I’m so thrilled to announce another Pitch Madness success story. Gina Ciocca has signed with the beyond awesome agent and writer, John M. Cusick with Scott Treimel NY (yes, I’m a fangirl, and yes, he knows it). SQUEE!!!
Gina has agreed to let me
torture interview her. Here’s how it went down…
B says: So let’s get this party started. What made you decide to enter Pitch Madness, and how did you feel during the contest?
When Pitch Madness came around, I had been querying my manuscript for about a month without much success. My one request had come from a different pitch contest, so I thought I might have better luck entering another one – and I especially wanted to do it when I saw the list of agents participating, most of whom I hadn’t queried yet. Talk about an impressive roster! One of my CP’s, Marieke, is a pitch-writing wizard, and she helped (understatement) with the pitch. Which BTW, Brenda, the 35-word limit was just mean! Kidding 🙂 I totally revamped my opening before entering the contest, but I wasn’t expecting my entry to get much attention. So I submitted it and hoped for the best.
I was on Cassandra’s blog – entry # C-16, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE. I wound up getting 5 bids total. I was at work when the results were revealed, so I couldn’t check the site myself. My CP’s were live-tweeting so I’d know what was going on!
John bid on my entry, but he didn’t end up “winning” it. Two of the PM agents requested my full through the contest, and I sent it to them after jumping for joy a few times. But I still wanted to query the other agents who’d expressed interest, since I already knew I’d caught their attention. I queried John and two of the other agents who’d bid, and I mentioned Pitch Madness in all three letters. All three came back requesting the full.
The Call almost gave me a heart attack. There was no preliminary “let’s set up a time to talk” e-mail; my cell phone just started ringing in the middle of dinner prep and laundry. I almost didn’t pick it up, because I didn’t recognize the number and thought it was a sales call. But I am seriously glad I stopped chopping vegetables and didn’t let it go to voicemail!
John got right to the point. He told me he’d just read my manuscript and really enjoyed the story and the characters. He asked what else I was working on and whether I was open to making some editorial changes. I furiously scribbled notes as he made some suggestions on aspects of the story that could be strengthened or drawn out, all of which I agreed with.
I actually didn’t realize he was offering representation until the conversation was almost over (I blame my denseness on being in shock) and he started talking about author bios and submission lists. To which I think my oh-so-clever response was “Um… should I be notifying the other agents with my ms about this conversation?” I was convinced I was either dreaming or misinterpreting.
B says: I would’ve cut off a finger if I got a random call from John while chopping veggies. Can you tell us a little about your book?
LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is a Contemporary YA romance. It’s the story of Kelsey and David, and it alternates between events in the past that led to their friendship falling apart, and the unexpected way they come together again in the present – as more than friends, even though they both try to fight it.
B says: This premise is sort of my life, just saying. How long had you been querying before you got your agent?
I queried one other novel prior to this one. That was my “training wheels” novel, so I dragged out the query process for quite a while. I sent my last-ditch queries for that first novel in December of last year. Meanwhile I’d been working on LYM, and it was ready to query at the end of January. Pitch Madness came along in March, I queried John in April, and he offered at the beginning of May. Nine days before my birthday, might I add.
B says: We all need a little training before we roll from the sidewalk into the big road of publishing. Okay, let’s have some fun. Coffee or Tea?
Tea. Decaff. Preferably flavored, like orange or peppermint or raspberry.
B says: Jeesh, another tea-totterer. Coffee, people. It’s the fluid for writing. Potato chips or chocolate?
B says: Now, you’re speaking my language (but chips do too). Chocolate is the cure all. Since there was a cookie game about what my favorite cookie was on Twitter during Pitch Madness, what’s your favorite cookie?
Good, old-fashioned chocolate chip. Yummmm. And I also have a weakness for Double Stuf Oreos.
Wilderness and I don’t even belong in the same sentence together! I prefer an island – sparkling blue ocean, soft sand, and a good book in my hand. 🙂
Either curled up on the couch with my netbook, upstairs in my study, or at work. My job is very seasonal and I’m at a desk all day anyway, so when we hit a slow patch, I open up a Word document and let my characters take over. (If any of my co-workers see this, I do not ignore my job!)
Definitely a plotter. I can’t write until I have a general idea of where the story is going. I spent two weeks planning out my first novel before I ever put a word on paper. But – the finished products are usually nothing like my outline!
As far as advice, a) do your homework b) get honest, reliable critique partners who aren’t afraid to tell you how you can make your stories stronger , and c) don’t give up. If you aren’t getting the response you’re looking for from agents, make revisions to your query and/or your manuscript, and get some fresh eyes on it. I was very reluctant to share my work when I queried my first novel and I’d definitely go back in time and kick myself for that if I could!
Thanks so much for having me, Brenda! And thank you to you, Shelley, and Cassandra for Pitch Madness and all your fabulous contests!
B says: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I can’t wait to hold the actual book when it comes out. Congratulations to you and John. Here’s hoping you sell tons of books. And now it’s time to dance!