12 X 12 Member Peter McCleeryNever has a How I Got My Agent Post made me laugh out loud, but Peter McCleery’s did. When you read it, I’m sure you’ll know why. It’s tough out there, folks, but with persistence it IS possible to reach your dreams. I sense a Sid Fleischman award in Peter’s future. Many congratulations!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

Like a lot of newbies to the world of children’s lit, I came out of the gate a-kickin’ and a-buckin’ and ready to take the kid lit world by storm. Little did I know what little I knew. That first year I sent a few manuscripts to a select group of top agents and waited for the slew of offers. Instead I learned what a “form rejection” looks like. And what a “no response” feels like. Luckily, there’s a little thing called the Internet. So slowly but surely I learned what I didn’t know. I wrote. I researched. I read. I did that for another year or so. Then I subbed. I was really ready this time. And this time I got. . . personalized rejections! I was on to something! So I did it all again. Wrote, researched and read. Every few months I thought I was ready and sent out a small batch of queries (1-3). I got a few more rejections, but this time I also got more encouragement. A kind word here, a request for more there, a positive conference critique, etc… Enough to keep me going until I actually WAS ready. From my very first draft to landing an agent, it was probably about four to five years, off and on.

I’d like to share with you my all-time favorite rejection. It shows just how crazy and subjective subbing can be. This is the entire email: “This was hilarious and so vivid. Somehow the writing just didn’t appeal to me.”

Huh?

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

I scoured the internet. Websites, blogs, twitter. As every writer knows, it’s not procrastination when it’s research. I dug deep and not only did it help me find out what agents would be a good fit, it helped me avoid sending manuscripts to the wrong agent. If I wasn’t truly excited to send something to a particular agent, then I didn’t. And now having landed the perfect agent, I’m so glad I didn’t end up with someone I was “meh” about.

The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?

I was rather choosy about who I sent my manuscripts to (see above) so I don’t have a ton of rejections. Maybe 15. But the ones I did get stung extra hard.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?

Yes, definitely. In fact I got frustrated enough that I started working on a middle-grade novel. And, when I started mentioning it in my queries, I noticed better responses right away. Agents’ ears perked up for sure. If you work in other categories DEFINITELY mention it in your query.

How did you know your agent was “the one?

I had previously researched Heather Alexander back when she was an editor. I loved her books and had planned to query her (they took unsolicited manuscripts) but never got around to it. I started following her on twitter and thought she was delightful and smart and funny. So, when I heard that she moved over to the agent side at Pippin Properties, I was pretty excited. One day she tweeted that she was looking for “smart-funny” manuscripts. She mentioned Monty Python. I couldn’t get to my email fast enough.

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 🙂 )

12 x 12 is basically a support group for people crazy enough to write picture books. When you are in the midst of querying and writing and revising and getting rejections, being part of a community of people going through the same thing is very important.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?

One thing that surprised me after signing was how much more pressure I feel. Things suddenly got real. Now there is someone with a vested interest in what I do and I don’t want to let her down. To steal a line from pregnant women: “Now I’m writing for two.” But it’s actually more of a positive, inspiring kind of pressure.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?

Have confidence in your writing. Be bold. Take chances. Don’t write what you think they (agents, editors, etc…) will like. Write the thing YOU like. The thing that’s uniquely you. That’s the kind of manuscript that gets noticed.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?

I don’t think it played much of a factor because I don’t have much of a social platform. Heather probably did a quick google search on me but only AFTER she liked my manuscript.

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 would love to write a screenplay that gets made into a movie starring Nick Cage.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

Besides numerous picture book drafts in various states of condition, I’m also very excited about the previously mentioned middle-grade novel I’m trying to finish.

 

Peter McCleery has been a member of 12 x 12 since 2013. His debut picture book BOB & JOSS GET LOST will be published by HarpersChildren’s in Fall 2016. Peter was awarded the Author of the Month Award in October 2014 from Highlights for his story, “Invasion of the Space Monkeys.” He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and kids. You can find Peter at www.petermccleery.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,

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This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Kathleen Rushall from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members November 1-15. Heather Alexander from Pippin Properties will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members November 16-30. Kathleen’s profile appears first, followed by Heather’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

12 x 12 Featured Agent Kathleen RushallKATHLEEN RUSHALL

I have not met Kathleen Rushall in person, but every agent I’ve asked who they would recommend as a featured agent for 12 x 12 have recommended Kathleen. I also love that Kathleen is dedicated to developing “debut” writers and says, “There’s no better part of this job than calling a writer to tell her she’s been offered a contract for her very first book.” Absolutely, I say! It’s also wonderful to welcome such a committed agent to 12 x 12 as a first-time featured agent.

A little bit about Kathleen from the Marsal Lyon website:

“Kathleen Rushall joined Marsal Lyon in 2011. She represents writers for all age groups of children’s literature, including picture books (fiction and non-fiction), middle grade, and young adult novels. Kathleen is also looking for fresh new adult, women’s fiction, and romance projects. The most important element that draws Kathleen to any project is a strong voice and unforgettable characters.

Kathleen graduated from Seattle University with her bachelor’s degree in English and minor in fine arts. She moved back to her hometown of San Diego to earn her master’s degree in English, specializing in children’s literature, from San Diego State University. When she’s not at her desk, Kathleen enjoys hanging out with her Australian Shepherd, Finn, and German Shepherd, Abe.”

Find out more about Kathleen:

  • Check out the rest of Kathleen’s profile on the Marsal Lyon website here
  • Find Kathleen on Twitter
  • First Five Frenzy on Catching the Crazies
  • Profile on Quick Brown Fox here
  • Kathleen was featured on Stacy O’Neale’s blog here
  • Kathleen on Literary Rambles
  • Operation Awesome interview and Kathleen’s pitch picks here
  • Interview on Love YA
  • Kathleen being interviewed by one of her clients J.R. Johansson here
  • Interview with Deana Barnhart here
  • Interview with YA Fusion
  • Krista Van Dolzer interview here

12 x 12 Featured Agent Heather AlexanderHEATHER ALEXANDER

First, I am incredibly envious of Heather Alexander’s ability to pull off such an adorable hairstyle. 🙂 But in seriousness, I have huge admiration for Heather’s experience and passion in the field of children’s literature. I heard her speak last year at the NJ-SCBWI conference and was so impressed by her breadth of knowledge. I’m happy to welcome Heather to 12 x 12, also as a first-time featured agent.

A little bit about Heather from the Pippin Properties website:

“Heather Alexander comes from a family where the constant ​​refrain was, “Don’t forget to bring a book!” In college, she hid THE PRINCESS DIARIES between Dickens and Hawthorne. One Children’s Lit class later, and her path in publishing became obvious. Heather landed in editorial at Penguin, where she happily stayed for six years, working with ​both​ debut and veteran authors and illustrators. As an agent, she is ​excited to develop new talent and help shape careers, which is what she loves to do best.”

Articles featuring Heather:

Full submission guidelines for Kathleen and Heather will posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Kathleen Rushall from November 1st – November 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Heather from November 16th – November 30th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Publishing, Queries · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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