videos on her channel:
www.youtube.com/kimchance1. When Kim is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and two crazy dogs, binge-watching shows on netflix, fangirling over books, and making death-by-cheese casseroles.