The year was 2021 and it was a warm, sunny day just like all the other warm, sunny days before it…
Just kidding. It was actually one whole year before that in 2020 and the pandemic was raging, so it was unlike ANY other day really. I had chosen this strange time to write my first ever children’s picture book story and after a few rounds of (self) revision, I was off querying it. Because, in stark contrast to any other area of my life, when it comes to my writing journey, I have always been blindly optimistic. I also love research, and one or two months into considering traditional publishing, I already knew it was wise to query small batches of agents at a time. I queried ten agents with my very premature manuscript in June 2020! And–in case you hadn’t predicted it already– received all form rejections.
I took a break from querying, found my critique group, and started writing a few more stories. In the months that followed, I built my online community of friendly kidlit writers and participated in every twitter pitch contest there was. In September 2020, I queried ten more agents, including those who had shown interest at pitch parties. More form rejections. During this time, I had connected with an agent to enter a contest. Maybe it was our shared background, because even though she was closed to queries, she invited me to query her. This resulted in her loving my work enough to get on a call with me. It was my first R&R! I was so excited. She seemed like the dream agent and was so encouraging. I whipped out another story, did the revisions as best as I could, and kept my fingers crossed. She eventually passed, and even though it broke my heart a bit, I chose to let it drive me forward. Having agent interest at that stage was so encouraging, and I was so thankful to her for the confidence boost. It did slow me down though. I take a long time to recover from disappointments, and although form rejections never bothered me too much, I had had high hopes. It was at this time that my writing friend, Anushi, suggested I apply for the WNDB mentorship, which I did at the last minute. I took a break from writing picture books (wrote my middle-grade instead!) but still before the year was over I had sent out 6 more queries…with no bites.
Then at the end of 2020, I received the wonderful news that I had been chosen as a WNDB picture book mentee! So in 2021, armed with a few revised manuscripts, I started querying again. In Feb/March 2021 I had queried 18 agents. This time though, I received many customized rejections and an R&R (which I didn’t pursue as I didn’t agree with the requested revisions), and even a request for more by the very first agent I had queried in 2020! Things had come full circle. It was eventually a pass, which was disappointing, but deep inside I was relieved because my instincts kept telling me they weren’t the one for me (TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!!!).
I took a break. Querying and the rejections that followed didn’t upset me too much, but the waiting made me very anxious. I needed to take time off if I was to do any actual writing. I used that time to support my writer friends, apply for more mentorships for my middle-grade, and concentrate on my picture book mentorship.
By May 2021 I had FURTHER revised my stories and wanted to try again. Pandemic fatigue meant I was blogging and tweeting more than ever and was also posting regularly on my professional instagram account. All this led me to connect with yet another agent, a friendly chat, and an invitation to query her. Was this the virtual version of ‘networking’, I thought to myself? (Something I would never be able to do in person due to my location btw). My hopes soared yet again, but I was concentrating on my MG book so I kept my expectations in check and held on. My blind optimism was joined by self-assurance and encouragement from my mentor and CPs that my stories were better than ever. I decided to query my picture books one last time for the year. If it didn’t result in an offer, I would not query for the rest of the year and query next year with my MG instead. I had a plan.
So in May 2021, after lots of agent research once again, I sent out ten queries. The agent who had wanted me to query her replied almost immediately to the manuscript I had shared saying she loved it and wanted to see more. And then just THREE days later, I had an email for a call! NOT from the first agent, but a brand new one. A complete slush pile agent who was a senior one at a reputable agency and who, according to QT, hardly responded to queries. I was elated!
After a call with her two days later which was an offer as I had hoped, I quickly notified the other agents with who my queries were pending. Most of them stepped aside, but the agent who wanted to see my work initially wanted to talk to me too! In less than a week, I had TWO offers from two great agents!
The agent who I eventually chose was the one who made the second offer. Her love for my stories was so heartfelt and genuine, and she made me feel so comfortable and understood. She loved to talk, and I love to talk, and being so far away from where all the magic happens, it was important to me to have an agent who I could communicate freely with. She was also passionate and driven, and although her agency was relatively newer, I knew I had found my best advocate. My instincts told me to pick her, and I did.
And that’s how Jacqui Lipton, founder of Ravenquill Literary, became my agent. It’s been only three months, but it’s been amazing.
My instincts were right.