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By: Tara Lazar
Blog: Tara Lazar
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, PiBoIdMo 2013
, Picture Books
, Ammi-Joan Paquette
, Danielle Smith
, Lori Kilkelly
, Marietta Zacker
, Mira Reisberg
, Susan Hawk
, Tricia Lawrence
, Add a tag
I call the agents who participate in PiBoIdMo “agent prizes”, but let me make one thing clear: you do not get to bring them home with you.
Oh, sure, I know how you’d love to cuddle up with an agent, dress them in adorable footie pajamas and read them bedtime stories, but alas, they are remaining in their respective homes. For now. Who knows? If they really LOVE your ideas, maybe they’d like to snuggle beside you? But I digress…
At the conclusion of PiBoIdMo, on December 1st, I will post the “PiBo Pledge”. Leave a comment on the pledge post if you have completed the challenge with at least 30 ideas. You do not have to submit those ideas to prove that you have them. You’re on the honor system. It’s OK, I trust you.
If you have “signed” the pledge by commenting AND you had also registered, then you are eligible for an “agent prize”—a.k.a. THE GRAND POOBAH OF PRIZES. You will get your 5 best ideas evaluated by a kidlit agent. They’ll tell you which ideas might be the best ones to pursue as manuscripts. (Or not.)
Don’t worry–you’ll get a few days to pick your 5 best ideas and flesh them out before sending to your assigned agent.
This year we have EIGHT EXCELLENT AGENTS participating! This means there are EIGHT GRAND PRIZES! I hope to add more, but these are who we have thus far.
Now…let me introduce you…let me make you smile… (wait, that’s let me entertain you…oopsie…but I bet you’re smiling anyway)…
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA)
Joan is a Senior Agent with EMLA, working from her home office in Massachusetts as the “East Coast branch” of the agency. She represents all forms of children’s and young adult literature, but is most excited by a strong lyrical voice, tight plotting with surprising twists and turns, and stories told with heart and resonance that will stand the test of time.
An EMLA client herself, Joan is also the author of numerous books for children, most recently the picture books Ghost in the House (Candlewick, 2013) and Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo (Clarion, 2013), and the novels Paradox (Random House, 2013) and Rules for Ghosting (Walker, 2013). When she is not on the phone, answering email, or writing, you will most likely find Joan curled up with a book. Or baking something delicious. Or talking about something delicious she’s baked. Really, after books and food, what else is there worth saying?
You can read more about Joan’s writing and agenting process here.
Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA)
Tricia is the “Pacific Northwest branch” of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 18 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids book to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist.
As associate agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go.
Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves. You can find Tricia’s writing about blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and other social media topics (for authors and the publishing industry at large) here and here.
Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency
Marietta has experienced children’s books from every angle—teaching, marketing, publishing & bookselling. She thrives on working with authors who make readers feel their characters’ emotions and illustrators who add a different dimension to the story. She is also book curator at an independent toy store/bookstore. Read a recent publishing industry piece by Marietta here.
Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary
Danielle Smith began her agent career at Foreword Literary Agents in 2013 where she represents picture books and middle grade authors and illustrators. Her enthusiasm for children’s literature began as a young child, but grew exponentially when her own two children were born and shortly thereafter she began reviewing books at her top rated children’s book review site There’s A Book. For more than five years she’s been involved professionally with books through print and online publications such as Women’s World and Parenting Magazine, as a member of the judging panel for The Cybils awards for fiction picture books, as well as locally by serving on the board of The Central Coast Writer’s Conference.
Danielle is also a writer, represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg for her middle grade novel The Protectorate. She’s a member of SCBWI and can frequently be found on Twitter talking about anything from children’s books to the BBC’s Sherlock to her own parenting woes & joys.
Read more about Danielle here.
Mira Reisberg, Hummingbird Literary
Mira Reisberg came to launch Hummingbird Literary following a 25-year history in the field of children’s literature working as an award-winning illustrator, a writer, editor, art director, designer, a children’s literature and art education professor, and a teacher/mentor to many now successful children’s book creatives.
Her mission is to successfully represent all age-levels to create wonderful books that bring meaning and/or joy to children’s and young adult lives. Hummingbird Literary will have a limited number of clients so that Mira and her team can focus on building long-term careers and fruitful relationships.
Learn more about Mira and Hummingbird here.
Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
Susan Hawk represents authors who write for children of all ages, babies to teenage.
Susan comes to TBA from Children’s Book Marketing, where she worked for over 15 years, most recently as the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and previous to that as the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. She’s also worked as a children’s librarian and a bookseller.
Susan handles books for children exclusively: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA, fiction and non-fiction. She wants a book to stay with her long after she finishes reading, and she’s looking for powerful, original writing. She’s open to mystery, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre). Her favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. In non-fiction she’s looking for books that relate to kid’s daily lives and their concerns with the world. In picture books, she’s looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and characters as indelible as her childhood favorites Ferdinand, Madeline and George and Martha.
Read more about Susan here.
Lori Kilkelly, Rodeen Literary
Lori Kilkelly is an agent with Rodeen Literary Management, founded by Paul Rodeen, formerly of Sterling Lord Literistic, in 2009. After working in sales for a number of years, Lori decided to follow her passion for books. She attended the Denver Publishing Institute, subsequently joining the agency as an intern in early 2010. Ascending the ranks from intern and reader to assistant, she worked with current and potential clients as well as editors and publishers. In early 2012 Lori took on the role of Social Media Manager, creating and maintaining the Rodeen Literary Facebook page as well as Twitter and Pinterest accounts, to provide promotional opportunities for RLM clients as well as keep interested parties informed about books, news and events involving RLM. In December 2012 she began representing her first client, Toni Yuly, and has subsequently taken on an additional four clients. She represents authors as well as illustrators and is actively seeking talented Middle Grade and Young Adult writers.
Please visit here for more on Lori and Rodeen Literary.
Sean McCarthy, McCarthy Literary
Sean McCarthy began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press and then moved over to the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. He worked as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota.
He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, or query letters that pose too many questions.
You can visit Sean here and follow him on Twitter here for his thoughts on publishing news, the inevitable hipsterfication of Astoria, and the Mets’ starting lineup.
Yay! So those are our agents, folks.
Now I should end on a humorous note, but you know, running PiBoIdMo just wipes the witty right outta me sometimes.
Maybe…yabba dabba do?
Blog: Darlene Beck-Jacobson
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, Children's Books
, Literary Agents
, writing for children
, children's writers conference
, Add a tag
I just returned home from the annual New Jersey Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Conference (NJSCBWI) in Princeton. What an inspiring and motivating weekend surrounded by the best agents, editors and writer’s of children’s books. There were numerous workshops to perfect the craft of writing, as well as A Keynote Address by writer/illustrator PETER BROWN, a warm, funny and talented man.
At Book Signing With Peter Brown
With Tara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE
New Author TARA LAZAR gave an inspirational talk about the Myth of Great Divide between those published and those not and how our NJ group of talented people have always helped and encouraged each other on our writing journey.
There were reunions with writer friends and new bonds made with first-timers. Best of all, I left with a new energy and purpose to dive into writing projects and keep on sending my stories out into the world.
Me with my Super Agents Liza Fleissig, Ginger Harris and fellow writer Robin Newman.
Thanks to Leeza Hernandez the Regional Advisor and the planning committee for another great event. For more photos and highlights check out the NJSCBWI website: http://www.newjerseyscbwi.com
Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency with fellow writer Karin Lefrank also repped by Liza.
3 Cheers for Robin Newman…another fellow writer repped by the Liza Royce Agency.
I’ve bumped into Susan Hawk a few times lately, which is easy for me, since I walk with a cane and my balance stinks! *rimshot*
Knowing I have blog followers who are eager to snag a picture book agent, I sat down with Susan (after we bumped—yes—right there on the floor) and asked her some questions about picture books, agenting, and the surreal softness of the carpet. Was it Turkish cotton? Or do they only use that for robes and towels? (Um, scratch those last couple questions.)
Susan, what led to your decision to become a kidlit agent? Can you tell us about your professional background?
I’m lucky to have worn a number of hats within the children’s book world. I’ve been a bookseller; I have a degree in Library Science and have worked in an elementary school library as well as the Brooklyn Public Library; I acquired a few book projects for Dutton Children’s Books. But most of my background is in Children’s Book Marketing, gathered at Penguin, Henry Holt and North-South Books. All of that led to my decision to make the jump to agenting three years ago, which feels like the perfect way to put these experiences to work. But, really, I think it all began with this: I’m a reader. I love reading books, I love meeting new characters and going new places in the pages of a book, and that’s always been true for me.
What are some of your all-time favorite picture books?
Ah, a great question. It’s hard to stop!
- ME, JANE by Patrick Jennings
- SPOON by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Scott Magoon
- I’M NOT by Pam Smallcomb and Robert Weinstock
- THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka
- SO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT by Judith St George and David Small
- OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA by Peggy Rathmann
- “MORE, MORE, MORE,” SAID THE BABY by Vera B Williams
- BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL by Robert McCloskey
- GEORGE AND MARTHA, or anything by James Marshall
- SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE by William Steig
- MISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney
- LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE by Kevin Henkes
- BREAD AND JAME FOR FRANCES by Russell Hoban
- FREDERICK by Leo Lionni
What about those books make them special?
Three things: character, humor, and each of these is a very satisfying book.
In most of them, the main character is someone I love. Like, obsessively love. ME, JANE—I already think Jane Goodall is amazing, but in the pages of this book, we’re introduced to a real little girl who’s so true to her own interests, that you can’t help but be entirely charmed. Spoon features the most adorable spoon you’d ever want to meet, not to mention his smart, reassuring parents. And it goes on—every one of these books holds a real, textured person, brought to life in just a few words and pages.
Almost all of them are funny. Some of them are more broadly so, in some of them the humor lies more in a clever twist, but with all of them, I find myself smiling. A lot.
You know the feeling when you close a book and think, I can’t wait to read that again? That happens when the author and artist, together, create a perfect symphony of voice, character and plot. When everything works in concert, you finish the story feeling somehow more whole, and will want to come back to that story again. Obviously, which books do this will be different for different people, but for me, these books all give me that sense.
What do you look for in a picture book submission?
Pretty much what I described above!
Also, shorter text (about 500-600 words), and I’m not usually a fan of rhyming text.
What makes you stop reading a submission?
Predictably, longer texts, rhyming texts—I usually stop reading those. There are also quite a few “evergreen” stories, themes or subjects out there—making a new friend is one. (Here’s a list of a few others.) These can be tricky because in the right hands, they can feel fresh and new, so I’d never say that I’d automatically stop reading a story like this. Still, these texts will be competing with quite a few others out there, so I’m cautious with these.
Is there anything you see too much of in your submission pile?
I see quite a few projects that want to teach kids a lesson. I’m not particularly interested in this, though there are quite a few picture books that want kids to understand some values—fairness, for instance—and do this quite skillfully. I guess that, in terms of message books, I want to see this emerge from the character’s journey, rather than leading the story.
What is the word from picture book editors these days? What are they seeking in picture books?
The main thing editors ask me for is strong, original characters with a compelling, meaty story. If that character has the potential to build a series, all the better. Length should be shorter (see word count above). Most editors will find something funny very appealing and are often looking for something quirky. This is harder to quantify—one gal’s quirky is another gal’s odd—but in general, I think this is about looking for something that feels new and different.
What factors go into your decision to offer a picture book author representation? (Do you offer representation based on only one picture book, or do you prefer that the author have a few ready to submit?)
Two things—I need to love the work, and I need to feel that I can sell it. Easy to explain, hard to find! Mainly that’s because it’s ultimately personal and what I may love is so different than what someone else may love. It’s best if the writer has a few books in the bag, so to speak, but not 100% necessary.
Do your rep author-illustrators? Is it best for them to query with a full dummy, or just a story and a portfolio?
I do! In fact, I’m very eager to take more author-illustrators on. I love seeing a full dummy, but querying either way is fine. My submissions information is here: http://www.thebentagency.com/submission.php.
Could you describe your ideal client?
Someone who loves their work. Writing and illustrating is amazing work, and I feel super lucky to work with children’s book creators, but it requires dedication, patience, flexibility, and some grit. You’re probably going to hear no a few times before you hear yes. Being able to balance all that against a deep love for your work, and a real pleasure in doing it, is key.
Are you open to submissions? How can writers reach you?
Very much so. Please visit The Bent Agency website to learn more about being in touch.
Thank you, Susan! I hope to bump into you again soon! Without dumping us both onto the floor. Although, it sparked a lovely, informative conversation, didn’t it?
|Madison Square Park - Photo by me|
First of all, before I get to the bazillion links I have saved up... I smell something. Is that a... I think... why, yes, I think I know what that is. A CONTEST IS COMING.
And not just any contest. One of the big huge ones
. It's been too long. This one is going to be good. I'm very excited. Stick. Around.
Or maybe just come back on Monday. You don't need to literally stick around.
Now then, these links aren't going to link to themselves.
A new Jacob Wonderbar
is also coming next week! Yes indeedy, the third and final installment of the Jacob Wonderbar series, Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp
, is coming out on Thursday! Make sure to pre-order so you and the kids in your life can be hipster middle grade readers and say you read it before it was all popular and stuff. I'm very excited to have this series all wrapped up and ready to be read in full:Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space KapowJacob Wonderbar for President of the UniverseJacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp
Whew! Excitement! I swear adults will enjoy them too. They're not just for kids.
Okay now for the real links.
Author Stephen Elliott had a great post called The Problem With the Problem With Memoir
, in which he has this priceless quote:
...celebrity memoirs are rarely interesting, despite how interesting their lives appear from the outside. The problem is not that they don’t live interesting lives, it’s that they’re not writers.
In book promotion news, a pertinent question for our age: Why do literary readings always make me want to kill myself?
(via The Millions
). And Adam Mansbach has a hilarious and very timely post on the state of book promotion: Hell is my own book tour
Gosh. If I didn't know any better I'd think authors hate self-promotion
In new book ventures, esteemed blog The Millions is launching an e-book venture
, and Random House is launching a Facebook app to help people share and discover books
When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. When you've got no worries all the noise and the hurry seems to help I know, downtown. At least, that's where HarperCollins is going
In io9 writing advice news, these are the character names that should be banned forever
, and here is a writing tip that really does work
, in fact I have employed this one myself from time to time.
Agent Mary Kole has advice for getting the most out of a writer's conference
, and agent Rachelle Gardner has a new e-book out on deciding between traditional and self-publication
Publishing industry expert Mike Shatzkin had too good posts lately on the importance of bookstore buying
and inventory management decisions and also about what Barnes & Noble's recent contraction announcement means for publishers
In social media news, Scientific American has a terrific posts on the pros and cons of comment threads and moderation
GalleyCat has a list of free places to back up your work online
And award news! You get a Newbery! You get a Caldecott! You get a Printz!
These past few weeks in the forums: mourning the end of Game of Thrones Season 2
, making meaning out of the adolescent years
, giving yourself permission to fail
, your 2013 writing goals
, and do you have to listen to everything a beta reader says
And finally, a seriously awesome article about love
Have a great weekend!
By: Tara Lazar
Blog: Tara Lazar
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, Literary Agents
, Ammi-Joan Paquette
, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
, Erin Murphy
, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
, Jennifer Laughran
, Prospect Agency
, Teresa Kietlinski
, Add a tag
If you’re an un-agented writer, you might be thinking—do I even NEED a blog? What content should it contain? How often should I post? What SHOULDN’T I blog about?
Well, relax. I asked a few agents what they thought of writerly blogs. Their responses may surprise you.
Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency:
“I don’t have any strict rules or do’s and don’ts. I find blogs are perhaps less useful than they used to be, with the exception of those with large followings. Mostly I go to them, when considering signing someone new, to get a sense of their personality and how they present themselves (whether to fellow kidlit folks, gatekeepers or kids).”
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency:
“A writer’s blog wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me unless it was wildly unprofessional. First and foremost, when I’m looking at a potential client, it’s all about the writing. But beyond that, a blog or website gives a sense of who that person is, how our tastes and interests might mesh, etc. So make sure your web presence reflects who you are, and that it looks clean and tight and polished. I don’t think they’re essential, but it is nice to put a face and background to the voice I’m reading on the screen.”
Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency:
“I don’t care if an author has a blog or not. But if they DO have a blog, I hope it is lively, interesting, informative, fun to read, and gives a sense of their “voice” and a glimpse into their lives.
Turnoffs: Lots of word-count posts. Constant self-promotion. Complaining about blogging, complaining about the publishing industry, complaining about specific people (your agent or editor, for example)—or “Humblebragging.” Overly political or “sexy” posts (unless you are a political or sexy writer).
If an author HATES blogging and is struggling to find the time or energy…if it is taking away from their work or making them miserable…then they should absolutely not do it. An unused blog, or a blog that is just complaints or self-PR, is so much worse than no blog at all.”
Teresa Kietlinski, Prospect Agency:
“Blogs are absolutely important in my decision making. When submissions come in, I tend to visit blogs first because they give me a taste of the writer’s (and illustrator’s) personality, voice and interests. It also lets me see how dedicated they are to the craft of writing or illustrating. Do they post frequently? Do they talk about topics of interest in the children’s book world? Are they honing his/her skills? What books is he/she reading? Would I like to join him/her for
Whew! It's been a little while since our last link roundup and I have quite a few links to share.
But! First! I'm hoping to be on a rather fantastic social media panel at South By Southwest 2013 with such luminaries as Veronica Belmont, Brian Tong and Maya Grinberg but I need your help! Please vote for our panel, Social Media Shootout, at the SXSW Panel Picker site. Registering is easy, I promise.
Now then, on to the links.
So I don't know if you've noticed, but the Internet happens to be rather awesome. One side effect of Internet awesomeness is that literary agent scams are on the wane, but, as Author Beware points out, they still exist so please be vigilant.
Stephen Parrish, who you may know from around these parts, is hosting an awesome flash fiction contest, check it out!
Remember the whole Google Book Search scanning settlement thing? Yeah. Well, newly uncovered documents suggest that the book scanning was originally aimed at combatting Amazon.
In case you missed it (or, as the kids now say, #ICYMI), NPR released a list of the 100 best ever teen novels of all time, quite a few of which were not exactly teen novels.
Want to be challenged? Check out this list of the most difficult books of all time.
If you want to be challenged in a different way, you may wish to know that Fifty Shades of Grey is the UK's bestselling book of all time.
Fifty James author E.L. James may top this list next year, but for now, James Patterson is still the world's top earning earning authors, with a cool $94 million in the past year.
Signs are increasing that e-book sales are leveling off. Mike Shatzkin wonders if the revolution has moved to evolution.
An annual favorite, the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton bad writing fiction contest have been announced. The winner is definitely a doozy.
We have addressed "publishing time
" on this here blog before, but editor Cheryl Klein had a great recent post that covers six reasons why everything in publishing takes so long
And there was quite a bru-ha-ha over a site called Lendink, which used a legal mechanism for lending e-books, which many authors freaked out about. Writer Beware used it as a cautionary about the need for Internet restraint.
This week in the Forums, writers who run
, is a low-selling self-published book "baggage?"
, should writers self-censor on social media
, in memory of the great authors who have died this year
, what's your editing style
, and most/least favorite characters
Comment! Of! The! Week! A.C. Tidwell wrote a fantastically interesting response to the post about whether the publishing industry does or doesn't care about good writing
. It's long, but I want to print it in full:
I think that the publishing industry has a rich history of setting the bar of what is considered posh and what is considered subpar. I also think there is something to be said for writing that qualifies as high quality (tight prose, language, requires something from readers, thought provoking, cerebral) and something that is low quality (uses tropes and not for satire, follows a paint-by-numbers structure, reuses character-types from pop culture or Mary Sue archetypes, poor prose, abundance of dead metaphors, plot heavy). One affects you long after you put it down. The other is easy. So, I actually think that the publishing industry is an excellent buffer against most subpar writing. With mass media, internet, and indie publishing, there is a large amount of mediocre to poor writers out there. The market is oversaturated. But this doesn’t reflect the industry, per se, it reflects our society. In America, in particular, we ask very little from our literature, television or film. Instead we want to be entertained in a non-thought provoking way. This is a symptom of our times and the stress of recession. Art generally falls by the wayside in terms making us thoughtful consumers. We want escapism and safety when we have to worry about unemployment and food. It’s why we’ll read the same type of romance or sci-fi story over and over, knowing exactly how it will end, the only difference being character names and slight alterations in plot. Our reading standards decrease, because, hey we’ve done this before…I know how it ends…and that is one less thing to worry about.
I haven’t read Shades of Gray but I do remember when Twilight came out. I couldn’t simply dismiss it so I had to do research. So after reading the series I asked my students what appealed to them. It turns out it was a romance they’d heard before, written in the same type of wish-fulfillment fantasy that Hollywood makes large profits on. They were never really concerned with the outcome. Instead, the story gathered all the filmmaking and gothic romance tropes together in one place. It was icing. The sweet part without the cake.
I think the publishing industry should keep their standards and perhaps make them even more rigorous. I know that is disappointing to hear but take it with a grain of salt because it’s all relative. Having said that, I think that indie publishing is the place for fanfiction to grow. Everyone wants to be a writer. I’ve seen an explosion in the amount of students queued for my classes. It’s good for the market as a whole as it brings in new readers. I also think that big publishing should be hesitant to jump into that pool completely. For one, it will delegitimize the industry, something that will only be realized in 20 years when they look back at the current trend and say, “Oh right. How could we have thought The Bachelor could win us an Emmy?” But don’t shun it either. Hold writing contests with submission fees and award small publishing prizes for amateur fan fiction writers. Recognize the group and make a profit too. But at the same time, publishers have to realize it’s a temporary niche market. Very few people will quote Shades of Gray in twenty years. Remember to leave room for the other writers who we will be talking about. When our society no longer just wants to sit down and let a low quality book just wash over them, I can only hope we don’t ignore the next Fitzgerald simply because he/she didn’t sell an extraordinary amount of books on Amazon. We just can’t let that dictate greatness. Sorry for the long post.
And finally, I've been loving Best Coast's new album lately. Summer is almost over but enjoy it while you can!
Have a great weekend!
Three is a magic number. Not because it’s the age when tiny toy parts no longer pose a choking hazard to your toddler, but because the universe is full of threebies.
Three square meals a day.
Three strikes and you’re out.
Three ring circus. And three ring government. (Excellent analogy, Schoolhouse Rock.)
Then there’s the “rule of thirds” design principle for composing visual images with tension and interest.
Ever heard of the FOUR LITTLE PIGS? Of course not. There’s just three, like THREE BLIND MICE and THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF. Heck, there’s even THREE STOOGES.
In picture books, you’ll often find the protagonist struggling to solve their problem three times before finally succeeding. This technique encourages the reader to become invested in the hero’s journey. If the character were to try once and triumph, what fun is that? There’s no time to root for her!
Likewise, you’ll often see groups of three drawings on one picture book page. Three offers a nice balance because two is too few and four is too many. Like Goldilocks and the THREE Bears know, three is “just right”.
So today I’m going to extend “The Rule of Three” to you, the aspiring author. How so? I encourage you to have THREE polished manuscripts ready before submitting to an agent or editor.
Three manuscripts means that you’ve been writing for a while. Not a month or two, but most likely a year or two…or yes, even three. You’ve taken the time to hone your craft. Three manuscripts also means you’ve got a body of work an agent can review. If they don’t like your first story, but they see potential, they will ask for some more. Wouldn’t it be a missed opportunity if you didn’t have more?
In fact, even if they LOVE your first story, they will ask to see more. Picture books are a difficult sell, so if the first manuscript doesn’t find a home, they’ll want something else to submit. Three stories lets the agent know that your body of work, your style, resonates with them. On the flip side, they may LOVE your first book but not see a market for your other stories, or personally dislike them. Their lack of enthusiasm means they are not the right agent for you. You want to know this BEFORE you sign with someone, not AFTER….’cause breaking up? It’s hard to do.
And listen, if you have three manuscripts ready, I’m going to go a bit further and suggest you get FIVE ready. Because five is shiny, like “five golden rings” or “The Jackson Five”.
Yeah, it’s easy as A B C, 1 2 THREE.
Literary agent and author Pam van Hylckama was the apparent victim of an assault
last night by an author she had rejected.
First off, I'm incredibly glad Pam's okay and it appears the suspect is in custody. I had the pleasure of meeting Pam last year and she's a great, supportive presence in the book world.
I got a bit of grief for this post
back while I was an agent. Some people mocked me for being so wary of meeting unannounced visitors.
Even now that I'm out of the game I think that caution was very well-placed. I'm not sure that everyone quite can know what it's like to be on the receiving end of the sometimes unhinged vitriol agents receive on a regular basis.
Thank goodness it ended without anything more serious happening.
Michael Bourne, tired of having his novel rejected without knowing why, interviewed literary agents to find out what their job is like and arrived at a newfound empathy for them:
They are called literary agents, and if you are a writer with one or more unpublished books on your hard drive you have probably received a terse note from several dozen of them telling you that your novel is “not a right fit” for their agency at this time. In that moment you tore open that thin self-addressed envelope or read the two-line return email, you probably hated them. Not just that one agent, but all literary agents, as a class. How could they not see the brilliance in your manuscript? How could they possibly guess at the quality of your manuscript based on a one-page letter and a synopsis? And what the hell does “not a right fit” mean, anyway? Is that even grammatical English?
This is a perfectly natural and human response. It hurts to be rejected, and it hurts even more when you walk into a real bookstore, one with chirpy sales clerks and splashy book covers, and see truly godawful books by authors represented by some of these very same agents. But as natural as that rage might be, as satisfying as it is to rant to your friends or online about the idiocy of the people in mainstream publishing, this anger is misplaced. There are good literary agents and bad ones – the gap between the two is huge – but literary agents are only middlemen navigating the rough seas between the swarms of unpublished writers and an ever-diminishing readership for literary fiction.Check out the whole thing
. I don't agree quite as strongly with the necessity of being totally plugged into publishing culture, but I do embrace the idea that ultimately writers should seize as much responsibility for their own destiny as they can.
Art: Portrait of Alexander Benua by Lev Bakst
The Benefits of Having a Great Agent
I'm sure you've all heard the warning that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. I've read horror stories (and even heard in person from a best-selling author) about what happens when an agent goes bad and they have to start over and find a new agent. I've also read a lot online saying you don't even need an agent these days, especially if you plan to self-publish. I respectfully disagree. In fact, I went to a talk by a best-selling self-published author, and guess what she had? A top agent from a great literary agency. Another top-earning self-publisher just blogged about recently obtaining an agent for her books. Why? I'll discuss that in a minute. Overall, I agree that having no agent is better than having a bad agent...but having a rock star agent is golden. I know a little bit about this because I have a rock star agent *waves at Jessica* from a great literary agency. So here is how a fabulous agent can benefit both traditional and self-published authors:
1) Editorial relationships. A great agent has a wealth of publishing knowledge and solid relationships with editors, so they know who is be looking for a specific project. For instance, they know if an editor has been dying for a book about killer space monkeys, or conversely, if an editor will stab themselves if they see one more monkey story. Though I try to stay abreast of publishing industry news, I don't have the years of relationships with publishers that my agent does, and I'm so glad she knew exactly where to send my book (which sadly, does not involve killer space monkeys). Some self-publishers are pursuing the hybrid model, which involves having some books published traditionally while they self-publish others, and for any author who wants a traditional publishing deal, a reputable agent has access to publishing houses that don't allow non-agented submissions.
2) They know books. This might sound obvious, but it's true. Agents read a ton of queries (after doing my "query critiques for all" giveaway earlier this year, I have even more respect for the massive amount of work they do). They also read a lot of manuscripts and you know, actual books. The bottom line is that agents know books. They know what makes for a great story and can easily spot what works and what doesn't. Every suggestion my agent made for revising my book was spot-on. Her knowledge made my book better, and I'm not saying that just because the book sold to a great publisher...I'm truly satisfied that I created the best book I could.
3) Contract negotiations. Can you say "reversion of rights?" Yes, technically you don't "need" an agent to sign a publishing contract, but have you read one lately? I got a headache after seeing one paragraph. An agent knows their way around the technical language of the contract, and knows where to push for change (e.g. more money, reversion clauses, etc.) They will also likely be more successful in having those changes accepted than if the author negotiated themselves, because part of being a good agent involves killer negotiating skills. Could someone do this themselves if they spent enough time on it? Yes, but personally, I'd rather focus on writing. I have enough trouble negotiating bed time with my kiddos, and am happy to leave legal negotiations in my agent's capable hands.
I'm also including foreign rights in this category, and it's a big reason why some self-published authors either already have or desire an agent, even if they don't want a traditional publishing deal. I can't imagine the time and energy involved in navigating foreign rights contracts, nor do I want to. The agented self-published author I heard speak said that the foreign rights sales alone was the impetus for her to get an agent.
4) Trust. This one is more intangible but just as important (to me, anyway). The author-agent relationship is a business partnership, and if you don't have trust in your business partner, then you're screwed (and yes, that trust goes both ways). For the writer, it's important to feel like you have someone watching out for your best interests. Yes, an agent only makes money if your book sells, but I believe that most agents go into the business for the same reason that writers do--we are all passionate about books. Most agents only take on a book because they love it. They wouldn't devote hours of their time to something they didn't believe in. When you trust that your agent is competent and skilled, it frees you to focus on other things--you know, like writing (well, and marketing, but that's a whole other post).
What have I missed? Any other opinions out there from the agented or unagented?
You all know that I'm self-publishing an e-book version of Saving the Planet & Stuff in order to give it a life as a back list title. You know because I keep mentioning it here. You can see the cover over to the left. I have done very little since the beginning of July except work on the marketing plans for this thing and copyediting. When you have text scanned to create a digital file, a lot of errors occur. Who knew?
So, I have self-publishing on the mind. Self-publishing was on my mind when I saw Some Hard Numbers at Janet Reid, Literary Agent. Reid writes about writers who self-publish believing they'll catch a traditional publisher's eye. As she points out, they may not be aware of what catches a publisher's eye. It's sales. Big ones. By big, she's talking 20,000 books. Doesn't sound like a big number to you? Many traditionally published authors don't sell 20,000 copies of an individual title. The commenter who pointed out that a self-published e-book can continue slowly selling for years is correct. That's why traditionally published authors like myself are self-publishing out-of-print titles. E-books function as the back list that publishers can no longer maintain. But slow, low sales over many years aren't helpful for publishers. If they were, they'd keep much larger back lists than they do.
Self-publishing was also on my mind when I read A Day in the Life of a Children's Book Editor. What I kept thinking was that all those things that editor talked about doing are things self-published authors have to do for themselves. Proofing, cover copy, cover concepts, cover illustrations, promotion, deadlines, events...And, as this editor said, she didn't do any editing that day.
One of my Facebook friends said she was surprised to hear that self-publishing was a lot of work. She isn't a writer.
A few months back, my former colleague Sarah LaPolla wrote a very important blog post
that everyone looking for an agent should read.
There are a lot of agents out there. Some of them are fantastic. They came up through an apprenticeship process and worked hard for an established agent before they knew enough to take on clients. When they started taking on clients they were prepared, and now they have lots of sales under their belts.
Others just hung out a shingle. Maybe they had some connection to the business, maybe it was just a life-long dream, maybe they got fed up and decided if you can't beat 'em become one.
The hardest thing is, some of these non-legit agents don't know they're not legit
. They have the best intentions, they may be good, hard-working people. But there's a lot more to being an agent than knowing how to read a contract or possessing a rolodex.
A bad agent can be more damaging to your career than no agent. There are bad agents out there. Learn how to avoid them.Read Sarah's post
. Make sure the agent who wants to represent you is legit-legit. Don't be scared of a young agent at a very established agency
. Do be skeptical of someone who doesn't seem to have a great deal of experience and is working on their own.Art: Double Portrait by Raphael
By: topic:literary_agent - Google News,
Head of Zeus makes first fiction buyThe BooksellerLiterary agent Fiona Spencer Thomas has sold a thriller by Alex Churton to Anthony Cheetham's new venture, Head of Zeus, which will publish the novel in e-book form in January 2012 before a print publication in the autumn. Head of Zeus acquired world ...
By: topic:literary_agent - Google News,
By: topic:literary_agent - Google News,
It's fun watching Tebow buck the trendsLongview Daily NewsQuestions will be answered in time, but, as a literary agent might say, "How can you knock the opening chapters?" As a metaphor for overcoming impossible odds, Silky Sullivan's a bit dated. As much of a celebrity as he was in 1958, few people remember ...and more »
By: topic:literary_agent - Google News,
By: topic:literary_agent - Google News,
Today cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com had a nifty competition where authors could submit the first 250 words of their manuscript along with the plot part of a query letter. Those who got in would be “coached” in terms of fine-tuning, then these submissions would go to literary agents, who would choose among, or fight over them. The trick [...]
By: Tara Lazar
Blog: Tara Lazar
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, Children's Writing
, Literary Agents
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, 10 Turkeys in the Road
, Brenda Reeves Sturgis
, Emma Dryden
, Karen Grencik
, Red Fox Literary
, Writing Career
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Writing is a solitary profession. Sitting on our bed, laptop balanced on a pillow, wearing mismatched jammies all day (well, that’s how I work, anyway), we don’t gab at an office water cooler or take swanky lunches with colleagues. We’re alone with our characters—who can drive us nuts! We’re alone with our ideas, our words, and a vat of java.
Most writers I know are hard on themselves. We are our worst critics–we’re very hard on ourselves. We can spend all day writing and feel as though we’ve accomplished nothing. It’s nice to hear someone say what we’ve written has potential, has vision, has made someone spit all over their keyboard in laughter (the highest compliment, I think).
So today I bring you the story of three kidlit friends who came together with one goal in mind—to take an author’s career to the next step. To provide an encouraging, supportive environment in which she can thrive. Folks, you gotta have friends. Luckily, the kidlit community includes some of the best people around.
Please welcome author Brenda Reeves Sturgis, consulting editor Emma Dryden, and agent Karen Grencik!
TL: Brenda, your debut picture book TEN TURKEYS IN THE ROAD was released by Marshall Cavendish last year and quickly earned both critical and commercial success. Most people think you publish one book and you’ve got it made. But you felt your career needed a boost. How did you come to this conclusion?
BRS: Thank you for this thoughtful blog post, and for interviewing the three of us.
I sold 10 TURKEYS IN THE ROAD in 2008 and at that time I was represented by another agent, but in 2010 we parted ways and I was left trying to navigate the children’s lit world, alone.
I queried for many months and got personal, kind rejections. After a long period of going it alone, I knew that I needed to find out what was holding me back from finding my perfect-for-me agent. I had heard of Emma Dryden for years, and had great respect for her. She was and is knowledgeable in all aspects of publishing. I was confident that by hiring Emma she would know what needed tweaking, and what I needed to do to progress in my quest. I contacted Emma and she agreed to consult, we set up a phone call, and I sent her my manuscripts.
TL: Emma, what was your reaction when you read Brenda’s work? What did you propose as the next step in her career?
ED: When Brenda first contacted me, she explained her situation—she was a new writer with one book under contract; she’d been with an agent and was currently seeking a new agent; she was “trying to do everything right,” but it didn’t seem to be paying off and she was starting to question how she could keep her dream of being a children’s book author alive. There’s nothing that concerns and upsets me more than to hear an author or artist is questioning their dream. Coming up with a strategy to find an agent would be the easy part; helping a distressed author regain their confidence and adjust their outlook was
Whew! Lots and lots of links to share with you from the last few weeks, so let's get straight to it.
Very sad news as one of my very very favorite writers as a child, and then one of my very very favorite writers I had the privilege of working with in the publishing industry, passed away recently. Jean Craighead George was the author of Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain, and a seriously wonderful person. She will be very very missed.
Some serious news from a publisher as Houghton Mifflin, saddled with debts and liabilities of over $1 billion, filed for bankruptcy.
You may remember a few months back when I featured a video by a web travel show I had come across by Sonia Gil. Well, we can now say we knew her when because she just won a Webby Award for Best Web Personality/Host. Congrats, Sonia!
Have a self-published novel and want it to get stocked by a bookstore? Might be helpful to see how things look from the other side. Here's a guide to stocking self-published novels... for booksellers (via The Millions).
The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has sold 10 million copies in 6 weeks. Holy. Crap.
Industry sage Mike Shatzkin wrote an open letter to the DOJ about the collusion lawsuit and settlement, raising some objections on technical grounds. I feel like there's been a whole lot of mud flung against people who are opposed to the lawsuit, and everyone would do themselves a favor by absorbing this letter and seeing that, agree or disagree, there are very intelligent reasons why some people are opposing the lawsuit and settlement.
Several different articles lately have tried to get to the bottom of why literary fame is so unpredictable. The New Yorker sums it up.
My former client Jennifer Hubbard wrote an awesome guest post for Cynthia Leitich Smith on the power of the walking writer.
Self-published author seeks agent. What is an agent looking for? Rachelle Gardner breaks it down.
Author Barry Eisler has been a bit of a lightning rod lately with his decision to go to Amazon to publish his next book and his outspoken opinions on traditional publishing. Editor Alan Rinzler has a comprehensive post on what writers can learn from him.
Remember how Google scanned all the books in the world and there has been a lawsuit against them that has been pe
Last month, agent Rachelle Gardner posted about supposed fear among literary agents. The title: Are agents running scared?
No doubt the publisher industry is changing quickly. While the pace of e-book change may be slowing, self-publishing is continuing its ascent and the role of agents is ever-evolving.
So are agents going away? Should they be worried?
In her post, Rachelle concluded that even if the specific roles of agents change, the ones who are flexible will adapt right along with the industry. I've elsewhere argued that agents are far more than just gatekeepers
and will negotiate with whomever is left to still negotiate with
even when the gates are down.
But maybe the change will be more drastic than that. Could agents disappear entirely, or at least morph into an unrecognizable form? Are their days numbered?
What do you think? Art: Self-portrait - Pieter van Laer
After working for both large and small agencies, William Clark started his own one-man shop, Wm. Clark Associates. And it is that unique, one-on-one relationship with clients that sets his agency apart.
“A lot of authors will go to a large agency thinking, ‘Oh, they also do television and stage and public appearances, and I’m just going to get everything under one roof,’” Clark said. “Unfortunately, more often than not, that is representation based more on obligation than enthusiasm. I look to assemble a team of colleagues representing the different aspects of a client’s career, rather than having it all under one roof, where one division of an agency has to represent something even though they may not have a vision for pitching that to buyers.”
If you’re interested in working with Clark, read Pitching an Agent: Wm Clark Associates. [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]
– Andrea Hackett
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
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Relatively quiet weeks in books as the dog days of summer are here, but I spotted a few good ones for you. As always, please share the best ones you saw in the comments section!
Colson Whitehead, who is spectacular on Twitter, is equally spectacular in the pages of the NY Times as he has 11 rules for writing, some of which are hilariously dubious. My favorite is #8.
The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has now outsold the Harry Potter series on Amazon UK. Yes, really.
Probably not a coincidence that another self-published book that started as Twilight fan fiction just sold for seven figures.
Who says agents aren't embracing the future? Agent Ted Weinstein built a widget that allows you to sell books from multiple vendors on your blog or website. Check it out.
Adding to the chorus that social media alone can't sell books, industry sage Mike Shatzkin gets at the broader question that is getting more and more crucial to answer: does the publisher add value commensurate with their share of the revenue?
And, of course, since it's summer, book covers matched with bikinis!
This week in the Forums, debating re-writing classics with an erotic slant (will that be the new X and Zombies?), new vs. experienced agents, writing from loneliness, and what to do when an idea takes over.
And finally, one of my favorite viral videos of all time, I give you Buttermilk the very excited goat!
Have a great weekend!