I’ll never forget my first rejection. I submitted twelve queries to prospective agents for a middle-grade novel that I was convinced would amaze the entire children’s publishing industry. After all, I’d spent two years doing my homework, attending conferences, meeting with a critique group, and I was ready to start a career as an author.

My first mistake was sending out queries just before going on vacation. My second mistake was looking at my phone while standing in the middle of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I was enjoying the view of Cinderella’s castle when my phone beeped. I glanced down to see the first few disappointing lines of an email from my dream agent. So, my very first rejection was in the middle of “the happiest place on earth.”

After receiving my first round of rejections for that particular manuscript, I went back to the drawing board. For the next couple of years, I attended more conferences, studied writing blogs, and went to biweekly critique meetings. I wrote picture books, chapter books, and finally, a middle-grade novel that I decided was ready for submission. This time, I sent out about forty queries, received several requests for fulls, and finally an offer from my wonderful agent, Essie White from Storm Literary Agency. Two years later, we received a contract for The Secret Notebook.

If you search the internet, you’ll find lots of advice on how to get an agent. Below, are some tips I found to be the most important.

  • Hone your craft. Read books in your genre, attend conferences, research writing blogs, follow agents on social media, and scour websites such as https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com.
  • LISTEN to the advice from experts and take it to heart. These professionals are telling you what you need to do to be successful in publishing.
  • Keep writing. A potential agent wants to represent the writer, not just one book. They want to know your interests and the depth of your creativity.

After many years of hard work and becoming a published author, I can look back at my ruined vacation day and laugh—a little bit. The bottom line is that no agent can resist a wonderful, unique story that’s well written and gets an emotional reaction from the reader.

D.A. D’Aurelio writes picture books through middle grade and is an active member of SCBWI. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children.

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