In May 2004, I began querying about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. Coincidentally, also in May 2004, I began being rejected for the same!
Querying continued for the rest of the year, interspersed with revision. The process reads like a shampoo bottle:
By February 2005, more than a dozen editors had turned it down. I decided to do something I’d never done before: focus group a manuscript. On kids.
From 2001-2010, I was an author volunteer in a New York City program called Authors Read Aloud (part of an organization called Learning Leaders). In the program, authors make four visits a year to two classes in an underfunded school. (Note that I didn’t say “underprivileged.” You don’t need money to be privileged.) This enables the author and students to develop more of a rapport than your typical one-and-done school visit. My ARA schools were always in the Bronx.
On 2/10/05, on my third of the four visits that school year, I read the Boys of Steel manuscript to my two 5th grade classes. As unlike me as it is, I didn’t seem to record any verbatim reactions, but I remember they did tell me they liked it. (I know, kids in that situation will say they like most anything, but I did challenge them to explain why and remember being convinced that they did get something out of it.)
However, I don't remember if I made any changes based on their feedback. Still, just sharing it with part of the target audience may have been a good move, cosmically speaking.
Twelve days later, I queried Random House.
Six days after that, the Random House editor called to express interest. Three days after that, she called back to make an offer.
I don’t believe in karma or luck or omens. Except, perhaps, when it comes to kids from the Bronx.