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Tuesday From the Trenches: Finley Turner

Hello lovely readers! Happy Tuesday! I hope you are all safe and well after major storms and other troubles. While I am safely tucked away in Arizona, I know many of you are dealing with flooding and distress. Please stay well and I hope that you find peace after the storm.

I am excited to invite my first suspense author to Tuesday From The Trenches! So join me in giving a very warm welcome to Finley Turner!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Finley! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers!

This is so exciting! It’s great that you’re making the foggy world of publishing a bit more clear and less lonely. My publishing story is a bit messy, so some of my answers are a bit complicated.

I'm just so grateful that you're sharing the journey. I think so many people feel like things have to be perfectly ordered and it's so nice to learn that the path to publication can actually be quite messy. Can you share your query stats with us?

Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 4 months

Number of Agents Queried: 76

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 21

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 43

Number of R&Rs: 1

Number of Rejections: 64

Number of Offers: 2

Agent and Agency: Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency

Wow! Those 43 Twitter pitch likes are especially calling out to me. I'm excited to hear about that soon. But first... how did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

I had a spreadsheet and also used Query Tracker. I liked both, but the spreadsheet allowed me to have everything on the page all at once. I had a tab where I planned and kept track of my query rounds, which was ever-changing. I get a dopamine hit every time I check something off a list, which is why the spreadsheet was my favorite.

I'm also a big believer in the spread sheet method. And I'd say about 90% of my interviewees are in the same boat. It's a good boat to me in ;) So as that spreadsheet filled in, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

The first few rejections were extremely hard. Querying made me feel very vulnerable—hello, stranger, here is my life’s work. Please love me—and while 99% of agents don’t make rejections personal, the first few still felt that way. I initially had a running joke with my husband where I’d take a shot for each rejection, but quickly gave up on that for the sake of my liver.

Hahaha! So so true about it feeling personal. And I'm glad you cared for your liver as well! ha! How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

I did so much research. Some of it was casual, like paying attention to book twitter, and some of it was more structured, like reading all the comments and stats from Query Tracker or any writer blogs that talk about both good and bad agents. I also began paying more attention to the acknowledgements in the suspense novels I was reading, because there are usually nice call-outs to agents and editors there.

Oh, that's a really great idea that I hadn't thought about before. The acknowledgement section I'm sure is a great place to look! I think that's a new one in these interviews, so thank you so much for bringing that up. So after all that research, how did you ultimately connect with Katie? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

My querying story is pretty messy. I participated in PitMad in March 2020 and got an amazing response from agents. I’ve had two agents and both of them liked the same pitch. I sent out fulls to everyone who requested and quickly got an offer from my first agent. Unfortunately, I parted ways with them only a month later. Luckily, my current agent, Katie, was interested in having a chat, so I didn’t have to fully re-enter the query trenches. It was an exclusive R&R offer, which made a lot of sense in my specific situation since I had just left my agent and hadn’t started querying again.

Wow! I bet that was a really emotional journey. I am so glad that Katie was still interested and that you had that experience. What an amazing story of huge success in a Twitter Pitch contest. I also connected with my agent in a PitMad event, so I'm a big believer there. Can you tell us a bit more about how much time passed between querying your now agent to getting “the call”?

After Katie liked my March 2020 Pitmad pitch, I sent her a query March 5th and then the full later that night when requested. I ended up accepting an offer from another agency on April 8 and then breaking the contract a month later. After a brief break from all things publishing, I contacted Katie and we had a call about an R&R on June 10. I revised until August and the official offer call came on September 21st.

I'm glad that you took that break to get your head in the right space again. I think that is really important and something that we don't always talk about in this industry... the entire experience is super emotional and sometimes I think we're just expected to keep pushing on when things have hurt and been really intense. So good for you for taking that brief break and then coming back into it in fully force. So once you jumped back in, how was “the call”? How did you know Katie was the right choice?

I technically had two big calls with Katie, one for an R&R, and then one later with the offer. For the R&R call, I had a chance to ask a lot of the questions most writers ask during The Call. Katie was so complimentary of the book and clearly expressed all the edits she envisioned, so I felt like I was in good hands already. We kept in touch while I revised and then when I got an email to set up another call, I figured this is it! It’s The Call! When she told me she loved the edits and wanted to continue working together, I think I remember saying something along the lines of, “I would be stupid to not accept.” It was a no-brainer!

That's so amazing! I love a great working relationship that makes a book better and feels so right! And it sounds like the R&R was a great experience for you. Could you tell us a little about that book?

Sure! My manuscript, Behind Borrowed Walls, and is an adult domestic suspense novel about a couple who rents an AirBnB in a small Southern town. While the couple struggles to settle the estate of a dead relative, they begin to notice that not only are their neighbors watching them, but so is someone inside the house. Here is my PitMad pitch, which I’m fond of for getting me my agent:

Small-town Airbnb for rent in a quaint unwelcoming neighborhood. 2 bedrooms w/ inaccessible upper floor. Hidden cameras, repressed family trauma, & destroyed marriages included. 5/5 star rating. Our previous guests loved it so much that they could never leave #PitMad #A#T #S

Oh my goodness, that pitch!! I love it so much. I can't wait to see where it lands!

So with your journey in mind, if you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?

When you think your book is ready to query, take a step back, because it’s most likely not. Do another edit after you take a break from it. My biggest regret is querying too early and I shame myself every once in a while for my messy manuscript. That being said, don’t put all your “dream agents” in your first few rounds. If you get agent feedback early on and make changes, you don’t want to regret missing your shot because your query or first few pages needed tweaking.

That is stellar advice. I also queried too soon and regretted it. Once I was truly ready, things fell right into place. Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?

I’m on Twitter: @finleywrites and my website is

Wonderful! Thanks so much for joining us today, Finley! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck to you! I can’t wait to see your books in the world.

Thank you so much for the opportunity and for making this available for other writers! If you’re reading this while in the query trenches, don’t give up!


Finley has generously offered to give away a query critique! If the winner has a twitter pitch already created for the same book, she can look at that as well. To enter, retweet THIS tweet and follow Finley and Kailei on Twitter.

About Finley Turner

Finley Turner is a debut suspense author. She made a career change to become an archivist at a university after leaving academia, where she studied cults and new religious movements. When not producing and consuming all things morbid and dark, Finley can typically be found playing video games with her husband, and occasionally pausing to interrogate her rescue animals about what they're chewing on. She is represented by Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency.

About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. Kailei's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023


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