My pandemic writing woes were answered in January 2021. I finally discovered STORYSTORM. This was perfect! I could easy jot down an idea even with the chaos of a city in extended lockdown mode (still true today) and my family in my writing space. I was still set on writing novels, but this was a good way to stay connected to the writing community.
Success! I had 30 new ideas and something also clicked. I took one of my STORYSTORM ideas (ALONE TOGETHER) that I had originally written as a short story and rewrote it as a picture book. In February 2021, after showing it to my critique partners, I sent ALONE TOGETHER ON DAN STREET to Apples & Honey Press.
Early March 2021, I received great news. Apples & Honey Press wanted to publish ALONE TOGETHER!
At the same time, I entered two Twitter pitch events, PB Pitch and PitMad. I received 3 agent hearts and 1 publisher heart for two picture books. I had done my homework in the MG and YA world, but not for PBs. I didn’t realize that you should have a body of work before you query PBs. While those three agent hearts became rejections, two asked for additional manuscripts and both indicated they had an interest in seeing MILA when it was ready. I never sent MILA to them because I didn’t think that they were the right people for that project which meant they were probably not right for me at all.
Did I really need an agent anyway? I had a publishing contract. Because the KidLit writing world is incredible and kind and generous, I had 2 authors, who I only knew online, offer to speak to me and walk me through my contracts and the decision to go unagented.
I sent MILA out to 2 more agents. I tried to use the first PB contract coupled with MILA to help. I sent letters to inform them that I now had a PB contract. I received 2 more rejections. The ALONE TOGETHER contract didn’t help, though the rejections did come quickly.
Since ALONE TOGETHER takes place during the pandemic, Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House) wanted to move quickly to have it out before Passover 2022. I’ve since learned how slowly PB books generally move through the timeline from query/submission to contract to published book.
In the meantime, that same week in early March, I received more good news. Intergalactic Afikoman wanted to publish one of my PBs, COUNTING ON NAAMAH (another STORYSTORM 2021 idea)!
I now had 2 PB contracts in total and still no agent. I was set to continue without an agent and focus on PBs for the time being. This was my plan. It made sense.
I knew I was close with Mila though. I took the feedback on MILA (now 7 agents, 3 with exactly the same feedback) and cut my entire second chapter and over 4,000 additional words from the manuscript (10% and mostly from the early part of the ms). I loved Chapter 2, but it was too slow and most agents were only reviewing Chapters 1 & 2. It is true that many things in publishing are subjective, but you really should consider making substantial changes when multiple industry professionals tell you the same thing.
In March 2021, I sent MILA and my PBs to one more agent and a week later, I had a full request and soon an offer of representation. I really liked the agent that I spoke with, but I wasn’t convinced that she was the right person for me and I was doing pretty well with my PBs and small publishers.
I received a request for a R&R from a publisher on another PB manuscript (#3). I made the requested change and sent that back in immediately.
I then had a Twitter KidLit friend tell me that she saw a Manuscript Wish List from Caryn Wiseman at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency that made her think of me. I had nothing to lose. I was enjoying working with my PB editors and was learning so much about the industry, but my Twitter friend was right. This was seemingly a good fit for me.
At the end of March 2021, I sent MILA out to Caryn Wiseman.
Early May, I found out that I was a winner of the Spring Fling KidLit Contest. Check this annual event out. It has developed an entire very supportive community around it. It is a great contest to participate in.
In mid-May 2021, six weeks after sending my query to Caryn Wiseman, I received a full request! I took 10 days to respond to the request. I read MILA again and again and then finally pressed send.
Two days after Caryn received the full, I had a message to set up the call! I didn’t hesitate. I knew this was the right match. Caryn loved MILA from the start and immediately understood who I am as a writer and what is important to me.
I strongly believe in targeted queries. Like most querying authors, I had long lists of KidLit agents. I scored mine by how right I thought they were for me and my particular project (1-5). The agents that were #1s for me were exactly that, #1s for me. When I queried, I mostly sent my queries to a range of #1-#3s. I stopped querying when I had the feeling that it was the time to stop. Could I have found an agent faster had I sent queries out more widely? I’ll never know the answer to that, but I believe that I ended up where I was meant to be and at the time that I was meant to be there.
If I were to focus on only March – May 2021, it sounds like this was a quick process. It wasn’t. There were years of work leading up to these few months. It was long and slow and laborious. I listened to critiques and they’re very hard to hear sometimes. Listen anyway. I read, read, read, and read. I learned about the industry. I made many friends along the way. The process is ongoing. Don’t stop reading. Take breaks from writing and querying. The industry is all about waiting. Be patient. Be a little bit mean to your main characters, but be kind to yourself.
STATS on MG Manuscript Queries
THREADS 2015 – Queries 11
STONE 2017- Queries 8
LIES 2019 – Queries 0
MILA 2020/2021 – Queries 9
Query totals: 28
Full requests: 2
Agent Offers: 2