Today I am ecstatic to bring you a different kind of “How I Got My Agent” story. This one is special because it is the first, of hopefully many, success stories of authors finding agents through 12 x 12. Once again I was moved to tears by a member’s expression of what 12 x 12 has done for her confidence, her writing and her career. I can honestly say the only time I’ve ever been more pleased to announce that someone signed with an agent is when it was me! Without further ado, congratulations to Pat Miller, who recently signed with Stephen Fraser of Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency! May there be many more 12 x 12 participants who come after you!
I began my writing career out of green-eyed jealousy in 1994 with a magazine article. (That’s another story.) I mostly wrote for school librarians. I reconnected with children’s writing, thanks to Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month challenge, in November 2012. Tara mentioned Julie Hedlund’s upcoming 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. Perhaps it was the timing, perhaps the financial investment, but I decided to commit. Here’s how 12 x 12 has made 2013 my luckiest writing year.
ENCOURAGEMENT I began reading other people’s work and submitting my own in the 250 Words Forum. I had done more than six months of research on the sea captain who invented the hole in the doughnut. Now I felt encouraged to stop researching and start writing.
COMPANIONSHIP The 12 x 12 Facebook page peopled my writing space with amiable fellow writers. I was surrounded by their hopes and encouraged by their work. My difficulties were theirs–I wasn’t alone. I began showing up at my desk every morning at 7:00, feeling the invisible but warm company of kindred spirits.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS Is a particular conference worth the money? Which writing books are most helpful? How does one format a picture book? The 12×12 group reminds me of a trampoline—throw out a question and within hours, answers bounce up from all over! When I asked if anyone had experience with making book trailers, Julie connected me with Katie Davis. I’ll be joining her Video Idiot Boot Campin May.
RESOURCES Members often suggest sites, blogs, and resources that inspire and educate. Lori Degman told us about a site called Rate Your Story. Over the next couple of months, I submitted three stories. My Stone Soup variant rated a 7, The Hole Story of the Doughnut earned a 3, and Lone Star, Lone Star convinced someone to give it a 1. Encouraged, I sent Lone Star out to several regional publishers.
EXPERT HELP I committed to bringing my Hole Story to completion. I returned to Rate your Story to peruse their list of editors for hire. From a list of heavy hitters, I chose Jill Esbaum, author of 11 picture books and former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. She helped me revise my story, and with high hopes, I submitted it to the Highlights Fiction Contest.
I had more than 200 pages of research on my doughnut inventor. In February I began to feel a book was necessary. But where to begin? What to include? What to leave out? On January 23, Elaine Kearns recommended Dear Editor.com, where you send in questions to editor Deborah Halverson. Deborah’s answer to my questions appeared the next day. I began the book.
NEW DIRECTIONS In mid-January, Janie Reinart posted a site about building one’s author platform. Reading it convinced me I needed to learn about using social media to promote my work. In a marvelous coincidence, another member recommended marketing magician Rivka Kawano. On January 28, I took her three-hour online seminar called “Author Success in 2013”. It was so helpful that I signed for her twelve week course, Author’s Marketing Class.
CRITIQUE GROUP In early February, Laura Carpenter posted on the forum’s Critique Connect that she wanted to form a group. Lickety-split, nine of us joined her from seven states and Canada—my first critique group! Soon the stories began to fly, as well as posts about our vacations, our discouragements, and our delight in the group.
SHARED SUCCESSES We participated in the voting for Janie Reinart’s book, Love You More Than You Know, nominated for Best Cleveland Book of 2013. And she won! Tracey Cox shared news of the debut of her cleverly named Arachnabet: An Alphabet of Spiders. Cheryl Lawton Malone nearly won the March Madness Poetry Match with her poem, “Autocorrect”. The success of any of us gave us all hope.
ACCESS TO AGENTS In January, Emma Walton Hamilton taught us to write query letters and posted her analysis of 40 queries submitted by 12x12ers. In February, Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency became the first of 11 monthly agents willing to look at our work and make suggestions.
By mid-February, The Hole Story of the Doughnut had been through numerous revisions and shaped up as a picture book biography. I crafted my e-query based on Emma’s advice. I followed it with the manuscript that had been through my critique group, Rate Your Story, Jill Esbaum, and Kathi Appelt, the Newbery-honor winner whose critique I won at a local SCBWI auction. With a small prayer, I hit “send” and off went my manuscript to Stephen Fraser.
A REALIZED DREAM Julie sent out interview and biographic information on Stephen Fraser when he stepped up to be our first agent reader. He sounded experienced, passionate, and kind. Just the kind of agent I would like if I had one. He amazed all of us by turning our stories around in three days or less. And he liked my story. Could I make some changes and resubmit? The day after April Fool’s Day, Stephen called me and offered to represent The Hole Story. I tried not to squeal like a pre-teen at a Bieber concert. He patiently answered my questions and said his contract would be in the mail. HIS CONTRACT WOULD BE IN THE MAIL! I was fizzy with joy, thrilled to have an agent, and very aware of how much I owe to Julie Hedlund and the writers of 12 x 12. Thanks to them, my nineteen-year career became an overnight success.
Pat Miller is the author of 20 professional books and more than 200 articles for school librarians. Her first children’s book, Substitute Groundhog, garnered 32 rejection letters before publication by Albert Whitman. It was named a Junior Library Guild selection. Find out more at www.patmillerbooks.com.Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Month, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Social Media, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12, Agents, Author, Authors, Children's Books, Emma Walton Hamilton, Goals, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, Julie Hedlund, Katie Davis, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Rate Your Story, SCBWI, Social Media, Stephen Fraser, Tara Lazar, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Writing