Updated: 2 days ago

Hello wonderful readers! I am THRILLED to be hosting a brand new writing contest in January 2022!

As we have all heard approximately 439,745 times, this industry is extremely subjective. What one agent loves will be an immediate pass for another. What one editor wants to throw all the money at will be what another completely ghosts. It just is what it is. But for me personally, the greatest form of praise is when a KID loves my manuscripts!

For a very long time I've wanted to host a writing contest, but I never knew what exactly I wanted to do. There are already so many amazing contests out there, so how would mine fit into the mix? Then it hit me... what if we had KID judges?? I loved the idea and I'm flying with it!

On January 7th 2022, I will post the theme and rules for this year's contest. You will have just over 3 weeks to craft your entries based on that info. Entries can then be submitted via my website January 31st through February 2nd. THEN (and this is the really exciting part) a panel of KID judges will review the entries and choose the winners!!

For now, I need two things from the amazing writing community... KID JUDGES and Prize Donations! Applications for judges MUST be filled out by a parent/guardian. I am looking for judges in PB, MG, and YA categories and I especially hope to get a diverse panel of judges. This contest will be fully virtual, so kid judges can come from anywhere in the world, but must speak English since this contest will be hosted in English (apologies for that. I hope to find a way to be even more inclusive in the future).

***Kids will only have to read 10-15 entries (of 200 words or less) over the course of a month as judges. We will be dividing up the work into rounds so that no kid has to read a wild amount of entries***

If your child is interested in being a Kid Judge, please fill out THIS GOOGLE FORM.

If you are an author, editor, or agent and would like to donate a critique or book prize to a winner, please fill out THIS GOOGLE FORM.

AND if that all wasn't exciting enough, I am also loosely announcing the companion contest...

This one will be in July when kiddos aren't so busy with school. Kids will submit their entries to be judged by published authors and the winners will receive donated virtual author visits for their classrooms! That one is way less worked out on the details, but at least we can get excited!

For now, look forward to January and the awesome event we're going to create together! I can't wait to see what you write and what the kids fall in love with.

Thank you all SO much for your support in this new endeavor! I am super excited!

Hello, friends! And welcome! I have been teasing about this post for a LONG TIME. And I am so thrilled to finally be sharing more information on the submission process. I apologize for the delay. Thank you so much for being patient with me.

The entire submission process is quite frankly, not super transparent... and I personally think that needs to change. I think writers should know what others have been through on the submission experience so that they know they aren't alone. Plus, I think it's really valuable to understand exactly what the submission process looks like.

So I'm going to break the process down into 5 different blog posts in my submission series.

I am SO grateful to the 101 authors who donated their time to anonymously respond to my request for #SubmissionStats. I asked authors to fill out Google form answering questions about their unique experience on submission. And the responses are really so interesting. Truly no one had the same path to selling their first book as another. But knowing approximate statistics is really eye opening and also helpful to know what to expect when going on sub.

In this series, I will explain the basics of submission, share specifics from my own experience, and share statistics from my anonymous survey of authors on submission. Here is how the posts will be broken down (I will update this page with links to each part of the series as I write them).

Part One: Going on Sub

Part Two: Second Reads

Part Three: Revise and Resubmit (R&R)

Part Four: Acquisitions

Part Five: Offers, Auction, and Preempts

I hope this series will be super informative and engaging and that it will answer some of your questions about the submission experience. But if I miss anything or if you have other questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

Being an author is full of ups and downs, so we really should go into it with eyes wide open. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride while I delve into part one of the author submission experience.

PART 1: Going on Sub

Maybe you've recently signed with an agent. (Congrats!) Or perhaps you've decided to go it alone and send your manuscript directly to publishers open to non-agented submissions. (Also Congrats!) So... what's next??

Well, if you've signed with an editorial agent, there will be some back and forth edits. Sometimes minor, sometimes extensive. Once you both feel like you have the best book you can have, it's time to begin the submission process. You might hear this called "going on sub." But what does that mean?

In the simplest of terms, it means your agent is about to send your work to editors (eeek)! who will (theoretically) read and either move forward with or reject your manuscript for publication. This is VERY exciting, and yes you should absolutely celebrate this major milestone. You are on SUBMISSION with the actual, real-life BOOK that YOU WROTE! That alone is huge, so celebrate yourself.

But before this moment, your agent will have done a lot of work to curate the perfect "sub list" for your book. They will have read updated wishlists, watched trends, met or held calls with individual editors, and prepared a list of editors who feel like a good fit for your manuscript. This is one of the many reasons why I feel like an agent is worth their weight in gold. They have the connections and the know-how that I never will, and I will literally spend the rest of my life singing the praises of Emily Forney, agent extraordinaire.

Anyways... I digress. Once your agent finalizes the list, they will send your work out! This next part varies widely from agent to agent and asking about how they handle submissions is an important part of "the call" when handling an offer of representation. There is no right and wrong way to do submissions (assuming you aren't working with a schmagent, that is), but you will want to make sure that their particular way is in line with what you want for your career.

Some agents start with a very small list of editors to begin with. Others sub more widely. Some agents pitch first and only send the manuscript if an editor requests it. Others send the MS right away. This is all very strategic and good agents will know the "rules" of each house and imprint. Some imprints don't allow you to sub to other imprints within the same house once one editor has seen the MS. So that might be a good place to lead with a pitch rather than the full to start. Others don't have that standard. Some let you sub to multiple imprints within a house at the same time and allow in-house competing, and others do not. What's great about this is that you don't actually have to understand the ins and outs or know the different rules at each publishing house. That's an agent's job. I love, love, love that I do not even think about this part for one second. Emily is a gem and I feel so relaxed in this because she knows her stuff.

Now that we have you nice and confused, let's just keep plowing through. You might have heard about submissions being broken up into "rounds." This means the first group of editors you send to, the second, etc. Some agents work on a rolling submission strategy rather than on rounds (one rejection in, another submission out). Again, there is strategy and preference to it all, so just make sure that whatever your agent does is in line with your vision.

But, let's assume your agent works with submission rounds. You send the MS (or a pitch) out to 10 editors (I've seen sub lists range from 4 to 16, so again it's all just dependent on your agent and how they work). And then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Or you don't! We've all heard those whirlwind stories where someone receives an offer within days of going on their first round of sub. It happens. But it's absolutely the exception, not the rule.

Only about 16% of debut authors receive an offer within 1 month. Those respondents who have not yet sold a book have been on submission for 3 months to two years with the average around 13 months.

(And as an aside... of those authors who had whirlwind debut offers, they also had long wait times on future projects. (This one doesn't have a particularly nice pie chart that I could share, but maybe some day I'll go through and make more graphics when I'm not in the middle of a major edit on one of my books.) BUT... even without the nice visual, trust me that I read each response completely and collected the data. Most authors who had offers in less than 1 month had future offers that took more than 6 months. One had the fastest offer in only a week but the longest offer in 14 months! So really, you never know.)

Now... getting back to the sub process.

Let's say you don't receive an offer after the first round of sub. A round might be anywhere from 3 to 6 months or more. Again, it depends on the agent. But eventually, it will come to an end. Some editors will reject with feedback. Others will pass without explanation. And unfortunately, some will ghost without any response at all, even after nudges from your agent. So important to remember that editors receive so.many.submissions. Plus they are working with their current lists and juggling other responsibilities. They're doing the best they can.

But no matter how the rejections (or silence) came in, it will be time to prep for round 2 of sub. If you received a lot of similar feedback from multiple editors, your agent might suggest a round of revisions before going back out on sub. If you received nice passes that just weren't the right fit, you might simply move on to the next round of editors without any revisions.

This process continues for 2, 3 sometimes even 4 rounds depending (again) on your agent. It's slow and it feels really lonely quite frankly. I highly recommending connecting with others on sub, be it agent siblings, critique partners, or other writing buddies. The silence can seem never ending and yes, you will check your email way too many times. I highly recommend working on your next book to fill the time. Then no matter what happens, you will still be in control of what comes next for your career.

And remember, it only takes one "yes" to sell your book! Hopefully, you will be among the lucky ones who sell their first book to go on sub! (We'll cover the next steps in future Submission Experience posts). Publishing is slow until it's not. It's literally no offers one day and then the next, something comes in! You can read about my own debut experience HERE. (tldr: I had mostly silence on my first round of subs with virtually no responses for two months, but on the day after going out on round two, my now-editor responded with interest).

But what if you've exhausted the submission list without receiving that offer of publication? First, know you aren't alone. About 64% of respondents did not sell their first book to go on sub (of those, almost 35% have not yet sold a book, though 12 of those 35 individuals are still currently on sub with their first book and could absolutely sell it so these numbers will be slightly off).

To share my personal experience and show you just what a wide range you might see in your career:

Book 1 sold in about 4 months after going on sub, within weeks after an R&R

Book 2 had interest within 10 minutes of submitting and sold within the month (delays in acquisitions meetings)

Book 3 sold in a few months

Book 4 sold after a YEAR on sub and almost shelving it

Unfortunately, this industry really is full of highs and lows. You may not sell that first book. It's hard to hear that something you've put your heart and soul into isn't going to be a physical book. But that doesn't mean you won't make it. The next book, or the one after that might be the one that gets the offer. It's all so subjective (I know... we're sick of hearing that), but it only takes ONE yes. You can consider self publishing that book (if you are agented, make sure to first consult your agent on this for approval), or trying again once your career is more established or the market shifts. But never stop writing. Keep improving your craft. Keep creating new stories. Because there is no one else who can tell your stories. And the world NEEDS your stories.

And now, for some words of wisdom from some of our anonymous respondents:

"It takes time. Be patient and start a new project while you wait!"

"Without being a downer, it’s really hard! There’s still a lot of rejection and lots of waiting when on sub. But the good thing is I have my agent in my corner cheering me on, and I have the freedom to write and revise knowing I have an agent already."

"Publishing is incredibly slow…until suddenly, it’s not! But in the glacial wait, just breathe and take the time to get inspired by something else, rather than obsessing over your inbox!"

"Get used to waiting!"

"It feels like chance plays almost as large a role as literary merit."

"A book can not sell in one round, and then sell instantly in the next. Publishing is subjective, and yet very conformist at the same time. As soon as one editor shows interest, the others tend to follow suit. You just need one!"

Well readers, I hope this was enlightening but not discouraging. Being on sub is honestly hard. I've done it 4 times in the last year and it hasn't gotten any easier. But it's one of those necessary evils. It's so worth it to make the dream a reality. So don't give up! And join me next week when we talk about the next step in the submission process: second reads!

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, and welcome to Tuesday From The Trenches! I am super sorry that I'm coming to you so late today. It was a wild day and I don't even know where to begin to tell you about it, so instead, I will just say thank you for understanding.

I am SO thrilled to welcome Layla Hersch to the blog today. Layla is an absolute gem. I am lucky to call her my agent sibling and I have truly enjoyed getting to know her over the last year. She is truly a wonderful human being and this journey is so great! Make sure to catch her generous offer at the end for one lucky MG writer!

Hi Layla! Thank you so much for joining us today! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers, and always love when a Tuesday From The Trenches post also lets me gush about Emily and my agent siblings!

Can you share your query stats with us?

YAY!! Huge congratulations. You and Emily are such a great match! So, how did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker?

So I am probably going to sound like pure chaotic evil here, but I actually just jotted it down in the back of a notebook I use for work! It’s really messy and jumps around and I have notes scribbled in the margins to remind me when to nudge and such. Somehow I managed to keep track of it all!

Hahaha. I actually super love that!! Whatever works, right?

How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

I wish I could say that I breezed through every rejection! I have been writing my entire life, and queried other projects on and off before. My last novel, I queried from June 2019 to December 2020, and out of ~60 queries I got one partial and one full – both passes.

When I queried YOUNG BLOOD, I got my first full request 3 days after sending out my very first query, so I knew I was onto something special! At first, the rejections didn’t bother me the slightest bit because I kept getting SO many fulls. Out of my first batch of queries, I got four full requests. It was very dizzying.

One of the fulls turned into a revise and resubmit, but they had really great suggestions and I still felt very positive. But then the fulls started to turn into passes, and that sting really started to hurt. I started to realize that there’s still no guarantee of finding an agent, no matter how many full requests you get.

I love the difference you point out between your first go in the query trenches and your second. I love those hints that you're on the right path when you start getting those requests and positive feedbacks. But I also feel you on the pain of rejection... Sometimes, I think it hurts even more when there are so many positives, because you get your hopes up and then the passes feel extra hard. I'm so glad you kept with it though, and I hope our readers see that getting requests for fulls (or more MSs in Picture Books) really does mean you're on the right track.

How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

One of the big ones was through Twitter! As I said, I had been querying before, and I follow a lot of agents on Twitter. I already had some people in mind that I wanted to query before YOUNG BLOOD was even finished! I also searched through MSWL, which really was an invaluable tool! But also? I just googled “Literary agent + middle grade + spooky + vampires” and found a few that way, too!

I love all of that! Twitter is such a good way to get to know an agent's personality. And such a good idea to Google so specifically. I hadn't thought of that, and it's fabulous advice! So between all of those different places you looked, how did you ultimately connect with Emily? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

It was a cold query! A friend suggested that I query her because “vampire enthusiast” was in her bio, but my query was ultimately a cold query through Query Manager like anyone else!

YES! I love hearing about cold query success stories. So once you queried, how much time passed before getting “the call”?

3 days!

It sounds incredible, but Emily asked for my full only 13 minutes after I sent her my query, and three days after that asked to set up a call!

WOAH! That is amazing, Layla! I think 13 minutes is some kind of record. For real. I love that Emily connected so quickly and got so excited. Can you tell us more about “the call" and how you knew Emily was the right choice?

It might sound strange, but I knew that Emily was “the one” because she shared ideas on what we would need to edit. Another agent who had offered thought my book was perfect as is. A younger me would have been flattered beyond belief, so years of querying and failing taught me to be critical of that. Emily had some incredibly insightful ways to make my book shine – and even though it required a literal rewriting of my entire book – I knew the hard work was worth it.

That is such a wonderful thing to highlight. I think an agent who believes in a project, but can see how it could be even better is golden. And I love that you were willing to do such a substantial re-write. Could you tell us a little about that book?

YOUNG BLOOD is the story about two vampire brothers, who have two very different ideas on what being a vampire should be. Adam wants to use his strengths to help track down a murderer who’s arrived to his small, PNW town, but big brother Victor would much rather act like the big-bad (and cool) vampires he sees in movies. When Adam discovers the murderer is actually a vampire hunter who is killing innocent mortals as bait to lure him and his family, he knows he has to put a stop to it – with or without Victor’s help. It just doesn’t help matters that Victor has developed a taste for young blood and would do almost anything for the murders to continue.

YOUNG BLOOD is a love letter to vampires. But this is not your typical vampire story; it’s a rebuttal. Aiming to challenge our notion of monster stories and evil creatures, the middle grade novel places the humans in the role of predator. Many of my influences on how to build this mythos came from my Jewish background—even down to being accused of drinking blood!—and struggling with negative stereotypes or pressures to feel uncomfortable in your own identity.

Oh, Layla, it sounds absolutely incredible! Every time I hear more about your book, I cannot wait to get my hands on it! And thank you for being so open and honest about your experience and influences for this book. I know your book is going to be such a bright spot of truth!

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

The dream is bigger than the pain.

It HURTS to query. To create a world that’s filled with little pieces of your soul and find out that it’s not good enough. It feels so easy to give up, to avoid that. But your dream is seriously bigger than that pain.

That is such great advice. I am going to remember that one for sure. The dream is bigger than the pain. So good.

Where can we connect with you online?

I am on Twitter at @LaylaHersch and at

Thanks so much for joining us today, Layla! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. I am super excited for YOUNG BLOOD and can't wait to see what else you create.


Layla is generously offering a 5 page critique to one lucky Middle Grade author. Simply follow Layla on twitter and retweet THIS tweet!

About Layla Hersch

Layla Hersch (she/her) is a middle grade fiction author. Her life has been filled with some incredible journeys - from being a punk rock hitchhiker living on top of buildings to an ancient book conservator apprentice at the Adler Planetarium to living in a college learning Arabic to being a drill sergeant (don't worry, she's gone the Bob Ross route of post-drill sergeant life) She loves infusing her works with Judaism, and adores monsters when they aren't being used as stand ins for society's fears of the other. Originally from Chicago, she has traveled all over the United States and the world -living for three years in Italy! as well as Monterey, California and Columbia, South Carolina - before finally settling in the Pacific Northwest with her spouse and two children.

Her debut novel, YOUNG BLOOD, is slated for publication in summer 2023 by Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada, as well as a second untitled book about Jewish Werewolves summer 2024. She is represented by Emily Forney at the Bookends 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