12 x 12 Member Danielle DufayetYou guys are going to love today’s installment of “How I Got My Agent.” Danielle Dufayet‘s story illustrates a point so important it bears stating in my introduction: No agent is better than the wrong agent. I’m so happy Danielle waited for “the one” that she so definitely deserves. Take note, too, if the number of queries and rejections. Keep writing, people! If you keep working and keep learning, you WILL succeed. Please welcome Danielle. 

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 off and on all my life. I started submitting to publishers starting in 2004, but I made a serious commitment to my children’s writing back in 2010. I made the decision to find an agent right about the same time.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

The first thing I did was go to the website and check what kinds of books they were publishing. I would read all about the agent, including blogs, tweets, etc.

The dreaded questions: How many queries?

In total, about 150 to agents How many rejections? 149 🙂 But that’s for my numerous manuscripts.

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

I targeted my queries and submissions to agents who had a strong interest in picture books.

How did you know your agent was “the one?

My agent is the fabulous Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary. I attended one of her talks, The Heart of Picture Books, at the Oakland SCBWI conference. She gave such a genuine, heart-felt speech that I just knew it would be a dream to have her as my agent.

I actually had another agent that offered me representation but I felt like I was left hanging. She emailed me that she loved my manuscript and wanted to represent me. I became a little hysterical (crying, hyperventilating) when I got that email. It was so out of the blue! So I responded to her email but then I wouldn’t hear anything for weeks. This went on for a good month or so. Even though I heard that that was not uncommon, I knew that I would not be happy with that kind of communication style so it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t sign a contract with her.

The very next day after the SCBWI conference I sent Ms. Grencik a pretty heart felt letter of my impression of her and included one of my manuscripts. She wrote back immediately that she loved it so we emailed back and forth a little more then scheduled a time to talk. She was not as enthusiastic about my other work, (too wordy) but I knew I could get them in tip top shape so I wasn’t worried. I really liked her personality, (super sweet and kind) her character (hard working, loyal) and her communication style (professional, good follow through) and that is the most important thing for me. When we talked I think we both felt a good connection. She asked me if I still wanted to submit to other agents, etc. I said, “No! I’d like you to be my agent” and she said “OK!” I was on cloud nine. Getting an agent is hard enough, but getting one that you love and admire? I immediately notified the other agent thanking her for her time and interest and that I had found other representation.

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 🙂 )

12×12 was such a great support. Through 12×12, I joined a great critique group online which was invaluable. It was also a great place to critique others’ work, which I find so helpful with my own writing. I also got some positive feedback from some of the agents there which was definitely encouraging!

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

Yes, I can already tell that it’s more focused and geared to the industry. When your agent tells you, “Editors want this…” it takes the guessing game out of it. Then, it’s up to me to deliver!

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

Beside the tried and true: keep writing and improving your craft, read as much as you can which will help you understand the market. But I have to emphasize not to submit unless you feel in your heart that it’s really ready – it’s the best it can be. It’s not so much a “numbers game” but a timing game.

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

No. I think it was my manuscript, but I think it helped I had a website of my pre-published work. I think it shows that I am a serious writer that’s in it for the long haul.

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 🙂 )

Going to Africa and meeting Desmond Tutu and giving him a copy of my (pre-published) book, UBUNTU which celebrates global oneness and unity consciousness.

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

I have joined Toast Masters to help me get ready to do speeches. It’s scary, but a must in this industry!

Thank you!!

Reader, are you looking for a picture book agent? Grab this 7-step submission checklist to help you avoid mistakes and make your submission shine. 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Queries, Writing · Tags: , , , ,

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Bad Query, BatmanA funny thing happened the other day (seriously, it IS funny, and it did just happen the other day). Emma Walton Hamilton and I were working on adding concept book (books where the focus is on a concept – such as ABCs or counting – rather than a narrative arc) examples to the “Hook/Pitch” Unit in The Complete Picture Book Submissions System. Since A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is a concept book, I figured I’d go back and look for query letters I’d sent before it was published.

Emma convinced me to share my earliest one with you as proof that NOBODY starts as an expert on writing query letters and submitting. The query I am about to share with you contains many of the same errors we teach you how to avoid in the System. It also took THREE YEARS after first submitting with the query you see below before I got a publishing deal for TROOP. The manuscript improved some during that time, but honestly not much. My mistakes were mostly in my query and submission approach.

Read this query and see if you can guess what is wrong (BEFORE looking at the analysis)! If miss some of them, you owe it to yourself to check out The Complete Picture Book Submissions System. The main reason Emma and I created The System was to help you avoid train wrecks like this one and to shorten your time from submission to success.

Here it is. Take a look, then see the analysis of what went wrong.

TROOP Query

 

Let’s start at the beginning.

Paragraph 1

 

Things don’t improve much in the second paragraph.

Paragraph 2

 

Not bad, but not great.

Paragraph 3

 

Here’s where things start to go completely off the rails.

Paragraph 4 colors (2)

OMG – WHAT?

Paragraph 5

 

One final word of caution here. One reason for the debacle that is the last paragraph of this email is because I got some horrible, no good, very bad advice from an author who taught one of the first courses I ever took on children’s book writing. She gave me a lot of other advice I had to unlearn, too. It is SO IMPORTANT to consider the source of where you are getting your information!!

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that my story has a happy ending. Shortly after I got form TROOP Coverrejections or no responses from TEN different agents and editors (!!!), I gave myself a moratorium on submissions and focused on studying the craft and the business of publishing. That’s why it took three more years before I got a book deal, and another year before I signed with my agent. (The revised query that got me success is included in our Query Clinic Module as a “before/after” example.)

Once again, the intent behind The Complete Picture Book Submissions System is to ensure you don’t make these same mistakes or any of the MANY others we cover in The System. We want to shorten your learning curve significantly, so you can go from submissions to success in, if not a single bound, at least several bounds fewer than it took me. 🙂

The System is available until 6:00 p.m. EST on March 6th. After that, we’re closing registration to the public so we can focus on our new members. If you learned ANYTHING from this post, it’s likely there are aspects of querying and submitting picture books you would learn from The System. Take a look and see if it’s for you.

Have you already purchased The Complete Picture Book Submissions System and want to leave feedback? Or do you have questions? All comments/questions are welcome!

Picture Book Submissions System

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 WebinarTwo weeks ago, NYT Bestselling author, children’s literature professor and freelance editor Emma Walton Hamilton and I launched the 12 x 12 webinar series with a discussion on how to KNOW when your picture book is submission-ready.

Now we’re moving on to the submission itself. We have some exciting updates in the works to our product(s) on picture book submissions, but we need your help! So here’s the deal. If you click on this link and answer this ONE question, we’ll instantly send you a free video outlining the four essential elements of a picture book query.

The entire process (including watching the video) takes about five minutes.

Here’s the link again.

Oh, and this ONE time I have to ask you not to leave your question in the comments, but instead leave it in the survey at the link.

If you’ve already seen the Four Essential Elements of a Picture Book Query video, we’d love for you to leave feedback in the comments for others.

Please feel free to share this post with your picture book writing friends. The more responses we get, the better we’ll be able to help you with your submissions.

Thanks so much!

Categories: 12 x 12, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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Author Illustrator Julie Rowan-ZochSQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Can you hear me screaming all the way in Colorado? I’ve been looking forward to this post for two years (which is how long I’ve known Julie Rowan-Zoch‘s talent is extraordinary). I KNEW she would get an agent, and I waited patiently for the day to come. 🙂

As you might guess from the tone of this introduction, Julie is a dear friend of mine and a model citizen of the kidlit community. Her talent speaks for itself (her Facebook feed is one I check every day because I’m addicted to her art), but she is also warm, funny and generous. She supports her author and illustrator friends without fail, and is always willing to help our community in any way she can. She may not be the best at backing out of a driveway in winter (sorry, Julie!), but she has excellent taste in beer, books, cheese, and friends. 🙂

Please welcome Julie Rowan-Zoch, here to tell her “How I Got My Agent” story!

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

I had but two drafts before joining the inceptive 12 x 12 in ’12 Challenge. That first year was an eye-opener to the hard-nut-to-crack world of the kid-lit industry as well as the warm and generous kid-lit community. Luckily I had a blind passion for picture books and enough naiveté to keep going! By the time 12×12 began offering the chance to submit to agents, I had one solid manuscript. Slowly but surely I rustled up the courage to start subbing, but I still had so much to learn about researching suitable agents.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

Julie Hedlund’s agent posts with all the links gave me a good start. I followed links, also read agent posts on Kathy

Julie originally made this for my assistant, Kelli, and me last year to celebrate 12 x 12. Yesterday, however, we were the two chickadees sharing champagne!

Julie originally made this for my assistant, Kelli, and me last year to celebrate 12 x 12. Yesterday, however, Julie and I were the two chickadees sharing champagne!

Temean’s blog, and googled the agents of author-illustrators whose work I admired. I joined Sub It Club, and another Agent/Editor discussion group online, both of which have been hugely helpful. Not methodical, but not bad either!

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

None of the agents I submitted to focuses solely on picture books, but all of them do represent children’s literature up to YA.

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

I know this makes me look careless, but because I didn’t sub to many agents, I never kept a detailed record (I should have!). I submitted to about 10 agents through 12×12, and 3 or 4 outside, mainly through SCBWI conference opportunities, and received an chance to sub by winning a design contest. Another invited me to submit through Facebook. That brings the total to about 16. I heard back from 8, received requests for more materials from 4. All was rather quiet when I got lucky, very lucky: my agent found me.

How did you know your agent was “the one?

Just before leaving town mid-December I got a surprising but delightful email from Marcia Wernick. I knew most of her agency’s clients (all of those focused on PBs!), but not much about the agency. I read every article I could find online, and asked around in the groups I mentioned above. One can determine a lot through correspondence, and Marcia’s graciousness and confidence shone through. We arranged for me to submit a package of manuscripts and illustrations, and made an appointment for a call early in the new year. After Marcia offered representation, I notified the other agents I was still in contact with. I received a total of three offers, and might have had a fourth, but before that call, I already knew. My best friend said, “You know already – you’re pitching her to me!” But the best advice I received in making that decision was to follow my gut as to which one I felt most comfortable with and genuinely liked my work.

What I did not anticipate, was difficulty in finding the right words to inform the agents I was turning down. Both of them had shown such generosity and kindness.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how?

I can promise you, I would not have found an agent without all I have benefitted from as a 12 x 12 participant. The support, encouragement and sharing of information: to write more, read more, start blogging, doodle every day, critique artwork, join a writer’s critique group for PBs, form a local critique group, go to conferences, keep learning, start submitting, keep going, chin up, chest out, breathe, read more, write more… And above all else? Keep laughing! This is how I found my tribe!!!

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

Can’t tell, it’s only been a week! But my enthusiasm moved up ten notches!

A toast with two Julies!

A toast with two Julies!

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

Join 12 x 12, do all the things I mentioned two Q/As back, and join SCBWI. And when you are preparing for ‘the call’, and believe two pages worth of questions are enough, think again and double that!

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

I most certainly do! My agent found my blog, and I got illustration and design work through posting sketches on Facebook. To push my daily doodles, I started drawing birthday greetings: almost every day I drew something new for any friend on Facebook and posted it to their timeline. I believe, in this manner I made deeper connections within the kid-lit community, and I value that very highly.

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 🙂 )

Two things: I want to see a grand display of the Aurora Borealis, and to witness the arrival of migrating monarch butterflies in the forests of pine trees and fir in Michoacan/Mexico.

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

Sketches for one polished manuscript, and, for the first time, I’m developing a dummy while I am constructing the narrative of a story.

Julie R-Z

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Friendship, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Social Media, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 X 12 Member Kaye Baillie I am delighted to bring you another installment of the “How I Got My Agent” series focused on picture book authors. It’s especially rewarding when these stories come about as a result of 12 x 12 submissions. AND, I adore Kaye Baillie’s description of Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris as having a “zesty attitude.” Truer words might never have been spoken. 🙂 Please welcome Kaye!

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

In 1998 I’d had enough of being a personal assistant. I decided that what I really wanted to do was write for children so I began a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. My favorite subject was definitely writing for children. Towards the end of that year I got married. Then early the next year we moved house and by the end of the year had our first daughter. In 2002 our second daughter was born and I’d have to say, I struggled to get my Diploma finished which I finally did in 2005 via distance education.

I was fortunate that in 2001 and 2004 I had two educational leveled readers published which are still selling to this day. But I really wanted a trade book published. I dabbled with stories and submissions for many years and have to admit I wasn’t really putting in the effort required so had no success. In 2011 I decided to get serious. I began entering competitions, writing more and submitting to publishers more often, going to workshops and seminars and trying to immerse myself in the children’s book world. I was getting some results of highly commended or first prize in competitions and favorable feedback from some Australian publishers for my picture book submissions.

Then in 2013 I discovered a Writer’s Digest Webinar. Hmmm, access to an agent I thought. This could be a good direction as submitting directly to publishers is proving to be unsuccessful. The Webinar was on picture books and the agent running the Webinar would critique our submissions. Well I was shocked when the Agent replied how much she loved my story and would I consider reworking the ending and resubmitting to her. Absolutely! I did this and waited, and waited and waited. She kept in touch with me, each time saying that she would be discussing my story at the next staff meeting.

This went on for months with me nudging in between. In February 2014 I told the Agent that I would now like to submit to agents through Julie’s 12×12. In early April the Agent told me that she would not take on a new author but that one of the other agents in the agency would like to talk to me. I was excited again although still waited to speak to the next agent. Now we were into April. I decided to submit to Ginger Harris of Liza Royce the same story that the Agent had liked. Two things happened at once. The earlier Agent came back to me with an offer of representation AND Ginger had also made an offer.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

The information on the 12×12 site each month is terrific. I read all links about the agents and Google them also. I also look at the agents through Twitter and try to find out as much as I can about what books they have represented and sold.

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

I ducked across to my Excel spreadsheet and would say that over a four year period, I submitted 9 different manuscripts to publishers in Australia, which totaled about 70 queries. Each of the 9 stories would usually be sent to the same list of publishers. Most of the rejections were standard form letters with only several offering encouraging feedback. After receiving encouragement from the Agent through Writer’s Digest, this is when I really focused on finding an Agent instead of the submission process I had been taking.

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

Not really. I have had discussions with three agents in the last few weeks and two of them wanted to see more of my picture books. There was no mention of other genres.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?

Well, to continue on from what I said above, I had the unexpected dilemma about what to do with two offers at the same time. My gut was telling me to go with Ginger and Liza. I was impressed with their swift offer of representation, their friendly style and zesty attitude. We discussed who might be a good publishing fit for my story and I straight away felt like I would be in good hands. I also felt that Liza Royce Agency would be accessible and that we would have regular communications.

If 12×12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how?

12×12 gives incredible background information on top agents, who we are fortunate to have an opportunity to submit to. I think this is a golden opportunity for authors. Being able to choose between agents each month is not only a privilege, but also is a great learning device that made me think about the differences within agencies and between agents. It is so important to find the right fit and to understand what an agent is looking for. Being able to read discussions and posts from other members leads to wonderful opportunities where we can follow links on craft development. 12×12 really showed me what is possible and then it was up to me to follow those leads.

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

As I have only just signed it is hard to say, but I am thinking about my story which the Agent chose to represent and am now using that as a benchmark for future work. I definitely feel that I have to work more solidly and regularly and that ‘Children’s author’ is my actual profession. I will also be preparing to meet deadlines and to put my writing first rather than allowing ‘daily grind’ duties to take over my day.

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

I would say that 12×12 is a glowing opportunity. There is support, shared knowledge and opportunity for authors. Through 12×12 you will learn about agents that you may not have known about (which is what happened to me.) I would also say to learn about pitches and queries. I don’t think they are as complicated as I had thought and once you have them under control, they are easier to send out.

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

Not really. I think it’s in the query and the manuscript. I have used Twitter for a few years and still like it but it did not play a part in me finding an agent. I have a website which I think is a good thing to showcase what you’ve done. Facebook is a nice way to communicate with peers but I don’t think it’s helpful to find an agent. I don’t blog.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish.

Probably finding the right hairstyle is something I’ve been trying to achieve my whole life and have failed. Something that I have dreamed of doing for many years though is taking a long long train trip across beautiful country-sides and having my own private compartment and I get to dine in the old style dining carriage. I would gaze and write and sip fine wines.

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

I am working on a picture book about one aspect of World War I and I have just come up with a cute idea for another picture book. I seem to have two stories on the go lately as I want to keep up with the 12×12 challenge. I also will be fine tuning my manuscript for Liza Royce agency so they can start submitting – gosh, can hardly believe I’m saying that.

I’m also off to the SCBWI conference in Sydney in July. One of the master-classes I’m taking is run by Connie Hsu of Roaring Brooks.

 

 

 

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 new banner

It’s prize time! Our September Featured Author, Erzsi Deak, is giving one 12 x 12 member a chance to submit THREE picture book pitches to her. She will then give feedback on which she thinks is the strongest, most marketable. Plus, if she is interested in one or more of the winner’s pitches, she may ask you to submit to her. Since Hen & Ink is closed to submissions, this is a fantastic opportunity.

And the lucky winner is…

ANDREA ALLEN!!

Congrats! Please contact me at JulieFHedlund (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.

It’s time to FALL back in to writing! Write those drafts and revise, revise, revise for your chance to win October’s prize.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Agents, Authors, Children's Books, Giveaway, Picture Books, Queries, 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. Christa Heschke from McIntosh and Otis will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members October 1-15. Janine Le from Sheldon Fogelman Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members October 16-31. Christa’s profile appears first, followed by Janine’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

12 x 12 Featured Agent Christa HeschkeCHRISTA HESCHKE

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Christa, but after a few email exchanges with her about the 12 x 12 program, I was impressed with her love for picture books and her enthusiasm for participating in 12 x 12 as a featured agent. I was also happy to discover she is actively seeking nonfiction picture books with a strong hook, as I know quite a few members who write those. Please welcome Christa!

A little bit about Christa from the McIntosh & Otis website:

CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects.  For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.”

Find out more about Christa:

Featured 12 x 12 Agent Janine LeJANINE LE

I have also not yet met Janine Le in person, but one of my longtime in-person critique partners signed with her a few months ago and is extremely happy with her representation. One of our previous featured agents, Sean McCarthy, used to work at Sheldon Fogelman before creating his own agency. He had nothing but great things to say about Janine when we spoke at the NJ-SCBWI conference this past summer. Please welcome Janine!

A little bit about Janine from the Sheldon Fogelman Agency website:

Janine Le joined the agency after graduating from Bucknell Unversity with honors in English (Creative Writing) and completing NYU’s program at its Summer Publishing Institute. She enjoys working with the agency’s clients as an assistant agent and as the agency’s foreign rights manager. Janine has licensed translation rights in over 20 languages and has represented the agency and its clients annually at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Janine is building her list of clients and is open to picture books through YA. She is most drawn to stories with a strong emotional core that influence the way readers view the world, themselves, and the people around them. She is also fond of complex characters and relationships, unique cultural perspectives, and stories with a touch of humor, romance, or both.”

Articles featuring Janine:

Full submission guidelines for Christa and Janine 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 Christa Heschke from October 1st – October 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Janine Le from October 16th – October 31st at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Picture Books, Queries, SCBWI · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Teresa RobesonI am so pleased to bring Teresa Robeson to the “How I Got My Agent” series. I think of her as a “fireball,” and you’ll see why when you read this post. Here’s a gal who can teach you how to make a vodka creamsicle, can bushels of garden beans, and carry on a lucid discussion about the laws of motion — all while making you laugh! Not to mention this is a story that began with two participants of 12 x 12. Read on and have fun…

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

The short version is: I’ve been writing for submission since the early 90s, and only started looking for an agent at the start of 2013.

The long version (and you might want to get some caffeine now, or skip to the next question) is:

I learned English at the age of eight when my family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, from Hong Kong. As soon as I learned this beautiful language, I started devouring books in English, going from “Matt the Rat” readers to Little Women in a year. As is the case with many avid readers, I also started writing, penning everything from crossword puzzles for my younger sister to poems to short stories — probably in order to catch the excess words that were spilling out of me.

But it wasn’t until around 1991, when I was approaching 30, that I decided to get serious about writing, taking a course with The Institute of Children’s Literature. At the completion of the class, I sold one of my assignments to Ladybug Magazine as a short story.

Within a couple of months of the sale to Ladybug, I sold a personal essay to Outdoor Indiana magazine. Buoyed by my success coming out of the gate, so to speak, I continued to submit to the Cricket Magazine Group (now Carus Publishing) and other places for the next little while.

My kids, born in 1996 and 1997, inspired many of the pieces that were bought by Babybug and Ladybug. But, as they got older, and I began to homeschool them, life got busy and I put writing on hold.

I didn’t start writing seriously again until around 2010 when I took a speculative fiction class, followed by another, from Gotham Writers’ Workshop with the wonderful Michaela Roessner. Science fiction had been a love of mine since I was four years old. But I hadn’t abandoned kidlit. Somehow, somewhere — I’m fuzzy on the details, but it could have been from the Children’s Writer newsletter, which I’ve been subscribing to for years — I discovered websites for kidlit writers folks to lurk on. It was in those communities such as the (then Verla Kay’s) Blue Boards and Write-On Con that I saw Julie’s posts about 12×12. What I read sounded good and I knew that I needed something to push me in my writing because I’m basically lazy and would love to sit around all day eating cookies and reading books instead of doing something more constructive.

12×12 turned out to be just the shove I needed. I considered joining at the Bronze or Silver level, but knew that if I didn’t feel pressured by having made a larger monetary commitment, and having agents practically handed to me to submit to, I’d probably slack off. As it is, I don’t get a brand new manuscript written every month…though I always get a revision, or ten, done. Anyway, the special access to agents was what made me start looking in earnest for one.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

Prior to joining 12×12 in 2013, I wrote mainly for the magazine market and hadn’t looked seriously at agents. When I joined 2013’s 12×12 as a Gold member, I used Julie’s monthly posts about the agents who were available to us as a starting point for research. As I began to search for agents on my own, I read about them in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, the Writer’s Digest website posts on new agents, and a number of different online sites and blogs that feature agent interviews or highlights (e.g. Literary Rambles, Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating).

Once I found an agent through those venues who represented the type of writing I do, I looked at her/his agency’s website for up-to-date details on what s/he want and how to submit.

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

Since March, 2013, I submitted to 23 agents, and was rejected by all of them. I don’t count my agent, Ella Kennen, among those I submitted to because I came to sign with her through an unconventional route, which you can read about at my friend Sylvia Liu’s blog post.

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

Well, it wasn’t for me because I write for all ages, from PBs to short stories for adults. In fact, the hard part was finding an agent who actually takes all the genres and categories that I write. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to find one agent for PBs, one for MGs/YAs, etc. Fortunately for me, Ella has eclectic (and excellent, I might add! *grin*) tastes and can represent everything I crank out, including, hopefully, illustrative work in the future.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?

Ella and I first connected through 12×12 where she was a participant in 2013. We had lovely conversations about our common interests, including homeschooling and science fiction, and I already knew I liked her as a person. When she told me that she was interning to be an agent, and was interested in one of the stories I’d shown her, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it did occur to me that having an agent who was already a friend I admired would be a totally awesome thing! When she called me with the official offer, hubby told me that he could hear me squealing from out in our field (about a city block’s distance away).  Well, what did he expect? It was a dream come true!

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 🙂 )

Are you kidding? 12×12 was primarily responsible for my getting an agent (see answer to the above question)! If it weren’t for 12×12, I wouldn’t have met Ella and would not have an agent right now. Maybe I would have stumbled across her on my own eventually, but 12×12 was my “matchmaker.” 😉

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

Having an agent has freed me to concentrate on goofing off on Facebook, editing current manuscripts, as well as writing new stories, rather than spending time doing market research. Having an agent has also helped me figure out which pieces are worth working on and which should be scrapped, taking away a lot of the hand-wringing I was doing over which stories were actually publishable. It may still be just one person’s opinion, but it’s eliminated some of the uncertainty on my end.

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

I don’t usually like to give advice (unless you’re my offspring, and then you can’t shut me up; they’ll thank me one day), but would suggest that when you start out doing something – whether it be writing for publication or looking for an agent or tackling the fine art of ikebana – read all you can about the topic from books and online (search engines are your friends), then ask informed questions in friendly forums, like 12×12 or Blue Boards, before you actually leap into it.

And always keep in mind that publishing is a subjective field. I know you’ve heard it before and are probably so sick of hearing it, you want to throw a chair at me, but that won’t change the truism.

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

Perhaps not directly, but it was on Twitter that I started a conversation with Ella that led to my eventual signing with her. (Yes, I committed the big no-no of whining on Twitter. Don’t do what I did, boys and girls.)

I’ve been blogging since 2006, so I have a decent, if not huge, following, most of whom are not writers, which is actually pretty nice because we know we have a friend in other writers, but we want non-writers to buy our books too.

Also helpful in platform building is the fact that my speculative fiction critique group, The Minnows Literary Group, has self-published a couple of short story anthologies (on different themes) with 100% of the profits being donated to Doctors Without Borders. These anthologies have done quite well – we’ve donated over $2,000 to MSF so far – and I’ve received fan letters from strangers about my stories in the books; I’m sure Ella can’t find fault with my building a fan base before I have books published.

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 🙂 )

There are three things I really want to do; unfortunately, they are also highly improbable for me to achieve:
1) I want to land a huge portrait commission; I would love to paint the portraits of the National Academy of Sciences members.
2) I want to sing an aria, just once, at the Met because, many moons ago, I sang with a choir for 12 years and had wanted to be an opera singer.
3) I want to do graduate work in physics — particle/quantum, or astrophysics would be lovely.

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

Besides daydreaming about the impossible things on my bucket list, I’m currently editing a couple of picture book manuscripts, revising a completed MG novel, writing the first draft of a YA novel (and doing some historical research as I go along), as well as working on a number of sci-fi short stories and a possible novella for adults. Meanwhile, Ella and I are putting the finishing touches on two manuscripts that she’ll start shopping around soon.

The fun never ends!

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Books, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, Self Publishing, 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. Danielle Smith from Red Fox Literary will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members September 1-15. Alexandra Penfold from Upstart Crow Literary will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members September 16-30. Danielle’s profile appears first, followed by Alexandra’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

Danielle Smith - Forward LiteraryDANIELLE SMITH

Danielle was a featured agent in 2013. She is now with Red Fox Literary and you can see her bio here. You can find our extensive profile post on her here. More recent interviews and resources appear at the end of this profile update

Every wonderful thing I said about Danielle last year remains true, and even more so! I spent some time talking with her again this year at SCBWI-LA, and once again walked away impressed with her approach, her knowledge, and her “niceness.” Perhaps that sounds strange, but Danielle is fun, funny, and human. There is no “agent aura” that separates her from the unwashed masses (i.e. us – LOL), and I love that about her. I’m so excited she’s back for another round of 12 x 12!

The most up-to-date interviews with Danielle:

ALEXANDRA PENFOLD

I have not only had the great pleasure of meeting Alexandra in person when she was still with Paula Wiseman, but I also had one of my greatest writerly epiphanies (to date) at her hands. I attended a picture book writing intensive she taught at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI 2011 conference. Here is the blog post I wrote summarizing what I learned. I should add, too, that I STILL look back on that session as one of the most comprehensive and helpful I’ve ever taken at a conference. I was so excited when I heard Alexandra had become one, and I’m happy for GOLD members who will get a chance to submit to her. You guys have a tough choice (as always) this month. 🙂

Featured 12 x 12 Agent Alexandra PenfoldA little bit about Alexandra from the Upstart Crow Literary website:

Alexandra Penfold has been working in publishing for nearly a decade. Formerly an Editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, she specializes in young picture books, middle-grade fiction, and young adult. Prior to becoming an editor, Alexandra was a children’s book publicist. She worked on media campaigns that appeared in USA Today, Newsweek, US News and World Report, and NPR’s All Things Considered. She’s the co-author of New York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple’s Best Food Trucks, and is looking to take on select lifestyle and cooking projects in addition to children’s books.”

In her own words:

“I can’t remember a time when my life wasn’t filled with books. From an early age I loved to read and write stories. I was an obsessive reader as a kid. I read everything I could get my hands on and bankrolled the public library with my allowance because I always wanted to read books one more time before I returned them. I like to say that some of my favorite people live in books.

I didn’t follow the traditional English major track, instead my concentration at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study was in Entertainment Business and Marketing, basically did a business major with lots of writing and entertainment and media classes thrown in. I rediscovered by love of children’s books through an internship in the marketing department at Simon & Schuster the summer of my junior year. I joined the team there as a publicity assistant soon thereafter and two years later, transitioned to the editorial side of things in 2005.

In the close to ten years that I spent at S&S, I had the privilege to edit award-winning picture books and novels. I look forward to continuing to champion books and their creators as an agent.”

Articles featuring Alexandra:

  • Find Alexandra on the Upstart Crow Literary website here.
  • Find Alexandra on Twitter
  • Deconstructing characters on The Writing Barn’s blog.
  • Profile on SCBWI Conference blog.
  • Summary of her character class from Samantha Clark.
  • Agent panel at SCBWI Conference blog.
  • Faculty profile for SCBWI Western Washington here.
  • Alexandra on Salon Author Connect here.

Full submission guidelines for Danielle and Alexandra are 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 Danielle Smith from September 1st – September 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Alexandra Penfold from September 16th – September 30th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Books, Children's Books, Picture Books · 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. Jennifer Mattson from Andrea Brown Literary will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members August 1-15. Samantha Bremekamp from Corvisiero Literary Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members August 16-30. Jennifer’s profile appears first, followed by Samantha’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

 Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown LiteraryJENNIFER MATTSON

Jennifer was a featured agent in 2013. You can find our extensive profile post on her here. More recent interviews and resources appear at the end of this profile update

I am so delighted to welcome Jennifer back as a 12 x 12 featured agent. She is so generous and enthusiastic and totally ready to find new talent! We are lucky to have her.

The most up-to-date interviews with Jennifer:

SAMANTHA BREMEKAMP

Because Samantha Bremekamp is a newer agent, she hasn’t done too many interviews across the Internet yet. HOWEVER, I was fortunate enough to meet Samantha in person at the NJ-SCBWI conference last month. From our conversation, I gleaned that Samantha is extremely knowledgeable about the children’s book market, is effervescent in her love of picture books, and is eager to read submissions from 12 x 12 members. All this AND she looks spectacular in the color turquoise. 😉 

Samantha Bremekamp of Corvisiero LiteraryA little bit about Samantha from the Corvisiero Literary Agency website:

“Samantha Bremekamp started her career in publishing in 2008, and quickly realized that she preferred working directly with authors from the other side of the industry. She runs critique groups and writing groups for fun, as she also loves to write and help others to fulfill their writing ambitions. She is fully aware of how hard of an industry it really is in this day and age.

Her favorite writing is children’s, middle grade, young adult, and new adult. There is something so pure about each building block of life these book groups represent. Although there may be a difference between a three year old and a 33 year old, maybe, Samantha finds that all of life’s challenges in these age groups really show the potential for amazing growth in a character.

Samantha’s background is in English literature, communications, and Spanish. She really thinks that if a writer is confident and believes in their work, their work will show that without having to showboat to prove it via a pitch.

Samantha loves reading Children’s, MG, YA, and NA fiction. She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction, mystery, and quirky romance.”

Articles featuring Samantha Bremekamp:

Full submission guidelines for Jennifer and Samantha are 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 Jennifer Mattson from August 1st – August 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Samantha Bremekamp from August 16th – August 30th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

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

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