I’ve loved having today’s “How I Got My Agent” author in 12 x 12. She is talented, generous, and knowledgeable. As such, the advice she shares here is quite possibly my favorite, ever. “Have stunning manuscripts and a fantastic query letter. Period.” Please welcome Elizabeth Brown, who sets a phenomenal example of patience and making sure you work on your craft before seeking an agent.
How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I have always been writing, even as a young child. When I went to college, I majored in music and afterward pursued a career as a professional violinist and violin teacher, but I missed writing A LOT. I kept writing on the side, actively taking classes and workshops and publishing stories, articles, and essays. I went back to school for my MFA in Creative Writing. Very soon after graduating, I landed a position teaching college writing and literature. In between teaching classes and caring for my young daughter, I kept on writing. I knew I needed to seek an agent in order to publish my books, so I took the plunge and began querying!
What kind of research did you do before submitting?
I feel it’s essential to do your research and submit your manuscripts to agents who represent the type of books you write or who would be a very good fit for your work. I researched agents online but most of my submissions to agents were through courses with submission opportunities, workshops or critiques, or through 12 x 12.
The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
Once I began submitting, it didn’t take long. I feel this is because I spent many years writing and working on craft before I actually considered submitting.
Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
Absolutely not! There are many agents open to picture book authors.
Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.
My agent is Sean McCarthy of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency. Sean saw a pitch for a picture book I wrote through a submission opportunity in a course I was taking. He requested the manuscript which I sent to him promptly, and soon after, he requested additional manuscripts. Sean emailed me after he read my additional manuscripts and said he wanted to talk about representation. Once we talked, I knew that he was the agent for me. The day I officially signed with him is one of the best days in my writing life so far!
How did you know your agent was “the one”?
There was no question in my mind Sean would be the right fit. We shared the same visions for my manuscripts, and I felt his personality and communication style were excellent. Also, I liked the fact that he studied creative writing and that he really knows the business of children’s books! I am thrilled that Sean is my agent!
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 DEFINITELY helped me during my agent search by offering a community within which to write drafts, revise them, and revise them some more! Through this community, I have made connections with others that will last a lifetime.
Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
My writing process hasn’t changed but having an agent is very inspiring for my creative output. It makes setting writing goals and achieving them easier!
What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
- Work on developing your writing. Focus on craft…for as long as it takes, even if it takes years. Never submit to agents before you are ready. Make sure you have an arsenal of 3-5 polished, submission-ready picture book manuscripts before you begin querying. Show you are a career writer, not just a one-book wonder!
- Know yourself, your writing style, and your writing process. This will help you in your agent search. Research agents before you submit to them. Don’t blindly send out queries. Know who you are querying and why.
- Have stunning manuscripts and a fantastic query letter. Period. These are the MOST important things!
- Don’t be in a rush. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. It will be a more enjoyable ride that way. I think one must enjoy the process and keep envisioning success!
- Believe in your stories and never stop revising. Develop a love for revision. Try to always see other ways and possibilities to write your picture books. There are so many ways to tell one story!
- Get comfortable with rejection. Learn not to fall apart with rejection. Create and write despite rejection.
- Be patient!
- Keep believing in yourself! You can do it!
Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
No, not really. I feel it’s important for writers to have a website and some social media presence, but the quality of the manuscripts are the most crucial in finding an agent.
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 travel more, especially to continue visiting as many art museums and galleries in Europe as possible. I will continue to attend more SCBWI conferences in the future, and of course, continue writing. Also, my daughter wants a puppy!
What’s up next/what are you working on now?
Submitting my manuscripts and working on new books as well!
Elizabeth Brown is a writer, college writing professor, and an independent film producer and screenwriter. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Her debut picture book, DANCING THROUGH FIELDS OF COLOR, a biography of artist Helen Frankenthaler, will be published by Abrams (Spring, 2019). Elizabeth’s website is www.elizabethmbrown.com and follow her on Twitter: @ebrownbooks.
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, Picture Books, Queries, Writing · Tags: Agents, Elizabeth Brown, How I Got My Agent, Sean McCarthy