This week was the most
“The better the proposal, the higher your chances of making the final cut in the publishing process.” –The African American Writer’s Handbook
Once the book proposal was written I focused on drafting a query letter with the help of Forerunners, Inc. (http://www.forerunnersink.com/) and my husband. This is the first thing that agents would read in order to decide if they were interested in reading the manuscript. Here's the letter:
I recently completed a debut children’s historical fiction, picture-story book entitled Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York. The Writer's Digest listed you as an agent looking for diverse books featuring under-represented voices and I believe it is a good fit for your consideration. It’s an exciting story about the true accounts of Groot Manuel and the colonial slaves of New York City. Written in a story-telling voice, Grandma Jenny passes along the family history of Uncle Manuel to her grandson Christopher who had an incredible journey from slavery to becoming one of the first free black land owners, ultimately living in New York’s “Land of the Blacks,” today’s Washington Square Park.
Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York is full of tantalizing details of how enslaved Africans contributed to building the infrastructure and economy of colonial New York. Albeit a serious topic, it is written in such a manner that will not only fascinate young audiences but adults as well. Parents and educators will be pleased to learn of Africans’ early influence in this nation.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Oregon and currently homeschool my four children in Mt. Vernon, New York. As a writer, it is my desire to uncover golden nuggets of our history and make the information accessible to younger audiences. This is what I did with Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York. This book will not only become a wonderful teaching tool, but it will also meet the growing need of parents’ desires to captivate younger children with quality text that provide real knowledge.
Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York is complete at 1,177 words and is included in this submission. It includes two special sections, "More about Groot Manuel" and "About the Research." It will also include a glossary, a timeline of slavery in New York, a list of websites for further enjoyment, and a bibliography bringing the total word count to 2,612.
This is a multiple submission and I thank you for your time and consideration!
“Remember that I have to sell the project to an editor, and an editor has to sell your project internally to his colleagues including the marketing and sales staff, and the publisher has to sell your book to the book buyers at the chains in bookstores. You're most likely to get my attention if you write a query letter that demonstrates your platform, the market potential of your book and why your book is different. In short – get me excited!”-Jeff Herman Guide to Publishing
So over the course of three months I submitted to agencies that were soliciting for children’s paperback and diverse voices. Every agency website pretty much made it clear that if they did not respond to the email, they were not interested.
“Loosely speaking, out of every 100 queries I receive, I will request 7–10 complete manuscripts. And only about one of every 25–30 manuscripts I request will result in me signing a new client.”-Literary Agent Brian Klems
Needless to say, I didn’t know how long I would be in this phase of my journey and for months I just kept telling my friends that I was still looking for an agent. Sooo I was truly in shock when I opened my email this week and saw that an agent had replied and found my story “fascinating.”
“Oh my gosh—no way!!” I yelled.
What? Mommy what happened?
All of my children crowded.
“Someone responded to my letter. An agent wants to talk to me!”
“Yeah!!!!!!” All of them shouted, jumping up and down. “Write her back—send an email now Mommy!”
Okay, Okay but I can’t think with all of you screaming.
“Let’s tell daddy!”
What did this mean—she found my story interesting and wanted to talk about editorial suggestions? Did she think it was a good story idea but needed a complete overhaul? Did she think I should make it into a chapter book or novel instead of a paperback?
I did not sleep well that night. The next day I prepared for the phone call as if I was interviewing for a job. (I will write another post on how I prepared for the call). The next day everyone was filled with excitement and anticipation. I spoke with the agent for about 40 minutes and at the end of the call, she affirmed that she was offering her representation.
Let me just tell you there was more screaming and running through the house with the kids. Now I have a foot in the door. The journey continues!
Ayanna is a debut author that enjoys writing fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for children. She finished her first manuscript in 2015 and is currently working with a literary agent to represent her work to Publishing houses.