My Querying Journey (MG Portal Fantasy)
Updated: Aug 17, 2022
Querying felt like it would never end. I started querying when I was 22 years old and I got signed at 24, a few months before my 25th birthday. From Fall 2018 to Spring 2021, basically, I was fighting for my life in agent's inboxes. I realize that this is a fast timeline compared to many, but it was hard to keep betting on my dream.
Since 2018, I have written two MG fantasy manuscripts and rewrote each one at least one time. The first being a MG high fantasy, and the second, the one that most of my followers know about, Alan and Daniel vs. The Aztec Worlds.
In Fall 2018, I queried the MG high fantasy to about 15 agents and got 2 full requests. Neither resulted in an offer, and since I had this new Mesoamerican idea, I moved on for a few months to keep my mind occupied. I know that querying 15 agents isn't a lot but I was still upset lol. During this time I participated in #DVpit (which is a fantastic pitching contest) for the first time. I don't have the pitches available to share because I deleted them because I was embarrassed they didn't result in anything.
My next round of querying was in April 2019 for #DVpit again. My pitch during this round of DVpit was more popular than my first time participating in the contest. If I remember correctly, it was one of the most popular pitches if not the most popular pitch in the MG category.
I received 11 full requests from this round of querying. This resulted in 2 revise & resubmits which I did for two agents. I took on these individually over the course of the summer and had gotten responses to both by the end of September, and I did not get an offer of representation from either. I was starting to feel really discouraged since I had a popular pitch, a great request rate, and I was just so close, but it still was not enough for this book.
So, I combined what I liked from both R&R's into one manuscript and decided that I would give querying another shot.
I queried again in Fall of 2019. I received 16 full requests this time. Weird, right? That it went up? But while technically I queried Alan & Daniel for the second time now, it wasn't the same book. Through my two R&R's I rewrote at least half of the book, added about 20k to it, and changed a lot of the plot, including a whole new beginning. So honestly it felt like querying a new book, a better one, one where I leveled up as an author and a storyteller.
I took a break from Alan & Daniel after querying for a second time and getting no bites. I decided I would shelf it and go back to my MG high fantasy which I had been outlining a rewrite for the majority of 2019. I rewrote that book, queried in Spring of 2020 just a month after lockdown, and that process was long and painful LOL. I queried 29 agents with the MG high fantasy and I received 16 full requests again. Unfortunately for me, none of them resulted in offers of representation. 2020 was a horrible time to query, honestly, and by the end of my querying journey I still had 7 fulls out for it.
Summer of 2020 I was encouraged to not give up on my Mesoamerican book and to give it another shot. Because of that encouragement, I revised Alan & Daniel again that summer. This was useful to me when Fall 2020, I applied to Pitch Wars, and I got in! I was chosen to be Sofiya Pasternack's mentee and I was so excited. Together, we revised Alan & Daniel again (this is like the fourth time?) and I rewrote, literally, 75% of the book over the course of three months. Sofiya didn't ask me to do that, by the way, but I was really inspired by her notes and I had a lot of my own ideas on how to make the story better.
When February came along, I participated in the Pitch Wars showcase. I received 29 Pitch Wars requests and 1 was emailed to me by the Pitch Wars team after the showcase closed, so a total of 30 requests for my book.
I was thrilled.
I was relieved.
I was scared.
Getting this many requests for Alan & Daniel had, at this point, become common for me. I queried a version of this story in April 2019 and another in October 2019, both popular among agents, neither getting me what I wanted: an offer. But this version of Alan & Daniel was my third large overhaul of the story. It had almost nothing in common with what I queried in April 2019 except the concept and the characters. I used a text analyzer and saw for myself that the two manuscripts were incredibly different even on the line level. From those 30 requests during the showcase along with some agents who didn't request, I queried 25 people total, and I received 20 full requests.
And all that hard work paid off because the day after the Pitch Wars showcase ended, I got my first offer of representation.
This continued until I received 5 offers of representation in the end, all from amazing agents I had queried before and didn't have luck with. I accepted an offer of representation from Beth Phelan, and now we're working together, revising Alan & Daniel once more.
In the end, I had rewritten Alan & Daniel three times in my querying journey, not counting minor revisions throughout. I got signed for the same concept: twin brothers, Mesoamerican mythology, family adventure. But not for the same book. I changed the secondary cast, I changed some characters entirely, I changed the stakes, I changed the pacing, I changed all the dialogue, then all the prose.
What I have now is barely recognizable with what I had in 2019. It's surreal, it's ridiculous, but it worked. I do think it's important to know when to let go of a story, but if you truly love it and can't give up on it, ask yourself why? Deconstruct the manuscript and figure out what could work in another context. You could end up with a better book! And of course, I had an enormous amount of luck here: the community supporting my pitches, agents knowing who I am, getting chosen for Pitch Wars at all, but luck wasn't enough or I would've gotten signed in 2019.
I hope this transparency in my own journey gives querying writers a bit of hope because querying can be so demoralizing. So I recommend giving yourself the best chance possible (participate in DVpit and PitMad and other pitch contests!) and also revising the frick out of your book. I think it's true that the writers who will succeed and reach that next step are those who don't give up, so don't give up! Whether that means on your story or writing in general or just on yourself.