Hello wonderful readers! And welcome back to Tuesday From the Trenches! I was sorry to miss two weeks of interviews due to some scheduling conflicts, but it actually ended up being perfect. I was on deadline for my Nonfiction MG, and I needed the time. I officially sent the manuscript to my editor around noon today, and I feel so excited to see where it goes from here.
Anyways... I digress. I am so excited to share Annabelle Estrada's query journey with you. Annabelle reached out to me a few months back with a slightly unconventional story about her connection to Tuesday From The Trenches. I won't spoil it, but you definitely want to hear this one, so read all the way through! And now... join me in welcoming Annabelle to the blog!
Hi, Annabelle!! I am SO excited you are here!
Thanks for having me! When querying, I read Tuesday From The Trenches religiously and it really gave me hope to keep going. Although I wasn’t in the trenches for too long, I came in hard for those months that I was querying.
I love to hear that these interviews helped! I know your journey will inspire so many... so let's just jump right in with your stats! Because you really did go at it hard!
Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 4 months
Number of Agents Queried: 67, but one was the day before my offer, so it didn’t give them a real chance to consider+ 2 straight to editor queries after a Twitter pitch
Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 4
Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 5
Number of R&Rs: 2
Number of Rejections: 65
Number of Offers: 2
Agent and Agency: Joyce Sweeney at The Seymour Agency
That is amazing, Annabelle! Especially that you were able to send 67 queries plus 2 submissions in only 4 months. You really did throw yourself into it completely! Way to go. How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.
One of the first things I did was a little unconventional. I was so eager to break into the biz, I wanted to know THE SECOND I got an agent reply, so I got my first Apple Watch. Having an Apple Watch made it easier to hear notifications instead of freakishly checking my phone constantly.
For the bulk of the information, I kept a Google spreadsheet with the agent name, agency, date sent, and, in the beginning, when I “should” hear back if they chose to disclose when they respond (I stopped doing that eventually because I realized sometimes you still don’t hear back at all, but who knows, maybe I will get their response next year).
Also, although I kept a list of everyone I queried, I still managed to query a couple of agents twice. I felt awful for clogging up their inbox, but the query trenches are no joke, and I must have been weary.
I'm sure you were with how many queries you got out there! But absolutely understandable and agents really are such lovely people, I'm sure they understood. I also love your need to know right away. I also love my Apple watch to make sure I don't miss a call from my agent! haha. So when they did come in, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?
The rejections in the beginning were fine and expected, but when they kept coming, I started to think that maybe it wasn’t going to happen for me. The rejections after pitch contests likes and requests for more work hurt the most, because you get your hopes up. Other rejections that hurt a lot were ones in which I had a good feeling about the agent being a great fit. I was wrong…EVERY…SINGLE…TIME.
As for it all being such a subjective industry, you hear it all the time, but it is nearly impossible to NOT take it personally. I finally understood the fact that it REALLY WAS subjective while doing my picture book research. My husband and I would read the picture books I was researching or using as mentor texts as nightly bedtime stories to our daughter. He loved some of the ones I hated, and vice versa. That really drove home the message about subjectivity — especially since I thought we had similar tastes.
That really is such a good reminder. Because I know exactly what you mean about it being so hard to not take rejection personally. How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?
Twitter, #MSWL, Google searches, and the PB Chat list of agents.
Those are all wonderful resources! Did you partake in any other unconventional strategies?
Yes! I am a firm believer in visualization and manifestation, so one of the things I did was prematurely fill out a mock interview of your TUESDAY FROM THE TRENCHES as if I was one of your interviews! So this interview was already more than halfway done by the time it became reality. In addition, I would put a daily 10:00 PM reminder on my phone to visualize getting representation and published every night before going to sleep. The last thoughts I had before sleep were of my dream coming true.
I also signed up for some paid consultations with agents and editors from the Manuscript Academy. It is reasonably priced, and they have helpful agents and editors that can really help you get closer to your goal.
I love this so much!! When you first told me that you already completed the interview, I was SO excited to read and I loved that you believed in yourself so completely. Readers, if any of you want to do the same, I'd love to share your story WHEN you land your agent. Because again, I firmly believe there is room for all of us!
Annabelle, can you tell us more about “the call” with Joyce? How did you know she was the right choice?
I knew Joyce was the one for many reasons. First, she was a writing coach and published author, so I knew she would be a great writing mentor. Also, the fact that a literary agent, Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez, had her as her agent, was a good sign. In addition, I had read all her clients’ comments about her on Twitter, and that made me feel good about her character. It was clear that Joyce was a caring person, and that is super important to me.
“The call” was actually a zoom meeting, and it happened after an R&R. She pushed me to make my manuscript stronger, and for that I was very grateful.
She sounds absolutely lovely. And I always love to hear about a great working relationship where an agent pushes for the very best. Love that so much! You know you will be in good hands. If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?
Oh man, I have too much advice!
First, make the first line of your query letter strong. Just like the first line of your book is super important, so is the first line of your query.
Second, set up a separate email for querying and keep using it for when you go on submission. It is annoying to get excited for an email notification, only for it to be a shoe sale.
Also, accept that you will likely be ghosted at some point, whether by agents or editors. I had an agent ghost me after requesting more material and even after I notified her of my offer of rep, which I did not expect.
Last, if you continue to commit to learning more, the manuscripts you are writing now are likely stronger than the ones you wrote in the past. If you are not getting any bites, take a deep dive into learning more about craft, then write new ones. I obsessively sign up for writing webinars, read blogs and writing books, and listen to publishing podcasts. So much of this is free or low-cost and it has been invaluable to me.
That is all such fabulous advice. Thank you!
Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?
About Annabelle Estrada
Annabelle Estrada is a Mexican American writer and poet from the desert city of El Paso. A former advertising and public relations professional, she now concentrates on increasing the visibility of Latinos, whether by writing picture books, establishing El Paso Day, or proposing a change to the time frame of Hispanic Heritage Month for it to have greater impact. She's been a guest columnist for the online news publication El Paso Matters and has had poetry featured in The Ice Colony's Latinx Anthology. You can usually find her eating queso and listening to classic rock with her husband and daughter in Dallas.
Annabelle Estrada is represented by Joyce Sweeney at The Seymour Agency.
About Kailei Pew
Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's 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's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023