Friday, October 25, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 281 - The Query Campaign

I'd be lying if I said that my primary focus the past month has been on writing. Frankly, I've really not done any writing at all to speak of in a while. It's not that I'm done with writing or out of ideas - I just haven't really been able to get motivated for a while. That happens. It's an accepted (though perhaps not entirely acceptable) facet of being a writer. Sometimes, you hit a bit of a slump. When that happens, you just have to do what it takes to pull yourself out of it, and for me, that's been the process of querying my children's book.

Over the summer, I wrote a 1,670(ish) word children's picture story book. Think Dr. Seuss, only I can't draw well enough to do the illustrations in addition to the text. I since cut it down to about 1,270 words. I had two people tell me that's still probably too long back in September, and as they were both much deeper in the world of children's literature than I am, I should probably take what they say as truth - at the very least, as a very solid suggestion.

I put out a couple feelers and landed a few leads. Two colleagues at the theatre companies I work with had connections to children's book agents that they said they could introduce me to. One said I could use her name in my query; that agent gave me the fastest rejection I have ever received. HOWEVER, that's actually far more positive than it sounds. (I'm serious.) For anyone who has ever queried an agent or manager or producer, you know that it can take months to hear back - and that's if you hear at all. To know within a couple hours that the agent you have reached out to is definitively not your person is actually a relief. With the waiting game over, you can immediately move on. And, what was especially positive in this case, is that the agent let me know why she was not representing me. In addition to being overloaded, she also just doesn't handle the particular type of children's material that I had submitted (not that I knew that based on the information about her online). Agents can be very particular about what they rep, and your project, no matter how incredible, will not find a home with every agent. If it's not their cup of tea, thank them and move onto the next. You won't change their mind (and probably don't want to). I have yet to hear back from the second colleague.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I have a friend who worked in publishing. She has been very generous with her time, reading a few drafts of the story, weighing in with very lengthy notes, and has agreed to help me get it to agents that she knows personally. She's the one who advised that I write a query letter, and she has provided feedback on that, too. I just have to finish tweaking it, and the hope is that we'll go out to agents before the end of the month.

My writing partner on the sci-fi collaboration has connections in the animated film industry. Those connections have contacts in the children's book world, and he has offered to forward it along. Any potential in can help. (Speaking of agents, we got feedback from my agent for that one; it looks like we will be embarking on a potentially not-insignificant rewrite in the coming weeks.) I also reached out to another friend in publishing on Facebook, but I've not yet heard back. 

Finally - and most unexpectedly - I wound up meeting an Assistant Editor at a major children's book publisher at an event this week. She has taken a look at the material and was quite supportive. Like the two people earlier this year, she also recommended that I shorten the book by up to half if possible. That's an almost daunting amount of editing, but she knows her stuff and is a great contact and potential in to have. If she says cut, then cut I will. 

If all leads take me to a dead end, then at least I'll have a solid query letter and a product I believe in. I'll then start the blind query submission.