It’s a special thrill to introduce an inaugural 12 x 12 member (5 years going!) in a How I Got My Agent post who now SHARES my agent! Lisa Rogers is now a chick in the Hen & Ink Coop with Erzsi Deak as the mother hen. To put it as Lisa does, we are both very “clucky.” 🙂 Lisa and I also share an intense love for all things Italy. The 12 x 12 community is also clucky to have Lisa, who has made wonderful contributions to the community over the years. Please join me in congratulating Lisa!
How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I started writing for children in 2010, when I finally decided to do something about my lifelong goal of becoming an author. That year, I joined SCBWI and formed a critique group with another writer. The first manuscript I submitted resulted in a fabulous, hand-written rejection from my dream publisher, but I didn’t know what to do next. I had a critique at a New England SCBWI conference, and an editor recommended that I seek an agent because I had a bunch of manuscripts. In 2012, I joined 12 x 12 (yay!) and that’s when I began submitting to agents.
What kind of research did you do before submitting?
I was a reporter before I became a librarian, so I’m all about research. 12 x 12 made it easy by providing all of the links I needed. I read everything I could, but you really never know what will pull at an agent’s heart. The advice I took to heart (see Julie Falatko’s post) was to do your best work, try to find the best match and see what happens.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
One of the mistakes I made was getting stuck on a couple of manuscripts, tinkering here and there to get them just perfect, and resubmitting them rather than letting go for a while and starting fresh. Given that I had a career as a writer, I was used to doing a pretty competent job on any topic. But to get to that next level—that took inspiration. Once I started writing books I was passionate about—for me, it’s nonfiction—everything changed. I sent out 12 queries to agents for several different manuscripts and received lovely rejections and three requests for more. The one that gave me chills while I was writing it clicked with the first agent who saw it—the incredible Erzsi Deak!
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
I never had a problem with that, but then again I had a pretty laid-back approach to submission. I just didn’t send out that many queries. I have a middle grade novel in progress, so I’m glad that my agent has a wider focus.
Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.
I’m super clucky to be with Julie and my fellow chickens in Erzsi Deak’s “coop:” Hen&ink Literary Studio! I submitted to Erzsi through 12 x 12 in August 2015. I had just returned from Italy, where I had written a manuscript in a rush of inspiration on the train from Venice to the Italian Riviera. After Italy, I started the school year and was so wrapped up in teaching that that I was totally surprised to open my email in October and find her encouraging note suggesting a revision. I promptly took that on and sent it back. I was away during our February 2016 school vacation when she offered representation. Too bad I didn’t take Carter Higgins’ advice about saving my work on Dropbox! I scrambled to get together everything I needed. It felt absolutely terrific to find someone so encouraging, professional and supportive. I literally jumped up and down and then ran a few miles barefoot on the beach and did some burpees in between (something NO ONE does voluntarily!) I was THAT excited!
How did you know your agent was “the one”?
When I looked back, I realized I had submitted to Erzsi twice before—both picture book fiction manuscripts. Her rejections actually gave me advice for reworking them! I loved that she saw potential in the manuscript that led to representation and gave me a chance to revise.
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 🙂 )
There is no doubt that I would have either given up or just taken forever to get anywhere without 12 x 12. That’s why I signed up for the FIFTH time in 2016! I knew that persistence is crucial to success. Even though writing colleagues told me I was close, I was discouraged. But I have a LOT of stamina. I reminded myself that no one would ever read my stories if I just let them sit in my computer.
I made a conscious effort to bump my work up a notch and, of course, hoped I was getting it to the right person. And I guess the only way to do that, without knowing all of the complexities of this process, is to keep on going. 12 x 12, with its forum, Facebook page, webinars, access to experts and agents, is a fantastic source of support and information.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
I am SO inspired to keep going and make my work the absolute best it can be! I’m always one who works well with deadlines (see my guest post for 12 x 12: Lessons Learned on Deadline) and any challenge is a big motivator. Besides having writing as my passion, being able to show my work to someone with high expectations really helps me get moving.
What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
Yikes! I’m no expert at that, but I am an expert at reading aloud to children. Please DO read aloud your work to someone else. Find a mentor text. When I was looking to improve one of my manuscripts, I very carefully inspected a book in the same genre that I admired. What exactly was it that made it stand out? I noticed the book’s rhythm and pacing in a new way. That helped give me something special to add to my work, and I think agents noticed.
Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
I have been blogging in the voice of my completely stubborn and lovably persnickety foxhound for seven years, but really only to entertain myself. I listened to advice about acquiring a domain name and have a website with links to my work. I finally joined Facebook a couple of years ago and even though I rarely posted, I learned through the 12 x 12 group that communicating with others about our craft is helpful and important. Though far from a social media powerhouse, at least I now have a presence and have gotten out my first tweet!
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 🙂 )
Speaking Italian with my Florentine cousins. Running a fast, injury-free Boston Marathon. Having my own pony. Mostly, continuing to create beautiful worlds through words.
What’s up next/what are you working on now?
Delving into my cache of manuscripts to buff them up, pursuing some exciting nonfiction projects that have me pumped and getting that novel completed!Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, How I Got My Agent, Writing · Tags: Erzsi Deak, Hen & Ink, Hen&ink Literary, Lisa Rogers