I had the good fortune of meeting today’s “How I Got My Agent” author recently, and she is as lovely, hardworking, and humble in person as she is in this post. I absolutely love what she says about trusting your own process (something we ALL can do more of) and not giving up no matter how many rejections you receive. Please welcome, Rosie Pova!
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 writing since childhood–poetry, short stories, essays–in any language that I knew. Then, adulthood happened and life took me in many different directions before I revisited my passion for writing in 2004 when I was a new mom.
I’ve queried agents for many years with my picture books, even back when I wasn’t ready. Needless to say, I’ve collected tons of rejections over the years. I didn’t know anything about the business at first, but I was so impatient, that after a little research, I self-published four picture books. In retrospect, I should’ve waited. But I learned a lot from the experience and moved on. I kept writing, learning the craft and little by little, learning about the business, too. The more I knew, the more I realized how much I didn’t know and needed to learn further. Apparently, there were no shortcuts. Especially for someone like me for whom English is not their first language.
In 2013 I did sign with my first agent for my middle grade novel. We’ve gotten some great, encouraging feedback from editors, but the timing wasn’t right, so when the book didn’t sell after months of submissions it was time to stick it in the drawer and move on. My agent wasn’t interested in representing my picture books though, so we parted ways, very amicably, when the contract expired.
What kind of research did you do before submitting?
Any type of research you could think of! Online interviews, workshops, conferences, writers’ groups etc. I would devour any piece of information I’d come across and collect notes and lists that were miles long.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
Over the years? A few hundred, but I don’t have an exact count. My first agent used to tell me all the time, ‘Well, Kate DiCamillo got over 400 rejections before she got published,’ to which I’d reply, ‘Well, I don’t want to compete with Kate DiCamillo in that department.’ But I’m pretty sure I beat her.
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
Picture books are not my sole focus, so I was looking for someone who represented all kidlit age groups. I also write middle grade and young adult, although picture books are definitely my soft spot and my favorite to write! Honestly, it has been definitely more difficult to get any type of response whenever I queried with picture books.
Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.
My new agent is Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Prior to signing with her, I had actually received three offers of publication from a small publisher for two of my picture books and my middle grade novel. As the etiquette requires, I notified all of the agents who had any of my work under consideration and the ones I had queried. (Before the notification, I had gotten interest on a different picture book with a request for two more by another agent.)
Surprisingly, it didn’t make it any easier to find representation even with three offers of publication on the table. At that point, I started to suspect I had an agent curse upon me! But of course, before an agent takes you on, they still need to love your work and the timing needs to be right.
The agents who did reply either said they’re not the right agent to represent the work or their lists were too full at the moment. Marisa, on the other hand, said she would love to represent me. I couldn’t believe the email when I read that and it was a great thrill!
How did you know your agent was “the one”?
When I first notified Marisa of the offers, she promptly communicated asking to see the manuscripts and emailed to tell me straight out that she would love to represent me! Shortly after that, we set up a phone call. Marisa was easy to talk to, she was excited to work with me as a career agent and that was very important to me. She also represents all age groups I write in and that was another must of what I looked for in an agent. She was just great. Marisa is well known in the industry and very successful. She had been on my radar for a long time, and I had the feeling she was the one.
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’m shouting out to say here that yes, 12 x 12 absolutely and positively helped me be where I am today! In terms of craft, support, encouragement, resources…the list is long and every step invaluable. 12 x 12 was a constant reminder for persistence. It was a big part of the force that pushed me in the right direction. The motivation that kept me going came directly with the challenge to keep up with drafts for each month (I am sooo very competitive!). Some months, I wrote more than one draft and I could see my craft and techniques improving with each one. It is such a great feeling, the satisfaction of creating something I feel proud of. It really flipped a switch in me and I found myself writing to get more of that same feeling, not thinking so much about publication anymore. If I felt confident in the stories I created, I suspected it would happen for me one way or the other. I kinda relaxed and trusted the process because of my 12 x 12 family and all the other writers’ groups that did the very same for me: PiBoIdMo, ReFoReMo, Kidlit411 to name a few. But there are more.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent? What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
At this point, I’m revising more than I’m writing, though I do try to keep up with my monthly draft. I am currently more focused on production and a marketing plan for my three upcoming books in 2017. It’s a dream come true and a bit stressful as I’m such an introvert so this part will be challenging. I am planning for events, setting up my new online presence and gathering materials for the launch.
My advice for writers looking for an agent is to make sure you’re ready and your manuscripts are ready, too. Don’t rush and submit randomly, but research a lot to make sure the agents you query are a good fit. Don’t get discouraged by rejection (and here’s where I’d roll my eyes when I read that before because I know how much it stings!) but change your mindset about it: it’s not the right time and not the right story for this particular agent, therefore it’s better to continue the journey to the right destination. To paraphrase a saying, if you’re going through Rejection Land, keep going!
Admittedly, some people are just plain lucky and wonderful things happen to them easier. But for the rest of us, I’ll share one of my favorite quotes, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” So go ahead and create your own luck through commitment, persistence and yes, hard work.
Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
No, I don’t think so, simply because I don’t really have any to impress with. But when my agent and I talked on the phone, she shared that she “stalked” me a little on social media to make sure nothing crazy or negative was going on so it helped that my online presence looked good.
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 🙂 )
I don’t really have a bucket list simply because I don’t want to limit myself with a number of things that when I accomplish, I’d consider myself “done.” So I make goals as I go and have continuous lists. When I reach my goals, I just check them off and make new ones, keep challenging myself, keep growing.
I do hope that Marisa and I will sell many more books together and maybe at some point, I’d win a literary award? My fortune cookie once told me so 🙂
What’s up next/what are you working on now?
I’m still working on my craft, on my personal growth and taking daily action toward realizing my dreams as a writer. I have a long way to go and to me, every accomplishment is a new beginning in a way.
It’s been a long journey for me and not an easy one. Once again I’d like to encourage writers to trust in their own journeys and have faith in the process. If you’re not there yet, that only means you’ve got more work to do. Also, if you’ve ever considered quitting and you can actually go through with that for more than a couple of days, maybe you should reconsider your dreams, your passions and your calling. If you can resist writing, considering what you have to overcome, maybe your fire for it isn’t powerful enough. Just think about the reasons behind the path you’ve chosen.
And finally, I’m going to share another story here to make a point. Whenever I first immigrated to North America in 1998 (we lived in Canada first), I had a job working as a security officer at the Vancouver International airport check point. There was a passenger one time, who told me to go back to where I came from because my English wasn’t good enough. So going from pushed away to published didn’t happen overnight, but I got there. And wherever you are right now on the road to publication, you, too, can get there.
As for what’s next, I hope that I will reach many readers and whether I make them laugh or think or feel special in some way, I’d like to be able to touch them with my words and make a difference.
UPDATE FROM ROSIE: [Since writing this post,] I just found out a couple of days ago that my first PB, If I Weren’t with You, is now on the SCBWI Official Recommended Reading List for Texas and Oklahoma so that was great news!
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 · Tags: Corvisiero Literary, Marisa Corvisiero, Rosie Pova