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Tuesday From the Trenches: B.A. Cabada

Hello friends, and SURPRISE! We get a BONUS "Tuesday from the Trenches" post this week... on Thursday! The post and giveaway with Monica Acker is still going strong, so if you missed that, you can find it HERE. I had the opportunity to interview my agent sibling this week, and I just couldn't pass up the chance! So join me in welcoming B.A. Cabada to the blog and thanking him for the generous giveaway opportunity at the end!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Borja! I’m thrilled to share your query story with my readers. Especially since we are agent siblings and I adore Emily!

So do I, Kailei! Thank you for having me! I’m so excited to be here sharing my query journey with your readers.

Yay!! Let’s just jump right in… 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: A little over 4 months.

Number of Agents Queried: 87

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 18

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: I didn’t participate in any pitch events.

Number of R&Rs: 0

Number of Rejections: I got 44 rejection emails; the rest never responded.

Number of Offers: 2

Agent and Agency: Emily Forney, BookEnds Literary

Photo Credit: Santi Veiga

How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

I used a spread sheet, and it was such a mixed bag of hopefulness, anxiety, and frustration. I remember looking at it and dreaming of the day I could just toss it out when I finally found an agent. Funny thing is I still have it on my computer. I think it’s good to remember all the work and effort that went into the process—helps me value how lucky I am to have found such an amazing agent after all those ups and downs.

I still have my spread sheep saved on my computer as well! I think it’s a good reminder like you say. And I understand about the anxiety and frustration it could elicit. So tell me, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

For better or worse, about half of the rejection emails I got were actually soft passes, and those agents did have a lot of good things to say about my book. Even though it was still a bummer, I felt encouraged to keep querying. In fact, I always took the time to write them back and let them know how grateful I was to receive this type of response. When someone shows you kindness in this industry, I think it’s important to put aside your frustrations and acknowledge that on the other side of things there are real people investing their time in your dream. Even if they decide your work isn’t the best fit for them, at least they treated it with respect and empathy.

I did get my fair share of form rejections, too, but I guess the ones that really stung were the no-response ones, especially when it was an agent I thought could be a great match for me and my book. Sadly, though, that’s part of the game, so there’s not a whole lot you can do about that other than shake it off and move on to the next query.

That’s really good advice to be able to shake it off and move on. I absolutely agree that the no responses are the hardest. And those soft passes really do keep you going.

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

I had a very clear idea of the type of agent I wanted to end up with, so I spent hours and hours going through different databases, agent profiles, agency websites, social media, and such, paying special attention to manuscript wish lists. That being said, I must admit I was more selective at the beginning, but the scope got broader as time went by—you know that panicky feeling you get when you’re in the trenches and rejections start coming in? Suddenly any agent that carries your genre seems like a good fit haha. All kidding aside, though, I never completely gave up the idea of finding the perfect agent for me—even when I did have my doubts it would ever happen—so when I eventually crossed paths with Emily, you can imagine how incredibly happy and thankful I felt.

I absolutely know what you mean about broadening your scope. And yes! Suddenly Emily was this new agent and absolutely perfect and it was just an amazing thing! How did you ultimately connect with Emily?

It was a cold query, and it was my very last, Hail Mary attempt to reach out to an agent before I seriously considered giving up, or at least taking a break. After 4 months in the trenches, my optimism was dangerously fading away with every new rejection, and the thought of finding an agent—let alone one I could share a strong connection with—seemed farther and farther away. Then I saw an announcement from BookEnds about their new hires. One of them was Emily. I sent out the query, gathering all the hope I had left in me. Waited for her response. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That’s amazing! And I must say, 4 months is actually really impressive! I myself spent 20 months in and out of the trenches. I’m so glad that you gave it another go with Emily. How much time passed between querying her to getting “the call”?

Literally, 3 days. She reached out asking for the full MS on a Saturday only 3 days after I had sent out my query. I remember it so clearly because I had just spent the day out kayaking for the first time! As soon as I got home I emailed her the full text, and by Sunday evening she was already asking me to set up a call. It all happened so fast! And oh, was I excited. Let me put it this way: I’m not one for crying, but I can honestly say my eyes welled up big time.

That is so so exciting! Especially since you were so discouraged leading up to this. I love it! Can you tell us more about “the call” with Emily? How did you know she was the right choice?

It was the perfect call. Seriously. We immediately clicked, not just because I could tell right from the get-go she was super passionate about my book and had a clear plan for it, but also because it all just flowed as if we had known each other our whole life. They say publishing is an industry of relationships, but what Emily and I had was this sort of amazing connection that (if I can speak for the both of us) neither of us expected. That is the author’s dream. And BookEnds was definitely at the top of my agency list, too. So when the time came for me to make a decision, it was truly a no-brainer.

That is so wonderful. I know exactly what you’re talking about too based on my call with Emily. Isn’t she amazing?

Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent? I am fascinated by middle grade fiction. It is seriously my preferred genre to read for fun. I think it’s such a magical age.

I couldn’t agree more! I’ve always been a fan of middle grade fiction. My book is a riveting ghost-hunting story about a young medium and his half-witch friend, who team up to solve a supernatural mystery that threatens the safety of their town and leads them to the ruins of the Spooky Spirits Society—a secret school club founded back in 1984 by a handful of… let’s just say very unique students. The book is set against the eerie backdrop of the historic town of Tarrytown, NY, and it is the first installment in a planned pentalogy packed with suspense, heart, and just a dab of magic rooted in Celtic mythology. But above everything else, it’s a story of compassion, grief, and friendship. Honestly, I cannot wait to share it with the world!

Oh my goodness, that sounds absolutely incredible! I can’t wait to hear about a book deal so that I can put it on my list to pre-order. This sounds right up my ally!

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

First of all, congratulate yourself on finishing your book and take a moment to really let that sink in—it’s no easy feat, believe me. And for those of you in the thick of querying, hang in there. Querying takes time. Be true to yourself in your query and don’t be afraid to share your personal motivation for writing your book. Remember, publishing is all about people connecting. Nobody wants to work with a jerk. So don’t take it personally if your book gets rejected. Keep at it. And have a support system around you—I know I wouldn’t have lasted long without some of my closest friends by my side.

That is all wonderful advice. Thank you so much! This has been an absolute blast. Thank you so much for joining me! Before I let you go… where can we connect with you online?

Both my Twitter and Instagram handles are @cabadawrites. Feel free to reach out and ask me anything! I’m always happy to chat with fellow authors.

You are wonderful! Thanks so much for joining us today! I’ve had a great time chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck on submission! I can’t wait to see your books in the world (and on my shelf especially).

Me too! Thanks so much for letting me share my story on your blog. Good luck to everyone still in the trenches! You’re not alone!


B.A Cabada is offering one lucky reader a query critique! Remember, his query landed him a request for more in only 3 days. So you don’t want to miss this chance! To enter, follow both Borja and Kailei on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet. Best of luck to everyone! Winner will be announced on twitter 12/10.

About B.A. Cabada

Photo Credit: Santi Veiga

B.A. Cabada is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and occasional illustrator from Spain. He holds an MA in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University, where he attended as a Fulbright scholar.

As a screenwriter, he has served as script consultant on three episodes of Amazon’s “Carnival Row.” He has also penned several projects for television and film, including Rosario Dawson’s directorial debut for Google and Straight Up Films, and worked in script development for some of the most influential content and talent hubs in Hollywood, namely Studio 8 (Alpha, White Boy Rick) and Heroes & Villains Entertainment.

After surviving leukemia back in 2017, his first novel in Spanish, El sonido de Atlantis, won the Logroño Book Prize for Emerging Authors that same year, and was published in Spain by Grupo Anaya’s imprint Algaida to great critical and public success. Since then, he has been more committed than ever to his writing career. Stay tuned for more news on his middle-grade debut: Spooky Spirits Society, a fun yet gripping novel full of ghosts and thrills!

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.



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