querying

My Pitch Wars Rejection story

Ah, PitchWars 2019. I remember you well. I was heavily pregnant with Baby #3 by the time September came around and due to give birth to my baby boy. I knew that if I didn’t finish my novel in time – it would never happen.

JUST KIDDING. It would just be A LOT harder. Not impossible, but harder. My many, many unfinished manuscripts wouldn’t land me an agent. But a polished one could.

Tip 1: Finish your first draft!

Throughout my pregnancy, I wrote, finished and revised my YA Contemporary fantasy at my favourite restaurants and cafes. Because I didn’t have the advantage of my critique partner at the time – social media overwhelms me and I didn’t have the spoons to do anything rather than finish my book – I paid for Michele Sagan’s fantastic editorial service for my manuscript, query letter and synopsis.

If you have the resources to pay, I highly recommend her! If you don’t, there’s still plenty you can do to get your submission package ready for the querying trenches. It will probably take longer though, but it’s okay to take your time to get your book ready for querying. Better to take your time to query than blow your chances by querying too soon!

PitchWars is a great way to get support – if you get selected. Industry professionals like agented authors and editors have a lot of experience to share when they offer mentorship. I haven’t applied for AAM or #RevPit myself but these are some examples.

So back to my Pitch Wars story.

My husband took my two girls on a holiday with his family members, leaving me with my mother and newborn for a few days. Bliss! My mother would go walking around my neighbourhood in the morning and come back with tasty packet of nasi lemak with my favourite extras – paru, bergedil.

I excitedly read through the mentor list, sent out out my mentor application with my polished manuscript, query letter and synopsis. It was so exciting to feel like I was one step closer to getting my book in the hands of a potential mentor.

And then, I waited. And waited some more.

Tip 2: Publishing involves a lot of waiting. Get used to it.

And then, it happened! My first full manuscript request! I couldn’t believe it. My story actually grabbed the attention of a potential PW mentor! I sent it through and hoped for the best. And waited some more.

Sadly though, it didn’t spark enough interest for me to get selected. All the PW hype immediately died for me, then and there. The rejections from my potential PW mentors were kind, and I remember one being very personalised which I appreciated. But it still stung.

So I took a step back from all things PW-related. As much as I was happy for everyone else who got in, I didn’t.

I participated in #DVPIT in October 2019, which was a massive boost for me because I had actual agents liking my tweets! I wanted to tweak my book a little bit more so I only started sending out queries in January.

The nightmare of querying had begun. I obsessively checked my inbox for replies which didn’t come within days, or weeks. HAHA. And then the rejections started piling in. And yikes, that stung too. Along with the rejections came partial requests, which then turned to full requests.

And then….the first game-changer. I received my first R&R on a full! An agent rejected my book, yes, but saw enough potential in it to give me a seriously helpful edit letter – for free. I thanked her, stopped querying, and got to work on my R&R. I sent it to the agent, who still rejected it, but it was still a stronger book.

My second game-changer happened shortly after. I came across a tweet from Meredith Ireland (HI MEREDITH!) saying she’s open to selecting a mentee. I figured, well, why not, it’s worth a try. Thank you, Twitter. So I applied and then forgot about it. Having three small kids is very helpful because they just tire you out completely.

When Meredith emailed me and asked for my synopsis and the rest of my book, I was confused because I thought she was an agent. Hahaha. But she wasn’t in my agent spreadsheet. Then I realised OH it’s the mentorship I applied for! She loved my synopsis and opening pages, and asked for the rest of my book. The rest is history.

My agent emailed me as I was revising my book asking for my full, and I asked her if she could wait til I finished revisions with Meredith – she was happy to. When I sent my much stronger book to her, she kept reading it then asked me if my book was still available (if any other agent had expressed an interest in representing me) and I said YES STILL AVAILABLE SO AVAILABLE lolol. I had racked up a lot of rejections by then and was just about to lose hope and shelve it. And it finally happened! I got The Email About The Call and sent Meredith an excited Whatsapp!!! My call with my agent was at night while my kids were asleep, with my one year old strapped to me in his carrier, while I bounced on my exercise ball. It was perfect, and I knew that she was the right agent for me. I sent out nudges to all the other agents who had my full MS, all of whom stepped aside, and accepted Alli’s offer of rep.

Tip 3: The right agent will LOVE your book

I cannot state this enough. Your book, the book you wrote and love, will spark something in the right agent for you. The right agent for you is a career agent – the agent who’ll stick by you and support you in the very common event that your first book doesn’t sell. The right agent will believe in you and your writing career, and communicate transparently with you about All The Publishing Things.

In short, I got rejected by Pitch Wars but it made me a stronger writer, and I signed with my agent without it. Keep going, one step at a time, and take all the breaks you need – especially if you’re an ND and BIPOC author like me. This industry is brutal, so look after yourself. There are so many books left for you to write, if your first one doesn’t get you an agent, or land you a book deal.

If you’re an ND (self-identification is valid) and/or BIPOC author, especially one who got rejected by Pitch Wars, drop me a line in my contact box. I’d be happy to take a look at your query letter and first 5 pages. I’d be a better fit for YA or Adult novels, not MG or PB.

baby, querying, Writing

Wow, it’s already February?!

So it’s Feb 2nd 2020. My newborn is almost 5 months. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

giphy
Source: GIPHY https://gph.is/1kw5oF6

 

Alhamdulilah, the blessings of being busy with little ones – time passes, and hey look, there’s another email from a literary agent in my inbox!

I’m thrilled to report that I’m no longer dying from waiting stress. I’m still getting email/form rejections, and I’m also getting really helpful personalised rejection emails from the agents who’ve read my full manuscript.

I even got one super rare and uber helpful revise and resubmit (R&R) request!!! Okay, so it’s not an offer of representation….but now I know that there is ONE agent in the Vast and Unknowable Sea of Agents who loved my book enough to take the time to write me very detailed email on how to make it better, and to please resubmit if I do take on the suggestions. UM YES PLZ THANK YOU!

happy joy GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants
Source: GIPHY https://gph.is/1aRyN80

Based on the R&R and similar feedback from other literary agents, I’ve decided to 1) stop querying 2) start revising my manuscript to make it even stronger 3) hold off on sending out my full manuscript to interested agents until it’s fully revised. My deadline is 2-6 months from December 2019. Wish me luck! I can’t and I won’t give up now!!

Am I still drowning in self-doubt and imposter syndrome? Yup. I make space for those feelings, take a deep breath, exhale, and remind myself that:

1) I wrote a whole book, got it beta read and professionally edited while pregnant with my third baby.

2) Nobody else can tell the story I’m telling.

3) It’s better for me to take my time with my revisions, so that the best version of my book will get read.

4) Even if nobody ends up representing my first book…I can always write another. And another. And another. Rinse, repeat!

5) I have the rest of my life to write, and this intense time of mothering little ones will end. I’m enjoying the cuddles and milky snuggles while I can!

So if you’re also in the querying trenches…hang in there! Keep at it, one day at a time. Keep writing and keep living well until the day the right agent snaps up your book and loves it as much as you do, if not even more ❤

 

 

querying, Writing

Update from the querying trenches

My newborn is 3 months! Alhamdulilah. We survived! In January, my toddler turns 2, and in June inshaAllah, my preschooler will turn 5. One day, I will get more sleep, and more time to write. In the meantime, I am sustained by newborn snuggles/head-sniffing, toddler cuddles and preschooler giggles.

Querying update: I wish I could say something amazing like “AAHHH I GOT AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION FROM MY DREAM AGENT AND IT ONLY TOOK ONE DAY/WEEK/MONTH!”

Alas, that is not the case for me. I started sending off query letters to literary agents on 11/11/2017 and I’m still waiting for most of them to reply. ‘Tis the season of nerve-wracking waiting…..

bored kid GIF
Source: https://weheartit.com/entry/88164098

…..and more waiting.

As of today, here are my querying stats:

Agents queried: 51

Partial manuscript requests: 1

Full manuscript requests: 2

Full manuscript rejections: 1

Rejections based on query letter and sample pages: 4

Based on that, it looks like my query letter is working, but my first few chapters could do some work. I’ve tightened them up and am ready to send them out into the Vast Unknowable Sea of Agents. As I get more feedback, especially those bittersweet personalised rejection emails, I’ll tweak them some more.

Let it be said: QUERYING IS HARD. It’s hard, opening up my book to rejection. It’s hard, dealing with the self-doubt with every rejection letter. It’s hard, wondering if I should just scrap my whole novel and do a huge edit. And yet, getting multiple rejections is such a normal part of landing a literary agent.

I started writing my book in November 2018 and finished it, tweaked it based on feedback from by beta readers, had it professional edited by @michelesagan, and revised it at least 2-3 times. And I also gave birth in September 2019. I literally gave birth to a my baby boy and a book baby, while caring for two other little humans.

When my inbox checking and fretting gets too much, I tell myself – time to work on my second novel. And then one of my kids wake up/starts fighting with the other one/needs a diaper change etc. lol.

Where are you in your writing and querying journey? What keeps you going?