In a previous “How I Got My Agent” entry, we had an encounter with a toilet. This time it’s a bathtub. So my advice? Hang out in your bathroom if you want an agent!
Now, in much more seriousness, I am thrilled to welcome Penny Klostermann to this series. AND, today is the PERFECT day for this post to go live because her FIRST BOOK DEAL was announced in Publisher’s Marketplace today!! It’s called THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, and I was lucky enough to hear it last year at the RMC-SCBWI conference. It’s brilliant, people. Brilliant!
I adore Penny’s story also because her lovely agent, Tricia Lawrence, was not only one of our featured agents for 12 x 12, but I had the pleasure of meeting her in Bologna this past March. I could not have been more impressed! I’m so glad these two wonderful and talented people came together. The children of the world will be blessed with more great books as a result!
Finally, as I said before, I met Penny last year and I can tell you she sparkles even more in real life as she does in this beautiful photo here. Please welcome Penny!
Penny, how long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one? What kind of research did you do before submitting?
About fifteen years ago, I wrote my first story while sitting in the bathtub. The bath wasn’t that long … just past the wrinkly-finger stage. But, who needs a long bath to write a brilliant story…Right? I had NO critique group. I did NO revisions. And, it seems, I had NO clue about the world of publishing, because I had NO hesitation about sending it right away to three publishing houses. After all, my manuscript was genius-at-work and surely they would recognize that! When I received three rejections, I figured it was their loss! J I repeat…I had NO clue! I put the manuscript away, wrote no more, and went along my merry way.
Fast forward to the fall of 2010: I had retired from teaching. I was still dreaming of writing. But, this time I knew it had to be serious business. I needed to do it right. I found the most wonderful critique group ever—the Picture Bookies. I wrote many stories. I revised the many stories many times. I submitted one of them for the 2012 Barbara Karlin Grant. Several months later, I got a call that I had been named the Runner-up!!!!!!!!!!!! (I can’t say those words without using multiple exclamation points.)
So, I had been seriously writing for two years when I started seriously thinking about an agent. As I researched agents/agencies on Literary Rambles and various blogs, I kept coming back to the Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA). It just felt right. I liked everything I’d read and heard about the agents and the agency. They were at the very top of my list. But, EMLA did not accept unsolicited manuscripts. So, I decided to use the Barbara Karlin Runner-up status as a reference. I only queried. I felt it would be pushy to email a manuscript. I heard back. “Did I have other summaries?” I emailed them. I heard back. “Could I send the manuscripts?” (At this point I was already on a “high” because I had enough emails to warrant an EMLA folder in my Gmail!) By the way, at the time I queried, Tricia wasn’t representing picture books. But, by the time I sent my manuscripts she was, and Erin Murphy said she would absolutely love it if I would be willing to work with Tricia who was looking to build the picture book side of her list. I said I would love to have Tricia’s thoughts on my manuscripts. Tricia thoughts—my stories were delightful and fun to read aloud. She wanted to chat on the phone. I said OK! (LOL) We talked…and connected! Tricia offered me representation. I knew when I hung up the phone that I wanted to accept. But I took a few days to think, and then I accepted April 29, 2013.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
Besides EMLA…Nine queries. Six rejections. Three no-responses. Of the nine queries, I would say I jumped the gun on the first five! I know…not smart! But, when I realized I was moving too quickly, I stopped querying for several months. On my jumped-the-gun queries, I got two form rejections and two personalized rejections. One of the personalized did say “we looked at it”, so I think it was talked about among the agents in that agency. I felt encouraged by that. After my querying pause, I got two more very positive, personalized rejections…the kind where you can smile as you’re rejected!
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author-only focusing solely on picture books?
I will just say research has to be done. It is time-consuming, but I found a number of agents who represent author-only picture books. There is a lot of information on the Internet and as you read about agents, I think you get a feel for their personality and agenting style. I felt some would be a fit and some wouldn’t. I think that’s the time-consuming part…getting a feel for them.
How did you know your agent was “the one?
First off, Tricia quoted lines from my manuscripts during “the call”! She was that thrilled about my work! Her passion for children’s books and excitement about being an agent came through loud and clear during our conversation. Also, I had compiled a long list of questions. I was afraid I would be nervous, so I had actually written down the answers I wanted to hear. I heard all the right answers. She scored 100%! My nerves were settled shortly into the phone call because talking with Tricia was comfortable and easy. After signing the end of April, I was lucky enough to meet Tricia in person in June, and to borrow words from Lilly in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse… ”WOW!” That’s about all I can say. “WOW!”
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 don’t have to hesitate when I say 12 x 12 has helped. I ended 2012 with eleven new manuscripts. I honestly do not think I would’ve come anywhere close to eleven without the 12 x 12 challenge. This year, I have focused more on revision. So far in 2013, I have written only two new manuscripts, but I have done revisions on at least one manuscript every month. The revision option of 12 x 12 has been a key part of my development as a writer because I take the 12 x 12 accountability very seriously. I want to be able to say I have either written a manuscript or worked on a revision each month. The 12 x 12 monthly posts are very encouraging and informative. And members of the 12 x 12 community are very generous and inspiring.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
Not my process, but it has been helpful to run my premises by Tricia and see if she seems as excited about them as I am. So far…she has been! And that is encouraging to me.
What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
Make sure you are in a critique group that is going to challenge you to write your best stories. Agents aren’t looking for drafts. Even if you have a super creative idea, you have to be skilled at your craft to bring that idea to an agent’s attention.
Read! Read! Read! I know everyone says that, but I ALWAYS have library books checked out. I’m lucky that my library has no limit. Today, I checked in twenty-four, and came home with ten new ones to add to the three that weren’t due today. Reread your favorites and figure out why you wanted to read them again and try to bring that same magic to your writing.
Don’t jump the gun like I did on my first few queries. Have several manuscripts polished to a sparkling shine. Be confident that you’re presenting your BEST writer-self.
And one more bit of advice. It has been so much fun to read the “How I Got My Agent” series on your blog. Each person you have interviewed is over-the-top excited about the agent they signed with. I am sure that each one of us in this series read the same interviews and information about agents. But, we all had our own idea of what we wanted in an agent and what agent would be a “fit” for our style of writing. We all wanted that “fit” or the so-called “dream” agent. I would almost drool when reading about EMLA. I felt they were my “fit”. After talking with Tricia, I knew she was my “fit”. So, my last bit of advice to writers looking for an agent is go for the one you want the most. Go for the one that makes you drool! (Tricia…if you’re reading this…sorry about the drool!) If you’re unsure about being able to land the agent that is your “fit”, then you probably have more work to do before trying for ANY agent.
Last year, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet in person at the RMC-SCBWI conference. I was so impressed with your writing. Do you think we’ll be seeing any of those manuscripts on the shelves soon?
Thanks, Julie. The admiration was mutual. Your writing impressed me as well! I will say that a couple of those manuscripts are ones that caught Tricia’s eye. So, I do have high hopes.
(We now know the answer to this question is a great big YES!!!)
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 )
Oh the ol’ bucket list!
Maybe juggling fiery torches while sky diving into a shark tank.
Not really. I was just trying to sound exciting and daring. Publishing a book is so at the top of my “accomplishments” bucket list that I can hardly think of anything else. So, I’ll just have to go with that! As far as “inevitable at this point”, well as we all know, in the world of publishing, until it happens…it hasn’t happened.
(Well, Penny, it’s HAPPENED! Congratulations!!)Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12, Agents, Author, Authors, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writer