Hello wonderful readers! And welcome to another Tuesday From The Trenches! I am so glad you are here and hope you had a wonderful Halloween. I do love spooky season, but I'm also excited for the holidays and the end of the year. I really can't believe we're almost through 2021. How time truly does fly.
I'm very excited to be welcoming Cade Hagen to the blog today and hope you all enjoy reading his story. I know that I personally was very inspired by his dedication and perseverance over 13 YEARS in the query trenches. I love learning about people who just don't give up. So, join me in welcoming Cade!
Thank you so much for joining us today! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers!
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: 13 years
Number of Agents Queried: Over the course of five manuscripts, about 300, though there were plenty of duplicates
Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: About 30-40 (again, for all manuscripts)
Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 0
Number of R&Rs: 0
Number of Rejections: In the neighborhood of 300. If we’re including short story rejects, we might be as many as 500. In other words, a ton.
Number of Offers: 3
Agent and Agency: Shari Maurer at Stringer Literary Agency
Cade, I absolutely love your dedication! This industry can really kick a person when they’re down, but I love to see that you didn’t give up, even when the years went on. That is key to success in this business! So with 13 years of queries, how did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.
For the first two manuscripts, I used my own spreadsheets. For the next three, I used QueryTracker, a site I evangelically recommend anytime I get the chance.
Haha. I love your evangelism for QT. I had a love-hate relationship with it. Fabulous for organizing, but sometimes maddening with watching other queries sent in after my own get responses before I did. Am I in a maybe pile?? Did they just miss me?? Haha. But really, I mostly loved it. So with about 300 rejections, how did you handle it? Did any sting more than others?
There were a few very close calls along the way—phone calls and conference conversations and the like—that hurt the most. But they played a major role in motivating me to continue. I also have a wife who believes in me more than I deserve, as well as a brain stubborn and deluded enough to keep me pounding at the door.
I think that persistence really is what matters. And having people (like your wife) in your corner really does make all the difference. I love those motivations to keep at it.
How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?
QueryTracker was my central hub, but I’d browse anywhere and everywhere: Twitter, Tumblr, MSWL, agency sites, etc. But broadly speaking, if they repped what I was pitching, I pitched. I don’t think digital persona is terribly reflective of true personality, so (barring any giant red flags) I didn’t pay much attention to that.
Sounds like you took advantage of many wonderful resources. That’s great. So between all of those sites, how did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?
Yes! I love cold-query success stories so much. Can you share a few more details about that? How much time passed between querying your now agent to getting “the call”?
She requested within a few days of my query, and I nudged her about three months later. Our phone call was about a week after that.
This is really great info, Cade. I think authors can be hesitant to nudge, worried that it might result in a “no,” so I love that you were successful with that nudge. Agents are busy people and it’s 100% okay to nudge after their specified time. *Readers, please do not nudge a couple days after subbing* (unless you have an offer, of course).
So after that nudge, tell us more about “the call.” How did you know your agent was the right choice?
We chatted for about 40 minutes about my book, why she loved it, and how she saw it faring in the market. We also discussed my process, how long it generally takes me to churn out a book, and what ideas I have for future books. It’s strange to say, but the biggest thing about Shari that stuck out to me is how little confidence I had that she would like it when I queried. It’s fairly outside her wheelhouse, and she said during the call that she was initially hesitant for that reason, but that she couldn’t stop herself from returning to it. For me, that cinched it. She’s also just a lovely person, and I felt that we had an immediately positive rapport. She’s been wonderful to work with.
Shari sounds absolutely wonderful! And I love that she was so drawn to your work that she took the time to learn more about your genre, even outside of her regular wheelhouse. That sounds like a very committed agent! Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?
It’s a YA speculative thriller, but I also like to think of it as a bit of a dark comedy. I pitched it as Black Mirror meets The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and it's complete with artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and a cheerfully snarky teenage narrator who's in over his head.
That sounds wonderful! And I do love snarky teenage narrators!
If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?
1. Use QueryTracker.
2. You’re forever a student of the craft. Always be learning, but more importantly (and somehow most ignored), APPLY what you learn.
3. Never. Quit.
All such wonderful pieces of advice!! Thank you for those great words of wisdom and for your example of truly never quitting. Where can we connect with you online?
Thanks so much for joining us today, Cade! And best of luck on this journey. I can’t wait to see your books in the world.
Cade is graciously offering both a query critique and a first-five-pages critique. Follow him on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet to enter.
About Cade Hagen
Cade Hagen lives in Las Vegas with his wife and daughters. He’s a hot-sauce junkie, a wannabe whiskey connoisseur, and an objectophiliac for guitars. Visit him on Twitter @cadehagen or at cadehagen.com
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