Tuesday From The Trenches: Janelle Harper
Hello wonderful readers! How are we all doing today? I know many of you are deep in the query trenches. Some might be about to hop out. Others might feel like you'll be there forever... But it last week's interview with Allen taught us nothing else, we learned that years of "no" can become "yes" from one day to the next! So keep trudging, friends! You will make it.
And not to be a Debby Downer... but the waiting truly never ends. So to those of you who are agented and now on submission, I see you. That wait doesn't actually ever end if you are looking to be a career author. You sell one book and celebrate with complete JOY, and then it's right back out on sub with the second... then the third... then the fourth... and I'm sure very experienced authors will tell us that the waiting still doesn't stop. 30 years from now when I'm ready to retire, I'll let you know ;)
But what I'm trying to say is this... the waiting will never end. So just enjoy each and every moment of the process. Control what you can control... write another story. Send another query (or pre another submission). Research a new idea. Try a new genre. And let the waiting take a backseat to the work you are putting in. I have said it before and I will say it again... I fully, 100% believe that there is room for each and every one of us in this industry. And that the world needs our stories. All of them. So don't stop writing.
Anyways... I have babbled enough now. So please join me as I now welcome Janelle Harper to Tuesday From The Trenches!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Janelle! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers! So let's jump right in.
Can you share your query stats with us?
Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 4 months
Number of Agents Queried: 29 (5 of which I queried twice with a different manuscript)
Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 10
Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: I’ve participated in Twitter Pitches in the past with little to no luck. Mindy Alyse Weiss’ #PBParty contest is where I received the most interest: 11 agents and 7 editors
Number of R&Rs: 0
Number of Rejections: 18 Passes, 5 No Responses, 3 Stepped Aside after Notice of Offer of Rep
Number of Offers: 5
Agent and Agency: Lindsay Auld, Writers House
WOW! That is so amazing!! Huge congrats on the 5 offers!! And I love hearing these PBParty success stories. What a wonderful opportunity that you had. And I know those PBParty spots are hard to get. High competition. So please take my deep congratulations on making that. I am sure your story was amazing. So how did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.
I started with a Spreadsheet but they intimidate me so I transferred all my data into a table in Google Doc. I created a column for the Agent Name, Agency, Query Submission Date, Query Return Date, Agent Response and Additional Information.
Google docs really is so wonderful and user friendly. I know you had a faster experience than some in the trenches, but how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?
My experience in the field of dance has given me tough skin and lots of experience with rejections but I’m still human. Passes from dream agents or after requests for additional manuscripts stung a little more than other rejections. If needed, I allowed myself to feel whatever emotions I was feeling for the day then dusted myself off, dove back into writing and the query trenches. Ice cream and wine may have been involved.
Ha! I love that. My ice cream consumption was way up during my time in the query trenches as well. So outside of PBParty, how did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?
Twitter was a huge help in getting a sense of agents’ personalities, interests, open vs closed to queries, etc. I also used Publishers Marketplace, Manuscript Wish List, and the websites of literacy agencies to do more extensive research. I decided who I would query based on personalities I thought I would gel with, reputation, track record, a commitment to BIPOC authors and a passion for #OWN voice stories.
That is wonderful! It sounds like you really did your research, which is so important to the process. And I love the resources that are out there. How did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?
With hesitation, I submitted to Mindy Alyse Weiss’ #PBParty contest in March. I was skeptical to submit because I already cold queried many of the participating agents. To my disbelief, my entry received a lot of interest: 11 agents and 7 editors.
That is so amazing. HUGE congratulations on that accomplishment! I'm so glad that you decided to put yourself out there despite the worry.
How much time passed between querying your Lindsay to getting “the call”?
Two days after Lindsay’s #PBParty request, I emailed my query letter and full manuscript. Within two hours, I received a response and a request to have “the call”. Two days later, we had “the call” and Lindsay offered representation.
WOW! What a whirlwind. I love that so much. Two hours! I bet you were feeling all sorts of emotions. Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Lindsay was the right choice?
Prior to “the call”, I created a list of questions to ask. This helped a lot with anxiety and nervousness. During “the call”, Lindsay expressed passion not only for my manuscript but for my overall career. I asked LOTS of questions and Lindsay was meticulous with answering each one. After “the call”, I spoke with several clients. I strongly suggest this for all writers! In a matter of 2 weeks, I had 5 agent calls and offers of representation. It was exciting but also very overwhelming. Lindsay understood the importance of my decision and encouraged me to take all the time I needed. She wanted me to be comfortable and confident with my decision. With offers from 5 amazing agents, it was important that I made the right choice for me. Over those 2 weeks, I prayed, analyzed my notes from the calls and I trusted my gut. Based on her passion, commitment to being my advocate, communication style, experience, support from her mentor, and Writers House’s prestigious history, I knew Lindsay was the one. Truly, there would have not been a bad choice but Lindsay was the best choice for me and I am beyond ecstatic with my decision.
Wow. I can't imagine juggling 5 offers to choose from. But I can tell that you really took the time and made the effort to make the right choice for you. I love what you said about no bad choice, but finding the best fit for you personally. It sounds like Lindsay is going to be an amazing advocate for your work.
Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?
This is the pitch that generated a lot of interest from #PBParty contest and helped to land my agent.
“This is a love letter. To the hustle. To the bustle. To the grit of those who sparkle under street lamps. Bodegas, subways and Hip Hop are some of the hidden gems that bring this New York City neighborhood to life. The Bronx! Take a lyrical journey through the coolest place I’ve ever been.”
Ooooh! That sounds absolutely amazing. I will have my eyes peeled for when you can share some good news on that one!
If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?
Be kind to yourself! Find non-writing things to recharge and reinspire you. Take a long walk, break out the crayons and coloring books, go for brunch with friends. Whatever it is, do it! Then come back and keep going! Keep going until you get that agent! Keep going until you get that book deal! Keep going as you check off all your writing goals! Your journey is your own and is waiting for you to continue down the path.
That is beautiful, Janelle! Thank you so much for that inspiration and for the reminder to take breaks, recharge, and then hustle again.
Where can we connect with you online?
Twitter and IG: @BXStoryteller
Thanks so much for joining us today! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers before I let you go?
Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of Tuesday from the Trenches. Your blog encouraged me and provided so many insights during my querying process. I am so happy to have the chance to give back to the writing community.
Aww... thank you so much, Janelle! I love hearing that and hope that others feel the same through these interviews. And thank YOU for your generosity. I wish you all the best on submission and can't wait to see your books out in the world!!
Janelle is offering one lucky reader a non-rhyming fiction PB manuscript critique. After 5 offers of rep, I think we can all agree that she will have some very valuable advice, so don't miss your change to enter! Just retweet THIS tweet and follow both Janelle and Kailei on twitter.
About Janelle Harper
Janelle Harper is a Bronx native who proudly carries her New York accent anywhere she goes. Janelle is passionate about representation. She hopes to create stories that make children fall more in love with themselves. She finds inspiration in life’s rhythms, city living, and the diverse experiences of the African Diaspora. When she’s not thinking about her next story, Janelle is enthusiastically playing along with TV game shows.
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