Hello wonderful readers! How is everyone doing?? The last two weeks in writing world were A-N-X-I-E-T-Y inducing for me. Beyond majorly. And I couldn't pin point exactly why, but it seemed to be all the things. So I tried to really simplify my life, especially my social media presence, and that actually helped a lot on the mental health front.
So just checking in with you all... how are you doing? Are you taking care of you? Are you doing what works for you? Do you need a listening ear? Please feel free to reach out any time if you do. This industry is not for the faint of heart, as they say.
Anyways... I digress. I am really excited to welcome Ramya (R.G.) Spaulding to this week's Tuesday From The Trenches! Her story is amazing and I am really excited to share this two year journey on the blog today!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Ramya! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers! I have loved learning about your story and I know it will inspire readers to really hone their craft and keep at it!
Can you share your query stats with us?
Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Almost 2 years. But did not actively query.
Number of Agents Queried: 21
Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 0
Number of R&Rs: 0
Number of Rejections: 20 (including ones I never heard back from)
Number of Offers: 1
Agent and Agency: Elisa Houot of The Seymour Agency
That is wonderful! Huge congratulations! How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.
Hands down Spreadsheet! (I am an engineer, although not practicing now).
Team Spreadsheet!! I love a good spreadsheet as well. As that spreadsheet began to fill itself out, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?
Yes, the first few times, it stung because I was not used to rejection of my work or not getting replies because it doesn’t happen like that in the engineering field. But, I adapted to rejections pretty fast. I understood that it wasn’t personal. I also did not query actively.
This was my process: I would query a few agents, and then I would take time off from querying because as I was taking more writing and illustration classes and learning continuously, I felt like I was getting better and better and didn’t want to query the same stories. I felt like the more classes I took, the fewer polished manuscripts and dummies I had. Hence the small number of queries. Also, dummies take forever to make! So I just took my time. I was in no hurry.
That is really wonderful advice! I love your commitment to craft over everything else. And I can't even imagine how time consuming it is to be an author/illustrator. One of my lovely critique partners is A/I and the dummy making process seems to be so intense. You are amazing for plugging along that path.
So once you felt like you had something polished and ready to go, how did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?
At first, I looked at all the authors that I liked and their agents and started a spreadsheet with their names, websites, interviews, etc. Then I took note of all the new author/illustrators getting agents, and a lot of them were finding newer agents in established agencies. So I thought that would be a good strategy, so I added some of them to my spreadsheet. But then I discovered social events #PBpitch, #DVpit, #APIPit on Twitter. So I thought I should give it a try because that would provide the agents with a chance to like my work, and would help me cut back on who I should query. I also subscribed to Publishers Market Place and took note of agents who had diverse clients and who have sold diverse stories. I came across Pitch Perfect Live on Twitter, and knew that The Seymour Agency had agents with very diverse clients and have sold diverse stories.
That is a really great system, R.G.! I also went for a new agent at an established agency, and I think it's a wonderful path to take. So it sounds like the Pitch Perfect Live was a great opportunity for you... How did you ultimately connect with your agent?
I found my agent through a Twitter pitch event. Elisa Houot tweeted that their agency was doing a live Twitter pitch event called “Pitch Perfect Live,” and I thought, why not, so I told some of my CP’s. A few of us were lucky enough to get spots. It is always fun to do things with your CP’s as a group. My spot was with Joyce Sweeney and her intern. When you sign up, you get a chance to pick up to 3 agents to pitch live to. I got nervous about pitching live in front of an agent and their intern, but I made myself go through with it because...why not? I don’t lose anything, and it is good to see and talk to agents and get their reaction live. By the end of the live event, I had so much nervous energy, but the agents and interns were very lovely and made you feel good about pitching. Joyce is like a Godmother to PB authors :-)
She really does seem so lovely. All of my interactions with Joyce have been super positive! So after that event, how much time passed between querying to getting “the call”?
Pitch Perfect Live: April 15, 2021 (Joyce Sweeney, The Seymour Agency)
Submitted PB manuscript and Dummy: April 25, 2021
The Call: May 10, 2021 (Elisa Houot, The Seymour Agency)
The Seymour Agency is very collaborative. All the agents talk to each other and work closely in kidlit.
Since Joyce had clients with similar stories to mine, she shared my stories with Elisa, a newer agent building up her client list. Joyce then set up a meeting between Elisa and me so we can talk to each other. I found out that Elisa loved all of my stories also. She is very patient, sweet, and easy to talk to and work with.
Oh that's so exciting! I love when agents share MSs in an agency. That was probably a surprise to get a call from someone you didn't sub to, but what an AMAZING surprise! Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Elisa was the right choice?
Elisa set up a date for the call, and I frantically started gathering all kinds of questions to ask her. I had three pages of questions which she answered patiently. She asked me what else I was working on and why I was looking for an agent. We connected well, and at the end of the call, she offered representation.
The right agent will love “ALL OF YOUR WORK” and is easy to connect with and is very transparent with how they do subs, keeps you in the loop every step of the way, and explains all this in The Call. Elisa is lovely and extremely hardworking. She was easy to talk to and explained how the agency works. She also encouraged me to nudge other agents to who I have submitted material, but I connected with her so well that I decided to withdraw from the others. Even though she lives in France, she is just an email away if I have questions, and by the time I wake up in the morning, she has already replied to my questions. So time zone difference works great for us.
That sounds like such a lovely call! And I love to hear about agents who love your entire body of work and are prepared to be your career agent. Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?
Not sure if it is just one book. After I participated in Pitch Perfect Live, I also participated in #APIpit a week after, and I got 3 agent likes, 2 editor likes, and one small press. One of the agents was Joyce Sweeney, so I knew I was still in consideration.
That is so wonderful! Another testament that Elisa is in it for the long haul with you, excited about your full body of work!
If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?
Use all the avenues available to find your agent. The dream agent will be the agent who can sell your work. Don’t hesitate to query new agents who are mentored at established agencies. They want to succeed as much as you do, and they usually have more time to answer your questions and guide you in this publishing journey. It is a partnership.
Also, while all those “No’s” are coming, keep improving your craft with classes and webinars and critique groups. My critique partners play a great role in helping me focus my story and making it better. There are also many mentorship opportunities available on Twitter for free, like #PBChat and #PBParty. I always took advantage of all the free opportunities available. I was placed in the #PBParty 2021 as one of the finalists in the illustration category. Even if it doesn’t lead to an agent, it is a big confidence booster to get noticed.
Don’t give up. This is just the first step into the publishing world.
That is all such wonderful advice! I love that your journey was really about honing your craft and taking every opportunity that came your way. I think that between those two things, everyone can make it in this industry. I love your reminder that a yes will come. It only takes one. Before I let you go... Where can we connect with you online?
Wonderful! Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Since I was relatively new to this field (my second career), I had a lot of learning to do, but I didn’t have time to go back to college full-time to write/illustrate. But luckily for me, I was able to find many classes online and connect with some great kidlit peeps.
Some of the classes that helped me are:
The Writing Barn classes (writing)
12x12 Webinars (writing & critique partners)
The Storyteller Academy (writing/illustrating classes)
The Society of Visual Storytelling (illustrating classes)
Don’t compare yourself to other authors and illustrators. Make your own path and help others along the way. My favorite quote from The Writing Barn-Courage to Create community, “Creativity is not a competition-Bethany Hegedus.”
Oh, that is so very good! I love that reminder. And what wonderful resources! Thank you for sharing those and thanks so much for joining us today, Ramya! 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.
Thank you, Kailei.
R.G. Spaulding is offering one lucky winner a non-rhyming PB MS critique or one Dummy Critique.
Winner will be announced next week on Twitter.
About R.G. Spaulding
Ramya G. Spaulding (R.G. Spaulding) is an Indian-American author-illustrator. She loves to draw and frequently got into trouble as a kid for daydreaming too much. She spent most of her lunchtime at the school library, escaping into different worlds of the stories she read. Before she was an author-illustrator, she used to be an engineer because she also loved math and science. She feels extremely privileged to be making up stories with words and pictures. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. She wants to make sure all children can see themselves in the books they read. She also loves to add a hint of STEM in her stories whenever possible. You can find out more about her by visiting https://rgspaulding.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