Pitch Fiesta Update: 15 Writers Matched with Mentors to Prepare for the Event

We’re excited to provide an update on Latin@s in Kid Lit’s first Pitch Fiesta. The deadline for submissions was October 3. We received 21 entries and reduced that number to 15 viable contenders representing middle grade and young adult–realistic, science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, LGBTQ, and Southern Gothic.

So, here’s the thing. We had no idea how many entries to expect. I (Cindy) thought we’d get maybe a half-dozen, which the LiKL crew could easily manage to review and prepare for pitching. So, when we ended up with 15!! viable entries, we flashed the bat signal at our kid lit writer friends. For those of you who don’t know, the kid lit community is awesome, and in no time, we had enough people ready to mentor our writers.

Here’s the process: Each mentor has been matched with a writer. The mentor will review the writer’s query and first pages with a critical eye. The mentor will email comments, thoughts, questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. to the writer. The two will work to make the query and first pages as clean and agent-ready as possible. Polished queries will be posted on our site on November 12-13 for the agents’ review. We hope “I’ve got to have it” type sparks will fly and matches will be made between writers and agents! These sparks of love over a manuscript will eventually lead to more books by and about Latin@s!

For now, though, there’s work to be done. Still, we wanted to publicly say, THANK YOU!!! to the authors who stepped up to help! Many are members of the Fearless Fifteeners, the Diversity League, and/or the We Need Diverse Books Team. They all support diversity in children’s literature and want to “pay forward” the help they received on the path to publishing. Below are all of the mentors. Names and titles match with photos going lef to right. If you click on the photos, you will be taken to the authors’ websites for more information.

Cindy L. Rodriguez: WHEN REASON BREAKS (Bloomsbury)

Ashley Hope Pérez: WHAT CAN’T WAIT and THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY (Carolrhoda Books)

Zoraida Córdova: THE VICIOUS DEEP trilogy (Sourcebooks Fire) and LUCK ON THE LINE (Diversion Books)

Heather Marie: THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME (Curiosity Quills Press)


Erin Entrada Kelly: BLACKBIRD FLY (Greenwillow Books)

A.L. Sonnichsen: RED BUTTERFLY (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Anna-Marie McLemore: THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS (Thomas Dunne)

Ronald L. Smith: HOODOO (Clarion)

Kerry O’Malley Cerra: JUST A DROP OF WATER (Sky Pony Press)

Dhonielle Clayton: TINY PRETTY THINGS (HarperTeen) and THE BELLES (Disney-Hyperion)

Holly Bodger: 5 TO 1 (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung: LITTLE MISS EVIL (Spencer Hill Middle Grade)

Carrie Firestone: The title of Carrie’s debut novel hasn’t been finalized, but she will be published in 2016 by Little Brown & Co.

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Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZE  Kelly Jones  Erin Entrada Kelly A.L. Sonnichsen Anna-Marie McLemoreRonald L. SmithKerry CerraDhonielle Clayton Holly Bodger Kristy and Bryce  profile photo






Writers: You’re Invited to Our First Ever Pitch Fiesta!

We’re baaaaaaack from vacation and so excited to announce the details for our first ever Pitch Fiesta, an online pitch event that could lead to writer-agent-publisher matches and future books by/for/about Latin@s. This event is open to middle grade and young adult writers. We’re sorry, but no picture book manuscripts this time around. We might have a separate event in the future for picture book writers and illustrators.
Before we get to the application information, let’s introduce our participating agents and publisher:

ADominguezSMALLAdriana Dominguez, an agent at Full Circle Literary since 2009, has 15 years of experience in publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she managed the children’s division of the Rayo imprint. She is a member of the Brooklyn Literary Council, which organizes the Brooklyn Book Festival, and one of the founders of the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in NYC. She is interested in middle grade novels and literary young adult novels. Adriana has a long trajectory of publishing underrepresented authors and illustrators, and welcomes submissions that offer diverse points of view.



Adrienne Rosado is an agent at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency as well as the Foreign Rights Director. She is interested in literary and commercial fiction, especially YA, urban fantasy, multicultural fiction, women’s fiction, and new adult, all with strong voices and an authentic tone.  She’s especially drawn to dark humor, innovative takes on classic literary themes, and Southern gothics. Adrienne is also on the lookout for quirky and smart narrative nonfiction, memoirs, pop science, and business books with a creative approach. Please no picture books, chapter books, poetry, or westerns.



Amy Boggs is an agent at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is looking for all things fantasy and science fiction, especially high fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk (and its variations), YA, MG, and alternate history. She is also looking for unique works of contemporary YA, historical fiction, Westerns, and works that challenge their genre are also welcome. She seeks and supports projects and authors diverse in any and all respects, such as (but not limited to) gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and sexuality. Please no: thrillers, women’s fiction, picture books, chapter books, poetry, screenplays, or any debut work under 30,000 words in length.


sara_sized_160x240Sara Megibow is an agent at the Nelson Literary Agency. Sara is looking for debut authors with a complete novel-length manuscript in any of these genres: middle grade, young adult, new adult, romance, erotica, science fiction or fantasy. Any sub-genre is accepted including paranormal, historical, contemporary, steampunk, fantasy, etc. In short – if you can write it, Sara will read it – as long as it’s 100% complete, novel-length, not previously published and in one of the above genres. Where does Diversity fit in? Sara is looking for manuscripts AND/OR authors representing diversity of religion, race, culture, socio-economic status, ability, age, gender and/or sexual orientation. Sara is on twitter @SaraMegibow and on Publishers Marketplace here:  http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/


_KO Agent Photo

Kathleen Ortiz is the director of subsidiary rights and a literary agent for New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. She is an active member of AAR and SCBWI. She’s always on the hunt for outstanding stories with strong characters whose voice and journey stay with her long after she finishes reading the story. She loves YAs set within other cultures and experiences across all genres (though she’s a bit full up on sci-fi and dystopian at the moment).



Laura Dial

Laura Dail of the Laura Dail Literary Agency received her Master’s degree in Spanish Literature from Middlebury College (but would prefer to consider works in English). She’s most interested in realistic YA, and funny middle grade and chapter books. She represents fiction and nonfiction, but no picture books, poetry, or screenplays. See more here: http://ldlainc.com/kids-teen-ya/



AP long logo color verticalArte Público Press, affiliated with the University of Houston, specializes in publishing contemporary novels, short stories, poetry, and drama based on U.S. Hispanic cultural issues and themes. Arte Público also is interested in reference works and non-fiction studies, especially of Hispanic civil rights, women’s issues and history. Manuscripts, queries, synopses, outlines, proposals, introductory chapters, etc. are accepted in either English or Spanish, although the majority of our publications are in English.

Piñata Books is Arte Público Press’ imprint for children’s and young adult literature. It seeks to authentically and realistically portray themes, characters, and customs unique to U.S. Hispanic culture. Submissions and manuscript formalities are the same as for Arte Público Press.

Now, here are the guidelines:

1. Writers who are Latin@ or writers of any ethnicity who have included Latin@ characters, settings, etc. in their manuscripts are eligible to apply.

2. You must have a complete manuscript at the time of the Pitch Fiesta. If an agent or editor is interested, you must have a complete manuscript ready to send. So, writers–get writing! Finish that manuscript!

3. Please read and consider what the agents are looking for. Please do not send us a query and first pages in a genre that does not mesh with their lists.

4. We will accept applications from September 2 through October 3. To apply, please send your query and the first 5-10 pages of your middle grade or young adult novel to our email: latinosinkidlit@gmail.com. In the subject line, please write: PITCH FIESTA ENTRY. Please post both the query and the first pages directly into the email. No attachments.

5. One of the Latin@s in Kid Lit members will read and respond to your email. During the month of October, we will help selected writers revise and polish queries and first pages to prepare for the Pitch Fiesta. Even though we will help you with your queries and first pages, please send us your best work. We have the right to reject any applications.

Queries and first pages will be posted on November 12 and 13. If an agent or an editor from Arte Público is interested, you will be contacted.

Exciting, right?

We hope writers will take advantage of this opportunity to present your work to publishing professionals who are actively seeking, and thereby supporting, diversity in kid lit!

Agent Chat with Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary

By Zoraida Córdova

I’d like to welcome Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary. Eight years ago, I was one of Adrienne’s minions slush pile interns. Three books later, I’m proud to call her my agent and BFF.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Adrienne: I’m a second generation native New Yorker and have worked in publishing for just over 8 years. I represent a very eclectic group of authors and somehow was lucky enough to have stumbled into the “when I grow up” perfect job.

Me: What were some of your favorite books growing up?

29380_10152263632420414_1819881365_nAdrienne: I always read older than my age group because there wasn’t the wide range of YA and MG books in the way that we know now. When I was a kid (because apparently I’m about 500 yrs old now), you were either an R.L. Stein/Christopher Pike, or Babysitter’s Club/Sweet Valley High reader. I was all about Fear Street. There was a really clear divide in what types of books were offered to children based on gender. I remember being made to read the Lurlene McDaniel books because they were “girl books.” I remember one really bitter summer when the assigned book for girls was The Secret Garden while the boys read Indian in the Cupboard.

So, I ended up reading a lot of Stephen King and Michael Crichton instead.

Me: So when you were in school, were Latin@ books ever highlighted/incorporated into the curriculum? I did grades 1-12 in NYC public schools, and the only Latin@ book I read in high school was House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Adrienne: I would completely agree with you. We didn’t cover very many books with multicultural characters. I definitely read HoMS and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. Basically, we did classics by lots of dead authors, unless we were celebrating some kind of heritage month, which in hindsight is really sad.

Me: I agree. We shouldn’t wait for Latino or Black history months to enjoy these stories. Now, for some businessy questions: as an agent, what do you look for in submissions?

Adrienne: It boils down to quality writing. I want a well-defined protagonist, multilayered secondary characters, and a really fantastic voice. I want this regardless of the character’s race or magical species, I’m looking at you, Z.

Me: *Holds out hand for a gold star* What is the biggest mistake new authors have made when contacting you (other than addressing you as MR. Rosado)?

Adrienne: Sending me submissions before they’re ready. I see so many subs that still need another round or two of revisions and you always want to put your best foot forward.

Me: How can an author show their professionalism?

Adrienne: The most successful authors that I know have always acted as professionals before they were published. They did their research in their genres. They avoided trend chasing. They strove to make their manuscripts as pristine as possible before sending them out.

Sometimes, it’s even as simple as having a dedicated professional email address with your name as opposed to babygirl23XOXO@aol.com
It’s demonstrating a familiarity with what being a modern author entails, having a Twitter account, a blog, etc.

Deadlines are also huge. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I request a manuscript and then am told that the author needs another couple of months to polish it. That’s unprofessional.

Me: How many clients do you represent? Are you still looking?

Adrienne: I try to keep a smaller and diverse list, so I can give my authors personal attention. I’m always on the look out for fresh voices and new talent.

Me: How do you decide where to pitch a manuscript?

Adrienne: It’s not dissimilar from how an author looks for an agent. The sign of a good agent is someone who maintains a good network of editorial contacts. They know who is looking for what kind of material. You wouldn’t go to an imprint that does non-fiction with supernatural YA. Everyone’s taste is different, even within houses and imprints. Your agent should stay up-to-date with what editors are looking for.

Me: How do you work with your authors? How deep are your edits?

Adrienne: It’s different with every author and the level they’re at with their careers. Some agents don’t do any editorial work at all. I happen to do some editorial work with my clients.

With debut authors I tend to do more polishing edits, and even some developmental, before going out on submission in order to put our best foot forward in the publishing marketplace.

There has to be a level of trust in the editorial process and open communication.  I would never want to make suggestions that an author felt were inauthentic to their material.

Me: What are you looking to represent now?

Adrienne: This is going to sound like a cop out, but I’m looking for strong writing, an exciting voice, something that’s going to put me in the character’s life and make me feel like part of that story that has the potential to make me miss my stop on the subway.

I accept anything from MG to Adult. I do have a soft spot for thrillers, anything dark and edgy, Southern Gothics, and things that make me laugh or cry really hard.

Me: What do you think we can do as a writing community to promote or have more books with diverse characters?

Adrienne: I think that diversity should be a facet of a character and not a defining characteristic of the story. Your work for example. You happen to be an Ecuadorian immigrant who wrote a book, which includes a diverse cast of characters, but that’s not why I represent you. I represent and read your books because I love the stories and world that you’ve created.

Me: It also represents my upbringing. My friends have always been first or second generation immigrants from all over the place. But it’s still hard to see ourselves in a lot of media without stereotypes.

Adrienne: I feel that the issues in multicultural literature are different now than they were 15-20 years ago. The stories we’re reading now are going to a generation that is used to having diversity in their daily lives. It’s less about assimilating into a new culture/community and more about individual identity. For instance, when I was a teen, if someone asked me where I was from, I would say I’m a New Yorker. That wouldn’t have been the case for my parent’s generation. Now, it’s assumed that people have a diverse background. It’s not uncommon in this city.

Me: It might be different for kids who live in less diverse communities and states.

Adrienne: Agreed. But that doesn’t mean that children and teens from a less diverse community are not going to be able to relate to another teen’s story just because it comes from a protagonist of a different race, religion, etc. People read to learn about something different, a new world, a new character, whether it’s a coming of age story or an epic fantasy. A good story is a good story. It should be how a story is told that defines the book.

Me: Totally. Though I think authors shouldn’t be afraid to write more diverse characters and make it a non-issue. In writing classes people like to throw around the phrase “write what you know,” but I think we should “write what you don’t know.”

Adrienne: I agree. Added to that, though, is that growing up happens to the best of us, so we all happen to face really similar challenges as we “come of age.” For example, isn’t it Jane Austen that said, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single teen in possession of a good prom dress, must be in want of a date.”  Or something like that anyway?

Me: LOL. Something like that. Maybe the problem is that people keep making it a problem.

Adrienne: I completely agree with that. There should be more diversity in books. I think the issue is that many authors fear that they will get pigeonholed as “multicultural” when that is only a sliver of the story.

Me: Agreed. Sometimes our politically correctness gets in the way.

Adrienne: At the end of the day, write a good story. Don’t be afraid to let your characters be who they are…

Me: Well thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Now, I’m going to go write a quasi-biographical YA based on my early years.

Adrienne: *groans*

Me: Kidding. Thanks for being with us. If you’d like submit to Adrienne Rosado, please read the NYLA guidelines.

Here are some of Adrienne’s clients:

PLAY ME BACKWARDS FRONT copy   colony-225-1   Blood_Tango   9781402265136-300   7990393-1


The Road to Publishing: Juana Martinez-Neal on Landing an Agent

By Lila Q. Weaver

Since Juana Martinez-Neal is an illustrator, writers might be tempted to skip her how-I-landed-an-agent story. Don’t! Anyone seeking professional success will find value here. In the following interview, she shares her journey to the 2012 Showcase Portfolio Grand Prize at the SCBWI Los Angeles conference, a coup that led to agent representation and many great opportunities. No matter your craft, Juana’s approach serves as a model of careful study and preparation, which on top of her brilliant art skills, gave her the winning edge. In today’s competitive world of publishing, that’s a lesson we can all put to good use.

Latin@s in Kid Lit: Were you a published illustrator before winning the portfolio award at the SCBWI conference? If so, how did you get jobs?

Juana: Before the Portfolio Grand Prize, I was published by smaller publishers, the educational market, and advertising companies. My jobs would come from paid, online portfolios, such as childrensillustrators.com. I would also email samples to art directors that accepted email submissions. I never got around to sending postcards to a mailing list. That was a mistake! I would also attend SCBWI regional and national conferences. Whenever these conferences offered portfolio shows, I entered mine and paid for critiques. Critiques are a great way to put your work in front of editors and art directors.

Latin@s in Kid LitHow did you prepare for the SCBWI portfolio show? The competition must have been fierce!

Juana: Illustration, much like writing and every other profession, requires everyday practice. If you rush to get twelve new pieces ready a month or two before a portfolio show, chances are, your pieces will be decent. But decent doesn’t win a show. You must work everyday, year round.

The selection process is simple and repeats every year that I attend the SCBWI LA Conference. A month-and-a-half beforehand, I select fifteen to eighteen favorite pieces from everything I’ve done within the last twelve months. After printing them at 8.5” x 11”, I meet with my illustrator friends, who help me choose eight to twelve of the strongest ones. On my blog, I have a series of posts about portfolios, including how to put together a children’s illustrator portfolio, a comparison of my 2011 and 2012 portfolios, and a how-to on mounting artwork


Most of the time, we recognize outstanding work before we produce outstanding work. Ira Glass said it beautifully here:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into itbecause we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” –  Ira Glass on Storytelling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY

When we put this into practice, there comes a time when our work starts matching our expectations. Our hand starts painting what our brain has envisioned. At that point, we may be ready. I didn’t know I was ready to win when I did. I knew my portfolio was decent, and I knew that eventually I would win—but not that year. I thought: I will win in 2014. I gave myself two more years.

In 2012, I was pregnant and putting my portfolio out because the following year I would have a baby to take care of and would have to miss the conference. There is an action of letting go that generates energy. That energy makes things happen and surprises us in the most wonderful ways.

Latin@s in Kid LitAfter you won the portfolio award, did agents approach you at the conference or through e-mails and phone calls? Tell us a little bit about that.Image 3

Juana: Agents can approach you all different ways if they are interested. In my case, I met Stefanie Von Borstel, of Full Circle Literary, at the Portfolio Showcase. She had been one of the judges and enjoyed looking at my work. We talked during the conference a few times and stayed in touch. Three months later, we signed a contract.

I think it’s important to meet the agents you are interested in. Listen to yourself during that first call or meeting. You need to feel comfortable and communicate easily with her/him. You will be working with that person for what you hope is the rest of your career. We are all so eager to get representation that sometimes we may let warning signs slide. Please don’t. Listen to them. You don’t want to waste time.

Latin@s in Kid LitYour experience shows how helpful conference attendance can be for connecting with agents.

Juana: If there are agents presenting at breakout sessions, go listen to them. You’ll get a great sense of who they are and how they work. You will be able to tell if you could work together. Personality counts. I’ve seen some rather quiet, introverted friends with agents that are their complete opposites. Their relationships work wonderfully. They complement each other.

Latin@s in Kid LitWhat difference has it made to your work to have an agent representing you?

Juana: Having Stefanie as my agent has improved my work. Her comments come from someone who knows this industry so well. She helps me find direction when I’m feeling a bit confused. An agent will help you polish your manuscripts and dummies and get them ready for editors and art directors. I also love the fact that they will take care of the contracts. There is so much I am not aware of when it comes to legal matters.

Latin@s in Kid Lit: What are some other tips for illustrators on getting the attention of art directors and agents?

  • Create work consistently, continuously.
  • Stay busy. If you have no paid projects, give yourself assignments regularly. Set some deadlines for yourself.
  • Keep your portfolio updated. Post new work regularly, but post only your BEST work.
  • Mail postcards consistently, every three to four months. Be critical when selecting names. A mailing list of 80 can be very effective. Send postcards to anyone you would love to work with.
  • Look into agents’ clients and books. Follow them on Twitter. See if your work is a good match. Keep in mind that if they have someone with a style too similar to yours, chances are, you won’t be picked. Why have two artists that do almost the same work?


Image 2Juana Martinez-Neal was born in Lima, Peru, to an artistic family. At 16, she was already laying the groundwork for a career in children’s illustration. She now lives in the United States. Her work has been featured in Babybug, Ladybug and Iguana magazines, and recently made the cover of the SCBWI Bulletin. See more of Juana’s glorious gallery at her website, where you can also take advantage of detailed tutorials on portfolio selection and assembly and read fascinating illustrator interviews.

The Road to Publishing: Chantel Acevedo on Landing An Agent

By Chantel Acevedo

Can we all agree that the road to publishing holds its share of intimidating turns? In our last post, Zoraida took on querying, a key lead-in for this week’s revealing and instructive accounts on seeking out and landing agents. We’ll first hear from writer Chantel Acevedo. In Thursday’s follow-up, illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal outlines a different approach. Don’t miss it! 

If you don’t know Chantel, your must-read stack is about to grow by a few inches. You could start with her lyrical debut, Love and Ghost Letters (St. Martin’s Griffin), winner of the 2006 International Latino Book Award, or you could hurry straight to her only novel for young adults, Song of the Red Cloak (CreateSpace Independent Publishing), a dazzling thriller set in the violent world of ancient Sparta. Starring a slave boy and an epic cast of characters, its otherworldly moves will unnerve and thrill you. 

Tamer by comparison, but nonetheless exciting, here is Chantel’s almost-epic quest for an agent.  —Lila & Latin@s in Kid Lit

Song of the Red Cloak   Love and Ghost Letters

Oh, how I love “How I Got My Agent” stories. Some of the most interesting ones read like love stories, replete with missed opportunities, feelings of kismet, and a big, romantic moment in the guise of a contract.

Perhaps I’ve gone too far with that analogy. Even so, finding and landing an agent can feel very much like a courtship, and there can sometimes be lots of angst and anxiety. Even the most successful of agent hunts can feel a little like this. Let me tell you about mine.

I began shopping my novel manuscript in May, just a few weeks before my family and I left for a summer-long trip to the UK. I would be teaching a study-abroad class in London, and thought, for some crazy reason, that my first time in Europe would serve as a distraction and curative for agent-hunting-angst. This strategy totally failed, by the way. Big Ben, trips to Stonehenge, seeing the actual Queen in a parade—none of these things helped me to forget that my manuscript was out there, being judged, just one book in a flood of books, all resting in email inboxes across New York City.

Initially, I’d sent the book out to one agent. It was a recommendation from a very well known author, a mentor and friend I greatly admired. Her agent, a real publishing legend, requested an exclusive read, which I granted. This included signing an exclusive read contract that tied the book down for six weeks. Eight weeks later, after I’d chewed my hands off during the wait, she wrote to say that she wanted revisions before signing me, but would not reveal those revision suggestions unless I also agreed not to send the book out to anyone else. If you think I felt a bit like a hostage at that point, you wouldn’t be far off.

Under other circumstances, with a different book, I might have agreed to this. But the book, I felt, was really polished. It’s my fourth novel, and I had a sense that the book, if not 100% ready for submission, was very nearly there. Legendary agent told me she suspected we wouldn’t speak again, that other agents would want to sign on to the project. I thought, “From your lips to God’s ear, lady,” I thanked her, held my breath, and submitted the book to seven other agents I had been stalking on Google, AgentQuery.com, and Publishers Weekly.

How did I choose those seven? Two were recommendations from other authors. The rest represented authors I admired, and whose books I felt had some kind of kinship with mine. I looked for agents who represented diverse writers, who dug literary historical fiction, and who represented more than one genre.

One agent wrote back within 24 hours of receiving the query to say she’d like to see the full manuscript. Another, incredibly, wrote back within TWO hours to ask for the full. Another asked for the full about two weeks after receiving the query letter. One other turned me down with a form letter. Of the three who first requested the full, one wrote back within three weeks to say she’d like to chat on the phone. This, of course, is the holy grail of all messages, and when we spoke at last, she was complimentary, enthusiastic, and had a plan in mind.

I told her I had to alert the other five agents still in the running to her offer, and give them a chance to respond. This agent seemed a little put off by that, but I chalked it up to her enthusiasm for the project. To be honest, it’s hard to get past that first agent you speak to. It’s like the dam bursts after all those months of waiting, and you just want to say, yes, yes, YES! But, I held my breath again, asked for a week to make my decision. Then, I emailed all the agents who had the manuscript, and everyone else I had queried and not heard from.

Of the two who had already asked for the manuscript, one bowed out, saying it sounded like I’d found a good match. Another asked for a week to read, and three days later passed. That left the three who had not responded to the query. I was so very surprised and happy when all three asked for the full manuscript and for more time to read.  The next day, I got a message from Stéphanie Abou at Foundry Media, saying that she was loving the book and that we would chat after the weekend.

I spoke with Stéphanie for over an hour that Monday, in a pretty unconventional setting. I was back from my trip abroad, and visiting my family in Miami. I had taken my daughters on a water park playdate. While they splashed, Stéphanie and I talked about the novel, about her approach to submission and the author-agent relationship. We talked about my publication experience, and some thoughts on revision for the current project. And she told me about her daughters, and her fabulous background (she studied at the Sorbonne! In Comparative Literature! Be still my heart!), and her interest in diverse authors. She was funny, a straight-talker, smart, and upbeat. All the while, I was scribbling like mad in my notebook and slapping mosquitoes away from my legs. Oh, and I was dripping wet.

I told Stéphanie I’d think about it a couple of days, and we said goodbye. I talked it over with friends and family. I would tell them about Stéphanie and the other offering agent, and the other two potential agents that I had not heard from. They listened patiently as I prattled on, then, one by one, they all told me, “You’re going with Stéphanie because you look all love-struck when you talk about her.”  Was I that transparent?

So, I emailed the other agents, the ones still reading. They both asked for more time, even though the week was up. I thanked them for their interest, and indicated I was ready to make a decision. Others might have granted the time, but I didn’t want to string them along, either. My gut was telling me I’d made a good match. 

The hard part, of course, was emailing the other offering agent, the first one to step up, and tell her thanks, but no thanks. She never wrote back, and I hope whatever thoughts she had about me weren’t too terrible.

Then, came the fun part. Telling Stéphanie I thought we’d make a good team. There was much celebration on either end of the line. There would be some revisions to come, and then the anxiety of going on submission, of course. But above all of that is the feeling that I made the right choice, and that my book has the best champion it can have in the lovely, talented and supportive, Stéphanie Abou.

Image 4Chantel is an Associate Professor of English at Auburn University, where she founded a writing conference, leads a writing program for teens, edits the Southern Humanities Review and somehow finds time to create new fiction.  Her upcoming novel from Carolina Wren Press, A Falling Star, is already an award winner. Learn more on Chantel’s website.

The Road to Publishing: The Big Q–How to Write a Query Letter

For this series of posts, we are writing about the road to publishing. You should start with our overview and then read this post about working with beta readers and critique groups. Today, Zoraida tackles the query letter.

By Zoraida Córdova

So you wrote a book.

First of all, congratulations. Writing a book, whether it’s fiction or non fiction, 1k words or 100k, it is no easy feat. Once you’ve revised and gone through the critique process, you’re ready to put yourself out there.

What do I need?

I’m glad you asked. First, you need a query letter. I know, you’ve already written all the words, now you’ve got to write a couple more!

Where do I start?

Round up the agents that you want to work with. Always make sure that they represent the kind of book you are shopping. If an agent says they only rep Adult Romance and Women’s Fiction, then you probably shouldn’t send them your Middle Grade Action Adventure told from the POV of a young boy.

Some good places to start are:

Agent Query

Writers Beware (I’ve been reading this site since high school and learned a lot)

Publisher’s Marketplace (Warning: keep to the agents. Don’t get discouraged if you see deals that are similar to your work.)

Writer’s Digest

Basically, do your research.

Great, so let’s write the letter.

The Vicious Deep (The Vicious Deep #1)Keep it simple, professional, but still be yourself. Let’s work with my novel, The Vicious Deep.

I’ve seen query letters start one of two ways: with something flattering about why you are querying the agent and your MS title or with your novel hook.

I like to start with the novel hook because if you’re querying the agent, then it’s a given that you a) like them b) like the work they represent c) did your research.

Dear Ms. Rosado, (From my agent, Adrienne Rosado, herself: “I’ve had authors congratulate me on placing a title for an author I don’t represent and who have started their letters to me with ‘Dear Mr. Rosado.’ A little research goes a long way.”)

Tristan Hart is a playboy, a lifeguard, and after a freak storm on his home shore of Coney Island, a merman. (A hook. No pun intended)

He discovers that his grandfather, the sea king, is getting on in years and has set up a championship for the throne. Along with four eligible mermen, Tristan must piece together the three parts of the trident and return to court in a fortnight. The trident pieces could be anywhere in the world, and armed with his good looks and a family dagger, Tristan doesn’t know where to start. With the help of two court guards, Brooklyn’s supernatural alliance, and his reluctant girlfriend, Layla, Tristan is on his way to retrieving the first piece of the trident. But the champions aren’t the only ones fighting for the throne. The Silver Mermaid, ancient and powerful, has broken from her prison. She’s got an army of vicious merrows at her disposal, and she’s got her sights on Tristan Hart. (Summaries are the hardest because how do you whittle your 100k words into a tiny paragraph? Start with your Character, Challenge, Goal, Obstacle. I know there are plenty of subplots in your novel, but try to stick to the major one for now.)

THE VICIOUS DEEP, a YA urban fantasy complete at 100k words, is the first in a trilogy. It will appeal to fans of Charles De Lint, Holly Black, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I believe my work would be a good fit for you because of your interest in fresh YA fantasy. (Make sure your manuscript is complete. Don’t lie about this. I know you want to get your book into agents’ hands, like, yesterday. But you’d do your work a disservice if an agent asks for the full manuscript and you only have half of it.  Also, include something personal about the agent you are querying. You might have heard them speak at a conference. You read their bio on the agency website, etc.)

I studied English Literature and Latino Studies at Hunter College. In 2004 and 2005, I attended the National Book Foundation Writing Camp. My short work has been published in the anthology GROWING UP GIRL. (Credentials, if any. You don’t have to have an MFA in Children’s Literature to write a novel. It’s great if you do, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t. I certainly don’t, and I still managed to get my books published.)

I look forward to hearing from you.


Zoraida Cordova

What now?

After you’ve spell checked and read your query over, it’s time to send it out. Always double check the submission guidelines. All agencies will have this page. This is an example from my agency.

Former agent Nathan Bransford says that you should always include a five page sample of your work.

I believe this is will also save time in the back and forth process with the agent. Now that they have a tiny sample of your work, they can know if they want to see more.

For further questions, comment here, email us at latinosinkidlit@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t be shy!

Good luck!