Today I'm thrilled to have debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean here to celebrate the release of Alyson's MG contemporary BRACED. It sounds like an inspiring story with a true middle grade voice about a girl who doesn't give up. It's gotten fantastic reviews.
Here's a blurb from Goodreads:
Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She's finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she's pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.
Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel's spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her -- even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.
Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.
Now here's Alyson and Kate!
Best Advice on Querying Agents:
Alyson Gerber: Querying is so stressful! If you are querying right now, you are definitely not alone. Most authors have been through this process and totally get it. It's sort of a right of passage, so welcome to the club.
Before I sent out query emails, I did a lot of research on Publishers Marketplace to find agents who
I had no sense of when I'd hear back from anyone, and I was really nervous that I wouldn't, so I kept researching and making lists of other agents who I thought might be a good fit.
A lot of people say you should keep writing while you're querying, and I definitely tried to listen to that advice, but every time I sat down to write, I ended up researching or refreshing my email and feeling bad that I didn't have an agent and I hadn't written anything. Instead, I used that period of time to read. I would put my phone and computer away for a few hours and disappear into a book. It was the best distraction for me. It can be a challenging to put yourself out there. I think it's important to do what makes you feel good about yourself as a writer.
Once I started hearing back from agents, the real roller coaster ride started. After a few weeks, I had
To stay busy, I sent out one new query every week. It took a few months before I heard back from Kate and another agent at almost the same time offering representation!
I thought it might be helpful to share the query letter I sent to Kate:
I hope you are doing well. Caela Carter and Jess Verdi, my friends and classmates from The New School, recommended that I reach out to you about my middle grade manuscript. I'd be honored if you'd consider representing me.
In BRACED, 12-year-old Rachel Brooks finds out she has scoliosis and is going to be stuck in a back brace for twenty-three hours a day to stop the curve in her spine from threatening to leave her permanently deformed. In case wearing a plastic bucket around the middle of her body isn't bad enough, her mom is pregnant, which means as soon as seventh grade starts everyone is going to figure out that she's a total freak. She's sure her best friends Hazel and Frannie will only sort of get the whole brace thing and that once Tate Bowen sees her in this thing, there's zero chance he'll ever like her. It doesn't help that her mom and surgeon dad keep telling her how lucky she is to be treated by one of the best spine specialists in the world. Shouldn't they of all people get how awful this is? Think a modern DEENIE.
Thank you for your consideration.
Kate McKean: Here are my top three best pieces of querying advice:
There is no verbal trick or magical combination of words in a query that will get you noticed. Not writing in the voice of your characters, trying some "negging" technique on the agent (Yup, someone did that) or claiming your book will be THE NEXT MEGA BESTSELLER. What gets you noticed is explaining clearly and concisely what happens in your book, when what happens is compelling and interesting and sellable.
Aly's query was short and sweet and told me what happens in her book. Not why she wrote it, who will buy it, or how many millions of copies it will sell. Calling it a "modern DEENIE" was the cherry on top.
2. Do all your annoying homework.
Trying to sort through all the conflicting information about agents on the internet is time consuming and frustrating. We know! (And no, we can't just make a master database for you to search in. Just isn't gonna happen.) This is just one of those things you have to buckle down and do. Start with reputable websites like the Association of Authors Representatives, aaronline.net, Publishermarketplace.com, and AGENTS' OWN WEBSITES. An agent's website should be your final, end-all, be-all source for appropriate genres and submission guidelines. Make a big, messy list of all the agents you want to send to, research reputable sources, and then make the best decision with the information you have. When you've done your homework well, you're probably going to end up in the right place.
I don't know who else Aly sent her book to but I would not be offended if I wasn't the only one. She had no idea if I would like this, or if I had room for my list for it. She did her homework--getting a referral from two of my clients--and sent it off. And then it all worked out for both of us.
3. Be patient
Remember you're not the only query on an agent's desk. It's super easy to think I sent this two weeks ago. Isn't that enough time for her to read it????? (And you'll probably think that about your agent when you sign with one, too.) But remember, that agent probably got 20-50 queries that day. And has other clients. And professional obligations. And a life. And probably needs to eat sometimes or play a gem game on her phone once in awhile. Be patient, and follow up politely according to the agent's stated turn-around time, if available. Two weeks is too soon to follow up. Three months is a good, average time when you should hear back, if an agent is not a no-response-means-no agent.
I went back and looked, and it took me about two and half months to read Aly's first chapters here, even though her query came with such a great referral and was clear and well written. Once I got the full manuscript, I read it in about two weeks and offered representation. All in all, this isn't an overly long timeline, but Aly's patience in those two months, which I'm sure was not easy to bear, paid off!
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alyson and Kate!
You can find Alyson at:
Twitter and Instagram: @AlysonGerber
You can find Kate at:
Alyson has generously offered an ARC for a giveaway and Kate is offering a query critique giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 1st. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The ARC giveaway is U.S. and Canada and the critique giveaway is international.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.
Here's what's coming up:
Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway
Monday, March 27th I have an interview with debut author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE SOMEDAY BIRDS
Monday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Patricia Bailey and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF KIT DONOVAN
Wednesday, April 5th I have an IWSG post and a guest post by Christina Farley and giveaway of her new MG fantasy THE PRINCESS & THE PAGE
Hope to see you on Wednesday!