Happy Tuesday, KidLit friends! I feel like the past month or so has flown by. This year will soon be over, and I'm sure that we're all glad to see it go! But as crazy and difficult as this year has been, there's also been a lot of good. I was able to sign with my own agent, Emily Forney, and start this super fun blog series featuring querying authors and their time in the trenches leading up to publication. I've loved this series so much, and hope you have too.
Before I introduce you to this week's guest, let me first ask you: Have you heard about the KidLit Holiday Dance Party? Have you registered? If not, make sure to get on that right away! Space is limited, and we're 80% full right now.
And now, join we in welcoming Monica Acker to the blog today!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Monica! I’m thrilled to share your query story with my readers!
Thanks so much for having me. I always enjoy reading everyone’s unique paths and now I get to share mine!
It's really been so fun to see just how unique each path to representation is. I'm excited to hear about yours. Can you share your query stats with us?
Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Two years, but really three phases. July 2018: Two months into writing seriously. Definitely not ready. My apologies to the handful of agents I queried. Fall 2019: Dipped toes in the water. Form responses. January to July 2020: Not sure if I would ever feel totally ready, but dove in!
Number of Agents Queried: 43
Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 1
Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 1
Number of R&Rs:
Number of Rejections: Loads.
Number of Offers: 1
Agent and Agency: Kaitlyn Sanchez at Olswanger Literary Agency
I think we've all queried too soon as least a time or two. I know I did, at least!
How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.
I love an Excel spreadsheet. I like that I can adjust my sort to see agents at the same agency, submissions by story, date sent, etc.
I'm the same. Nothing like a good Excel sheet to keep me organized.
How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?
I queried the first story I wrote. I brought it to one critique group. And if I recall correctly, I called my mom to say the group didn’t hate it so now I just needed to find an agent. Ha! There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know. But when that first rejection rolled in, I thought, how lucky I was that someone took the time to read what I wrote. I even queried an agent who was closed to queries, such a rookie move, but she sent me my first personal rejection. She was so kind and encouraged me to keep writing. So I did.
Every agent I queried, I felt some sort of connection with, or else I wouldn’t have queried them, so there was a bummer feeling when a rejection came in. Scattered among the rejections were positive comments about my stories or my writing. These told me I was on the right path. I took screenshots on my phone of the personal notes to reflect on when doubts crept in here and there. And when a no came into my in-box, I usually found the best way to remove the sting was to replace it with hope by sending another query.
I love those kind and encouraging rejections so much! They kept me going. And I know exactly what it is like to no even realize all the things you don't know yet. But the kidlit community is so kind and accepting. Authors and agents alike.
How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?
I started assembling agent info from various sources such as conferences I attended, blog interviews, and Twitter. Then another writer kindly shared her list of agents, so I used that as a starting point for research.
I seriously love how generous people are! So between all of that, how did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?
This is where I feel like a cheater-cheater pants because I did not traditionally query Kaitlyn. I was incredibly lucky, but it boils down to making connections. My super star agent runs a fantastic blog. She conducts interviews and often offers giveaways (in addition to running the #FallWritingFrenzy and #SpringFlingKidlit contest). I won a critique with an author through the blog and sent a manuscript in the same email thread, including the author and Kaitlyn. The story I shared caught Kaitlyn’s eye. She helped me get the MS submission ready, because the story of my heart touched hers as well.
This got me on the radar. And as I sent the MS out, Kaitlyn cheered me on. Once Kaitlyn started taking on clients, she reached out to me to see if my body of work would be a good fit for her list. The first things I sent weren’t quite right yet, but she asked for revisions and more work. We went back and forth a lot, but I always felt encouraged to be better. I hoped a mentorship through #PBChat would help get my MSs to where they needed to be, but when I didn’t earn one, I tackled revisions again, with the help of CPs (Always. If you do not have critique partners, find some) and sent them off to Kaitlyn one more time. This time, within, minutes (ok, maybe hours) my phone rang. Kaitlyn said she was so excited about the revisions that she had to call right away. During that quick call we set up “the call.”
Oh wow! That is all so amazing. And not cheating at all! It's so important to take all of those awesome opportunities. You never know what will come from them. And how amazing that she called you so soon after some time of back and forth! Kaitlyn is seriously so kind and supportive. I've loved my interactions with her. Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Kaitlyn was the right choice?
I feel lucky to have known Kaitlyn from Twitter as a writer friend before she was an agent. I knew going into the call that she is passionate about kidlit and great at connecting people. During “the call” I got to know Kaitlyn the agent. We had a similar vision for my MSs and the process of revising and resubmitting showed me how well we work together. It was a no-brainer.
I love that so much. And I couldn't agree more that Kaitlyn is an amazing cheerleader and champion in the kidlit community.
If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?
Keep learning and writing. Once the query is sent, it is out of your control, so focus on what you can control. Take a webinar, read lots of books, attend a class, and write, write, write. Also, writing can feel really solitary, but get out there and make those connections.
Your story is a great testament to the good that comes from making those connections. That is wonderful advice! Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?
My infrequently updated blog https://teacherwriteracker.home.blog/
Thanks so much for joining us today! This has been so much fun and I've loved hearing your story on the path to representation!
Readers, Monica has generously offered one lucky reader a non-rhyming picture book manuscript critique! To enter, follow both Monica and Kailei on twitter and retweet THIS tweet. Best of luck to everyone!
About Monica Acker
Monica Acker is a picture book writer and kid lit cheerleader represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary. She is a member of SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x12 Picture Book Challenge. Born and raised in New York, she now resides north of Boston, MA with her husband and three wicked awesome daughters.
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.