About two-and-a-half years ago, while still tirelessly querying my middle grade novel, I wrote THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. I sent this manuscript out slowly and selectively (roughly a dozen agents from first query to signing). After receiving a personal rejection that had me wondering Maybe this is just a story for me, I was tempted to put it aside. Fortunately, my friend and critique partner, Myrna Foster (of Storyteller Academy), talked me out of it.
Fast forward about five months, and I had the chance to pitch my picture book in a Twitter contest. I'd done my share of these contests before. They were fun, and I'd had some mild success with requests. I went ahead and entered #pitchmas the Friday before Christmas 2015. I pitched a few times and did pretty well staying busy outside of Twitter that day. (As seasoned contesters know, it's tempting watch for "likes"—but can drive the best of us crazy.)
When I checked my account toward the end of the day, I saw I had a "like," and it wasn't from a Twitter friend. (Bless everyone's Twitter heart, but sometimes well-meaning friends will "like" a pitch, not knowing they're reserved for agents and editors.) I did my research and discovered my "like"—Mike Hoogland—had been an agent for a few years at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret. The next day, Saturday, I sent him my query and manuscript.
I mentally put it aside because who gets immediate responses to queries? It was a happy surprise when Mike emailed me Monday to say he loved the idea and do I happen to have any illustrations? I told Mike I didn't illustrate but let him know about my other work. Then I tried not to get my hopes up. He must be looking for an author/illustrator, I thought. (Writers are so good at talking themselves down from the precipice of hope.)
Tuesday, he emailed me and told me he'd love to offer representation. It was pretty surreal to open and read that email. That night my husband took our kids out while I had The Call. Mike really believed in my manuscript and liked the sound of my other work. We had another call about a week later before I officially signed. It was amazing how quickly it all happened! And speaking of speed—Mike sold my picture book relatively fast. We were on sub for less than a month before we had an offer. (To spice up the offer deal even more, it happened a week after we closed on a house and a day after I brought my fourth baby home from the hospital. Things like to happen all at once around here!)
The takeaway: Don't give up too early on your manuscript. Be patient and just keep writing.
Thanks for reading!
THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Coming Fall 2018 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers