An interview with Sasha Wasley on how to get a literary agent and publishing deal in Australia
I’m really loving this monthly series and I hope you are too!
This month I’m chatting with Australian author Sasha Walsey who is both independently and traditionally published in various genres. She was born and raised in Perth and writes under two names: Sasha Wasley and S.D Wasley.
Sasha has some great tips about knowing the market and the importance of industry networking.
Q. Tell us about the book that landed you a literary agent. Was it your first published novel?
A. It was Dear Banjo, my 10th published novel! I have 3 books with small overseas publishers and 6 ‘indie’ titles (self-published). All are digital or print on demand. Dear Banjo was different, however – I knew I wanted it in Australian bookstores. It was a dream book. It practically wrote itself – a true love story that allowed me to indulge my love of classics like Austen’s Persuasion and Alcott’s Little Women, as well as pull in my nostalgia for Australian masters like Banjo Paterson. As soon as I started writing Tom’s letters I was hooked on him and the romance; the whole story!
Q. It sounds like it was truly meant to be. I loved Dear Banjo and can see how the classics inspired this romance story.
What steps did you take to refine the manuscript once you completed your first draft?
A. When I finish the first draft and run through it for a quick continuity edit, I always let my manuscripts sit and ferment for a while – around a month. Then I read it fast on-screen to see how it hangs together. I add comments to ensure I don’t forget things that need fixing. The next step is a really good edit: moving things around, cutting words, cleaning up sentences and making sure characters all have the right names. This can take two or three passes. Once I’m happy with it, I often have another break of a couple of weeks to give myself some distance from the manuscript. Then I load it onto my Kindle and read it as if I were a reader, adding notes to the document if I see something that needs fixing. This is where I pick up on word repetition within sentences, overuse of adverbs, telling instead of showing, and the odd typo. The edit that follows this read-through is generally the final one before the book goes to my agent.
Q. This is a great insight into your editing process. How did you approach writing the synopsis and blurb?
A. Gah – blurbs! It’s so hard to write your own blurbs. I always find my publisher does it better so I tend to leave it to them wherever possible. If I must write one, I try to identify the hook – the thing the reader will be most interested in (which doesn’t always match what I’m the most interested in). Synopses are not quite so bad. Although they are a little tiresome to write, at least there is room to explain the story. I don’t have to write them at the moment because I have three books under contract. When I’m ready to pitch my next book, I’ll have to sharpen that synopsis pencil again.
Q. It’s SO hard! What is your elevator pitch for your new novel, True Blue?
A. Free Paterson lives and loves with no filter. What could possibly go wrong?
Q. How did you get an offer of representation from a literary agent?
A. I’d met an agent I trusted at a conference and although she had knocked back a couple of my earlier books, I approached her to see if she was interested in Dear Banjo. She was! I signed up with her and within weeks she got me a three-book deal with Penguin Random House. True Blue is book 2 in the series. I never pitched Dear Banjo anywhere else and in fact, my agent was able to get me a choice of offers from 2 of the big 5 publishers. It was an absolute dream experience.
Q. What a whirlwind! What did you do right?
A. I knew my agent was interested in representing a rural romance and I had that connection with her after having met her at the conference. I also knew what I wanted: my book on bookshop shelves and in department stores (not just an ebook deal).
Q. What would you have liked to have done differently?
A. This experience went really well. In previous unsuccessful experiences, I should have done some things differently – like making sure I knew which agents were interested in the genre I’d written and trying to find some other way to connect so I wasn’t just another email in the slush pile.
Q. What has been surprising about the negotiation or publishing process?
A. I was stunned to find that publishers wanted to speak to me before they took my book to their acquisitions meetings. I assumed they were checking to see if I was a serial killer but it turned out they were as much interested in impressing me as they were checking my sanity. I never expected that!
Q. Writers are encouraged to build an author platform. You have TWO websites, how do you manage these and what did you consider when you were starting out?
A. I must admit I haven’t made many changes to SDWasley.com for a while! It’s current in the sense that it has all my books on there and the links work, but I’m mostly focusing on my SashaWasley.com site while I’m writing the Paterson sisters books. I don’t have the time to blog, sadly, but I make sure my site is up to date with all my book info, social links and appearances. I’m pretty active on social media so I make my announcements and share news that way.
Q. What is your advice for writers who seek a literary agent? (A couple of tips? When they should start querying authors etc)
A. Try to find a writer friend with an agent or publisher – a friend who likes your work and could give it a personal recommendation. If you can’t do that, then try to make it to a pitching opportunity because that personal connection means a lot. I would only query an agent when I had a completed novel in my hand but I know others who pitch first, then write. I would much rather have a manuscript sitting in my folder than rush away to write one after an agent expresses interest.
Q. Great tips! What’s next for you?
A. True Blue just came out and Book 3 is due out next May. I’ve just completed a draft of a new novel not connected to the Patersons or Mount Clair and it’s off to my agent this week. I hope she loves it because I’m really pleased with it.
I’m working on something new already and am quite fascinated with the idea but it’s not quite in my usual genre of Australian contemporary romance – it has more of an Aussie noir feel. We’ll see how that goes!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Sasha. I love how you reconnected with a previous contact in the industry to not only gain agent representation but also a publishing deal!
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