Friday, January 20, 2017

Getting An Agent

One of my goals in 2017 is to use the Friday slot on the blog to write about making picture books.  I'll either just fill you in one what I'm up to or maybe I'll offer tips to aspiring writers.  Who knows!  Apart from the day, the place, and the broad topic, I've got nothing else planned.

My big news is that I'm starting off 2017 with a new agent.  Yay!  His name is Michael Bourret of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management.   You can check him out here.  I'm thrilled that he's representing me and my work!

Sometimes people ask me, Do I need an agent to get published?  

The answer is no-ish, but it certainly helps.
Not all publishers require an agent to accept submissions.  You can send your work out to any publisher that allows unsolicited submissions, or, if you attended a writing conference, some editors will allow people who were in their workshops to submit directly to them.

But many editors do require an agent to submit manuscripts to them.  You see, the problem is LOTS of people have an idea for a picture book and very few of those people actually put the work in to learn how to write a picture book.  They think because it is short and children read it, that it must be easy to write and it doesn't have to be good.  But the truth is, writing a picture book is just like any other art or craft.  People - or rather artists - spend years learning their craft.  If a writer is able to acquire an agent, that means they are a step beyond the average person who just has an idea.  They actually wrote the idea down, crafted it, and found a professional who thinks it has potential.  This is HUGE!

So having an agent will absolutely help you find a publisher because a publisher is a lot more willing to look at a project that comes from an agent.

Having an agent also has the benefit of adding someone to your team.  An agent believes in you and your work and can give you feedback on it.  They're like a coach and a cheerleader all rolled into one. 

The next question I get is, How did you get your agent?

Well, I compiled a list of agents based on some recommendations that other writers had made for me, and I slowly started going through their online submission forms.  Then my friend, writer Anna-Lisa Cox, suggested her agent.  I thought she was nuts because Anna-Lisa is a historian who writes non-fiction about turn-of-the-century integrated communities. (Check out her wonderful book, A Stronger Kindship.)  I figured there was no way her agent would be interested in representing picture books.  But I said, "Sure," and as it turned out, he was looking to expand into children's literature.  Two phone conversations later, we decided to give it a go.

So, how did I get my agent?  Connections.

If you are a writer looking to get an agent (and  don't yet have connections) I would strongly recommend joining SCBWI - the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  They have great resources online.  Also, go to a conference.  They hold them all over the country.  It's so important to meet people and get face-to-face crits and attend the workshops - especially in the early days.  Also, have more than one project ready to show.  Editors pick up the project, not the author, but an agent will want to know what else you have.  They have to sell your work, so they have to love your work.  And it's a lot of work to acquire an agent, so before you dive in, have a few stories ready to roll.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Good luck!

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