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Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker. Learn More...

Success Story Interview - Helen Gosselin

An Interview with Helen Gosselin (helengosselin on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Helen Gosselin:
The book I pitched to my agent is an adult military fantasy, a proposed first installment in a trilogy. Pitched for fans of Hannah Kaner, Sarah J. Maas, and Rebecca Yarros, I was inspired to write this book while reflecting on my years of military service, as well as my love for the beloved tale of Mulan.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Helen Gosselin:
Approximately three months prior to querying, and then I spent another two months on a R&R for my agent. Currently, I am deep in edits for my agent prior to going on submission, which I hope will be soon (a girl can dream).
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Helen Gosselin:
Many, many times. I queried the first two books I wrote, and each time, the rejection from querying almost felt unbearable. During my lowest moments, I wondered if what I wrote was good enough, and I questioned as to if I should even task a risk on myself by improving my craft. However, the urge to write and create always pulled me back to my laptop. I realized, after enduring three years of heartbreak, that it was impossible for me not to write.

So I dug in. Read as much as I could, analyzing works of the authors who inspired me, and determined that no matter what, I was going to keep giving this dream of mine a shot. If I had to create, edit, query, and shelve many, many more books to achieve it, then I would’ve done it.
QT: Is this your first book?
Helen Gosselin:
This is not my first book. After I first started seriously writing in 2021, I produced two other books that I eventually shelved. however, the experience I learned from writing and querying those two books directly translated into creating the manuscript that got me my agent.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Helen Gosselin:
No, I do not! I was a history major in college, and had an aptitude for history and English as a student, but I found the best way to improve my skills as a writer—though I am always seeking to improve—was to read and write as much as I could, while also seeking feedback from beta readers on my projects.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Helen Gosselin:
Every routine is different for writers, and I find that I cannot produce good work without being on a schedule. While writing my book, I held myself to a standard of writing 500-1000 words a day each weekday, and 2,500 words a day on the weekends, since it was manageable with my day job.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Helen Gosselin:
This is a hard question, because I never kept track. I made three major changes to the book, which triggered subsequent changes of other aspects of the plot and character interactions.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Helen Gosselin:
Yes, I had two beta readers, and I am forever grateful for their support. I learned so much from their feedback. They served as an azimuth check for me, allowing me to see what worked and what didn’t, and how characters were perceived as my book changed edit after edit.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Helen Gosselin:
I did an in-depth outline prior to writing my first draft, and analyzed each chapter along the way for the sake of world-building and plot development. However, I found that some of my favorite moments from my book were a result of spur-of-the-moment inspiration. I think there’s certainly room for “pantsing” once a book is plotted to a writer’s satisfaction, and I had to learn to lean into that, especially when I received feedback that certain moments were too “slow.”
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Helen Gosselin:
From initial query to landing my agent, I only spent about four months in the trenches with this book, two of which were the time I spent on my revise and resubmission. I queried my agent within the first week of entering the trenches since I felt so strongly about working with him. Brent was my #1 choice, and I was over the moon when he offered the R&R and eventually asked to set up a call.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Helen Gosselin:
Approximately 50 before I signed with my agent. I sent queries in batches, choosing to send more out as rejections rolled in. I heard back from nearly three-quarters of them, including a handful of partial and full requests. I would’ve continued querying my book for far longer if I wasn’t successful.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Helen Gosselin:
I first turned to QueryTracker and Publisher’s Marketplace as a way to build my list. I created a giant Excel of over 300 agents who were seeking, or had previously represented fantasy, and whittled it down from there. From there, I cross-referenced the two previously mentioned websites to glean if agents were seeking new clients, made recent deals, and if my work was something they could be interested in, based on their MSWLs, and made a top 100 list I’d prefer to query first. However, I have found that sometimes not all agents’ MSWLs are ultra-specific, so if an author’s work fits the genres they’re looking for, then I’d say query them anyway.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Helen Gosselin:
If I felt strongly about forming a partnership with an agent based on their MSWL or bio, I did try to tailor my letter to them. Some agents appreciate, some do not, and I’ve found—as I’m sure many other authors do—that sometimes our queries are considered for a few moments before the agent passes. Considering that, I don’t believe that you can go wrong with personalization, but a personalized query letter won’t land you an agent, your book will.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Helen Gosselin:
Don’t give up! If I had over the last three years of querying and three books, I would’ve never gotten my agent and be one step closer to realizing my author dreams.