If you're reading this, that means I finally did it! After querying for twelve years with six different novels, I've signed with an agent.
I'm now represented by Sheyla Knigge at Irene Goodman Literary Agency!
Grab a drink and a snack, because the story of how I got my agent is long and windy. But before we dig into the logistics, it's time to thank some people who got me to this point. Also don’t judge me if there are typos in this, I’m trying my best and that’s a lot of words.
First and foremost, to my family. Mom and Dad, for always believing in me, reading early pieces, and instilling in me the love for reading and stories I have today. To my husband, Nick, who always reassured me I would get here and helped me craft pitches that were always better than my original ideas (rude, really). To my grandparents, who were one of the first people who I called to tell the news. Juju always encouraged me to get published after she helped me write my first ever picture book at the ripe age of ten. Poor Nonna read some of my fanfiction, y'all. Nick’s grandparents always ask, “How’s my favorite best-selling author doing today?” And to Abbie, my best friend who really is just a part of the family now. Thank you for supporting me almost since day one, literally watching me write some of my earliest novels.
To my stellar CPs who read this book several times AND also the manuscripts before it. Jenna, you are so talented. I count myself lucky every day you're always willing to help me build my craft, and I always appreciate you squealing in Discord with me. To Julie, who's like a sister to me. You've saved me many different times in many different ways. I owe you everything. And Rosalyn, I told you first (after my husband). We are made out of the same stuff, and I'm so glad you're stuck with me forever. Without our daily sprints, this book would not be finished. Speaking of, it’s time to schedule our next one.
To Cassy, Chelsea, and Mallory. Some of my earliest writing friends who I love to pieces. I am so lucky I connected and then reconnected with you. To my other friends who listen to my constant talk about the publishing world and have supported me every step of the way. Sarah, Amanda, Christina, Haley, Micah, Erin, Patrick, Taylor, Katie, Ariel, Enma, Jessica, Chandler, Josh, Michelle, Colby, you guys are the best.
To a long list of writers who I am so lucky to call my friends and be inspired by on a daily basis. Jessica Haster, Chantel Pereira, Deke Moulton, Briana Jordan, Peter Lopez, Joan Reardon, Bayley Mae, Laura Samotin, Elora Cook, Benjamin Orion, Peace Zodanou, Hana Lee, Jessica Prather, Adrienne Tooley, Chelsea Mosley, and everyone who interacts with me on social regularly. Thank you all for believing in me and supporting me!
Now, let's get into how I got my agent.
Before we dig into the book that got me my agent, it's important to point out the books that came before. All these “failed” querying attempts built a foundation beneath me so my final querying project would be as strong as possible and also gave me a head start in some agents’ inboxes.
Before GSH, I wrote nine other novels. I completed my first book when I was 16, twelve years ago. That book will NEVER see the light of day, neither will its sequel and then the prequel I wrote following. Back then, I didn't know much at all about the publishing process. I didn't realize I was wasting time writing books in a series that wouldn't get picked up.
If you’re curious, the books were called FLINT, IGNITE, and SPARK. They were about a chosen one with red hair who could control fire and was the only one who could save the world from some big, bad guy. Bleh, cliche much?
Back then, I didn't know about agents, so two of those books weren't queried. FLINT I sent to about ten agents. If you're one of those agents, I would like to personally apologize for the monstrosity that was in your inbox.
Querying Book #1 Stats:
Queries Sent: 10
Three books down. What about the other seven? I wrote two other novels that also didn't queried. I might go back and revisit one, a story about a girl navigating her parent’s magical creature refuge. But for now, those two did nothing but help me hone my skills.
My next novel did make it far. STONEHAVEN. After I figured out the entire YA draft I wrote wasn’t working, I scraped it and rewrote it for a MG audience. When I started reading more MG, I realized THIS was my sweet spot. These kids need the help the most, and there’s something so sweet and important about crafting stories for confused, angry, and excited 12-year-olds.
STONEHAVEN was my first attempt at seriously querying. I still love that story so much. I have several ideas for revising, so don’t worry, this won’t be the last you hear of it. Here’s the stats for how this MG portal fantasy did out in the querying trenches:
Querying Book #2 Stats:
Queries Sent: 80
Rejections: 69 (ha, ha NICE)
Requests: 11 (about 14% request rate)
Not bad! But I didn't get that offer email every querying writer is chasing after. So I moved onto another project. HOW TO SEE GHOSTS. My first MG horror, the story that made me absolutely fall in love with the genre.
Querying Book #3 Stats:
Queries Sent: 58
Requests: 3 (a measly 5% request rate)
Ouchie. I went backwards majorly. Something was NOT working. But I learned something through that process. Even though I’m a plotter and always have my book outlined before I start, sometimes it takes me a whole draft to realize it’s not working. STONEHAVEN is also a great example of that. Good news for me, writing a draft doesn’t take long.
Enter REVIVED GIRLS GUIDE TO BATTLING GHOSTS. This book was a deep revision of HOW TO SEE GHOSTS. Very quickly it comfortably curled up in my heart as my favorite book I’ve ever written. A.k.a, the book of my heart. It still owns that title to this day. When I was considering agents for this book, an important part of that decision was if they would consider working on this project next.
Querying Book #4 Stats:
Queries Sent: 81
Requests: 14 (17% request rate)
I was devastated that I didn't end up with an agent. However, it wasn’t for nothing. This book got me on the radar for a lot of agents. And it landed me a spot in RevPit, an incredible mentorship contest for authors close to querying but who need an extra push to get there. That's where I met Adah Li, my brilliant editor. We still talk frequently. She has been such a guiding light for me in publishing. Querying writers, I can’t recommend RevPit enough.
It took me a little while to write again after having to shelf REVIVED GIRLS. But one night, an idea came to me. What if I wrote a story that is GHOSTBUSTERS meets BABYSITTERS CLUB? Thus, SPOOKY SITTER SOCIETY was born. Little did I know this book would eventually get me an agent, it would just take one last failed attempt at querying before I found the shiny draft lying within. It takes me a couple of attempts to figure out what I'm doing, what can I say?
Querying Book #5 Stats:
Queries Sent: 90
Requests: 16 (18% request rate)
Who You Gonna Call? Ghoul Scouts Honor!
While I was querying SPOOKY SITTER SOCIETY, I was very lucky to receive feedback from agents as they passed on my manuscript. I know this isn't the norm now, so I considered each rejection carefully. After spending time reflecting and brainstorming with my incredible CPs, I had shiny and exciting revision ideas.
In January of 2023, I pulled my queries and fulls for SSS, letting agents know I was doing a revision and giving them a simple outline of what I intended to change. Several mentioned they would love to see the revisions. That kept me motivated and focused.
Something else that gave me a leg up, I pitched SSS during DvPit and had an incredible response. I ended up with 27 agent likes and 12 editor likes. There was NO way I was going to give up that story premise without a fight.
I worked hard. A fever took me over. When you write with ADHD, it's really easy to hyper focus on your story and ignore other responsibilities. That paired with my anxiety disorder screaming at me to go, go, go so I wouldn't lose interest with those agents, I finished my revisions in March 2023. That book was named GHOUL SCOUTS HONOR.
I sent it to my CPs and betas, and I got feedback back in April 2023 that was overwhelmingly positive. After fixing the small changes they suggested, I sent my first queries on April 26th 2023, the day before my birthday. (hey fellow Tauruses)
Since I already had the interest of several agents who wanted to see revisions, the requests piled up quickly. Of course, rejections came in too. I tried to be cool, calm, and collected. But inside I was giddy and excited. It was hard to focus on anything besides my inbox. Things had NEVER moved this fast before with my other querying projects. Sometimes I went as long as a year and a half waiting for agents to respond to me.
Now, there are a few key moments that led to my offer. But because of fear and self doubt, I almost watched this opportunity pass right by me.
Here’s a small timeline on how close I came to missing my offer:
I’ll share my pitches and query later in this blog.
At the end of the day on May 25th and after watching my pitches during PitDark all day long, I had a tennis match with a dear friend who also writes. It was a very tough match, we were fighting against people who were very good. Neither of us had lost yet in our season. But after my partner and I won the first set, I sat down for a break and checked my phone.
And there it was. On a random Thursday evening. After twelve years of querying, I finally had her. The offer email. The agent mentioned my success during Pitdark and said she wanted to get to me before others did. It was the best email I've ever read in my life.
I think I blacked out for a minute. I know I cried. Everyone on the tennis courts cheered for me, even our opponents.
Sadly, we ended up losing our tennis match. But I had my agent offer.
Making The Decision
When I received my offer email, I was only one month into my querying journey. So, when it was time to send alerts to other agents considering my stories, I had to write so. many. emails. Not a lot of people talk about how once those rejections start flowing even after your offer, it's still painful. Maybe it's because I'm a Taurus. Any form of no makes me bristle. Here is where I ended up with my final querying project stats.
Querying Book #6 Stats:
Queries Sent: 53
Requests: 22 (41.5% request rate)
Ending with four offers meant a difficult decision time. Every agent I spoke with was incredibly kind, passionate, and had great editorial visions for my story. I would have been so lucky to end up with any of them.
At the end of the day I chose Sheyla for a combination of reasons. Of course her experience and passion for kidlit was a huge plus. But after speaking with her and Victoria, their editorial vision for my novel spoke best to what I always pictured. When I hung up after speaking with them, I felt a certain fluttering in my gut. It was telling me this was it, this was what I had been waiting for.
If you made it this far, thank you. You probably deserve to be added to the thank you paragraphs above. But, before you go, I’ll give you with a tldr:
I’m so excited for this moment. I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read GHOUL SCOUTS HONOR one day. To keep up with my writing journey, make sure to follow me on Twitter(@careyfblankensh) and IG/ TikTok(@careyblankenshipkramer).
The Query & Pitches
To give you context, here are my pitches and query that got me my offer.
A queer, neurodiverse MG horror that is GHOSTBUSTERS meets BABYSITTERS CLUB. 12-year-old Evey lives in Savannah, Georgia, where real life ghosts have haunted the city since 1866. Only children can see the rotting corpses that haunt dark corners of houses, so The Ghoul Scouts was created to patrol the city at night, watch over haunted houses, and stop the ghost from terrorizing the city. #ownvoices
LOCKWOOD & CO x THIS APPEARING HOUSE Do you own a haunted house in Savannah & need a night out? Call the Ghoul Scouts! Our teams are trained babysitters AND ghost hunters. *not liable for damaged furniture/escaped ghosts, esp if 12yo Evey is your sitter. #Pitdark #MG #H #LGBT #ND
12-year-old Evey lives in Savannah, Georgia, where ghosts have haunted the city since 1866. Only children see the rotting corpses that haunt dark corners of houses, so The Ghoul Scouts was created to patrol the city at night, watch over haunted houses, and stop the ghost from terrorizing the city. GHOUL SCOUTS HONOR is a queer, neurodivergent MG horror complete at 68,000 words, perfect for fans of the spooky atmosphere in Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud and the emotional drive and important themes found in This Appearing House by Ally Malinenko. [Sentence specifying why you chose that agent & calling out if you’ve already queried them]
After a nasty friendship break-up, Evey swears off anything that isn’t getting her closer to winning Blanchard Middle School’s student of the year award. If she can earn that, she’ll prove to her ex-best friend Laura that she’s fine without anyone’s help. That is until, thanks to dwindling volunteer numbers, anyone wanting the student of the year award is required to volunteer with the Ghoul Scouts. Unfortunately for Evey, Laura is the head of the Ghoul Scouts. To make matters worse, she’s paired with Matilda, her school rival and her main competition for the award.
While Evey tries her best to guarantee her win by taking charge at every haunted babysitting gig, she uncovers information about a secret ghost that is threatening to destroy the town and the unexpected conspirators working to cover it up. But the ghost's story holds the key to a darker, deeper mystery that could explain why spirits haunt Savannah in the first place. She’ll have to decide if she can lean on her Ghoul Scout group to help and forget the promise she made to never trust others again or risk the lives of everyone in Savannah, including her own.
Thank you for considering my query.