Our guest for “How I Got My Agent” today is a Renaissance woman! Author in multiple genres AND an inventor! Not to mention a lovely individual who took her writing seriously enough to stick it out for years until she got her agent and first publishing contract. She proves it’s possible. Please welcome, Rita Hubbard!
How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I’ve been searching for an agent off and on for several years, but I didn’t get really serious about finding an agent until I joined 12 x 12 a couple of years ago. I had been hearing from various pros that my work is great and I’m “close to being published,” but nothing was materializing and I was getting tired of reading “gentle rejections.” I wanted something new so I knew I had to try something new. That’s where 12 x 12 came in.
What kind of research did you do before submitting?
I read all of the articles that Julie and Kelli included on the site. I also visited each agent’s website and not only read about the agent, but about his or her fellow agents, the agency’s mission, and their wish list. I also studied their manuscript wish list from Twitter to see if there was anything I had overlooked. I also checked out Publisher’s Weekly, which listed their latest projects (if they had any), and whenever possible, I checked out those books from the library so I could get a feel for what these agents were looking for. I joined ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month), which is like a distant cousin of 12 x 12, and I worked to learn what’s out there and what publishers (and by default, agents) are looking for.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
Well…before signing with my agent, I had queried other agents and collected enough rejection letters to fill one of those mega 3-ring binders. But honestly, my experience with my agent was different. I subbed one 132-word story to her. I received a response in a couple of days later asking me to send a couple more projects I was working on. After that, I ended up chatting with her a week or two later (I could be off by a week, but it wasn’t a month). She then wrote to arrange a telephone call, and during the call, she offered representation.
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
No…from what I remember, my agent’s specific goal was to build a picture book and middle grade list, so she was right down my alley and I was right down hers.
Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.
Her name is Tracy Marchini at BookEnds. As I mentioned, the entire process of subbing and then getting an email to arrange a conversation went very quickly. We chatted about the books I had subbed. By the way, I sent a picture book, a middle grade, and the latest version of a picture book that’s already under a publishing contract. I seem to remember I also sent a YA reference dictionary too…but I could be mistaken. I wasn’t aware that when an agent asks to call you it means you’re about to be offered representation. I had spent so many years dealing with paper rejections and trying to finally write the perfect query, I thought she was calling about one of my submissions to get a clearer understanding of what I was trying to say. When she offered representation, I was stunned. You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to go to the great beyond? Well, my life didn’t flash, but my years and years of rejected queries flashed before my eyes, page by page, in what seemed like an endless procession. Lol.
How did you know your agent was “the one”?
Well, my first instinct was to say yes. After hearing “no” for so many years, who wouldn’t want to blurt out the word “Yes!!!” But since everything you read out there says to NEVER say yes right away, I didn’t. I simply compared her to all the agents I had queried before her, read her bio again, found everything I could about the literary agency she worked with, and then waited a little longer for good measure. Then I took the plunge. I haven’t regretted it! She got to work right away and has already sold one of my picture books.
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 🙂 )
Yes, 12×12 helped. The community is super-helpful, especially the careful selection of agents that participants can query to. Subbing to these agents was a hands-on learning process, and only made my queries and presentation better. However, it must be mentioned that my agent wasn’t one of those on 12 x 12’s monthly list. What happened is that someone on the 12 x 12 Facebook page mentioned that Ms. Marchini was taking submissions. This generosity and willingness to share info to help others in the community is what led me on the path to connecting with Ms. Marchini.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
I can’t tell you a specific way that the writing process itself has changed. But mentally and emotionally, the fact that writing is “a business” has become more of a reality to me.
What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
First, join 12 x 12! Just do it—you won’t regret it for one moment. Then join the 12 x 12 Facebook community, participate in the forums and in the occasional pb pitches. In other words, interact with other writers, seek out opportunities to make your work and your technique better, and put yourself out there. Lots of times opportunities come through venues you hadn’t planned to engage in (or you may have never heard of before), but when you put yourself out there, you’re more apt to stumble upon them.
Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
Not sure if it actually helped, but I would think it didn’t hurt.
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 🙂 )
Well…I’m an inventor, and I’d like to see some of my inventions get out there. For example, I invented an interactive toy back in 2001 that was a bit before its time in that there was no technology to do the things I wanted it to do. There was also no money to develop said technology…but that’s another story. Now the technology’s everywhere—it’s coming out of society’s ears, in fact—so I’m quite sure it’s too late to pursue that particular avenue. HOWEVER…I commissioned a stuffed animal version of the toy, and it sits on my bookshelf and scowls at me every day as if it’s saying, “Well, is it time yet?” I would love to give my interactive toy its own platform via children’s books! That’s all I can say about it right now. If the project ever picks up steam again I’ll be glad to keep the community posted.
What’s up next/what are you working on now?
Right now I’m tweaking two children’s books. One is historical nonfiction about the life of a formerly enslaved man who lived 130+ years. The other is historical “faction” about a wonderful experience a little boy had in the south in 1938.
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!
Rita was a 12 x 12 scholarship recipient. The 2018 scholarship opportunity is open until December 1, 2017. Find out the details and apply here.Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, Writing · Tags: BookEnds, Rita Hubbard, Rita L Hubbard, Tracy Marchini