Okay, a woman after my own heart — fellow Brady Bunch fan here, and I LOVE the Grand Canyon episode. But I digress… Please take note of the number of queries our “How I Got My Agent” author sent before signing with her agent. As she says, “It takes tenacity.” Luckily she has that in spades. Very happy to welcome Lisa Katzenberger today.
How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
Um, forever? I remember writing my first story in third grade. I took creative writing courses whenever I could in school, all through college. After college, I began writing adult fiction, mostly short stories. Then I wrote and queried two (really bad) novels with no luck. It wasn’t until I had my kids and started attending story times at the library that I switched to writing KidLit. I probably started querying after writing picture books for 9-12 months (i.e. way too soon) because I had been familiar with the querying process.
What kind of research did you do before submitting?
So, so, much. I am active on Twitter and follow a lot of agents there. I also scoured the #MSWL hashtag and www.manuscriptwishlist.com. I have copies of The Writer’s Market dating back to 2003. And google, google, google.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
I love this question, because it shows that you really need tenacity. The query that snagged my agent was number 106! I sent out 113 queries in all, for 8 different picture books. For the book that got my agent’s attention, I had sent out 49 queries in total.
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
No! There are so many of them out there. At least 100!
Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.
I found my agent through a contest called #PBParty, where you submit a query and first 50 words of your story. The entries that make the final round are posted online. If an agent likes it, they will request to see the manuscript. I received requests from five agents for that picture book, and that turned into two offers of representation. I was lucky enough to sign with Natascha Morris of BookEnds Literary.
How did you know your agent was “the one”?
First, I did my research. I had been following Natascha on Twitter when she was an editor with Simon & Schuster, and saw her announcement that she had switched to agenting. And of course I researched her more and then queried her, and she kindly passed. So when I saw she was an agent for #PBParty, I was already familiar with her work. When she liked my #PBParty story—a different picture book from the first time I queried her—I was super excited.
I ended up getting another offer first, and followed up with all agents who had either requested a PB from me, or I had only just queried but not heard back. Natascha responded a few days later that she wanted to talk! I read everything I possibly could about her online. I liked her background in editing and I had been following BookEnds for years, so I knew that even though she was a new agent, she was at a strong agency.
When we spoke, it really came down to enthusiasm and personality. She was high-energy and easy to talk to. In fact, I said to her that I could ask questions about contracts later, but I was curious about her as a person, what does she do in her free time? Turns out she loves to make her own cheese. I love that she shared something personal with me, and well, who doesn’t love cheese?
If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )
I would not be where I am without 12 x 12. Period. After a few years of non-writing once I had kids, I was a bit dejected. Getting my energy up to continue to follow my dreams of writing took quite a bit of work, and here I was starting to write for a completely different audience. It was December of 2014 when I made the commitment to write again, and I found 12 x 12. The monthly goal made me write frequently and also try new things. I met critique partners, bounced questions off people in the Facebook group, and learned so much from the monthly webinars. It is this goal of sitting down and writing something fresh every 30 days that keeps me going. It is so much a part of my life that my kids ask me what my story is for each month.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
Not so much. Lately, I’ve been working on revisions (lots and lots of revisions) to get my picture book ready for submission to publishers. I still wrote my June 12 x 12 draft. I am still revising other works in progress, swapping stories with critique partners, and getting professional critiques when I can.
What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
Don’t stop. Query widely. It really can be a numbers game. If you can send out one query, you can send out one hundred.
Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
I don’t think it helped Natascha find me—in fact she said she didn’t even check out my social media. “For me, writing is king,” were her exact words. But Twitter certainly helped me find her. Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows) keeps several Twitter lists of kidlit agents and editors. That’s how I found Natascha when she was an editor.
Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )
Going to the Grand Canyon! I was obsessed with it from watching the Brady Bunch so much growing up. But you are not getting me down to the bottom on a horse! But, if you mean writing-related, I am aiming to get myself to a Highlights Workshop some day!
What’s up next/what are you working on now?
I just hung up with Natascha who okayed my final revision of my first picture book, and it is going out on submission to editors in a few days! Then we identified the next project to submit. I am very grateful to have a good handful of manuscripts to choose from. In the meantime, I just keep writing! I don’t know what to expect in the future, but I hope I have a lot of fun figuring it out.
Lisa Katzenberger is a Fiction Editor for LITERARY MAMA and a member of SCBWI, where she serves as the Social Media Coordinator for the Illinois Region. Her work has been published in 2017 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, CHICAGO REVIEW OF BOOKS, CHICAGO PARENT, AND POEM/MEMOIR/STORY. She lives near Chicago with her husband and twin children. Follow her online at www.lisakatzenberger.com or @FictionCity.
Not a 12 x 12 member? We’d love to have you join us! Registration opens in January for our new year where we’ll challenge you to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. Plus, you’ll get the support and encouragement of a writers group like no other! Click here to join our notification list!Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books · Tags: #MSWL, #PBParty, 12 x 12, BookEnds Literary, How I Got My Agent, Lisa Katzenberger, Natascha Morris