There is far more to learn about the publishing industry than I could have ever imagined! To get myself up to speed, I’ve been reaching out to fellow writers and agents for feedback and insights the past several weeks. My first bit of good news came as a result of these efforts when a friend of a friend recommended I reach out to her friend – a literary agent (yay for small victories!!!). A few weeks ago, I had the the pleasure of speaking to this agent, Jennifer Chen Tran, and received AMAZING feedback! She loved my concept and thought it was not only relevant but different than anything available in the industry today which made it very marketable. She challenged me to broaden the age range of my target reader beyond age 5 because she thought with some small tweaks my manuscript could appeal to older readers which was great to hear. Most of all, she said she would be surprised if I didn’t get a contract with an agent – ahhhh!! Coming from a agent, this feedback was SUPER motivating!! BUT, she had one caution – the importance of writing a good query letter. Thus, my query quandaries began…
Where to start?! I’ve spent the past month on a journey to the end of the world wide web and back in search of any and all insights on how to create a query letter that will knock the socks off of potential agents. One thing I quickly learned is that querying is an art, not a science. As a marketer by day, I wanted to find a formula to create the perfect pitch for my picture book. One that would clearly explain the story line, draw the reader into my vision and make them feel as passionate about its success as I am, yet despite all efforts to find one, I came up empty handed. These efforts left me feeling overwhelmed and questioning the viability of my pursuits until – another small victory – a much appreciated chat with the uber talented Michelle Nelsen Schmidt.
Michelle graciously shared her story with me one night. Several years of queries followed by an equal number of rejections finally paid off when she received an offer for a contract with an agent. Her first book deal followed shortly after and she is now the inspiring author of 6 beloved picture books. Michelle challenged me to convert discouragement to motivation throughout my journey. She suggested that I wait to reach out to my favorite agents because the feedback I would receive from rejected queries could be used to polish my manuscript and query letter which is something I hadn’t even thought of. Finally, she encouraged me to keep reaching toward my goal, assuring me that the right agent was out there although it may take time to find him or her.
One night, after the kids went to bed, I finally got the urge to sit down and write my first query letter. As daunting as it had seemed in the weeks prior, I found my thoughts and ideas flowing rapidly and typed feverishly to capture them. Naturally, the first draft needed several more rounds of refinement and after about an hour, I was feeling excited about sending my first submission. I had already pulled together a short list of agents seeking submissions in my genre, narrowed the list down to a few that seemed like a potential fit and researched submission guidelines for each so…without overthinking it, I hit the send button on my first submission.
I must say, as serious as I had been about publishing my book to that point, that moment made it real. There are no words to describe what it feels like to put yourself out there, completely vulnerable to criticisms. To share your dream openly despite fear of falling head first on hot pavement. To acknowledge that you are pursuing that dream, not just for yourself, but to teach your kids the power of perseverance toward goals. Fortunately for me, I have always been motivated by my “whatifs” (thanks Michelle!) because my feeling is that there is far more to regret if I don’t try than there is if I do! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to Jennifer Chen Tran and Michelle Nelsen-Schmidt. Your warm welcome and thoughtful insights were completely unexpected but whole-heartedly appreciated!! If you are any representation of the writing community – I want in. ❤