I cannot believe I am even typing this post right now…? Words are evading me, stars are forming behind my eyelids, and I cannot ! stop ! using ! exclamation points ! I scoured the Internet for around two years, sinking my manifestation fangs into these kinds of posts and wondering if I could ever write my own.
I ! am ! (see what I mean about the exclamation points!?)
I am so freaking excited and am still in shock to announce that I am now represented by the amazing, wonderful, lovely Monica Rodriguez at Context Literary! *internally screams, throws up, cries* So let’s dive into it, shall we?
A note before we start
Querying right now is so unbelievably difficult, dark, and destitute for a ton of writers. The world is in utter chaos, and as current querying writers are majorly seeing, response times are slower than ever—understandably so!—and, for me at least, the imposter syndrome and doubt was a black cloud ready to unleash a downpour on me at any given time (and it did, quite a few times.) My querying journey—this time around—was very quick, and I recognize that, completely. This isn’t really the typical slog you see, so if that’s at all triggering or something you do not want to see—again, understandably—then maybe just skip this post for now? I am sending every writer at any stage of the publishing process, but especially querying, encouragement.
A little bit about my writing journey
I’ll keep this as brief as possible (but I am an over-writer, so be warned), and I cover this in my first post on this site last year, but I’ve always been a writer but didn’t actually realize that potentially trying my hand at being published or hopping on that journey was open or available to someone like me. I have no idea why. I am so happy that isn’t the case. I was raised on Hunger Games fanfiction. Seriously. Some of my twelve-year old absolutely revolting attempts at writing about Johanna and Peeta and Katniss still live online—I should probably delete that account ASAP. But it was where I learned how to write. Month after month, year after year. It’s kind of cool to me, because I can see how I went from dumpster fire trash garbage literary rubbish, to slightly better, and better, and better. I can see where I got my tone, and see how I put life into my AU (alternate universe) characters, and see how I found the beats in writing, and my jive, in real time—and it’s of course still growing—and it’s such a special time capsule to me. I wrote other places too, as I got older. University. Internships. Work. Local papers. Competitions. I wrote fiction I never published. I filled composition notebooks full of characters I never found a place for. But it was all fun to me. Never anything to take seriously. Never anything to have my actual name attached to. Pfft. No way.
The pandemic happened—and I’ll keep this short because no one likes talking about this panini. I had just gotten back into reading actual books after a long dry spell of, like, one book a year. (I don’t want to talk about it.) And I fell in love with worlds and characters and stories again in a way that middle schooler me balancing library books on my binder couldn’t even rival. And specifically, I got into fantasy. And a particular series ripped me to shreds in the best way possible. I had a book hangover for a whole month. You know, when you just hyper-exist, and sleep with the books under your pillow hoping that magically, more pages will appear the next day. Essentially, a literary tooth fairy (which, I would actually rip all my teeth out if that were a thing.) And I was reading a lot of articles and watching interviews about the author. Someone had asked her if she’d had any advice for young authors and she said—I will never forget it—that if you have a story to tell, tell it. And you guys, I don’t know what came over me that day, or that moment. I don’t know why those words shook me up. Maybe I was waiting for permission? I don’t know. But it changed my life. I literally jumped out of my bed, Flamin’ hot Cheeto crumbs falling to the ground and baggy eyes from mid-quarantine glow, and pointed to the sky.
“Okay, then.” I said to the popcorn ceiling, determination blossoming in my eyes. “I will write a story.”
And that is exactly what I set out to do.
My first book + querying journey
Again, I covered this more extensively in my last post so peek at that, but essentially, I took an idea I’d had for a decade and got it on paper—or, virtual paper—again, and again, and again. I created a world I loved—with help from my bestie Jackie (check out her bookstagram, jy_books) who was so monumental to this process and who is still my angel through this journey—and characters who I felt in my heart and wanted to succeed and just loved. It had magic, and found family, and adventure, and I could already foresee it being the first in a planned out trilogy. But as usual, I didn’t tell a freaking soul. Later on, when I thought I was ready to query, I told a few close friends and that was it. I’m generally pretty private when it comes to writing and navigating potentially publishing until the thing is an actual thing. I started to write this book somewhere in the springtime of 2020, and then started querying at the start of the summer 2021. But now, let’s talk about the revision process and thinking I was “ready” to query. (Spoiler alert: I was not.)
Okay. So my revision for this book was literally non-existent. In my mind, revision was just finishing the book, conducting line edits, making sure the word count remained within genre lines, and ensuring that my characters were good characters. But while I generally loved my writing style and the characters in that book, that manuscript needed hella revisions.
Here’s what I didn’t realize then:
- That revising sometimes means a complete overhaul of certain pages, chapters, sections, or the entire book!
- That every character needs a purpose and a plan and must fit into the plot with intention and not just be added for the sake of being added.
- That every single part of the book must have a reason for existing.
- That killing your darlings and starting from a blank page was important even though it freaking hurt.
- That voice is crucial for the MC and cannot just be reserved for the side characters.
- And so ! much ! more!
You guys. As soon as I typed out THE END, I started sending out queries. (I DO NOT RECOMMEND.) I didn’t realize that just having a plot and a story and characters who I loved, and that flowed together and made general sense wasn’t enough for a book to be ready for querying. But I queried anyway.
So let’s get into that.
I will say that one thing I can do pretty well is research tf out of anything. And boy did I research everything that had to do with agents, querying, publishing, the market, etc. So you’d think that my query was pretty good, right?
Wrong. Here was my first pass: (I apologize in advance.)
I hope you are doing well! My name is Jozette Allah-Mensah, a Ghanian-American, comms and public affairs professional, living in the Washington DC area, and I am seeking representation for my debut novel SCORCHED. I specifically wanted to query you because I know you are looking for stories with compelling stakes, in depth world-building, and authentic characterizations from an ensemble cast. If we add political intrigue, secrets galore, a slow-burn romance, and a young woman coming into her own, to the mix, I thought you might be interested. My query is below, immediately followed by the first ten sample pages of my manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and consideration, and have a lovely rest of your day.
She damned the worlds with her first breath, and is bound to them until her last.
It has been seventeen years since the gods cut the thread of magic, shut the realms off from one another, and disappeared. But twenty-two year old Synnove and her twin sister Ravenna are princesses that still abide by the bargain that the gods ordained. One daughter must raise the sun to spawn the day, the other blows the moon into place for the night. Their bond is inextricably linked, and their duty is fundamental to the survival of the five realms. But when a fire rips through the palace, and Ravenna is taken in the dead of the night, the fate of the worlds is threatened.
Synnove enlists the aid of the Commander of the Legion, the ones whom magic chose, and follows him to the Grounds, the breeding place of the worlds’ armies. But every step closer to recovering Ravenna unravels deeper and more sinister truths about the fragile state of their worlds. And those in between.
When the fissures of the past threaten to crack open, and more threads than magic begin to fray, Synnove must learn how to redefine her duty, heal the promises of a forsaken land, and find her sister before it is too late.
Set against the backdrop of dying worlds descending into daily ruin, SCORCHED is a YA Fantasy novel, complete at 115,000 words. The first book of three in the CHILDREN OF IRE series. It would appeal to fans of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo.
You! Guys! I am GAGGING lmao it is so bad!!
I’m not going to get into the reasons why it sucks (iykyk) but it does. (Also, if you’re interested in querying and don’t know where to begin, there are so many online resources that can guide you way better than I can, which I will include at the bottom of this post.) And I unknowingly broke a ton of querying rules (ie: naming a series, adding themes in the first para, not having realistic comps, etc.) Absolutely sucks a duck. Rightfully, the agent I queried with this mess declined. (Thank God she did.) I don’t remember how many people I queried with this garbage but I had the good sense to ping Mindy McGinnis—an author who also has amazing editorial services—to help me, oh God, with this dumpster fire. (If you are looking for some help with your query, y’all better email her because wow she helped me make it so much better all without laughing me out of her inbox! Very kind tbh.) Here’s the revised query, that I actually love so much:
Dear [AGENT NAME],
When princess Synnove was five years old, she looked to the sky and screamed…and the sun rose at the sound.
Thus began the deal—the bargain a desperate Queen made with the gods to save the lives of her sickly babes. One daughter would raise the sun to spawn the day, the other would blow the moon into place for the night, the family hidden where no one could find them. And then…the gods disappeared. In the thirteen years since, famine has swept the five realms and whispers of rebellion have bloomed into acts of war, but the girls remain safe and operating in anonymity…until a fire rips through the palace and Ravenna goes missing. With her parents dead and her world broken, it’s up to Synnove to find her.
Adan is the Commander of the Legion, chosen to shoulder the burden of the rotting realms, and leads their armies to deal with the decay. Deeply embroiled in the selfish politics of the Keepers of the Realms, and bending to their every beck and call, he has no time—nor interest—to spare when Synnove enlists his help to find her sister. His disdain for her ignorance ignites a fire of hatred within Synnove, who thinks he is a brooding brute—until evil attacks, and they must fight side by side. Synnove unlocks depths to powers she never knew she had in order to save them, gaining some of Adan’s respect. But when each step closer to finding Ravenna unravels more sinister secrets of the realms that neither could have foreseen, Adan and Synnove must mend their chasm of distrust to seek out the truth.
In a land splintered by loss, Synnove must heal the wounds of a festering people and find her sister before they all succumb to a darkness that this time, her light won’t be able to stop. SCORCHED is a YA Fantasy novel, complete at 125,000 words, and is a standalone with series potential. The inextricable bond of sisterhood would appeal to readers of Hannah Whitten’s FOR THE WOLF, and the stakes of FURYBORN by Claire Legrand.
I specifically wanted to query you because [REASON].
I am a Ghanaian-American writer based in the Washington DC area and a 2019 Journalism graduate of American University. I have included below the first ten pages of my manuscript as requested. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
So much better! (Thank you Mindy!) Now thankfully, I hadn’t sent the yucky query to too many agents, and ended up sending this one to around 23 agents? I admit I didn’t keep the most detailed track record, but I ended up getting 9 full requests from agents, and then three more from small presses. They all came back as rejections—rightfully so, the book needed help—but I learned so much from the process. Looking back now, I didn’t feel super sad? I definitely had this huge idea of what would happen based on my own dreams and utter hatred of my day job at the time—and the pandemic—that surrounded a seven figure book deal and two movies and this and that and the other. (Again, I didn’t understand the realities of publishing until much later.) And this isn’t to say I didn’t feel disappointment. I loved these characters, I loved the team that they grew to be, the family they grew to be, and the love that they shared for each other. And this was my first whole book, for goodness sake. My first baby. But towards the end of the summer—whoops, forgot to add I started querying at the end of May and stopped early August—I realized that this book needed to be shelved, that I didn’t have the emotional capacity or space to completely start a 500 page book from scratch, and that I needed to write something else.
Now, during this time, I was also—still somewhat am—dealing with some new, chronic covid-related health issues that basically turned my life upside down. And I was mostly at home, not being able to really do much outside of my home, and in desperate need of some joy and hope.
And I had the itch to write.
Which brings us to my second book. The book that got me an agent (eep!)
My second book + querying journey (the winner!)
In June, I’d been delving into reading—and obsessing—over Adult RomComs and romance in general. I ate that shit up. Every single crumb. It was bliss, it was rainbows arcing my bedroom ceiling, it was good chest pain, and late night squeals hugging the books—or, my kindle—to my chest.
So I thought, why don’t I try writing something like this?
If you don’t know me personally, my whole personality is basically a collection of the absolute foolishness, stupid sunshiney joy, and when will my husband come back from war? energy. Half the words I use are made up, and I still sleep with my closet light on because of a book I read in third grade about how the boogeyman comes to bedrooms through dark closets. So I tried to think of something that sounded 1) Marketable and trendy 2) Fun/funny 3) Enemies-to-lovers (because I crave that). And somehow, Greece popped in my head.
You can stalk my instagram for more of this, but I studied abroad in Greece when I was 20 (I am now 25), it was the best time of my life, yadda yadda ya. And—again, because my life reflects that of an actual RomCom side character, I stuffed a ballgown into my suitcase because I thought a prince would sweep me off my feet and invite me to a ball. (True story.) And something happened, dear reader. Some type of cosmic convergence. Ben Franklin with a literary kite. Zap.
And I had my idea:
An American girl stuck in a sham study abroad program. An irresponsible prince stuck in a royal contract he doesn’t want. A fake engagement. A trip around Greece. Forced proximity. The wittiest banter. And many, many laughs.
This was something I wanted to read, so this was something I had to write.
Now, I still played around super loosely with the idea for the rest of the summer, and only wrote a few thousand words total—because, again, I was still under the illusion that my first book was going to blow publishing away—and then fall came around. My health issues got to an all time low, plus I had grad school—which was so difficult to physically navigate because of said health issues—and earlier on, I’d started a new (and way lovelier!) day job. But this idea started to glow in my brain, and it started to become my north star from all the chaos. I made myself a promise in September: that I would write as much as possible for NaNoWriMo, and try to have the draft done by the end of the year.
I freaking did the dang thing. (Here are the snapchat snippets I took along the way.)
You guys. I put my whole heart and soul into this book. I bled into this book. I flipped around every mistake I’d made with my first manuscript, and made sure I put all my knowledge into this new draft and new story. I spent every waking moment on this book. I brought my Macbook to the grocery store. I had it with me in the car. Typing away while stuffing pretzels in my mouth during work lunch breaks, and at relatives’ houses and events and celebrations. Every part of my brain and mind was occupied with this book—which, may not be healthy, but again I wasn’t healthy so there—and I loved every moment of it. And also, if you’re going to take away anything from this post, let it be this: if you are a writer and you’ve had to make the difficult decision to shelf a book, repeat after me: it wasn’t a waste of time or creativity. It was not a waste, period. I needed to write that first book. I needed to know that I could actually do it. To write a manuscript that—albeit, needed help—could stand on its own two feet. I needed it to understand how I storytell in this way. To make the mistakes, and to fall in love with my imagination crystallized on parchment. So many people say they want to write books, but you have actually done it. So I’m here to tell you that your retired story was your teacher, and is your friend. And that you should be so proud of yourself.
I ended up with 40K something words at the end of NaNoWriMo but I’d written a lot in October so that didn’t really count, but I was so happy I’d gotten that far and just kept trudging through!
Honestly, writing this draft felt so different than writing SCORCHED. It was so much fun? I was laughing and screaming and just drunk in love, obsessed. It was easier. So much easier—not to say it wasn’t hard. That middle hits everyone, I feel like. But even that was easier because I’d done the work before to know how to handle that and what to do. I remember thinking to myself, If I can write this, if I can finish, this will be the best thing I have ever written.
I ended up finishing the first draft at the start of January—in my skims pajamas and with a heart monitor attached to my chest, at around 95K words. Lol, I took a video—I did that a lot—to document that day. I was so bone-deep exhausted and looked it for sure. But, I was victorious. I had freaking finished. I had done the dang thing. Holy frick. And I was so obsessively focused, pedaling the gas, I had written it in just four months. (Which, compared to the year-long writing process SCORCHED was, was super fast!)
But I wasn’t done yet. I had to do revisions.
You’re generally supposed to let the manuscript rest in a drawer or something and not look at it for a while. I had told myself I would wait two weeks minimum. (I lasted four days lol). By this time—mid, January—I was antsy to just get it done and start querying already. I am an inherently impatient person. Extremely so. It’s my hamartia. But I forced myself to slow way down. And I told myself that I would have to be intentional about every bit of this revision to really make this book as perfect as possible.
I did the work, you guys. I ordered craft books. I opened new journals. I set a schedule. I ordered more craft books. I watched youtube videos. I read blogs. I signed up for skills and tips newsletters. I bought comps books. I ordered more ! craft ! books !!!
I read them, I studied them, I took notes. I re-outlined the book. I rewrote it with such intention. I added new characters! I solidified themes! I made sure every person had a purpose, every beat had a place, every point had a closed loop in the story, or if it didn’t, add it or slash it out. I ended up rewriting around 65 to 70 percent of the book in 2.5 months (the time it took to revise). This, while so much fun—I could finally understand why writers said that the book was made in revision because it was!—was also grueling, and I was exhausted and extra, extra impatient!
To combat my impatience, I compiled and fine-tuned my list of agents who I thought—and had researched—would be perfect fits for the manuscript. I had put a sticky note on my desk wall that I would start querying on April 4th no matter freaking what—which I thought was possible because I was almost there!
But I actually had sent my first query on 3/31 because one of the agents I had on my list was closing to queries that day so I rushed to send it in.
Now, what I hadn’t anticipated was the world blowing up as soon as I wanted to query. Like, everything in the world. (I won’t recap it here to save some despair.) I panicked some. I had finally thought I had a good idea and a really good book, and it struck the market perfectly, and the world was going wild and so naturally, of course it impacted the industry. Twitter was a desolate wasteland I avoided at all costs except to do the occasional stalk for any online agent movement ever—both on and off my list—and #MSWL updates. And because, like I said, I am impatient, and I was ! panicking ! because of how everything was seemingly taking a long time, I thought, why not just start sending some queries now.
Now, before we get into my experience, stats, etc. Here’s my query—which Mindy helped with again, though my draft was not as horrendous as before:
Dear [AGENT NAME]
Twenty-two-year-old Grace Curtis didn’t have get scammed by a fake scholarship for a nonexistent study abroad program at the top of her How to Thrive in Greece checklist. Without the scholarship, her small budget won’t last for a week, let alone a semester. Her mother’s last wishes had been for her to experience the joy of the Mediterranean, but upon her arrival, Grace has nothing but grief in her heart for the parent she lost, and the opportunity that’s gone totally kaput.
Dimitri Kompos always knew he had a news-worthy ass, he just didn’t know it would make headlines when he used it as a bottle opener. Apparently, his family would prefer that same ass to be preparing for a seat on the throne—since his older brother unexpectedly passed away. In a last ditch-effort to force the black sheep of the family to grow up, Dimitri is offered an ultimatum: marry his late brother’s psycho ex-fiancée by summer’s end and cut his careless lifestyle—including no more public spectacles—or lose his entire inheritance.
As Grace readies for a disappointing trip home and Dimitri goes out for his last hurrah, the two quite literally collide. The tabloids misinterpret their interaction as falling for each other instead of falling over each other, sounding alarm bells throughout the royal court. Dimitri is doomed to become a rags from riches tale, unless…he and Grace are an actual bonafide couple. Dimitri gives Grace the proposition of a lifetime: pretend to be his fake fiancée and get an all-expenses paid journey around Greece pretending to be the love of his life during the traditional Engagement Tour.
As the two are whisked off on a national adventure across four regions of Greece, they try to appear madly, deeply in love for the cameras. In reality, Grace believes that Dimitri is the Achilles heel personified, and Dimitri keeps his Ray-Bans on at all times just in case Grace’s glare turns him into stone. But as the summer draws on, the pair realize that they’ve both been navigating the choppy waters of grief in different ways and that maybe they can find an anchor in each other. As real feelings blossom beneath the act, they must decide for themselves, when the camera flashes fade, are they really still pretending?
In THE PRINCE, ME, AND THE AEGEAN SEA, the prince meets the South-Carolinian pauper in a romantic-comedy set against the glittering seas of the Aegean and under the shadow of the Acropolis. Complete at 126,000 words, it is a standalone novel with pie-in-the-sky adventure that mirrors Sandy Barker’s ONE SUMMER IN SANTORINI, and the enemies-to-lovers modern regency appeal of Emma St. Clair’s ROYALLY REARRANGED. I wanted to query you because [REASON].
I am a Ghanaian American writer based in the Washington DC area and a 2019 Journalism graduate of American University where I was awarded School of Communication Woman of the Year 2019. By day, I lead policy communications at a non-profit with a view of Capitol Hill, and by night I lament the fact that the ballgown I brought with me on my own European study abroad adventure was for naught. (At least Grace gets her happy ending.)
Please find [submission requirements/# of pages of the manuscript] below. Thank you so much for your time and consideration, and I hope you have a lovely rest of your day!
I love this query so much! A couple things though: it is a bit long—but I am an over-writer—and the manuscript is a bit long—re: I am an over-writer, and don’t worry, my agent and I are working on getting it way down.
Onto actually querying. I was going to do the traditional, send to five agents at a time in batches, plan. But impatience struck again, and I was again scared that things were moving slow, and that I might as well send to a bigger bunch at one time, or around one time. I was also super confident in the query and the opening pages, and manuscript in general, this time around.
On April 5th, I queried five agents. And I got an immediate response—not even three hours later—from an agent who had sold one of my favorite rom coms and who wanted a full request!! I freaked out. It shouldn’t have happened this quickly right? Plus it was a form query and I had in my head that form queries—or at least, in my own experience—have a stigma of not holding good news. I uploaded my materials two days later cause I panicked and wanted to make sure everything was as perfect as possible. Then I said, okay, I’m going to send more queries. So on April 7th, I sent three more, with another immediate, partial request!! This time, I sent everything ASAP. I kept sending more throughout the month. (I’ll include specific querying stats at the end of the post.)
Now, I had queried Monica on April 18th, terrified that for some reason she would hate my manuscript (idk why I thought this!) But I thought that her MSWL matched my story really well, so I thought, let’s just see what happens.
She requested a full four days later.
I thought. Omg. Okay. She likes what she sees, but she could probably still turn it down.
She sent me the sweetest email on April 22nd with good things! And that she wanted to get on the phone, and I lost my freaking mind. On the highway. (I wasn’t driving, don’t worry.) I had an out of body experience, letting out a sound between a prehistoric-ostrich (did those exist? idk) squawk and like, a banshee screech and I scared the crap out of my mom and sister.
I must have read that email five hundred thousand times that day. I screenshotted it and put it in my favorites album on my phone. Because, surely this couldn’t be the call, right? Right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong. (The best kind of wrong!)
We had our call at the start of the next week, so I had to wait a weekend and I was a nervous, anxious wreck. What If it was an R&R, which would still be such an honor, but I didn’t have it in me to revise the story again to that extent? What if she liked it but it was just a polite rejection? I was tormented by the voice of doubt.
Until, we actually had the call.
Sunshine poured out of every pore in my body. My heart bloomed into a field of flowers. I got goosebumps up and down my arms. Because we clicked, and she loved the book! I think I can speak for every writer when someone, anyone, actually loves the story you produced. The characters. The themes. For me, I didn’t have an army of writer friends, or Betas or CP’s. I just had one amazing editor friend who I confided in, and despite her lauding about how good she thought the story was, I still doubted. So you have to understand how unreal it was to have a literary agent tell you so many good things about your book. My heart is still singing while writing this. And at the end of the call, she made me an official offer of representation and I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that this dream had just come true with a dream of an agent. Especially after all the health issues coming to rock bottom, and the world in depressing disarray, and just the sheer gray of the querying trenches right now, and just in general. You guys, this story was—and is—all I had. My bright star.
And I made it to this point.
I’m still pinching myself.
So I nudged—as is customary—every other agent who had a full, or a partial, or who I’d queried with materials, and I gave them ten days to respond. A few other full requests flooded in, as well as kind and encouraging step-asides (they were truly so sweet!) There was one more agent I was waiting on but I knew in my heart and soul that Monica was my agent and I made the decision to withdraw their full before the 19th deadline.
And here we are! I signed with Monica on May 17th and I could not be happier and more grateful.
So without further ado, here are my querying stats:
AGENTS QUERIED: 19
TIME PERIOD: April 5th to May 5th (one month)
TOTAL FULL REQUESTS: 4
PARTIAL REQUESTS: 1
INITIAL REJECTIONS: 4
As for words of wisdom, I really don’t have any. I truly did not believe that this would happen so quickly—especially right now. I had quicker request rates for the most part for SCORCHED and this time around, I was already 10K words deep into another WIP because I thought my manuscript was just not going to make it, and surely not until way after the summer had ended. And I was fully prepared to query way more agents if need be because I had done the work this time, and I believed in this story. Well. Most of the time. (See below).
(Here is proof of me spiraling as I texted Jackie a middle of the night existential crisis text): **Fun fact, the night before Monica emailed me (miracles happen!)
And here’s proof that I lost my mind after Monica’s news:
I have heard since the beginning of my publishing research—two flipping years ago!—that this journey is such a weird, wacky, wild one. That you can’t possibly know what comes next. And I for sure don’t. I am not out of the woods yet at all. I am hoping that the next blog post I write is the book deal blog post *manifesting into the stars* and even after that, there is just so much unknown with publishing. But I am so, unbelievably, hugely, grateful to be here. Grateful for answered prayers. Grateful for the shooting star that granted me this wish after so much sadness and physical pain and exhaustion. Grateful for Monica for taking a chance on my story. Grateful for the author that told me to write a story. Grateful for Katniss and Peeta for being my OG inspirations for storytelling. I do not know what’s next, and I am just happy to be here. I’ll keep taking it day by day 🙂
And if I had any parting words or “tips”—I don’t quite like that word—to writers (new or old, querying or just starting to look into publishing), I would say this:
- Rejection isn’t personal! I am bad with criticism. I am a pisces. It can sting. But when an agent passes, it is not a personal attack on you as a person! Be kind, and respectful. Always.
- Keep honing your craft. This is something I plan on doing until my fingers are old and gnarled and some robot in the future will have to, like, write for me by seeping into my subconscious. (Or something.) Read everything. It’s a tip I’m sure you hear a lot, but it is so true. And especially read your genre, and go back and re-read your favorites many times. Study them! Rip them apart, sentence by sentence. What do you love about this writing? Why is it your favorite? Why do you feel so drawn to the characters? Take the time to debunk what you love, and you will find your voice.
- Listen to your gut. I was terrified to query certain agents. I was convinced that they would reject mine. Funnily enough, those were the ones that requested my work. This may be controversial, but don’t let querytracker stats or data dictate what you think the agent may or may not like. So what, they rejected an 80K YA Thriller, and you wrote an 80K YA Thriller. Doesn’t mean they will reject yours if you’ve followed what they’re requesting and proper submission guidelines. You are the best writer for your own story. No one can write quite like you can. Submit it anyway.
- Lastly, and most importantly, take care of yourself. And take whatever breaks you need.
I hope this was helpful or at least made you smile (maybe a little!) I am sending you so much love. I hope you feel it.
- What is querying?
- How do I find a literary agent?
- What does the publishing process entail?
- How do I write a query?
- How do I write a synopsis?
- What are great software options to use when writing a book? *I personally love scrivener
- Websites/subscriptions that I used that helped me immensely:
- Helping writers become authors (Her book on character arcs was chef’s kiss to me and completely changed my perception and understanding of creating characters with extreme depth)
- Writer’s digest successful queries series
- Query Shark
- Writer Beware
- Reddit PubLit + RomanceAuthor subs! (Also, check out the RomanceBooks if you’re a romance writer. So helpful because readers talk about everything in that sub—tropes they love/hate, ideas they’re longing for someone to write, etc. A great resource.)
- Publishers Marketplace *get on their newsletter to see what deals are being made/who’s making them
- #MSWL tweets + Manuscriptwishlist.com
- Pitchwars showcases (it’s a great way to peek at opening pages, and see what agents requested what/what they’re into!)
- Author instagram highlights (Emily Henry’s is amazingly helpful! So is Sarah Grunder Ruiz!)
- Youtubers who specialize in this space (Alexa Donne, Alyssa Matesic, etc.) (also, agents do interviews and literary agents make youtube videos as well and they are just full of golden tips and topics)
- If you’re a writer/aspiring author who doesn’t have Twitter, I strongly recommend you get one. It can be depressing sometimes and even I have to step away for chunks of time, but it is so helpful too. Agents are so active on there! They will let you know when they’re closed to queries, what they’re on the hunt for next, and you can even DM some of them—albeit, wisely, kindly, not make a habit of it—if you want more specifications if their MSWL’s are kind of murky, or you’re not sure if they’ll be into your book. The writing community can also be super helpful there. I am such a lurker but have bookmarked anything from craft threads to helpful pointers, etc. I can’t stress how helpful it is.
And so much more 🙂
And last thing—I swear. Something that I have to say I am super appreciative of is the amount of information that has been made available to folks able to access the interwebs. Like I said, at the start of this whole thing, I had zero idea about any of this, how publishing worked (I am still very much learning), querying, etc. And now, after gorging myself on all of this info for two years, I’m sitting here with a lot of gratitude at how if you send a question into the ether, there’s typically, always going to be an answer already there. And if there isn’t one, someone will create one for you. The resources I listed above don’t even scratch the surface of info you can access. It’s incredible. And I am thankful.