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?
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.
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.