My Olympic Enemies Querying Journey!

How it all began:

Olympic Enemies is the book I’ve been dreaming of writing before I even properly began writing again in 2017. I’ve been writing from a young age, but never really anything serious (I spent 3 years between 13-16 writing Glee fanfiction). But in 2017 during my year abroad in Canada, I fell back in love with reading and writing followed very quickly.

I’ve been reading/devouring sports romance books for many years, but I never had the courage to write one of my own. When I started writing properly in 2017 YA books were the big thing, so I tried my hand at writing those. I wrote the Cherrington Duology between 2017-19 and whilst I love both these books, they weren’t my passion project. YA wasn’t my calling.

In April 2020, during the chaos of the second month of pandemic lockdown, I set to work on the first draft of Olympic Enemies. It was Camp NaNoWriMo time and I was on an absolute mission. So much so that I wrote the first 80k draft in just 3 weeks. I was in love. Deep amounts of love. From the characters, to the settings, to the gymnastic routines to the actual plot. I’d never felt like this towards any other project I’d worked on. I abandoned the book for a month and then tore it apart and put it back together to be a second draft.

I then made the craziest decision to have the second draft of Olympic Enemies printed and ring bound so I could edit it on paper. It seemed like a good choice until my hand hurt from typing up from scratch the edits (I don’t recommend this at all, there are much easier ways to edit)

Once those edits were done I flung it out to a list of ten betas and hid (worked on yet another project) whilst waiting for feedback. Beta’s loved it. I received a tonne of amazing feedback and then got to work doing any recommendations they made.

I edited and I revised and I polished until I thought I could do no more. In December 2020 I sent my first ‘test‘ query. I wasn’t intending to query at that point, but a MSWL struck me as perfect for OE so I yolo’d it. Yet the next day I discovered AMM applications were opening soon and I decided to pause any further queries and try my hand at that instead. When I got into AMM with Olympic Enemies it felt like it was meant to be.

Olympic Enemies

Olympic Enemies is maybe the perfect cross between a contemporary romance and sports romance and that’s probably why I love it so much. It focuses on two Olympic gymnasts – Oliver and Lucas – who have been rivals for the last half a decade that then find themselves on the same Olympic team as they head to Paris 2024. What starts as none stop fighting, very quickly descends into heaps of sexual tension which erupts into a kiss that neither of them can stop thinking about. They shouldn’t go there again, but when they do they just can’t stop. But their lust turned love has the potential to ruin everything and suddenly it’s not just gold on the line at Paris 2024 – it’s their hearts.

It’s full of so many things that I love in books and I still can’t get over that I wrote it.

Everything I love about Olympic Enemies:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Sports romance
  • Queer athletes
  • There’s only one bed, but with my own special twist.
  • Three musketeer’s
  • Twin sibling love
  • Found family in a sports team
  • One badass momma
  • Grandparents who will go out of their way to support you
  • Roommates/forced proximity
  • The perfect mix of soft and angsty
  • Steamy nights
  • Olympic gymnastics aka one of my fave sporting events in the whole world

Querying

Querying for me started on the 16th of April 2021, the day after #LGBTNPit – which truly kicked off my querying experience after sixteen likes from so many awesome agents.

Prior to this, I’d spent many long days putting together a spreadsheet of agents who I’d researched and thought would be perfect to represent Olympic Enemies, and was so shocked when a majority of the likes had come from people on that list. It felt like a dream come true.

Picture my shocked face when within twenty-four hours I had three full requests from agents I could only dream of wanting to read my book.

I did three more pitch events after this and had great responses to my pitches both times and I, personally, can say that pitching events are definitely a good way forward for querying.

Not to write off cold querying at all, although only 6 out of the 18 full requests I received were from an agent I cold queried, I definitely discovered some incredible agents that way. I spent hours trolling the #MSWL tag on Twitter and endless lists of romance agents and it definitely helped me understand both what people were looking for and what the market was currently interested in.

There were so many great days when full or partial requests came in. Or even good days where I got rejections that were filled with lovely feedback over them just being form rejections. These were the days I was on top of the world with Olympic Enemies.

There were also dark days. July 19th being one of them. I woke up to a partial request from the weekend which was an awesome start to the Monday and then at 3pm in rolled a full request from a cold query. Yet just under 45 minutes later a crushing rejection came in. It was crushing in the sense that it wasn’t a form rejection at all, it was actually a rejection that told me I’d come within spitting distance of being signed, but it just wasn’t the right market time. It hurt. It really hurt, but I took all the positive feedback from it and used it to drive me further.

On day 100 of querying (yes I was counting) I spent half of my Sunday researching agents that I wasn’t familiar with and then after a tonne of research yeeted nine queries out. I’d never done this before but I’d been rereading Olympic Enemies – and watching way too much of the Tokyo Olympics – and was in the mindset of ‘this book deserves a damn home’

As we got deeper into the Olympics friends on Twitter kept sending me this outpour of tweets from people craving ‘Olympic Romance’ books and it sent me into a spiral of both despair and motivation. Despair because I had that book written and ready to go and I was just waiting for the perfect agent to give me that YES! But also motivation, because it was so amazing and validating to see that there was be an audience who would LOVE my book!

Then a sign came in. an agent’s name popped up in my inbox and I’m not going to lie I did that thing where you chuck your phone onto your bed to avoid opening it. My hands were shaking and I felt sort of sick as I retrieved my phone and opened the email. But I’m glad I did. She let me know there’d been a delay in reading, but she’d dived back in and found OE absolutely delightful and would get back to me ASAP.

I. SCREAMED.

It was the reassurance I needed in that moment – I screamed to the people who have been stuck with me on my querying journey and then tried to put it to the back of my mind (this did not work). I was at work at the time and I somehow had to spend the rest of the afternoon typing emails with shaky hands and answering the phone whilst trying to keep the excitement in my voice to a limit.

Then I waited.

Almost

So close, yet so far. The rejections that came between days 100 and 150 sucked. Not in the, I cried myself to sleep way, but in that, so many of them were filled with agents saying I loved XYZ about this book, but there isn’t a spot on my list for it, or I’m not sure about one tiny thing or I think you’re going to have so many more fitting agents I’m stepping aside.

On day 152 I started to think about shelving Olympic Enemies. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to contemplate, but I’d submitted my manuscript to every agent on my first list and all the agents I’d found during querying and pitching events. My fulls felt like long shots and my inbox was critics on the fulls/partial side of things.

Then on day 153 an R&R dropped into my inbox. It was a Friday evening after a crazy hectic week at work and damn I was tired. The thought of revising Olympic Enemies for what felt like the thousandth time wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. The agent’s feedback made sense though and after talking it through with my mentor and some of my best writing pals I got to work. For a few days, the excitement clouded my judgment. There were so many ‘what ifs?’ floating around my head and I got swept up in the ‘what if this is my only chance’ thought train. When the excitement passed and I reread the agent feedback and revision suggestions I didn’t agree with the comments and when I reread the fifty pages I’d started to revise I just kept thinking this isn’t how I wanted the book to go. So I politely declined the chance to R&R – it was one of the hardest choices I’d made during querying, but I’m glad I kept both mine and Olympic Enemies’ integrity intact and didn’t sell out.

Please take away that the key theme of trying to get an agent is waiting. The clock moves at the most ridiculously slow speed, but days merge into weeks and then months in a blink of an eye.

The good things kept coming though, it was just none of them stuck. I won a pitching competition in which I got to pitch directly to agents and then DVPit rolled around and I got a couple of likes, but still, nothing came of it. I even had interest from two editors and two fairly big publishing houses, but still nothing. It became the story of my life. Amongst all of this good I decided to pause querying till Jan 2022 (making the exception for two agents who were top of my list who re-opened during October.

So I stopped. I reflected. I reread. And then fell deeply back in love with Olympic Enemies – there was no way in hell that would be happening. So I wrote a list of agents and Publishers I still wanted to submit to and in January I sent out all the queries and started the waiting process again.

I got a couple full requests during this time from agents and publishers alike and submitted them straight away. It kept the flames of hope alive even when my dream agent rejected Olympic Enemies with nothing but good feedback for what she had read.

The Moment

Mid-March I opened my emails at work (stupid mistake) to see an editor at the publishers had loved my book and had sent it to the senior editor. I was told 2-3 weeks to wait to see if they were then going to offer for the book. I had a deadline. A time frame. It all felt so close yet so far at the same time and I’m not going to lie it was agony waiting to hear.

Then, just weeks later, at work yet again (this time in the office of all places) into my inbox popped the confirmation I’d been longing for almost a year. The Wild Rose Press wanted my book! They loved Olympic Enemies and wanted to sign it to their list. I kept it together at my desk (just about) showing the email to a colleague who’d seen how excited and shocked I’d been and then cried in the bathroom secretly.

I took a week to notify other agents and publishers, but after talking to TWRP and some of their authors my mind was made up and I signed my contract with the happiest of hearts.

All the thank yous!

I am honestly beyond grateful to everybody who supported me through querying. I have to admit I wasn’t always hopeful, even despite being absolutely in love with my book. There are so many people that I have to thank and probably not enough words to do so.

More than anything I need to thank Hannah and Louise. You’ve been around since Olympic Enemies was going to be a book about Olympic coaches who hated each other, having to go on a road trip to select the next Team GB for Paris 2024 and watched as it evolved into this beautiful story about Oliver and Lucas Olympic Gymnasts. You stood by my side as I cried over rejections and crippling self-doubt and you cheered for every like on a pitch tweet and every full request that I got.

A huge thank you has to go to Author Mentor Match and my incredible mentor Brooke Abrams. The mentorship programme provided me with the most amazing opportunity to work with such an awesome writer to help revise my baby. Brooke, I appreciated every check-in, ounce of support, and every shared frustration with waiting in the trenches be that querying or sub. Every idea you shared with me for Olympic Enemies made it every bit better and I will always be grateful that you loved Oliver and Lucas just as much as I did.

Not only just the programme and my mentor, but the friends I’ve made from the mentorship. Especially to the Scribblers – what started as a group of people frantically yelling into the void as we submitted to AMM/waited for the results turned into the most amazing support group!

Thank you to Barb who I screamed to in the DMs about every querying success and failure – I adore you. To Rose, I appreciate you crazy amounts – querying would have been rougher without you. To Michelle who understood every frustration of querying. To everyone triumphing in the AMM R8 Querying chat and to all the wonderful people in the Querying Lemon & Lime group! I would not have gotten through all of this without you!

There are so many amazing writers from the community I would love to thank, but if I listed all of them I’d be here forever and ever – just know I’m damn thankful to all of you for the endless support over the last three and a half years since I joined!

I’m very blessed to also have the most amazing family and IRL friends, who not only now understand the despair of querying, but have been the most supportive people through the last year of crazy. My parents and grandma have had this constant belief that I would make it as a writer and this being the next step knew I’d get signed – I’m so grateful for their belief, especially when I was low on it myself.

I’m so excited to go on the next part of my journey with The Wild Rose Press! I can’t wait to see what’s to come for Olympic Enemies! Stay tuned to see what happens next!

Becka x

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