• Sam Elyse

71 Queries: How I Landed My Agent and Finally Avoided the Slush Pile

I get it! You want the good stuff. HOW DID I LAND MY AGENT!?


First, let's start here: despite decades of writing, I only consider myself an actual author over the last 6 years. Once I realized the difference between "writer" and "author" everything changed.


Nearly 6 years ago, I also met the love of my life. I met an exceptionally brilliant and equally obsessive creative (director/animator) who understood that I am an iron-willed author determined to pursue traditional publishing. Having unwavering support by your side works wonders. Now, for the agonizing querying process.


Four books and 71 pitches later, I landed my amazing literary agent! Proudly represented by @BreLStephens with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, my stories have a home. I am fortunate enough where Bre requested fulls for two of my stories at the same time (an MG and GN respectfully). When I received both requests, my jaw dropped. I also knew there was something special about this moment. This agent supports my vision: to empower children to be their own champions when faced with very grave, realistic dangers or obstacles. As they say, it is most certainly a relationship between author and agent. You need someone who can champion your work.


But finding Bre, having that conversation, and mostly just connecting enthusiastically during our offer of rep discussion was quite emotional. I think I wanted to burst into tears and laughter all at once. Naturally, I decided to treat myself to Japanese soufflé pancakes (#hottokēki #ホットケーキ) for brunch instead. A contract was sent. Questions addressed. Editing processes ensued.


Next, we have the stats via a handy little pie chart for my queries. What did it really feel like leading up to an offer? With 71 queries for 4 books? (Keep in mind that I actually began writing YA 6 years ago and made the MG switch 3 years ago—a separate blog post to come on that decision.)

  1. I received 10 full requests or only 14.1% immediate YES responses to my queries (technically 11, see point #3).

  2. Partial requests were fewer, 3 total or 4.2% (up to 25-50 pages requested after the agent liked a chapter or two).

  3. Agent recs? Fun surprise here! There were 2 queries or 2.8% which the agent liked enough to forward to one of their agent friends/colleagues. This was quite a treat and a sizable compliment when it also came with rejection. These agents "loved the voice/plot/world/etc. but did not feel it fit their list," more or less. One of these recommendations even happened after a full request (see point #1).

  4. One agent had asked for an R&R (revise and resubmit). That's 1.4% or one query.

  5. MIA agents, no response, totaled 8 queries or 11.3% (no hard feelings!).

  6. And here's the juicy part: a whopping 47 queries or 66.2% of agents declined.



Here's my advice. As a newly #amagented #author with plenty of rejections. As an author who had one of the most transformative years in her career since October 2020: living a nomadic lifestyle across 30+ states, who quit her old job weeks ago while also moving to NYC to pursue her passion for motion graphics production. It was as if the universe responded to me for working smarter, for taking the right type of risks. I raised the bar for my own self-worth and I landed my agent.


Helpful #amquerying next steps:


1. Meditate on your writing goals. When you find your answer label yourself an author, not a writer. Take this stage seriously. Publishing is a business.

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2. Quit comparing. How can we ever have enough books!? Thinking "why not me?" or "my book is better than so-and-so" stifles you.

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3. Open your mind to the #writingcommunity for learning opportunities! I was rejected from #PitchWars and #AMM on multiple occasions. I still connected with incredible authors.

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4. Prep the dreaded elevator pitch. Why is your book special? I asked myself this many times. #PitMad and #PitDark were huge opportunities to put my work out there and determine agent interest. Schedule that early alarm to pitch ET. Rewrite your synopsis in case agents like your pitch. Polish your query. If you don't get a like, submit to agents anyway. Prep, prep, prep!

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5. Trust in the process and yourself. Have faith. Anything that is for you in this world is for you and no one can change that.

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I wish each and every one of you the best of luck in pursuit of your author dreams. There is so much I have yet to learn and I am far from mastering my craft. But I am relentlessly optimistic.