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Hello my wonderful Kidlit friends!! I am so so so excited to be back on the blog and bringing you another Tuesday From The Trenches. Thank you for your patience as I took a few weeks to work on some writing projects and get my life in order. It was a great few weeks and I hope you all had a great few weeks as well... Does anyone else feel more hope and peace these days? Because I'm feeling it! And now I'm back and ready to go and SO excited to be introducing you to the wonderful Anushi Mehta! Join me in welcoming her to the blog!



Thank you so much for joining us today, Anushi! I’m thrilled to share your query story with my readers. Let's jump right in!!

Can you share your query stats with us?


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 18 months, 3 distinct querying periods

Number of Agents Queried: For my chapter book (the one that landed me an agent - 24 and for my picture book I think 60 or more

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 7

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 7-8

Number of R&Rs: 4

Number of Rejections: I guess the rest!

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Joyce Sweeney of The Seymour Agency


YAY! That is so exciting!! And I love that you landed an agent for a Chapter Book. That feels extra exciting to me! How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.


I have multiple spreadsheets (haha). But when I got REALLY serious about querying I made an excel spreadsheet with agents that were interested in that genre. I was querying a chapter book. There is only a small subset of agents open to CB queries so I kept adding their details/ snippets of interview to the spreadsheet. It was a pretty basic spreadsheet with just a few tabs (name of agent, agency, comments, query date, response)


I had multiple at one point as well! haha. It worked for me. Tell me, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

I am terribly bad at dealing with rejection and some ABSOLUTELY stung more than others! There were some agents/agencies that I really had my hopes pinned on. In other cases, agents had promising/ kind words to say so I was hopeful. In fact there was an agent I had been speaking to for a year or so and she asked me for R&Rs twice! There was interest from both ends, but eventually it didn’t work out.


I have to say though, that I am so thankful that I went through this early on in my career and I feel much better equipped to deal with rejection.



Oh wow. I can see how that would have been an emotional roller coaster to go through two R&Rs with the same agent. I'm so glad you stuck with it and found Joyce in the end. Timing is such an interesting thing.

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

Initially, I just sent my picture book query out and hope it stuck. But as I got deeper in the process, I realized how little I knew about the industry, the process and how limited my craft was!


Eventually, I got some feedback from an agent I had a lot of respect for saying she thought it might work better as a longer form of text. I spent the next six months turning my 550 word picture book into a 5,500 chapter book. I got positive feedback from critique partners and sensitivity readers that I decided to go out on submission with my CB knowing that there was a small market of agents interested in this category.




How exciting!! Moving from one form to another is a lot of work, but can be really exciting. I'm currently changing a PB into an MG and it's been a very interesting process, so I love to hear that you had a similar shift.

How did you ultimately connect with Joyce? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?


I won a #PreDVPit give-away with Joyce Sweeney and she offered to read the first 5 pages of my manuscript. She got back with a one-page edit letter and generous email welcoming me to query her with the full. I sent her my entire manuscript after making the requested changes.



Oh how exciting!! I love when those giveaway wins become something more. I love that! How much time passed between querying your now agent to getting “the call”?

It took about 4-5 weeks in total.




I know that isn't all that long, but I also know that the waiting can feel like an eternity! Can you tell us more about “the call” when it did come? How did you know Joyce was the right choice?


She was incredibly enthusiastic about my full request and asked me to send it back with some revised typos and formatting. I took the opportunity to send her my other work and luckily she was excited by it all!


Even though we were just connected via email Joyce seemed so straightforward, positive, kind and responsive, I had a good feeling! I read every interview I could find with her and spoke to two existing clients (including 1 who is an agent herself!) who had nothing but the best things to say about her work ethic, generosity and her connections.


Top on my list was kindness - I am not in any rush to become a best-seller. I want someone who can help navigate this complex industry and someone who rides with me through highs and lows of my career..



I love that so much! I agree that is huge in the author-agent relationship. It means the world to me that Emily (my agent) is available for phone calls, text, and emails as I navigate this very unfamiliar terrain. I'm so thrilled for you that you found an amazing connection with a great agent!

Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?


Yes! My chapter book is called MUBEEN’S GLOBE and here is a short synopsis!


Eight-year-old Mubeen lives among the incalculable millions in Mumbai. He counts on the 193 countries outlined in his globe, his twelve brown color shirts and the strength of Abba’s (his father) two loving hands. But, then, Abba coughs. Weak lungs. Mubeen has to step into his shoes and run Murad Retailers. Loud noises, misplaced items and bizarre customers overwhelm Mubeen, but his elder sister, Miriam, protects him through it all. After a series of incidents that drive customers away from the shop, Miriam questions Mubeen’s intentions.

If Mubeen doesn’t find strategies to cope with his fears, not only will his relationship with Miriam be ruined, his family’s store won’t earn enough to pay for the medical treatment Abba desperately needs.


Oh wow!! That sounds wonderful!! I can't wait to see it on shelves.

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


Uff! I don’t know if I am in a place to give advice, but I would say : trust the process! When I look back now and how far I have come in my journey and my craft, I am so grateful to every failure and rejection. I am stronger and more confident because of moments of darkness.


That is really beautiful advice, Anushi!! Thank you so much. Before I let you go...

Where can we connect with you online?

Twitter: anushi_mehta

instagram: thehappybooker1




Thanks so much for joining us today! 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.





GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY!!

Anushi is very generously offering a query, 1st 5 pages or PB MS critique! Follow both Anushi and Kailei on Twitter and Retweet THIS tweet to be entered. Winner will be announced on Twitter.




About Anushi Mehta

Anushi Mehta is a first generation Belgian-Indian who grew up in charming Antwerp. She pursued degrees in psychology and primary teaching at Warwick University and met her husband while working in London. Now, they live in Mumbai and everyone from her two-year-old to her 88-year-old grandma teases her for always feeling cold.


After moving to Mumbai, Anushi completed an introductory course on learning disabilities and ‘Yoga for the Special Child’ by Sonia Sumar and then worked as a special educator until her son was born. Moreover, she oversees a primary school at her ancestral hometown, where she focuses on raising literacy levels.


Anushi discovered the power of voice when she began inventing stories about spunky Indian girls for her daughter. It is her dream that each of her stories feature masala chai. In addition to honing her craft with courses at Highlights Foundation and WriteMentor, she is an active participant of 12x12 and Desi Kidlit, a community of writers from the Asian Diaspora. She is involved in three diverse critique groups that span across different genres and stays current by listening to podcasts such as 88 Cups of Tea and Literaticast. Anushi has also been selected by We Need Diverse Books as one of the “sixteen creative, rising voices”. Alan Gratz will be mentoring her for her MG, LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.




About Kailei Pew


Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and picture book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee, and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest. She loves writing picture books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to.

Kailei can't wait to get her stories into your hands.

Hello friends! And welcome to our final Tuesday From The Trenches of 2020! I had no idea just how much I would love this series when I began back in September! I will be taking the next 2 weeks off as I need to focus on some writing things and prep two MSs to go out on submission, but then I will be back with more amazing stories coming from the query trenches. I can't wait to share more amazing stories with you and hope that this series has helped you on your query journey.


I'm so excited to be sharing this interview today. Please join me in welcoming Tola Okogwu to the blog today!




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


Thank you for having me, this is such a fab series. I know when I was querying, I loved reading other people’s experiences and I hope mine might be helpful to someone else.



I was the same. I couldn’t get enough of other experiences. Your story is definitely inspiring and I know it will help many people. Can you share your query stats with us? (as far as you know/remember. It’s okay if some of these numbers are zero):


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Six months of active querying

Number of Agents Queried: 39

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 4

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: I don’t know the exact number but over 25 from doing Pitmad and DVpit this year.

Number of R&Rs: 1

Number of Rejections: 32

Number of Offers: 7

Agent and Agency: Claire Wilson at RCW



Oh my goodness! 7 offers? That is incredible!! How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.


I did try Query tracker, but I don’t think it’s as useful for UK agents. In the end I used a spreadsheet, which allowed me to track who I’d queried, when and their responses or lack of. I also tracked when or even if I could chase. It’s a good thing I did, because towards the end I nearly lost track of the rejections, some of which came a whole year later.


That’s interesting to know about Query Tracker. I personally think spreadsheets are the way to go, too! Sounds like you stayed very well organized and it came in handy. How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?


Pretty well I think. I view it like the prince in Cinderella. A rejection is merely a foot that’s too big or small and the perfect foot is still out there waiting to be found. To paraphrase Paolo Montalban very badly - ‘And the dearest agent in all the world, is waiting somewhere for me!’


Focusing on hope really helped me stave off any negativity. It also helped if I received feedback as I tried to use it to improve the manuscript. One particular rejection did sting, mostly because I’d met the agent and we had a great vibe.



Focusing on hope is so beautiful. I love that advice! How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?


I used a mixture of Twitter, The Bookseller and the manuscript wishlist website. I love researching so I quite enjoyed learning about each prospective agent to see if they’d be a match for my work. Twitter is dangerous though as it’s tempting to nitpick every little tweet, especially after you query.



Twitter really is dangerous! haha. But I love that you looked to multiple sources in your search. I think that’s so very important! How did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?


I actually started receiving full requests for the manuscript that landed me an agent before it was completed. I’d entered it into a competition in late summer 2019. When I finally finished it and began querying, the response wasn’t great. Claire was recommended to me by a friend who rated her highly and she was one of the agents I queried. She initially rejected it, but gave me some great feedback, which I really appreciated. I ended up going back and revising the manuscript A LOT.


We reconnected a few months later when I entered a workshop organized by her agency. Claire loved the new version of the draft as did an editor from an indie publisher who subsequently made an offer. I then sent out new queries to agents I’d liked from my previous round in the trenches. Claire was one of them and she offered representation for the new manuscript along with six other agents.


WOW! That is so amazing! I love the story of revision and trying again after the first round wasn’t what you had hoped for and SEVEN offers?? Again, WOW! This is going to be such an amazing book! How much time passed between querying Claire to getting “the call”?


From the very first query that was rejected, about 6 months. From the second revised query, a matter of days.



I’m so glad you didn’t have a long wait after that second submission! Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Claire was the right choice?


The call was over Zoom and I already knew going into the call that I liked Claire having seen her in action. I had a long list of questions, but we ended up just having a conversation. She really understood my story and characters and her editorial notes were amazing. I also really appreciated her calm confidence. It made me feel safe and in turn confident too.


We were speaking in the wake of BLM and the way it had shaken up the publishing industry. It was important to me to have an agent who understood the unique struggles a Black, female writer would face navigating the publishing world and that as my agent, she would be my ultimate advocate. Claire showed me she could be this person.



That is so perfect! I love the start in the right direction we’ve seen in publishing to amplify Black voices. I know we have a long way to go, and I hope that we can come to a much better place. It sounds like Claire will be a wonderful advocate for you and your work! Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?


I can’t say a lot, but it’s a speculative middle grade fantasy about a young girl with telekinetic hair!



That is awesome! I can’t wait to hear about a book deal and get my hands on your book!


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


There really is more than one way to get an agent or even a book deal. I landed mine AFTER I got an offer from a publisher. I got that offer because I attended workshops and other events designed for aspiring authors, in particular those from marginalized backgrounds. I would strongly encourage writers to seek these opportunities out. Do your due diligence of course, but you never know who you might meet or who might get to meet your work.



That is wonderful advice! Those connections really can be everything.

Where can we connect with you online?

You can find me on Twitter or Instagram (@tolaokogwu) or keep in touch via my website https://tolaokogwu.com.



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


Thanks again Kailei, I really enjoyed myself!





About Tola Okogwu

Tola Okogwu is a journalist, author and Hair Care Coach. She has written for multiple publications, including Black Ballad, Metro UK, Huffington Post and Refinery29. Born in Lagos, Nigeria but raised in London, England, she now lives in Kent and writes children's books, including the Daddy Do My Hair series and, under the pen name Lola Morayo, the AZIZA’S SECRET FAIRY DOOR series. Tola is an avid reader, music lover, and sucker for melted cheese.


About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and picture book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee, and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest. She loves writing picture books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to. Kailei can't wait to get her stories into your hands.


Hello wonderful readers and Happy Holidays! I hope that you are finding ways to enjoy the season even in this very odd year. May the New Year be filled with book sales, kindness, health, and love. I can't wait to see what 2021 brings us all.


I'm excited to be bringing you another Tuesday From The Trenches and can't wait to share David McMullin's amazing story to representation with Kaitlyn Sanchez!


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


Thanks, Kailei. I’ve been loving this series, and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I wish I had had something like this to read when I had first started querying. I would have devoured it.


Oh, thank you so much! I have had so much fun with it and would also have loved to know these stories while I was in the trenches. Let’s jump in!

Can you share your query stats with us?

Years of hard work went into each of these sizable numbers, so I wear them as a badge of honor.


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 5 years

Number of Agents Queried: 332 submissions to 136 agents from 85 agencies

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 7

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: About 10

Number of R&Rs: 2

Number of Rejections: 32 of those oh-so-close personal champagne rejections, 85 form letters, 208 no response at all

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Kaitlyn Sanchez at Olswanger Literary



Wow, David! That is incredible!! And what a testament to your dedication and determination. It really only takes that one ‘yes!’ How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.


The simple answer is that a comprehensive spreadsheet worked well for me. The expanded answer is that I always had four spreadsheets open as I sent out submissions. There was lots and lots of cross checking involved. My system was complex, but as I stumbled into the hundreds of submissions, I didn’t want to make any silly mistakes.



Wow, that sounds super organized. Good for you! How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?


I fall into the camp of close calls being the worst. But rejections never really bother me. As a former Broadway singer/dancer/actor, my life was a series of daily auditions, usually ending in, “Thank you.” (In actor speak that means, no.) Constant, face-to-face rejection left me with a very thick skin. Of course, doubt creeps in now and then, so here are the thoughts that helped me get through.


First, I hold in my heart, that my writing is good enough to be published. With that in mind, I look at each NO as being one NO closer to my YES. I don’t know how many NOs there will be, but each time I hear one, my YES is one less NO away!


Second, I turn my thoughts upside down - Instead of feeling bad for myself, I feel bad for the agent or publisher who isn’t going to have the opportunity to work with me. This isn’t exactly a humble approach, but I accept that flaw, and move on to the next submission with a smile.



First of all, that is awesome. I had no idea you performed on Broadway. WOW! Secondly, I agree that those close calls are so hard, but how wonderful that you could keep a level head and move forward to the next thing. How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?


Everywhere. Some ideas:

Search for other writer’s lists on blogs.

Look at agents who are actively “liking” during Twitter events.

Read the acquisitions reports in Publishers Weekly to see who represents the authors of current sales.

Dig through Manuscript Wish List.


Every time I found a new agent, I added them to my “agents and agencies” spreadsheet. I ended up with a list of about 275 agents who represented PB clients. I researched each one through their agency websites and in online interviews. Then, came the decision on who to submit to. Many were easy to eliminate because they were closed to queries (although this changes, so I rechecked often), or only accepted illustrators or author/illustrators. That eliminated many. I also wanted someone:

-editorial (I need the help).

-who would represent my career, not just one manuscript.

-nice (I need nice).


Other things I considered were, sales, size of agency, client list, book list, experience, online presence. In the end, I used all of this research and information to... get a gut feeling.



I love how much thought you put into it! And that you knew exactly what you were looking for. I think that is really important to have a vision of the kind of author-agent relationship you’re looking for.

How did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?


My agent is also a writer, and active member of the kidlit community. She runs an annual writing contest called “Fall Frenzy.” In the Fall of 2019 I entered, and when prizes were announced, I was on the list. Hooray! In addition to the prize I won, Kaitlyn wrote me a note saying she enjoyed my writing and offered me a personal critique. Hooray! That was followed by an offer to join her all-rhyme critique group. Hooray!


A few months later, she became an agent. Although I had a personal connection, I approached this submission like I would any other. I responded to her open submission call along with hundreds of other writers.



That’s amazing! Those connections are so important. And Kaitlyn is so wonderful. I truly don’t understand how she does it all. So how much time passed between querying her to getting “the call”?


About a month and a half, but it wasn’t simply that simple. Just two days after submitting, she asked for three more stories. I sent them the next day and later that afternoon she asked for three more. Then a month passed. This time she asked for revisions on three of the seven manuscripts. I spent a good week making changes. On two I made considerable changes based on her suggestions. With the third, I took a big risk - I made no changes, but explained my reasons. I held my breath, pressed send, and within minutes she wrote back saying she loved the rewrites, and wanted to set up a call.



WOW! I love that so much. Especially that you stood your ground on your vision for your story that you felt strongly about while still being open to her suggestions on the changes on the others. I love that in an author-agent relationship. The ability to talk about why something matters to you and find a way to make it work together.

Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Kaitlyn was the right choice?


Although Kaitlyn and I were critique partners, we had never actually spoken. The call was like catching up with an old friend. I’d wanted an agent who was more than just a business partner. I wanted a collaborator, confidant, cheer leader, coach, friend. I could tell she would be all of those things. Our life views, humor, and love of the industry lined up perfectly. Kaitlyn was new to agenting, and I debated weather finding a more established agent would be to my benefit, but in the end, I realized that Kaitlyn’s drive, enthusiasm, and ability to connect with people are all next level! I would have been crazy not to say yes.



That is so wonderful! I love to hear how comfortable you were. And I think new agents are amazing. My agent is also brand new to the game, but she is hungry and passionate and I think that is a huge plus.

Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?


I sent a humorous rhymer. Just two weeks before submitting to Kaitlyn, the manuscript had been awarded runner-up for the SCBWI’s Ann Whitford Paul Award for most promising new picture book manuscript. I took advantage of the momentum from that win, and submitted the manuscript to several agents.



Oooh! Sounds so wonderful! And amazing that you won that award. I can’t wait to see your book in print!

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


Participate in as many kidlit activities as possible. You never know when a connection you make will lead to something more.


The dynamic between an unagented writer and an agent is going to be a bit strange. They have something you want, and they are the one who says yes or no. It feels like an imbalance. At least for me, this sometimes led to feelings of being less than, or slightly desperate, or awkward. But the truth is we are all people - equally amazing people. Whether in person or through queries, connect as equals. Of course, be respectful and kind, but also... be confident. Over the years, I found my most fruitful, interactions with agents involved conversations that had nothing to do with books or publishing (home towns, travel, pets, movies). Those interactions often led to agents asking to see my work.


Submit!!!



Wonderful advice! Those connections are gold and you never know where they will take you. Where can we connect with you online?


Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidmcmullinpb

Website: http://www.davidmcmullinbooks.com/welcome/



Thanks so much for joining us today! 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. It’s been fun. I believe there is a place for all of our books, yours, mine, all of your reader’s. Best of luck to us all!


And happy holidays!!! I hope we all have a year with fewer stresses and greater possibilities.



Yes, readers. You can do this! There is a place on the shelf for all of our books. And Happy Holidays! May the new year bring peace, love and joy to all.



GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY!

David will be offering one lucky reader a PB Manuscript Critique. Just follow David and Kailei on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet to enter. Best of luck to all!



About David McMullin


David McMullin is a picture book writer, children’s poet, and want-to-be illustrator. His poems have been featured in Cricket Media, and in several anthologies. He is a member of the SCBWI where he was awarded runner-up for the 2020 Ann Whitford Paul Award, and won a Writing with the Stars mentorship with Marcie Colleen. In former lives he was a Broadway actor, educator, and librarian. His passions include travel (70 countries) and nature (total bird nerd). David and his husband live in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez at Olswanger Literary.


About Kailei Pew


Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and picture book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee, and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest. She loves writing picture books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to. Kailei can't wait to get her stories into your hands.


Hi! I'm Kailei. Thanks for stopping by!

I believe in books. I believe in imagination.

I believe in getting silly, messy, and crazy with my kids. Thus, For Little Readers was born. 

I write picture books and hope to someday feature

my own work here. 

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