#AmQuerying: With Kosoko Jackson
Heyo! It’s been a while but I am back with another post for the #Amquerying series, with the always sassy and super-amazing, Kosoko Jackson! For those of you who don’t know, querying is the process of procuring a literary agent and it can be equal parts soul crushing and fantastic.
You can follow Kosoko on Twitter here and read below to find out how he got his agent, how he actually misses querying (WHAT?!) and why anything is possible in publishing!
1. How did you prepare for querying? Did you use query tracker or any similar tools?
I was a huge fan of query-tracker and I used the paid service obsessively. It was a great site to have everything in one place and made the information easy to find. QTs search feature isn’t the best (for example, if you are looking for an agent that does “Young adult” and “thriller” it gives you agents that do “YA” only, “thriller” only AND “both” instead of just the both), so I also used MSWL; the hashtag & the website. I then would spend several minutes searching for interviews to help personalize the query letters.
2. Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried?
Ha. Nope. A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER is the 3rd book I queried. Effectively, this is the 3rd iteration of this novel, so you could say it’s my 5th novel written.
3. What was the process like for you? Can you share stats? If not, can you tell us a timeline of how long it took for you to get your agent?
Sure! If you include all 3 version of A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER, and even the R&Rs from patient agents, I sent 257 queries. From those I got I’d say in the ‘upper 30s’ for full requests. I ended with 3 offers.
My agent timeline was long. I got a “Favorite” from Louise Fury in #DvPit in 2016. She sat on the full, and then I nudged her saying I go into Pitch Wars in August. She then got the revised version in November, and I nudged her again when I got an offer in March. It was about 11 months from when I sent her the first query, to when she offered. This goes to show anything can happen!
4. How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool?
I liked querying (and I kinda miss it?). It was fun to learn about new agents, seeing and learning about agents and such. It felt a little like a scavenger hunt. I think there’s a querying learning curve; with any novel you query. The first full is an exceptional feeling; the first full rejection stings, and the same with queries. I strongly believe in the “you need to grow thick skin” mentality when it comes to querying. Consequently, with 250 rejections, I learned to breeze through them and not really feel any sort of personal hate or pain. This is a business, and the quicker you learn that the better. Sometimes, you write something that’s good–it’s actually great–but not great for the market. It happens.
I will say my emotions went through the whole spectrum, as I feel all querying authors emotions do. That’s normal, and that’s part of the fun. I’d suggest embracing it. You learn a lot about yourself during querying–and how you deal with stress. Publishing is a slow game. Querying, is the fastest part.
5. How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else?
Personally? I bury myself in my work. When I got a rejection? I sent out 10 more queries. Not 1. not 4. 10. I just push through. I’m stubborn. It’s adorable, to be honest. (bold by me, Claribel, because this is both true and hilarious) I would NOT suggest this to anyone else. Reason why? When I had to nudge agents I had to nudge 78 of them. That was a lot of manage.
And like any author, I worked on other things while waiting.
6. Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?
I think what was unexpected was the kindness of strangers. When I first wrote this novel, it was a speculative ‘what if’ version and far more political. I had a line in my query letter that suggested parallels to a specific war. An agent who asked for a R & R she suggested I base the novel in that war, instead of making a reference to it. That simple change got me where I was today. It made my novel unique, insightful and tapped into something no one really talked about in YA. This agent didn’t have to tell me that. She didn’t have to write a whole page note from my 10 pages. But she did, and I’m here–with an agent–because of it.
I should note that though this was from the kindness of the agent’s heart, I know it came from my social media presence. Be kind to everyone, folks. Engage. Agents are people too. They like what you like. They love what you love and they will chat with you like a normal person if you don’t view them like some Gods on high. It can help and make an agent put in that little bit of effort.
7. If you could give querying authors one piece of advice what would it be?
Throw caution to the wind! Many people will disagree with me but when I say query widely, I mean like VERY widely. Here’s how I did my novel. To its benefit or detriment, my novel is Historical, a Thriller, LGBT, And a little more lit-ficy- than most YA. So I searched for agents using those parameters. If they OPENLY said they were looking for any of those 4 factors in YA, they were ‘tier one’. If they said, “I like WXY but not Z” Tier 2. Tier 3 were people who never openly said no to any of the genre’s mentioned, but didn’t say yes. This not only made a priority list in my mind, but also helped to see how agents worked.
8. Did other writers comes into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages?
I participated in every critique or pitch event I could to help hone my first pages. I also have a very loyal friend who pushes me, challenges me, and really helps me to be the best I can. She was amazing and instrumental in this novel getting to where it was now, mainly because of her ingenuity of turning tropes on their heads and her knowledge of the market and trends. ADVICE: don’t be afraid to make friends with people you never thought you would. Sometimes, those people have the best advice.
9. When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?
Louise wasn’t the agent who got the ball rolling. She was actually someone I nudged and was my last call (12 hours before my deadline). I was on the way to a conference and pulled over to have the call with her. Off the bat, Louise flying back from South Africa to call me was really a good sign. Additionally, she had amazing insight about the novel, how to fix it, what to make better, me and my career, the type of writer I wanted to be and the type of person I was. Yes, an agent is a business partner but, especially being a young author, someone who I can grow with, challenge me, help me expand, and take what I think are my strengths and capitalize on them while bolstering my weakness, was important. Louise brought me all of that and more. We talked for 2 hours and I haven’t looked back.
10. Describe the querying process in 3 gifs.
11. Tell us a little about your upcoming book A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER follows seventeen-year-old James Mills, the adopted son of 2 USAID parents, on his family’s final humanitarian mission, which takes them to Kosovo. For James, this is the first trip without his older sister, Anna, and he expects it to be a fairly dull one. But when the Kosovo-Serbian war breaks out, and he becomes separated from his parents, James must navigate a war-torn country and unearthed familial secrets, if he hopes to get him and his Brazilian boyfriend back home safely.
12. Anything else you’d like to share??
Really enjoy the process. It all seems like a lot of wall hitting and annoyance. It’ll feel like you’ll never get there, but no ones road is the same. I know people who got accepted on their first novel, some on their 12th. Some after 1 year of writing and subbing, some after 5 years. No story is the same…but make sure you don’t lose what makes you who you are in the quest to follow your dreams. Because the right agent will love you for you, and when you find them; it’ll be amazing.
Kosoko is a Washington D.C. native who has been writing novels since 9th grade. With a goal of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of all genres of literature, Kosoko finds beauty in addressing complex questions & themes for young adults, aided by complex prose. Kosoko is a digital media associate for Rock the Vote and finishing his BS in Public Health with dual minors in History & Communications. When not writing or working, he is trying to finish his 100 movies in 2017 goal, walking the streets of DC, or trying to convert believers to the Cult of Wonder Woman. He is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.