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Valerie Biel Invites Us on Her Journey to Find an Agent

Valerie Biel is the author of the young adult Circle of Nine series. You can find out more about her on her website,, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Recently, I decided to try something new and different and bring you all along for the ride.

I’m querying agents. (Now, if you’re an author, that single line might give you a sick dread in the pit of your stomach. And, if you’re not an author, keep reading and hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll understand why—not that I want to induce a stomachache for you, too.)

I’ve previously been agented but parted ways with my agent after that partnership proved unsuccessful. I have three unpublished middle grade manuscripts, one unpublished middle grade nonfiction book proposal, and a recently completed young adult murder mystery /suspense novel. (So, for everyone out there who wonders whether I have been writing since my last book released in 2017 — SEE – I HAVE. But thank you for wanting more of that series. It will happen, I swear.)

So why not indie publish? After all, I did that successfully with the three-book Circle of Nine series. Mainly, the issue is middle grade books are difficult to market to the gatekeepers for that age reader. Traditionally published books are just noticed more by parents, teachers, and librarians. Not that I can’t indie publish those books. I might actually do that in the future if this whole find-a-new-agent thing doesn’t work out. BUT as a book marketer, I know that it will be easier to market traditionally published books.

So what about that YA murder mystery you just finished?

Yes, great, thanks for asking.

I had every intention of indie publishing that book. Really!

But then my beta readers were like “oooooh” this is good.

And, I said, “Really?”

And they said, “Yes, like really good.”

Again, I said, “Really?” (Clearly, I can be a bit dense when receiving compliments.)

They said, “You should use THIS to find a new agent.”

Now that’s what I’m doing. I’m querying agents with this (somewhat) newly finished manuscript.

However, you might be thinking (if you’ve been paying attention), will the same agents who rep YA also want Middle Grade?

Again, good question, astute reader!

Not all do, so I’ve constructed my agent search very carefully by using two lists from Publishers Marketplace: the top 100 Middle Grade Agents and the top 100 Young Adult Agents. I’ve overlayed those two lists, cross-referenced their agencies, and prioritized the order in which they’ll be queried. My spreadsheet is a colorful mess rainbow. The columns of the spreadsheet include fun notes about their manuscript wishlists, their favorite books, their Twitter handle, how they like to receive queries, what needs to be included with the query, whether they’re closed to queries and the date they might re-open, whether their agency policy is “a no from one is a no from all” or if you can query other agents later and more! The research is painstaking! Good thing I like spreadsheets!!

This sounds chaotic, but it is all very methodical!

Spotify Play list
Click here to listen

All of this research takes about 20-30 minutes for each agent, but it’s necessary to make sure we’d be a good fit and to make sure my manuscript matches what they’re looking for. Then I either email them the query with the number of pages and any other materials they want or I load it all into Query Manager and submit that way. This supposes that I have all those ‘other’ materials ready to go. And I do! Those include the synopsis, pitch line, comparable titles, biography and more—one agent even asked for the novel’s music playlist. (Which I had ready – thank you very much! I do this for all my books because …. Why not??)

I am only querying the top 60 or so agents for my project. And if that hits a dead end. I am querying a shorter list of publishers where it is not required to have an agent to submit a manuscript.

And –  if that doesn’t work – cue the sad music – I WILL indie publish.

But even with this plan—this glorious plan of action that should keep me from being TOO overly invested in the outcome of any single query—I am feeling the sting of rejection.

It’s impossible to avoid. No one likes to get a no. It’s not like a curl-up-in-a-ball kind of feeling. It’s more like a small splinter or maybe a paper cut. Ouch, dang, that hurt. And you suck on your finger for a minute to soothe the sting and go on about your day. (Well – at least that’s what’s happening so far. If I end up curled up under my desk in the coming weeks with a mug of cocoa and a good book, I’ll be sure to let you know.)

Anyhoo . . . I feel like we don’t talk enough about the query journey . . . the ups and the downs and the in-betweens. I thought it might be educational and probably humorous and possibly even be a bit sad at times to take this journey with me through a series of short videos.

Come on over to my YouTube Channel, where I now I have 13 one-minute videos describing this journey. (And yes, when you realize that the first 8 videos show me in the same outfit, please know that I do own more than one shirt — but I did these all in one sitting and I absolutely refused to pretend that I didn’t. GASP! I am not a glamazon social media influencer!

And ALSO—just for fun—each of these videos cover images show an awkward freeze frame of me mid-word. So that’s pretty special! LOL)

Every week I’ll add another video to update you on the query news.

Questions? Comments? Chocolate? Wine? Fun querying stories of your own? Send them my way!!

Valerie Biel

Valerie Biel is the author of the award-winning Circle of Nine series (stories inspired by Celtic mythology and the stone circles of Ireland). Learn more about her on her website, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    I should be listening to your series, even with my complete loathing of video (hey, 17 years as a TV critic will do that to you). I’ll be on the same journey soon enough. Sigh.

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      Ha — well these are quickly produced 60 second bits — so your inner critic might wince a bit, but they’re easy enough to produce. And, yes, this process is annoying and kind of weird overall, but sadly the only way forward if you want an agent.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the (ugh) query process. You’ll get there, have no fear. You’ve got it down to a science!

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      I sure hope so!! I do think it helps to approach it methodically and just think of it as a numbers game.

  3. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    First, I thought you WERE a social media influencer! And I hope you find a fabulous agent – thanks for sharing the journey. I’m learning a lot from you!

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      Yes. . . of course . . . we ARE social media influencers. 🙂 I learn a lot from you, too!!

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Valerie — You’ve GOT this! No matter how you slice it, you’ve GOT this!

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      YES!! I have multiple paths forward and this is just one option! But it’s kind of fun to document the journey.

  5. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Dear Glamazon Social Media Influencer, thanks for sharing your journey. I’m impressed but not surprised by your search organization. I think you’ll reach your goal. My almost-two-year search didn’t go so well, but as you said, there’s indie publishing, thank goodness, which is getting more praise and attention these days. I like your music playlist idea. Something for me to think about for my detectives!

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      Ooh, you could have so much fun creating playlists for your books!! It’s a fun little project . . . kind of like creating a book trailer. Just some extra goodies for promotion, but it’s hard to show whether they bring in more sales at all. I like doing them nonetheless. And, yes, if this effort is not fruitful, I’m happy to move on with indie publishing.

  6. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Thanks for sharing your journey and good luck! I hope new writers in particular are paying attention to your great posts and videos about the agent hunt. I’ve found that 90 percent of writers give up too soon when looking for an agent, but they also don’t realize that in between the queries there’s a lot of revision work going on. We’re always revising. Every time we’re about to send something out in an agent query it seems we find something to revise and make better. (Or is that just my own stuff, LOL!) I’m sure you will have good news soon about hiring an agent.

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      You’re so right!! I am always revising my materials — I don’t know how many versions of the query I have in total . . . I’m up to “Query version G” but I have some specific ones I wrote for specific agents, too. And I keep playing with the synopsis, too. (And I’ve also edited scenes in the first 50 pages as I’ve reread them more frequently.) It NEVER stops. LOL – Val

  7. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Valerie, I love this post! You asked for a query story: Once I received my query letter back with NO scrawled over the top of it–Ouch! You’re so talented and you have such tremendous presence that I know you’ll succeed in this quest. So I’m wishing you luck, because I truly believe it also take a bit of luck to make the connection with the best person/agency at the very best time!

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      Well — OUCH — that’s sort of like getting a bad grade on a paper. I think I prefer this technological “no” with a little email that has no big, bad, mean red lettering on it. 🙂 Thanks for the vote of confidence and, yes, there’s a lot of luck/serendipity involved in these searches.

  8. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    Wishing you the very best of luck with it! Over the years, I’ve had several agents, including two from very good agencies, but in the end, I always sold my own work to publishers (even Penguin and Macmillan). Sounds like you’ve got something really saleable 🙂

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      We’ll definitely see how this goes. I also don’t mind being in the driver’s seat on this and moving forward with indie publishing. I’d like to think my manuscript is marketable–of course!!

  9. Tracey S. Phillips
    Tracey S. Phillips

    I love knowing we’re on the same path, Val. I’m in the trenches with you. Funny story, i started posting little videos about my journey on insta about a month ago -then got sidetracked by a new grandbaby. I think it’s so important to share about this part of being an author. Thanks for your post! You’ll get there! I’m sure you’re well on your way.

  10. Valerie Biel
    Valerie Biel

    I have to catch up with your posts!! We can commiserate! Knowing the quality of your writing, I’m sure you’ll get there!!

  11. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    Best of luck to you! It’s a tough journey toward traditional publication. Hope it works out for you.

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      Thanks, Avanti! And I wouldn’t be doing this at all if it were easier to market middle grade indie pub books . . . we’ll see how it goes. But if I end up indie publishing again, that’s fine with me, too. (I do like being able to control certain things as an indie author.)

  12. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Thank you for making me laugh! I’m querying a suburban suspense and it is so depressing. But I will hang in there! I took 97 rejections before my I had my first book contract.

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      Yes–it is depressing. I received two more rejections in the past 24 hours. Ouch! But it is a numbers game, and I shall persevere!

  13. Avatar

    Best of luck with your querying adventure. You’ve mastered the hardest part, in my opinion, which is keeping a positive attitude.

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