I must admit, Andrea Mack’s How I Got My Agent story is my favorite kind: one where a 12 x 12 member signed with a 12 x 12 Featured Agent with a manuscript written in the challenge. They do say good things come in threes! Andrea doesn’t know this (until now), but I got a lovely email from her agent, Janine Le at Sheldon Fogelman Agency, the other day telling me how excited she was to be representing Andrea. It’s all a result of Andrea’s hard work and dedication to craft. Please welcome Andrea!
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 I could hold a pencil. My earliest works are mostly about mice, cats and painting elephants (apparently, they look better in pink). I think it’s always been my dream to write for children, but I didn’t take myself seriously and start taking steps towards achieving my dream until my father passed away. That’s when I realized life is too short to wait for my dream to find me.
I started writing children’s stories for educational publishers. I had many books published in Korea, for children learning English. I’m proud of the work I did and I learned a lot, but I also found I didn’t have much time for my own stories to grow. So about six years ago, I created a work schedule for myself where I’d also have time to work on my own writing. I wrote some not-so-good picture books and submitted them to publishers and agents. As the rejections started piling up and I learned more about how hard it was to publish a picture book, I switched to writing middle grade novels. I submitted them to agents and got a few encouraging, personalized comments, but also more rejections. Some of the rejections left me feeling quite discouraged, to the point where I almost quit writing.
Luckily, I had the encouragement of my family and my wonderful critique partners. I decided what I needed was to bring back the fun. Since I teach kindergarten and spend so much time with 4- and 5-year-olds, it seemed natural to return to writing picture books. And it really is so much fun! In 2014, I ignored all the negative thoughts in my mind about picture books being hard to sell, joined the 12 x 12 challenge, and started to submit picture book manuscripts to agents.
What kind of research did you do before submitting?
I wanted to find an agent who would represent my middle grade novels as well as my picture book texts, so I compiled a list using online resources (e.g., like Literary Rambles, Kathy Temean’s blog, #MSWL). Basically, whatever I could find to learn about agents and the kinds of books they were interested in representing.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
It varies, depending on the manuscript. All together, maybe 30 submissions and rejections for picture books. For the manuscript that first captured the attention of my new agent, I only sent 5 queries.
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
I thought what would happen was I’d find an agent who liked my middle grade novel and then later, we might work on my picture books. But the reverse happened! Janine first got interested in a picture book manuscript, and then I sent her two more manuscripts, as well as part of one of my novels.
Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.
In the fall of 2014, I submitted one of my manuscripts to Janine Le at Sheldon Fogelman Agency through the agent submission opportunity in the Gold level of 12 x 12. Janine liked that one and requested more of my work. I didn’t hear back for several months. In the meantime, I’d been working on another picture book manuscript that I was really excited about. So I sent her an e-mail inquiring about the status of my original manuscript and mentioned that I’d written a new one. She asked me to send it to her.
A few weeks later, Janine e-mailed and asked if we could talk on the phone. I was both nervous and excited! A couple of days later, after consulting with her colleagues, she told me she wanted to represent me! I still break out into a big smile when I remember that I now have an agent!
How did you know your agent was “the one”?
Janine really seemed to understand my work and I got the feeling that she really respected my writing process. She also didn’t seem to mind that I was rambling excitedly, probably incoherently, on the phone! I liked that the agents in her agency work together as a team and are so experienced.
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 🙂 )
Joining 12 x 12 has played a key part in getting me this far, and I’m so grateful. Just being part of the 12 x 12 community helped me rekindle my interest in writing picture books, and being part of the challenge motivated me to write new drafts and to revise. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity to submit to agents and tried to send only send my very best work. I really believe that the challenge to write more has made my manuscripts stronger and helped me continue to develop my writing voice.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
Since I only signed with Janine recently, it’s hard to say. One of the things that Janine emphasized was to keep writing and working on my projects. I usually work on either a picture book or my novel revisions every day, sometimes both! It really helps to have her notes to know what areas to focus on when I’m revising.
What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
Be patient and don’t rush the process. Now that I have an agent, I realize that I probably wasn’t ready for this step before now, even though I thought I was. The more writing I do, the stronger my writing gets. And because I keep producing more work, now I have more than one project to work on with my agent.
Also, take some risks in your writing. Read recently published picture books and study them. Try writing in a different style or a different type of story. Stretch your writing muscles. You might surprise yourself!
Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
I feature picture books on my blog, and I’m positive that studying other published books helped me with writing my own. I love how social media connects me to the wider community of writers, and I’ve learned so much from them. So I think it indirectly helped by making me a bit more savvy about the process, and about my own writing.
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 want to do more traveling. My husband and I went to France on a school trip in high school (before we were even dating) and I’d like to go back. I’d also like to revisit Hawaii, where we went on our honeymoon. I’d like to attend the big SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles or go on a writing retreat. And I have a secret dream to get back to the drawing and painting that I used to do when I was a teen.
What’s up next/what are you working on now?
I’m revising a middle grade novel, working on new a picture book manuscript and revising a couple of picture books for submission to publishers. I’m on track to write 12 picture books in 12 months and I’d like to achieve that goal.
Andrea L. Mack grew up in Northern Ontario, exploring the woods and craggy shoreline of Lake Superior in the summers and retreating to the warmer, imaginary worlds of books during the long cold winters. She now lives near Toronto, where she enjoys sharing her love of nature with her kindergarten students and in her stories. She is the author of over twenty books for children learning English, published in Korea. In rare moments when she isn’t writing or reading, she enjoys blogging, gardening, playing board games, and walking one of her family’s three dogs.
Categories: 12 x 12
, How I Got My Agent
, Picture Books
· Tags: Andrea Mack
, Janine Le
, Sheldon Fogelman Agency