HOW I GOT MY AGENTMarch 1, 2023
Wow — I really thought I wouldn’t be writing this anytime soon (anytime ever really).
But here I am; a week on from my agented announcement, working on THE PURSUIT OF POMEGRANATES revision edits in preparation for sub, and I think there’s no better time for me to write this very special blog than now.
There are many aspects to my querying journey — many layers to the very complicated, stinky onion that it is — but I wanted to explore my experience and offer my insights as best, and as honestly, I can.
Please note that I’m no professional and these thoughts stem from my own experiences. No querying journey nor publishing journey ever looks the same. Not everyone gets an agent on their first manuscript. Not everyone has sparkling stats and a six-figure deal. Like any labour of love (or work), writing takes as much time as it takes heartbreak and joy and everything else.
Without further ado!
MY QUERYING JOURNEY
I wrote my first manuscript in December, 2021. I queried it in January, 2022. It was nowhere near ready — but THOSE WHO BURN THE BRIGHTEST was the story that changed everything for me. I learnt a lot in those first few months, about the intricacies of querying and refining your art, about how a story can be broken down and down and down until it, and you, feel like nothing.
I was hopeless for many months because of TWBTB. It got hundreds of rejections — and then I got scammed out of a publishing offer (that’s a whole other thing) and it only made me feel worse.
But during that time I also wrote SEVEN SILENCED. After SEVEN SILENCED came A PROMISE OF PEARLS — WHEN WE FALL AND WHERE WE LAND — THE PURSUIT OF POMEGRANATES. All within the same year. And even though I feared that TWBTB would be my only story, the only idea that ever felt worth writing, I kept dreaming and building and writing.
Then, TWBTB found the perfect home with Lake Country Press. SEVEN SILENCED after that.
Though my querying journey in search of a literary agent continued. It never stopped.
It was heartbreaking and hopeless 90% of the time. But that 10% — the knowledge I gained, the people I met, the lingering feeling that I just had to keep going — was enough.
Querying is not easy. For the most part, it’s not fun. You never stop checking your emails and bracing for rejection. You drive yourself up the wall looking at other people’s success and wonder why it’s not you.
It’s hard to find hope in an experience that feels as fruitless as this. But keep writing. Keep reading, keep learning, keep building connections and do your best to protect your peace.
I don’t know how much solace my advice will offer though I wanted to say it regardless. Even though I was in the position only a few weeks ago to disregard ideas like this, it’s important that you believe in yourself, through it all. Remember that it’s not you that’s the problem almost 100% of the time. This industry has a lot to do with luck, timing and persistence as much as it does with skill.
HOW IT HAPPENED FOR ME
With 5 stories comes the special, awkward nature of sending materials to agents who have rejected previous manuscripts of yours. Megan was one of those agents for me, funnily enough! And although they rejected my story in November, I thought that TPOP would be a great fit — so, when it was ready, I sent it over! TPOP originally got an offer from an indie pub in early Feb, after a few initial weeks of querying, and that offer was what I bumped agents who had TPOP materials with. Though I was so deeply flattered and excited by the original offer, I truly had no idea where TPOP would land. I really wanted to make the right decision, follow my gut. My timeline with Megan went a little like this:
📢 Query Received: Jan 23, 2023
📢 Partial Request: Feb 01, 2023
📢 Full Request: Feb 03, 2023
📢 Notification of Offer (from indie pub): Feb 03, 2023
📢 Acknowledgment of Offer (and request for any current wips/future ideas): Feb 04, 2023
📢 Offer from Megan: Feb 10, 2023
This was the fastest querying process out of all my manuscripts; but it did take me 5 to get here!
I was always too embarrassed to share my statistics and materials when it came to querying. Over time, I realised it was nothing to be ashamed of — but it didn’t make it any easier for me, the one who is harshest on myself than I could be on any other person.
For the most part, my 5 manuscripts have all warranted fairly poor in terms of request rates. I’ve gotten every rejection under the sun, some helpful, most not. But it was something of a relief to write a story and have it feel right — TPOP was that story for me. I wanted to share the query letter that got my agent in hopes that maybe it offers you some context. It follows the same formula as most, with personalisation and stats, along with the three-paragraph pitch that is commonplace in most queries. Enjoy!
THE QUERY LETTER
Dear Ms. Manzano,
Since you’re seeking a queer rom-com, I’m excited to share my Upper YA Contemporary Rom-Com, THE PURSUIT OF POMEGRANATES, complete at 60,000 words. It combines the themes of self-discovery and familial obligation in CAFÉ CON LYCHEE with the tension of unspoken pasts and the possibility of a sweet, sapphic future like in MELT WITH YOU.
Fresh out of high school, zealous Shaye Leighton inherited a homely bookstore-turned-cafe from her grandparents on the corner of a small Melbourne suburb. In Book ‘n’ Bean, Shaye knows what to expect every day; the same rotation of customers, coffee’s comforting aroma and the to-die-for croissants. But she knows that business hasn’t been great—so when a producer scouts out Book ‘n’ Bean to be the set for the world’s first cafe-based dating show, Shaye believes that The Pursuit of Passion may just be the perfect opportunity to build the cafe’s online presence. Though, she doesn’t expect to run into her ex-best friend on set, or the complicated emotions that accompany her.
Tenaya Mansi is a trans social media sweetheart—and the star of The Pursuit of Passion. Whilst it’s a cheesy pitch, the show provides the perfect backdrop to kickstart her career outside of the internet; in singing/songwriting. But when episodes go live, viewers notice Tenaya’s eyes lingering on the barista of Book ‘n’ Bean, rather than the contestants cast to woo her.
To keep the show’s viewership growing, producers encourage Shaye to become a contestant; a love interest vying for Tenaya’s heart. The pair realise that, whilst acting may be their strong suit, falling definitely isn’t. Shaye wants to make a name for her coffee shop, and Tenaya wants to make a name for herself—but neither is ready to confront the feelings they’ve shared since childhood. In a story that incorporates #stantwt commentary and sappy texts, #shanaya must repair their real relationship when the cameras cut—or, is it all just for show?
Like my main character Shaye, I’m an autistic, plus-sized, queer woman based in Melbourne, Australia. When I’m not writing, I’m cafe hopping and searching for the world’s best iced mocha. Thank you for your time and consideration.
THE QUERYING STATS
QUERYING TPOP: querying for a few days over 1 month
QUERYING TIME OVERALL: 1 year (for 5 manuscripts)
🏷️ SENT: 77
🏷️ REJECTED: 64
🏷️ PARTIAL: 2
🏷️ FULL: 11
🏷️ OFFERS: 2
The most marvellous (😭) thing about querying is that the perfect agent for you could be closed to submissions at the time you’re wanting to send your story out. There are so many factors that can be tied back to luck and that’s, ironically, a massively unfortunate part of it. Whilst I know this isn’t the most helpful tidbit to consider, it is important to remember when you’re in the depths of querying misery — sometimes, it’s quite normal to be more unlucky than lucky. Some get it right the first time but most don’t. Jealousy can come so easily in these types of situations. It’s not always you or your story. Sometimes, it just is. Keep doing what you’re doing. Research for the right fits, write important dates down (eg the opening of a particular agents submissions or even nudge periods) and keep going.
Timing plays a big part hand-in-hand with luck. Sometimes your story needs more refining — and you could learn that through sending out 100 queries and getting 85 rejections, a few R&Rs and full requests with non-editorial feedback. That process alone can take months. More often than not, you’ll feel like you’re wasting time. Unfortunately, publishing is a slow burn, in every step you progress to and through. You’re not wasting time so much as practising patience. Be patient with yourself, first and foremost. I wrote 5 stories in a year — and that isn’t normal for most writers. I have hyper-focusing tendencies and tend to enforce strict and unnecessary deadlines for myself. Other writers take longer, other writers are slower. Do what you have to do and ensure it brings you joy — if not joy, at least take breaks if it’s making you miserable. Don’t be so hard on yourself. This isn’t a race, even though it often feels like it is.
Perhaps the most exhausting part. A year of querying is not the longest time ever — but when I was knee-deep in it, it just fucking sucked. Plain and simple. It felt like forever and a day each time I woke up to 10 form rejections (damn you AEST). I got to a point where I was stubborn enough that it felt even worse to just drop everything and stop trying. It wasn’t an easy choice, for me or my mental health, but it was one I made because I love my stories, I love my characters and I think they deserve to have their time in the light. Everyone fights for their stories for their own reasons. It’s normal to feel discouraged and disheartened, both with the industry and with yourself. But celebrating persistence and being kind to yourself is so, so incredibly important. If that is easily done, then pushing through comes next. Keep going. The right match is out there.
I believe in you!
I’ve said it once and I’ll shout it a thousand times over: don’t settle for less than what you deserve (which is the best, by the way, and nothing less). I feel so extremely lucky (and often guilty in some ways but we celebrate success here) to be championed by Megan. Their vision for TPOP and love for my characters is unmatched. I’m so thoroughly enjoying watching my story grow and I can’t wait for the future (and stories to come).
For the first time in a long time, I’m allowing myself to be excited. To be hopeful. It has been a long time coming and I can only wish the same for all of you. Continue to chase your dream — it’s not as far away as you believe.