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Hello wonderful readers! I have been agented for exactly one year!! And it has been an amazing experience and an absolute whirlwind. In the past year, Emily has sold multiple books for me (only one announced so far) and we have plans for more to come.


If I have learned one thing in the past year, it's that the submission process is not super open. I get tons of questions about how long I was on submission before selling, if my first book to go on sub sold (spoiler alert: it didn't), how long it took for editors to respond, etc. So in an effort to make this process more transparent, I'm hosting a completely anonymous survey for any authors who have been on submission so that we can get a good idea of the submission process. For any authors who have been on sub, please consider filling out this form. If you have not yet been on sub, please share and help me gather this data. I'll keep the form open for 2 weeks and will share the data in a few different posts after I analyze what I learn.


Form here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScCdl9ye1RxRBqUBJZG8oBSY8akJf0HFGAJlXlbzn386nF6Hg/viewform?usp=sf_link


Thank you to everyone for your help! I am so excited to learn more about this process.


K



About Kailei Pew


Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. Kailei's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023

Hello wonderful readers! How is everyone doing?? The last two weeks in writing world were A-N-X-I-E-T-Y inducing for me. Beyond majorly. And I couldn't pin point exactly why, but it seemed to be all the things. So I tried to really simplify my life, especially my social media presence, and that actually helped a lot on the mental health front.


So just checking in with you all... how are you doing? Are you taking care of you? Are you doing what works for you? Do you need a listening ear? Please feel free to reach out any time if you do. This industry is not for the faint of heart, as they say.


Anyways... I digress. I am really excited to welcome Ramya (R.G.) Spaulding to this week's Tuesday From The Trenches! Her story is amazing and I am really excited to share this two year journey on the blog today!



Thank you so much for joining us today, Ramya! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers! I have loved learning about your story and I know it will inspire readers to really hone their craft and keep at it!


Can you share your query stats with us?

Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Almost 2 years. But did not actively query.

Number of Agents Queried: 21

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 0

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: #dvpit-3 agents, #APIpit-3 agents, 2 editors, 1 small press.

Number of R&Rs: 0

Number of Rejections: 20 (including ones I never heard back from)

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Elisa Houot of The Seymour Agency


That is wonderful! Huge congratulations! How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.


Hands down Spreadsheet! (I am an engineer, although not practicing now).


Team Spreadsheet!! I love a good spreadsheet as well. As that spreadsheet began to fill itself out, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?


Yes, the first few times, it stung because I was not used to rejection of my work or not getting replies because it doesn’t happen like that in the engineering field. But, I adapted to rejections pretty fast. I understood that it wasn’t personal. I also did not query actively.


This was my process: I would query a few agents, and then I would take time off from querying because as I was taking more writing and illustration classes and learning continuously, I felt like I was getting better and better and didn’t want to query the same stories. I felt like the more classes I took, the fewer polished manuscripts and dummies I had. Hence the small number of queries. Also, dummies take forever to make! So I just took my time. I was in no hurry.


That is really wonderful advice! I love your commitment to craft over everything else. And I can't even imagine how time consuming it is to be an author/illustrator. One of my lovely critique partners is A/I and the dummy making process seems to be so intense. You are amazing for plugging along that path.


So once you felt like you had something polished and ready to go, how did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?


At first, I looked at all the authors that I liked and their agents and started a spreadsheet with their names, websites, interviews, etc. Then I took note of all the new author/illustrators getting agents, and a lot of them were finding newer agents in established agencies. So I thought that would be a good strategy, so I added some of them to my spreadsheet. But then I discovered social events #PBpitch, #DVpit, #APIPit on Twitter. So I thought I should give it a try because that would provide the agents with a chance to like my work, and would help me cut back on who I should query. I also subscribed to Publishers Market Place and took note of agents who had diverse clients and who have sold diverse stories. I came across Pitch Perfect Live on Twitter, and knew that The Seymour Agency had agents with very diverse clients and have sold diverse stories.


That is a really great system, R.G.! I also went for a new agent at an established agency, and I think it's a wonderful path to take. So it sounds like the Pitch Perfect Live was a great opportunity for you... How did you ultimately connect with your agent?


I found my agent through a Twitter pitch event. Elisa Houot tweeted that their agency was doing a live Twitter pitch event called “Pitch Perfect Live,” and I thought, why not, so I told some of my CP’s. A few of us were lucky enough to get spots. It is always fun to do things with your CP’s as a group. My spot was with Joyce Sweeney and her intern. When you sign up, you get a chance to pick up to 3 agents to pitch live to. I got nervous about pitching live in front of an agent and their intern, but I made myself go through with it because...why not? I don’t lose anything, and it is good to see and talk to agents and get their reaction live. By the end of the live event, I had so much nervous energy, but the agents and interns were very lovely and made you feel good about pitching. Joyce is like a Godmother to PB authors :-)


She really does seem so lovely. All of my interactions with Joyce have been super positive! So after that event, how much time passed between querying to getting “the call”?


Pitch Perfect Live: April 15, 2021 (Joyce Sweeney, The Seymour Agency)

Submitted PB manuscript and Dummy: April 25, 2021

The Call: May 10, 2021 (Elisa Houot, The Seymour Agency)

The Seymour Agency is very collaborative. All the agents talk to each other and work closely in kidlit.

Since Joyce had clients with similar stories to mine, she shared my stories with Elisa, a newer agent building up her client list. Joyce then set up a meeting between Elisa and me so we can talk to each other. I found out that Elisa loved all of my stories also. She is very patient, sweet, and easy to talk to and work with.


Oh that's so exciting! I love when agents share MSs in an agency. That was probably a surprise to get a call from someone you didn't sub to, but what an AMAZING surprise! Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Elisa was the right choice?


Elisa set up a date for the call, and I frantically started gathering all kinds of questions to ask her. I had three pages of questions which she answered patiently. She asked me what else I was working on and why I was looking for an agent. We connected well, and at the end of the call, she offered representation.


The right agent will love “ALL OF YOUR WORK” and is easy to connect with and is very transparent with how they do subs, keeps you in the loop every step of the way, and explains all this in The Call. Elisa is lovely and extremely hardworking. She was easy to talk to and explained how the agency works. She also encouraged me to nudge other agents to who I have submitted material, but I connected with her so well that I decided to withdraw from the others. Even though she lives in France, she is just an email away if I have questions, and by the time I wake up in the morning, she has already replied to my questions. So time zone difference works great for us.


That sounds like such a lovely call! And I love to hear about agents who love your entire body of work and are prepared to be your career agent. Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?


Not sure if it is just one book. After I participated in Pitch Perfect Live, I also participated in #APIpit a week after, and I got 3 agent likes, 2 editor likes, and one small press. One of the agents was Joyce Sweeney, so I knew I was still in consideration.


That is so wonderful! Another testament that Elisa is in it for the long haul with you, excited about your full body of work!

If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?


Use all the avenues available to find your agent. The dream agent will be the agent who can sell your work. Don’t hesitate to query new agents who are mentored at established agencies. They want to succeed as much as you do, and they usually have more time to answer your questions and guide you in this publishing journey. It is a partnership.


Also, while all those “No’s” are coming, keep improving your craft with classes and webinars and critique groups. My critique partners play a great role in helping me focus my story and making it better. There are also many mentorship opportunities available on Twitter for free, like #PBChat and #PBParty. I always took advantage of all the free opportunities available. I was placed in the #PBParty 2021 as one of the finalists in the illustration category. Even if it doesn’t lead to an agent, it is a big confidence booster to get noticed.


Don’t give up. This is just the first step into the publishing world.


That is all such wonderful advice! I love that your journey was really about honing your craft and taking every opportunity that came your way. I think that between those two things, everyone can make it in this industry. I love your reminder that a yes will come. It only takes one. Before I let you go... Where can we connect with you online?


@RGSpaulding on Twitter and IG

Website: https://rgspaulding.com/



Wonderful! Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?


Since I was relatively new to this field (my second career), I had a lot of learning to do, but I didn’t have time to go back to college full-time to write/illustrate. But luckily for me, I was able to find many classes online and connect with some great kidlit peeps.


Some of the classes that helped me are:

The Writing Barn classes (writing)

12x12 Webinars (writing & critique partners)

The Storyteller Academy (writing/illustrating classes)

The Society of Visual Storytelling (illustrating classes)


Don’t compare yourself to other authors and illustrators. Make your own path and help others along the way. My favorite quote from The Writing Barn-Courage to Create community, “Creativity is not a competition-Bethany Hegedus.”



Oh, that is so very good! I love that reminder. And what wonderful resources! Thank you for sharing those and thanks so much for joining us today, Ramya! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck on this journey! I can’t wait to see your books in the world.


Thank you, Kailei.



GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY!

R.G. Spaulding is offering one lucky winner a non-rhyming PB MS critique or one Dummy Critique.

To enter:

Follow R.G. Spaulding on Twitter.

Retweet THIS tweet.

Winner will be announced next week on Twitter.



About R.G. Spaulding

Ramya G. Spaulding (R.G. Spaulding) is an Indian-American author-illustrator. She loves to draw and frequently got into trouble as a kid for daydreaming too much. She spent most of her lunchtime at the school library, escaping into different worlds of the stories she read. Before she was an author-illustrator, she used to be an engineer because she also loved math and science. She feels extremely privileged to be making up stories with words and pictures. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. She wants to make sure all children can see themselves in the books they read. She also loves to add a hint of STEM in her stories whenever possible. You can find out more about her by visiting https://rgspaulding.com/




About Kailei Pew


Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. Kailei's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023

Hello lovely readers! Happy Tuesday! I hope you are all safe and well after major storms and other troubles. While I am safely tucked away in Arizona, I know many of you are dealing with flooding and distress. Please stay well and I hope that you find peace after the storm.


I am excited to invite my first suspense author to Tuesday From The Trenches! So join me in giving a very warm welcome to Finley Turner!



Thank you so much for joining us today, Finley! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers!

This is so exciting! It’s great that you’re making the foggy world of publishing a bit more clear and less lonely. My publishing story is a bit messy, so some of my answers are a bit complicated.


I'm just so grateful that you're sharing the journey. I think so many people feel like things have to be perfectly ordered and it's so nice to learn that the path to publication can actually be quite messy. Can you share your query stats with us?


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 4 months

Number of Agents Queried: 76

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 21

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 43

Number of R&Rs: 1

Number of Rejections: 64

Number of Offers: 2

Agent and Agency: Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency



Wow! Those 43 Twitter pitch likes are especially calling out to me. I'm excited to hear about that soon. But first... how did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

I had a spreadsheet and also used Query Tracker. I liked both, but the spreadsheet allowed me to have everything on the page all at once. I had a tab where I planned and kept track of my query rounds, which was ever-changing. I get a dopamine hit every time I check something off a list, which is why the spreadsheet was my favorite.



I'm also a big believer in the spread sheet method. And I'd say about 90% of my interviewees are in the same boat. It's a good boat to me in ;) So as that spreadsheet filled in, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

The first few rejections were extremely hard. Querying made me feel very vulnerable—hello, stranger, here is my life’s work. Please love me—and while 99% of agents don’t make rejections personal, the first few still felt that way. I initially had a running joke with my husband where I’d take a shot for each rejection, but quickly gave up on that for the sake of my liver.



Hahaha! So so true about it feeling personal. And I'm glad you cared for your liver as well! ha! How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

I did so much research. Some of it was casual, like paying attention to book twitter, and some of it was more structured, like reading all the comments and stats from Query Tracker or any writer blogs that talk about both good and bad agents. I also began paying more attention to the acknowledgements in the suspense novels I was reading, because there are usually nice call-outs to agents and editors there.



Oh, that's a really great idea that I hadn't thought about before. The acknowledgement section I'm sure is a great place to look! I think that's a new one in these interviews, so thank you so much for bringing that up. So after all that research, how did you ultimately connect with Katie? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

My querying story is pretty messy. I participated in PitMad in March 2020 and got an amazing response from agents. I’ve had two agents and both of them liked the same pitch. I sent out fulls to everyone who requested and quickly got an offer from my first agent. Unfortunately, I parted ways with them only a month later. Luckily, my current agent, Katie, was interested in having a chat, so I didn’t have to fully re-enter the query trenches. It was an exclusive R&R offer, which made a lot of sense in my specific situation since I had just left my agent and hadn’t started querying again.



Wow! I bet that was a really emotional journey. I am so glad that Katie was still interested and that you had that experience. What an amazing story of huge success in a Twitter Pitch contest. I also connected with my agent in a PitMad event, so I'm a big believer there. Can you tell us a bit more about how much time passed between querying your now agent to getting “the call”?

After Katie liked my March 2020 Pitmad pitch, I sent her a query March 5th and then the full later that night when requested. I ended up accepting an offer from another agency on April 8 and then breaking the contract a month later. After a brief break from all things publishing, I contacted Katie and we had a call about an R&R on June 10. I revised until August and the official offer call came on September 21st.


I'm glad that you took that break to get your head in the right space again. I think that is really important and something that we don't always talk about in this industry... the entire experience is super emotional and sometimes I think we're just expected to keep pushing on when things have hurt and been really intense. So good for you for taking that brief break and then coming back into it in fully force. So once you jumped back in, how was “the call”? How did you know Katie was the right choice?

I technically had two big calls with Katie, one for an R&R, and then one later with the offer. For the R&R call, I had a chance to ask a lot of the questions most writers ask during The Call. Katie was so complimentary of the book and clearly expressed all the edits she envisioned, so I felt like I was in good hands already. We kept in touch while I revised and then when I got an email to set up another call, I figured this is it! It’s The Call! When she told me she loved the edits and wanted to continue working together, I think I remember saying something along the lines of, “I would be stupid to not accept.” It was a no-brainer!



That's so amazing! I love a great working relationship that makes a book better and feels so right! And it sounds like the R&R was a great experience for you. Could you tell us a little about that book?

Sure! My manuscript, Behind Borrowed Walls, and is an adult domestic suspense novel about a couple who rents an AirBnB in a small Southern town. While the couple struggles to settle the estate of a dead relative, they begin to notice that not only are their neighbors watching them, but so is someone inside the house. Here is my PitMad pitch, which I’m fond of for getting me my agent:

Small-town Airbnb for rent in a quaint unwelcoming neighborhood. 2 bedrooms w/ inaccessible upper floor. Hidden cameras, repressed family trauma, & destroyed marriages included. 5/5 star rating. Our previous guests loved it so much that they could never leave #PitMad #A#T #S



Oh my goodness, that pitch!! I love it so much. I can't wait to see where it lands!

So with your journey in mind, if you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?

When you think your book is ready to query, take a step back, because it’s most likely not. Do another edit after you take a break from it. My biggest regret is querying too early and I shame myself every once in a while for my messy manuscript. That being said, don’t put all your “dream agents” in your first few rounds. If you get agent feedback early on and make changes, you don’t want to regret missing your shot because your query or first few pages needed tweaking.



That is stellar advice. I also queried too soon and regretted it. Once I was truly ready, things fell right into place. Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?

I’m on Twitter: @finleywrites and my website is www.finleyturner.com



Wonderful! Thanks so much for joining us today, Finley! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck to you! I can’t wait to see your books in the world.

Thank you so much for the opportunity and for making this available for other writers! If you’re reading this while in the query trenches, don’t give up!





GIVEAWAY OPPOTUNITY!

Finley has generously offered to give away a query critique! If the winner has a twitter pitch already created for the same book, she can look at that as well. To enter, retweet THIS tweet and follow Finley and Kailei on Twitter.




About Finley Turner


Finley Turner is a debut suspense author. She made a career change to become an archivist at a university after leaving academia, where she studied cults and new religious movements. When not producing and consuming all things morbid and dark, Finley can typically be found playing video games with her husband, and occasionally pausing to interrogate her rescue animals about what they're chewing on. She is represented by Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency.


About Kailei Pew


Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. Kailei's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023