Last week my writing journey became real – I began receiving responses! I have been so distracted for the past month that I forgot all about my pending queries…until last week I received my first response, the first business day after I sent it! “Dear Angel, I am intrigued by Look Inside London’s Closet. Do you have any other picture books that you can send me?”. SO EXCITING!!!…except for the fact that I only had two additional manuscripts which were both pretty rough. Bummer!
I quickly started work on the manuscript that was most complete, a silly, spin on a thesaurus for early readers featuring friendly monsters. Fortunately, I was able to finish that draft, revise it, finish several rounds of critiques and revise again before preparing to send it along to the agent with absolutely no hesitation. The problem was, my third manuscript focused on a very sensitive subject matter for younger readers and required much more time than I wanted to make the agent wait. What to do?? The worst part was a simple search about picture book queries might have revealed the benefit of having three or more manuscripts ready. Such a rookie mistake!!
I posed the question to several members of my writer’s submission group and most agreed I should hold off on even mentioning the third manuscript unless it was polished. The thought was that my first manuscript was strong enough to get the agent’s attention and now she was looking for confirmation that future projects would be as strong…totally made sense since the first manuscript was only 440 words, hence, extremely difficult for one to gauge my writing style.
Fortunately or unfortunately, my additional two works in progress had different feels than the one that sparked her interest. Like the initial manuscript, the thesaurus featured a unique element, which I thought she would appreciate. It also had much stronger voice which I thought might showcase my versatility as a writer. My third, unfinished manuscript, was totally unlike the others. It was much more serious in nature and dealt with a theme which I personally feel is absolutely critical to address with young people today – bullying and gender stereotypes. The challenge was, I knew I had to be much more strategic with my approach to this project to truly do it justice and create the conversation starter I aspired parents to use it for. Still, in order to showcase my potential catalog to the agent, I thought it was important that this third book be represented, somehow.
After weighing all my options, I decided the best course of action was to include the full manuscript of the completed thesaurus as well as a pitch of my unfinished work in progress. Below is the pitch I included:
“Mom, as I walk around at school, I notice many boys in blue and girls wear purple and hot pink. It’s just the way it is, I think.” Why Do Boys Wear Blue is a thought-provoking picture book which details a delicate conversation between mother and child as they explore gender stereotypes, peer pressure and all the emotions in between. Told from the child’s perspective, Why Do Boys Wear Blue is the story of bravery, acceptance and staying true to oneself.
Relief! I re-read the email, full manuscript and pitch one more time before hitting send, satisfied that I had done the best I could to satisfy the agent’s request. For the rest of the week, I worked diligently to finish the 3rd manuscript, revise, critique and revise again, until I felt confident it was ready. Now complete (and my favorite of the three books!), I have been back and forth on whether or not to follow up with the agent and provide the full manuscript to accompany the pitch I previously sent her.
The moral of the story is, I realized again this week that querying is an art, not a science. I can (and probably will!) go back and forth, from Twitter to email, drafting to revising hundreds of times and still not find the right answer – because there is no right answer. Writing is extremely subjective and something one person likes, another may dislike. As a result, finding an agent who likes the version of your MS you happened to submit to them also involves an element of luck, which writers unfortunately can’t control. At the end of the day, those of us who write do it for the love of writing and should let that love propel us through the worries and rejections.
I am still waiting patiently on a response to my request for materials (with fingers crossed!) and have also since received three rejections…my first rejections since embarking on this journey. Were they disappointing? Of course! Did I wallow? A little. Will it stop me? No way! Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I am currently working on finding my why by exploring the things I love. I feel so fortunate that the waiting means I will have one less “whatif” on my list at the end of the day. I know not all of you who read this are writers but share it in hopes that you are encouraged to continue pursuing whatever passions you may have without fear of falling and will enjoy every second of the ride to finding your purpose ❤