Valerie Biel is the author of the young adult Circle of Nine series. You can find out more about her on her website, www.valeriebiel.com, 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 I have three unpublished middle grade manuscripts, one unpublished middle grade nonfiction book proposal, and a recently completed young adult murder mystery /suspense novel.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!
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!!