We are so delighted to have Amanda and her agents Holly and Taylor here to answer a few questions! Amanda signed with Holly and Taylor through #DVpit, and has since found a publisher. Let’s talk about the deal, the book, and the experience since #DVpit.
Amanda, first of all, congratulations on your book deal with Putnam! Tell us about your book and why you wrote it.
AMANDA: Thank you so much! A River of Royal Blood follows sixteen-year-old Princess Evalina as she prepares for her seventeenth nameday, the point at which her older sister can finally challenge her for the throne. In Myre, whenever two Princesses are born they become rival heirs, and must fight to the death to decide who will become Queen. I wrote ARORB because I wanted to write a book that was exactly the kind I like—full of danger, intrigue, romance, and magick—and I wanted the main character to look like me. I spent so many years feeling very invisible within my favorite genre and this book is very much in response to that. So much of my love for YA fantasy is packed into this book, but also much of my need to rewrite the pervasive whiteness of the genre.
Holly and Taylor, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
HOLLY/TAYLOR: There were so many things that had us giddy about this book: first and foremost, Amanda’s voice—her clear, strong, skillful prose. Then there’s the main character, Princess Evalina, whose journey is so satisfying that we literally jumped up and air-punched over the book’s climactic scenes. And we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to being creepily obsessed with Eva’s mysterious teacher, Baccha, who is a scene stealer of the highest order. We found ourselves talking about the characters and the novel’s big, sweeping set pieces for days on end…that’s usually a pretty meaningful sign, and honestly it continues to this day!
How was the #DVpit experience for you, Amanda? Do you have any tips or words of wisdom to share with future participants?
AMANDA: It was amazing! I participated in the first #DVPit and the support from so many sides of the community was truly heartening. My advice to participants is to take plenty of time to craft and workshop your pitch. Also don’t get into the comparison game. Don’t let your experience be tarnished by comparing your successes to others’. Your journey to publication won’t look like anyone else’s and that’s okay.
How was the experience for you, Holly and Taylor, and do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
HOLLY/TAYLOR: There is so much great talent on the #DVPit feed! It’s a wild experience from the agent side too because it moves so fast we just know we are going to miss something. If we have any advice, and if you’ll allow us to wax philosophical, it’s this: Amazing books are worth the wait, and sometimes the right fit takes time to come together. There’s so much intensity around pitch contests that it can feel like things only happen overnight or not at all—and while in some cases that’s the timeline, pitch contests are the only part of publishing that moves so fast! So on and around #dvpit day, find whatever grounding you can for yourself to make the frenzy feel less dizzying and more fun, and keep your eye on assembling the right team to make your book its very best self.
Amanda, we’d love to hear how the whole submission process was for you, from signing with your agents, to editing and polishing, to going out on sub to publishers, to getting news of your book deal. Catch us up on what’s happened since #DVpit!
AMANDA: Before #DVPit I had been querying for about two years with a few unsuccessful R&R’s and I was really starting to lose hope for this book. But as soon as #DVPit connected me with my agents, I just knew it was worth the wait. They completely understood my vision for the book and would help me see it through. While I spent a long time querying, going on sub was a whirlwind couple of weeks. During that time I got the chance to talk to editors who were interested in the book and I met my editor Stacey Barney. From the first conversation, I knew I wanted to work with her. It’s been a bumpy road, but it still feels like a dream.
Tell us about your editor! What was it like speaking to them for the first time? What is your relationship like?
AMANDA: The first time I talked to Stacey, I think we laughed for a good five minutes straight, talking about ripped bodices, and titles of hers that I love—The Reader by Traci Chee and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Still Stacey made sure I knew that she was tough. That’s what I wanted and why I think we’ll work well together.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agents!
AMANDA: “Two princesses. One throne. Evalina must kill her sister or be killed in this North African inspired fantasy #YA #DVpit #ownvoice”
Holly and Taylor, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
HOLLY/TAYLOR: Sister stories are a fascination for both of us (for different reasons—Holly has all sisters, Taylor all brothers—we’ll let you decide which of us was hooked by the “kill” part in the sister story pitch), plus we’re both big fantasy fans. And then when we got Amanda’s ms and saw how complex this sister relationship is…swoon!
What else are you two looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find, maybe at the next #DVpit?
HOLLY: I want to be surprised and delighted. (NBD, right?) Whether it’s a realistic contemporary or a speculative novel, a well-drawn world is a thing of beauty. We’re also on a two-woman crusade to bring on a new golden age of romcoms for teens and adults, so always excited to see those.
TAYLOR: It’s true, our love of romcoms is a powerful thing! I’m always looking for hooky, high concept fiction, and books that make me feel—stories that are engaging, and full of heart. Bonus points for fun and funny these days, too.
Amanda, are there any updates you can share about your book? Pub date, hints about the cover, finalized jacket copy, pre-order links, etc?
AMANDA: No updates yet, but you can add A River of Royal Blood on Goodreads and follow me @amandajoywrites on Twitter and Instagram for future updates!
What’s next for you?
AMANDA: I'm currently revising, working on the sequel to ARORB, and I'm always working on adding more kickass black girls to our bookshelves!
Congratulations once again Amanda, Holly and Taylor, on finding each other and on the book deal! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and best of luck with the publication of A RIVER OF ROYAL BLOOD. We’re all excited to see it hit shelves!
Amanda Joy (@amandajoywrites) grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children at The New School in New York. You can find her in Chicago, taking pictures of her ever-expanding library and touring the city’s best coffee shops.
Holly Root (@hroot) founded Root Literary in 2017, after beginning her agency career in 2004. The bicoastal agency takes a career-focused approach to literary representation, working closely with clients to build a body of work that endures. Holly’s client list includes authors of commercial & upmarket fiction for adults, teens, and kids, as well as select nonfiction.
Taylor Haggerty (@tayhaggerty) joined Root Literary when the agency opened in 2017. Prior to that, she worked at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and Gersh. She primarily represents commercial fiction for teens and adults.