AJ Sass (5alchow on QT) has signed with agent Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary & Media.
Lastly, I found beta readers (plus one very special CP who quickly became a close friend outside of the realm of writing) via social media. Twitter has a wonderfully supportive community of writers at all stages in their publishing journeys. I was fortunate to receive an enthusiastic response to my story's premise, which led to offers of beta reads from other aspiring authors, a publishing house intern, and authors who are soon to be or already published. My story would not have been as strong as it is now without selfless help from all of these people.
For the list I came up with on my own, I did a deeper dive to identify who I should query. I purchased a subscription to Publishers Marketplace to look up any reported sales and learn more about their agencies. I read what they shared on Twitter and in blog interviews, checked the Manuscript Wishlist website and noted any wishlist items that aligned with my current manuscript (plus future project ideas), read their agency bios, and visited client websites to get a sense of the people they already represented. If I could find a preferred query letter format (e.g., comps + manuscript details before the pitch or vice versa, a preference for personalization or aversion to it, etc.), that also got noted. The spreadsheet I created to keep track of my queries was full to the brim of this type of information. It is possible I went a tad overboard, but I wanted to be thorough.
It also doesn't hurt to write your query at an early stage of your first draft. I had to do it when I was just starting to write draft one and it helped identify the stakes my main character would face and get to the heart of my story. I probably revised my query letter close to the same number of times as my actual manuscript, so starting it early on gave me the time and flexibility to make tweaks as needed. Some of the agents I submitted to also requested a one-page synopsis, which was much harder to write than I initially assumed. Write that well before querying too, if you're able.
Finally, take the plunge. I sometimes wish I'd queried years ago (although none of my stories were as polished as my current manuscript, so maybe that wouldn't have gone super well). But even when I kept hearing my current manuscript was ready, I waited until that last possible minute to start querying due to a fear of rejection.
Rejection is a part of this process. Learn to embrace it, but never stop assessing what might need improvement as you start to receive agent responses. Getting a lot of form rejections on your initial query? Solicit more critiques and rework it. Getting partial requests but no fulls? Evaluate what could be strengthened in your opening pages. And so on.
Twelve-year-old ice skater Ana must win her next big competition to justify all the money Mom has spent on choreography and costumes. But after she meets transgender boy Hayden at the rink, her doubts about her own gender identity throw her for a loop she wasn’t expecting.
When her new choreographer wants her to portray a princess in her competition program, Ana is less than thrilled. She isn’t a frilly-dress kind of girl. Nevertheless, she’s determined not to let these feelings derail her dream of a national title after years of hard work and Mom’s many sacrifices. After befriending Hayden, Ana learns that her own pronouns might not be as fixed as the theme of her skating program. As her first big competition of the season approaches, Ana must decide whether being true to herself is worth risking everything she’s trained for, on top of letting down Mom, Hayden, and all the people who believe in her.
ANA ON THE EDGE is middle grade contemporary #ownvoices LGBTQ fiction, complete at 49,000 words. This story offers a behind-the-scenes look into the world of competitive figure skating, alongside a depiction of queer experience that remains underrepresented in middle grade fiction. While Ana’s non-binary gender may be unfamiliar to some readers, her path to understanding and defining an intrinsic part of her identity should be relatable to many. Her story should appeal to fans of GEORGE and GRACEFULLY GRAYSON and has secondary character series potential in the spirit of Jason Reynolds’ TRACK novels.
[Personalized paragraph that explained my #ownvoices connection to the material, what I do for a living, and a note about a scholarship award I won based on a portion of the manuscript I queried.]
Thank you for your time and consideration.