This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Erzsi Deak from Hen & Ink will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members February 1-14. Sean McCarthy from Sean McCarthy Literary will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members February 15-28. Erzsi’s profile appears first, followed by Sean McCarthy’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

Erzsi Deak 1


Erzsi was a featured agent in 2013. You can find our extensive profile post on her here. More recent interviews and resources appear at the end of this profile update.

Since I wrote a whizz-bang intro for Erzsi in last year’s profile, I will keep the word count down here and invite you over there to read it, as it still holds true. I would add that her best advice to writers was: “Read 1000 picture books. Study them. I’m not kidding.” I know her well enough to know she’s not kidding. So if you have read and studied hundreds or thousands of picture books, chances are you’ll be writing something Erzsi will enjoy.

This year, Erzsi generously provided us with an extensive answer to the question, “What are you looking for in picture books right now, and from 12 x 12 submissions specifically?” Here goes:

  • Take a look at for favorite books to get an idea of what I like. Please note that I like intelligent humor that makes me giggle or guffaw and writing that makes me marvel at the use of language. I do not like books with messages written between the lines or even up front. I like beautiful books and books that make me see the world in a different way. I still love Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John SchoenherrIf you haven’t “met” Andrea Zuill, I love her humor (her book is coming out in 2016!). I love the gentle humor and love in Penguin & Pinecone by Salina Yoon and in A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker. And Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. You can add Bink & Gollie to the list as well as Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle. Favorite characters, in addition to all the usual pig characters, include Mole and Ratty in Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
  • I love to be surprised and experience the TOTALLY UNEXPECTED INEVITABLE ENDING in a picture book.
  • I love stories that come full circle and yet surprise me.
  • Less is more. If you can get away without spelling it out, do.
  • I’m looking for stories with 500 words or less.
  • Love original voice and character-driven picture books that make me laugh.
  • I’m Seeking a lovable character I would want as my best friend as a kid. One who shows real emotion and makes me care about him/her/it.
  • Not looking for anthropomorphized inanimate objects as main characters, with the exception of toys, as in Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky.
  • I am open to nonfiction that tells a story.
  • All stories submitted must have a beginning, middle and an end.
  • I love crafted writing that appears natural and easy (though we know it’s one of the hardest things to do) and comes from the heart.
  • Nothing message-driven or didactic.
  • No rhyme. None.
  • I’m always on the lookout for fantastic stories and writers and illustrators who can toe the creative line. I want to say, “Wow!” at the end of the manuscript.

Thanks for reading this far and for and hearing me! 🙂

Additional links to information on Erzsi.


I met Sean McCarthy at the 2012 NJ-SCBWI conference. I was pre-agented at the time and he was at the top of my list of “dream” agents. I booked a manuscript critique with him and was blown away by how helpful, insightful and constructive it was. We had a couple more conversations throughout the weekend, and afterward, I spread word of his brilliance to everyone who would listen to me. 🙂 Seriously. This guy is smart and knows his stuff. One of my good friends and fellow Colorado writers is one of his clients, and she raves about him every time I see her. Good luck choosing this month folks – bwah ha hahaha! 🙂

When I asked Sean what he was looking for in picture book submissions (and 12 x 12 specifically), here is what he said:

“I’m most drawn to character-driven stories in picture books, and I especially love quirky, off-kilter characters and unlikely heroes. I’m also a big fan of humor (though not necessarily zany or wacky), and I hope to see room for interaction between the text and the art. My absolute favorite stories make me want to flip back to the first page as soon as I’ve finished them, and I’m always looking for especially clever endings. I’m probably not the best fit for ‘slice of life’ projects or issue-oriented stories. I am not the best match for poetry, although I do love to read it!”

A little bit about Sean from the Sean McCarthy Literary website: mccarthypic_thumb[4]

“Sean McCarthy began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press and then moved over to the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. He worked as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota.

He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, or query letters that pose too many questions.”

Articles featuring Sean McCarthy:
* Sean is appearing on 2/8/14 in the SCBWI Metro “On-The Road” Series. Get tickets here.
* Find Sean on Twitter
* Sean on Literary Rambles
* Interview at Mother. Write. Repeat.
* Sean contributed to this post about writing queries
* Agent Chat on Tara Lazar’s blog
* Sean critiquing first pages on JacketFlap

Full submission guidelines for Erzsi and Sean are posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Erzsi Deak from February 1st – February 14th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Sean McCarthy from February 15th – February 28th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Not a member of 12 x 12 yet? Say it isn’t so! You can find out more about registration here, but you better act quickly. Registration closes at the end of February and won’t reopen until 2015.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. Bettelynn McIlvain

    GO SEAN!!!

  2. Now, this is tough! What a wonderful, difficult, exciting, stressful decision to make! How lucky are we?

  3. Thanks for the details to help make a choice, Julie.

  4. WHOA!!! Amazing agents! 😀

  5. So exciting! And so hard choose!

  6. I’m finally here, but how do I choose? The agents are formidible.

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