On my journey to secure literary representation so that I may realize my dreams of becoming a traditionally published writer, I shied away from agencies that required exclusive submissions.
The marketing professional inside me shouted incessantly that the more queries I sent, the higher the chance of landing literary representation. Once I signed with an agent, I'd be one step closer to realizing my dreams.
The dancing cartoon muse in my head carried a basket of queries and sprinkled them throughout the literary community. To support her, I followed agents on Twitter, introduced myself to agents at conferences, and researched agents online obsessively. The more agents I found that were a perfect fit for my work, the more I queried.
Throughout the process, I received lots of rejections. But I also received excellent feedback. As a result, I revised my full middle grade manuscript multiple times. I sent a few more queries out after completing my most recent draft.
Then I stopped.
Maybe the dancing cartoon muse scooted off to the beach for a rest. Maybe my gut needed a break. Maybe my other muse, the one that wakes me up at 4 a.m. with ideas, decided to push the dancing cartoon muse aside.
I took a break from querying my middle grade novel and editing the second book in that series to write a picture book. I was inspired not just by my muse, but by my day job—that pesky (albeit quite fulfilling) commitment that I'd love to shed once I make enough money to pay the bills with my writing.
My day job has me knee deep in early childhood education, brain development research, and the public education thereof. The picture book I wrote was inspired by and aligns with said work.
After writing, editing, re-editing, and polishing the picture book, I drafted a query. Then I edited, re-edited, and polished the query. I set up a query file for the book. Then I began researching. But with the dancing cartoon muse sitting in the sand somewhere at the coast watching pelicans dive for fish, my heart opened to the possibility of submitting to an agency that listed "NO" for the multiple submissions question in my SCBWI reference guide.
For my picture book, I submitted to one agent at one agency. I will wait until I hear—or don't hear after 12 weeks—from her. And I'm perfectly content waiting this time.
Letting go of obsessing over the query process has allowed my 4 a.m. muse to send more ideas my way. Now I can focus on my projects. I can edit my second middle grade novel. I can draft more picture books. I can delve into my how-to-write reference books and improve my skills as a creative writer.
As it turns out, I decided I'm a fan of the exclusive submission. Just please don't tell my dancing cartoon muse should you run into her at the beach.