Back in January 2020, right before the world went through that wild and crazy time called the Pandemic-That-Won’t-Be-Named, I started my querying journey.
It was exciting, terrifying, and I had researched my brains out. I read all the articles about crafting queries, writing killer hooks, pages that agents just want to eat up. I did the work and started sending queries.
And the rejections poured in.
Now, I don’t have a fragile ego when it comes to rejection. I went to fine arts college where I literally paid professors to criticize my artwork honestly and harshly. That’s how you get better at a thing. Feedback helps us grow.
But query rejections don’t often come with feedback.
I was baffled. How could this totally unique, professionally edited, exciting, money making manuscript keep producing rejections faster than Disney made Star Wars spin-offs?
Well, dear readers, because the book wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready.
After dozens of ‘nah, this ain’t for me’ emails, I completely rewrote my manuscript. Not only did I tighten the plot and pacing, I completely changed the POV from third person to first. After all, I was writing for the young adult market. First person is significantly more common.
I rallied together critique partners. Fellow writers who are also seriously pursing their own writing careers. They were (and are) a game changer for all of my work. They tore me apart and built me up again.
Then I went back out to those query trenches. And more rejections came.
Then, I got it. My first full request.
After that, more requests. Partials and fulls. The rejections kept coming in, but the requests filtered in there as well.
Those requests either ended in rejections, or complete silence. I had one agent request a full, keep it for six months, and offer only a form rejection when she declined to rep me. That was an absolute bummer.
I had requests from varied levels of agents. Some were Big Name agents who worked on absolute world changing books, with insane levels of sales under their belts. Some were newer with a few decent sales and a growing client list. I was open to all the possibilities, trusting that I’d find the match.
Now, at this point, it had been 2 years since I’d started querying. I was getting tired. Real tired. The rejections were still adding up, and I was close to shelving the book. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I wasn’t sure if there was someone else out there who would. But I had a few full requests that I was waiting on. And I’d decided that if they were all rejections, I’d set this book aside and throw myself into the new story I was scheming.
One night, I was doom scrolling through Twitter. I came across a literary agent I hadn’t recognized. That was odd, because when you’re in the trenches for any decent amount of time, you start to recognize a vast number of agents and agencies. There were few I hadn’t heard of by that time.
I checked out this brand new agent’s Twitter feed. I saw she liked to engage, she tweeted about books and writers. She loved The Office and spoke fluent GIF language. Like Alice in Wonderland, I fell down the rabbit hole, reading up everything I could about this fresh agent. We had so much in common! Not only did we share a love of the same books and authors, we had a shared faith base, and we had similar desires for what we wanted from a good story.
So, off to QueryManager I went. I submitted the required materials and hoped for the best.
I woke up to a very enthusiastic full request. Okay, cool, I thought. This is exciting, but it’s happened before. Keep it cool.
I was hopeful, but I didn’t let myself get too invested. I went about my day.
Then, a few days later, it happened.
The agent wanted to schedule ‘the call’ to discuss her offer of representation for my book.
Is this real life? What?! My husband was out of town at the exact moment I got the email. I remember it perfectly, because I was boiling pasta on the stove and just cruising through my emails while praying that boiling water didn’t overflow onto my stovetop.
My husband was a keynote speaker for an event, and he was literally minutes away from heading out on stage, so I just sent him a screenshot of the email and knew he’d call me later. He called me two seconds after the message went through. We cried and cheered and pumped each other up, and then he hung up.
And I sobbed on my kitchen floor.
It had finally happened. After over two years of “no” in all the varying forms. I had an offer.
We had the video call about a week later. I went through the proper protocol and notified the agents who needed to know about the offer. After two ish weeks, decisions were made.
Then, I signed with Bethany Jett.
She was a light at the end of the tunnel for this book. While my manuscript needed some loving, she chose to invest her time into me and this silly little gargoyle book.
We’re about six months into our journey together, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. She’s an excellent communicator. Patient. Compassionate. And she is such a fantastic cheerleader for her clients.
I had some people warn me about signing with a brand new agent, but I haven’t regretted it once. She’s on fire, she’s a hard worker, and she was willing to give me a shot. If she’s willing to invest time in a new author, I can be willing to invest time in a new agent. We’ll grow together.
As of the posting of this blog, we’re finalizing edits to prepare my manuscript for submission. I have all the feelings about going on submission, but I’m trying to focus on the excitement and possibility of what it would mean to sell my manuscript and get this work into the hands of readers beyond my circle of CP’s and beta readers.
I’m not going to give the final details and exact numbers on my querying journey. While they can be helpful, and I’ll share them openly among the people and writers I engage with, I don’t know that it’s beneficial to share them here. They’re nuanced. There are a lot of factors, like my rewrites, the pandemic, the sluggish publishing industry.
All you need to know is that when you query, ‘no’ is a frequent, common, normal word to hear dozens and dozens of times. It can push you or it can break you.
But one ‘yes’ is all you need.
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