Once you have a manuscript that you’ve poured your heart into, exposed to critique group scrutiny, and reworked until you think it’s ready…then what?
After reading up on the industry, I weighed the pros and cons and decided to pursue representation by an agent rather than submit directly to editors. I researched agents, started a spreadsheet, and, in 2014, began to submit manuscripts, one by one, to several agents at a time. I kept on, trying out different manuscripts, expanding my list of potential agents. Rejections dribbled in—the standard “not for me,” black holes of “no response,” and an occasional “no” laced with encouragement. In January 2016, as I was sending out a new manuscript, I saw an announcement for a new agent at Red Fox Literary. By that time, I knew that was a primo agency. There was very little information available on Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, but I liked what I found. I had no idea if she liked nonfiction or historical fiction, but sent her my manuscript anyway.
A week later, I heard back. She liked it! After emailing back and forth, lots of questions, and a phone conversation, I signed with Stephanie! Submissions to publishing houses began. And of course, more rejections, but now I had a knowledgeable partner in the process and an agent who could submit to all those houses closed to non-agented writers.
Preparing for the WOW Writing Retreat in July, I chose three manuscripts for paid critiques from editors, and Stephanie advised which manuscript to submit to whom. There, I met Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster and discussed AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. With her feedback in hand, I dug back into the research and revised for a month. Finally, in September, Stephanie sent it off to Sylvie. She loved it! In mid-October, we had an offer. AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET was on its way to becoming a real book! I know it’s rare that a critique leads to a book contract, but I’m proof it can happen.
Stephanie and Sylvie have both contributed super posts to my blog series “Mining for Heart.” If you’re interested in what agents and editors look for in a manuscript, please check out their posts.
Mining for Heart: An Agent’s Point of View
Mining for Heart: An Editor’s Point of View
AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, BEN FRANKLIN & NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Fall 2018