For years, I’ve dreamed of having a literary agent to represent my work. I’m pleased to announce that day has arrived. I thought I’d share some highlights from my experience to hopefully encourage someone out there who has been at it a while. For the record, I’ve been at it for nearly 28 years.
My journey started back in my twenties when I mailed my first query and manuscript for a children’s book. Not email, but actual mail. Back then rejections were mailed back on index cards.
My next round of query letters went out (via email) for a humor book called, “Moving Up the Ladder.” When I couldn’t find a home, I self-published it. This long was before the ease of Amazon KDP, and it was tricky, but I was determined to see my words in print.
I’ll spare you the details of “the memoir years.” Let’s just say, after writing classes, a writing coach, countless re-writes and many rejections, the manuscript died a painful (and expensive) death.
For a five- year period, I self-published seventeen books under the pen name Simone Pond. But when making money became more important than writing, I had to reassess my goals. My heart kept calling me back to traditional publishing, even though I knew it would be difficult and possibly futile.
And with that, below is a summary of my more recent experiences with querying agents.
2016 = Queried 52 agents for a dystopian YA standalone novel. All passes.
2018 = Queried 74 agents for a contemporary YA. This time I had four full-read requests, but all passed.
2020 = Queried 93 agents for a contemporary YA. This time I had one full-read request which led to a meeting with an agent in May 2021 (note: this was eleven months post query).
When I met with the agent, she gave me feedback on how to improve the manuscript. I made revisions, sent them back and waited; I wish I could say with patience and grace, but I lack both. When I met with Ariana for a second time a few months later, she had feedback for additional edits but much to my surprise she offered representation. It was a surreal and wonderful moment. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better agent. She’s incredibly insightful and collaborates with her authors throughout their career. Plus, she loves my book!
Getting literary representation is just one step in many to come, but it was a big one. Though it’s been a long and sometimes brutal journey, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. What kept me going in the darkest moments was my faith that if God put this desire on my heart, then I had to keep on writing — even though it was difficult and sometimes seemed hopeless.
If you’re interested, below is some advice based my query experience.
First of all, research is key when making your list of literary agents to query. You want to know what they’re looking for and the type of authors they represent. You’ll also want to get their specific submission guidelines. Publisher’s Weekly and AgentQuery and QueryTracker are excellent resources to build your list. You can also google which agents represent authors in your genre.
Second, making a spreadsheet is incredibly helpful. I broke my list up into tiers and included the literary agency, website, agent’s name, what they were interested in, sub guidelines, and any other details that would help me personalize my query letters. I kept track of the dates I sent my letters and the date they replied and any comments that were provided.
Third, your query letter must stand out because agents receive hundreds (!) of queries a week. Query Shark offers helpful advice. You’ll want to share it with multiple readers before you send it. Plan on re-writing that thing at least fifty times. There’s no painless way to write an amazing query letter, but if you want to garner interest in your work, it must sing.
I sent my query letters in batches, each one personalized and specific to the submission guidelines. Many agents have online forms these days, but the same goes — you want the introduction to your work to stand out and pique interest. Based on the response, or lack thereof, from your first batch of queries, you might need to revise your letter.
Prepare for many gut-wrenching moments and tears, but if this is your calling, you must honor it.
Check back for updates!