I have wanted to write one of these posts for a long time. Three and a half years, to be exact. It’s been that long since I started querying agents with my first YA manuscript.
I spent about eight months writing and revising my first manuscript, and soon after Meg’s Melody (my first book) came out, I started querying agents. I knew I wanted an agent after trying to navigate a contract on my own. I researched a ton of agents and started querying slowly. I’d read somewhere that I should only send out about ten queries at a time and see what the response is like before sending out more. So I did that. And over the next eight months, I sent out queries in batches of ten, waiting to hear back before I sent more. I also had my first pitching experience, which was invaluable. I went through about ten versions of my query, and ended up with fifteen requests that all came back as some version of “not for me.”
Meanwhile, I’d been working on my next YA book—this one also contemporary/coming of age, but more of a comedy. I went through the whole querying process again, with batches of ten, waiting to hear back, changing my query over and over and over. I ended up getting fifteen requests for this book as well. I absolutely love this book and was so excited to see that people were liking it as well.
But, then the “not for me’s” started rolling in again. And I was started to feel like this whole rejection thing was “not for me.” I went to a huge book festival while this was all happening, and I got the opportunity to attend a panel with Heather Brewer on it. I’m so glad I went, because she talked about all the rejections she got on her books before her first one was picked up. She encouraged us to keep trying and said: “At first, you get no’s. Then the no’s turn into maybes. And the maybes turn into a yes.” I’d gotten my share of “no’s” but I also had a lot of “maybes” and a ton of feedback, so I decided to keep pushing forward.
I spent a few months on a major revision based on some agent feedback for the comedic YA and decided to pitch it at the Storymaker conference this year as kind of the “kick-off” for a new round of queries. It was an interesting kind of pitch, more of a workshop, where I’d sent my query and first ten pages to her a few months in advance, and we met to discuss them at the conference.
We met in a group of eight, and she started with my manuscript. I was so nervous, so psyched up for her to tear it apart. Instead, she said she loved it. She loved the voice, the characters, and said it was “in the shoot” meaning that it would be picked up by an agent, and it was the kind of book teens would love and it would sell a ton of copies. I was elated. Then I came crashing down when she finished her thought. But, she said, I’m not looking to pick up any comedies right now. They’re not selling. New York wants issues.
So after I went to the bookstore and had a cleansing public cry, I remembered that I had an issue book. My first manuscript. One that I had also done a complete rewrite on based on some agent feedback, but that I had never requeried.
So I went home from the conference and spent a month polishing it up. I sent it to a new critique partner, who helped me clean it up and made it sparkle. I wrote my query (my one query) and my synopsis, and started to send it out on June 3rd. To every agent on my list, all at once. I decided that I didn’t want to do this whole ten at a time business this go-round. I was right in the middle of another manuscript that I was planning on querying when I was done, so I didn’t want to drag this round out for eight months.
I spent tons of time personalizing my queries, sending it to people whom I’ve have the privilege to meet over the years at conferences, to people who had requested my past manuscripts, and figured I’d have a forever wait, as usual.
Within three hours, my first request came in. And they kept coming and coming. I was in shock. For every rejection I received, I got another request.
Then three weeks into querying I got an email from an agent, Rachel Brooks from the L. Perkins Agency, saying that my query and sample pages had been forwarded to her from a colleague and that she’d love to read more.
I sent them to her on Saturday and by Monday, she emailed me and said she wanted to talk. We spoke on the phone Tuesday, and I absolutely loved her enthusiasm for the industry and for my book and I knew that this was someone I really wanted in my corner.
It all happened so fast, that I could hardly wrap my mind around it. I was mentally settling in for months of waiting, and within a month of querying this book, I had an agent. To be honest, I’m still having a hard time digesting it all. There was much dancing and screaming and excitement in the house after our phone call. My kids didn’t understand, but they were happy to join in the celebrating.
I know this is a first step, but it’s a step that I’ve worked so hard toward for years and it feels really good.