Saturday, July 14, 2012


Once upon a time before there were e-submissions, before “no unsolicited manuscripts” was the rule of the day, before agents and editors advertised their e mail addresses, there was a girl with a manuscript and a dream. And lots of printer ink and paper and envelopes and stamps.

Back in 2005, when I was learning how to query, the Writer’s Market was the submission Bible. We didn’t have online interviews or webpages with agents expressing their preferences and their “wishlists.” Ordinary people trying to break in couldn’t find out who was represented by whom. Agented authors were even cagey about saying who had signed onto their work.

The Captain’s Kid went out to a decent number of children’s publishers and a science fiction house with a cover letter that today gives me nervous hives. I figured that my best pitch was to say how inadequate the offerings on the shelves were for young teenage boys looking for entry level sci-fi--let’s be frank--to lecture the recipient of my carefully crafted letter on the market. I wonder if anyone read the first chapter. Actually, one small agency did, but after a year of exclusive consideration decided to pass.

Splitting Point went out to editors and agents just as the phrase “we will only contact you if interested” was being invented. The rejection letter was now considered too much trouble for these overworked individuals. However, I did receive a hand-addressed and personal rejection letter from an editor assuring me that the story was great--just something she couldn’t use. That letter hung on my wall for two years, and I am deeply grateful to the editor who found it worth her while to reach out and pat my lagging confidence on the back.

By 2007, it was time to get serious. “No unagented manuscripts” was the new rule in kidlit. Manuscript #3 went out as Sixty Million Best Friends to forty-two agencies. Some of these were e-queries, but still my living room floor was strewn with guideline-driven packets for each target--tailored cover letter, sample pages anywhere from 10-50, 1 or 2 page synopses, brief or detailed outlines. All of these went out in October of 2007, and by mid-November, I had signed with Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation. Nancy called me to offer representation exactly a week after I sent out the full at her request. I figured that unusual show of speed and enthusiasm boded well! My querying days were ended.

We’ve had a good five years of working together, though that wasn’t the manuscript that ended up selling. Novel number seven, Pretty Girl-13 sold in 2011.
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Liz Coley writes young adult novels and science fiction/fantasy short stories for anthologies and magazines.
Her novel Pretty Girl-13 from HarperCollins Katherine Tegen Books will be debuting in March, 2013 in the US and abroad. Now available for pre-order on Amazon and Amazon UK.

There are secrets you can't even tell yourself.

For more about Liz and her work, visit and or follow her on Twitter at LizColeyBooks and like her Facebook page.


  1. I'm fairly confident that I would NOT be a writer if it weren't for the internet. Never considered myself the writer type and when I became interested a few years ago, the internet was a plethora of information. Now for the query stage. I guess back then instead of hitting "refresh" on your email, you went to the mailbox twenty times a day. ;)

  2. @Dana - On the plus side, those twenty mailbox checks probably gave a lot of writers their daily exercise!

    Sending out paper submissions definitely sounds intense, and it's incredible how much has changed in such a short time. Glad you had wonderful success, Liz!

  3. Dear Liz,
    I had a long and twisty trip to finding my agent and getting published. I like to think it made that moment where it finally happened that much sweeter! Ha. Loved the post.