Exciting News!

120605_6779_INGRIDI want to take a moment to celebrate life’s little big moments!

I’m super happy to announce that I have just signed with the brilliant and wonderful Melissa Sarver at Folio Literary Agency! Yes, I have an agent! It’s amazing to find someone who loves my novel. Someone who is truly passionate about my writing and has a vision for it! (Yup, I’ve pretty much looked like the image to the right for the past week!).

Of course, this hasn’t been an easy road. Getting an agent has been many years in the making. Not only is the querying process long and painful, but there’s all the time before querying. Time spent writing and revising my book, getting my MFA, going to conferences and workshops, querying (and getting rejected) with that other book (which I can now admit wasn’t ready). You know … all the many pieces of the puzzle that add up to simply learning how to tell a good story!

I know there’s plenty of hard work ahead, but I’m ready for it. And it’s so exciting to have an agent in my camp ready to be an advocate for my work!

I want to thank all of you as well! Thank you for reading my blog and sharing in this writing journey with me. I can’t wait to hear about when you sign your agent and sell your books, so I can celebrate with you!

Now everyone, get up from your computer, toss your hands in the air, and happy dance!

calvin_hobbes_dancing

Are you in the process of querying and finding an agent? I’ve compiled all the links and helpful articles I used in this process. You can find them here:

logo_FolioLitMgmtLearn more about the marvelous Melissa and Folio Literary Agency with these links:

Thanks again for celebrating with me!

The Silent Treatment

Empty MailboxIf you’ve every queried an agent you’re probably familiar with the no response = not interested policy. This is when an agent/agency says if you haven’t heard from them within X-amount of time, they’re passing on your project. This isn’t a new policy. It’s been around for years.

Writers hate this policy. We get a little neurotic about it. Waiting to see if someone likes us – Ahem! I mean, likes our project – is hard. How can we know if an agent “just isn’t into us” if all we get is the silent treatment?

On the other hand, agents are busy. I mean busy! One agent reported getting 20 queries a day, and at the time of the blog-post, had 967 queries in her in-box. Is she supposed to send a personal email to all of them?

This has been a controversy for a while now, and there seem to be great points on both sides of the debate.

too much spamThe agents say:

  • Not having to send rejection letters means they can actually read more query letters, request more materials, and find YOU sooner!
  • An agent’s time is valuable! They’re busy. They have their normal day-to-day duties to tend to – like selling their client’s books!
  • It’s a business transaction. Do you get a response from every job you apply to? No.
  • There’s negative karma with sending out rejection letters.
  • Agents have the right to create whatever submission policy they like.

But… some agents also say:

  • Responding to queries gives them a “leg up” on other agents. Now they have the “kindness factor.”
  • They like to send responses because it allows them to feel like they have no loose ends.

Patience ImageMeanwhile the writers…

  • Find it discouraging. A no-response can feel harsher than a rejection letter. Does the agent not respect them or their time?
  • It can make a writer feel like they are in limbo. Did the query letter even get to the agent? Was it ever considered? Did it get stuck in the SPAM filter? (To combat this problem, some agents have created auto responders which let a writer know the query was received).
  • May the mass-querying begin! If a writer knows they aren’t going to hear from an agent for months (and possibly never at all), they may start to send out mass queries. Of course, this creates more letters in an agents in-box, and the cycle begins.

Is there an easy answer to this? No.

I think an agent has every right to conduct business any way they see fit. But I do have respect for those who have sent me a rejection letter in the past. It shows me they’re a professional and they respect me. Personally, I am more likely to recommend that agent to my writer friends (even though I was rejected).

As for us writers, I think we all need to take a step back and practice our skills of patience and perseverance. The right agent is out there waiting for us – and they will contact us when the time is right.

Patience

Want to read more about this subject? Check out these other interesting articles:

SCBWI Open Letter to the Industry

Agent Natalie Lakosil’s Opinion

Agent Rachelle Gardner’s Opinion

Agent Janet Reid’s Opinion

Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 2)

Continuing my notes from Emma Dryden’s 2011 SCBWI LA talk on publishing and the digital landscape, this post will cover the challenges publishers and authors are faced with as the marketplace keeps changing. Be sure to read PART 1 on the development of digital technology and how it affects the way we read.

Who Gets What Percentage?

  • Currently publishers take in 50% of profits from e-books.
  • Self-published authors get 60%  to 80% of their royalties.
  • Barnes and Noble currently has 25% of the e-book market.  Apple has been interested in purchasing Barnes and Noble so they can compete head to head with Amazon.

Google is No Giggling Matter:

  • Pay attention to Google! They are trying to put out-of-print books into digital devices.

Do Agents become Publishers?

  • There is a new trend of agents and agencies doing editing, cover design, and even some publishing.
  • Andrea Brown Agency and Dystel & Goderich are becoming agency consultants.
  • This is a controversial concept. Is an agent really the perfect publishing partner? The jury is still out on this topic.

New Publishing Outlets:

  • Retailer Publishing
  • Author Publishing
  • Children’s Publishing by: tik-a-tok, inkpop, and figment.
  • UTales is a new platform for illustrators and picture book writers.
  • Indies on Demand
  • Great places to share content include: youtube, itunes, flicker, blogTV, Glogs, Skype.

How does a Publisher Stay Competitive and Fashionable?

  • What keeps a publisher making money?
  • They need to consider Google editions and Google affiliates. How do you control what is on Google? What is fair to the copyrights?
  • How do we deal with piracy? How do we determine what’s free and what is not?
  • “Don’t pirate this book because your friend needs the money vs. Buy this book so you can read it.”
  • Publisher’s Competition = Online Vendors. How does a publisher make themselves a better outlet for authors than these other outlets?
  • Publisher’s Competition = Self-Publishing
  • Publisher’s Competition = Print on Demand (POD) (Such as: Lulu, iUniverse, or Amazon.)
  • The relevancy of the publisher will be diminished if they are not involved in the digital market.
  • Publishers are asking: Who are our customers and why are they our customers? The answer used to be the bookstores, but that is changing.

Changes in Customer Choice:

  • Consumers are now starting to demand some choice in what they consume.
  • There is a growing trend in creating objects that a customer can purchase and customize.
  • We’ve moved from average mass media to the individual.

Author Interaction with His/Her Audience:

  • Lots of interaction is happening online now in “The Cloud”
  • Are authors ready to socialize? Do they want to create a dialog with their audience?
  • Do authors want to create a shared experience online with their audience?
  • What’s your web-utation (play on the word reputation).
  • As an author do you provide your audience with a website that includes: backstory (yours or your books), photos, contests, surveys and reviews, and songlists? Do you create content that your readers can share?
  • Listen, participate, talk with people (not at them), create relevant content, and show respect.

Some Social Media Statistics:

  • Facebook has 760 Million subscribers and the median age is 38.
  • Myspace has 100 million subscribers and the median age is 31
  • Linked in has 100 million subscribers and the median age is 44.
  • Twitter has 200 million subscribers and the median age is 35.
  • Google Plus is growing (no stats as of yet) but is a blend of social and professional.

Some Interesting Digital Things to Look Into:

  • Social Networking:
    • Online social networking for books: Goodreads
  • People to Follow on Twitter:
    • Open Road Integrated Media
    • Scroll Motion
    • Callaway Digital
    • Ruckus Media Group
    • Mindiemoms
    • Goodreads
    • Write4kids
    • drydenbooks
  • Other Fun Stuff:

Closing Quote: “We need to raise a new generation of writers and artists not for our nation’s economy, but for our nations soul.” – Mark Seigel

Emma D. Dryden began her career in children’s publishing in 1986 as an Editorial Assistant at Random House Children’s Books. She was then hired as Associate Editor for the legendary Margaret K. McElderry, whose eponymous imprint was a part of Macmillan Children’s Books, and was later named Senior Editor of the imprint. After McElderry retired, Emma was made Vice President, Editorial Director, and in 2005, Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a position she held until May 2009.

Over the course of Emma’s career she’s edited nearly five-hundred books for children and young readers, ranging in format from board books and picture books to poetry anthologies, novelty books, non-fiction, middle grade fiction, and YA/teen fiction and fantasy. As publisher, she oversaw the annual publication of more than one-hundred hardcover and paperback titles. Authors and illustrators whom Emma has edited include Ellen Hopkins, Karma Wilson, Susan Cooper, Alan Katz, David Catrow, Raul Colon, Shelia P. Moses, Marjorie Priceman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, David Diaz, and Paul Zelinsky.

Recap of the 2010 SCBWI LA – Agent Panel

Agents Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown), Josh Adams (Adams Literary), Lisa Grubka (Foundry), and Ken Wright (Writer’s House), all spoke at the 2010 SCBWI LA Conferences. They discussed what they are looking for, the state of the market, and how the rights landscape is changing. The following are my notes from the event:

MODERATOR: Introduce yourself, your agency, and a little about the marketplace from your perspective.

GINGER: I’ve worked for Curtis Brown for Five years. I represent middle grade and young adult novels. I also represent British rights to the Curtis Brown children’s List. It’s good to have an agent that can think globally for you. I have found that editors are looking for middle grade books, middle grade series or one shots. There is really a neglected audience in the 8-12 year old area. On the YA end I like fantasy and paranormal books. I look for the more unusual stuff. Angels were really big in Bolognia this year, but personally I am looking for any book with mermaids or sirens in it! Distopia is coming in and getting big. I prefer email queries, but will still accept snail mail as well.

KEN: Writer’s house is the largest and best known house for Children’s publishing. We have 3 or 4 agents that deal exclusively with children’s books. We have some good franchises at Writer’s House including Twilight, and The Baby Sitters Club. I was an editor at Scholastic before becoming an agent. YA literary fiction is selling right now, as is middle grade series. There is also a small phenomenon to take note of which is very young middle grade fiction. But we aren’t sure what that is yet. Picture books are really tough to sell right now. My personal specialty is nonfiction books.

JOSH: My wife and I run our boutique agency ourselves. We started our agency in 2004, and we represent the children’s book market exclusively. In our opinion the state of the market is strong. We’ve seen a resurgence in hiring editors, and more acquisitions lately. The market is bouncing back. When writing I would stress that you strive for something that is timeless, that’s really what we are looking for. Timeless will always be timely. We look to manage careers over time. We only take submission through our website, and we do get about 8000 submissions a year.

LISA: I’ve been at Foundry for about two years. Before that I was at Williams and Morris for six years. I represent both children’s books and adult books. I see that there is a trend in YA and MG for books that have an international focus, and that is also a personal interest of mine. I like reality grounded projects,  I like to feel as if I could be the character. Dystopian novels are hot right now. But I’m always looking for something that is voice driven with strong characters and humor. Adult crossover novels are also good.

MODERATOR: Can you explain how foreign rights and other markets work?

GINGER: An agent tries to keep as many subsidiary rights as they possibly can. This is so we can sell those rights over seas, etc. It is important for an author to try and not make their book super American, as it won’t sell well in another country. For example American Football or baseball are very hard books to sell internationally. Most agents will partner with an agent in another country to sell those rights.

KEN: It’s subjective on the other side of the ocean. You never know what they will buy.

JOSH: I agree. You want an agent that will market your book for you overseas. The publisher will probably take a percentage if they are marketing those rights overseas for you. It is better to have your agent do it for you so you get more of the pie. We have co-agents overseas, and we want them to aggressively market you. Though it can be hard to sell books in places like Scandinavia and Europe if your book is not a series.

LISA: You want an agent to have an eye on how to sell your book. Do you speak a foreign language? Tell your agent! Then you can do a book tour in that country.

KEN: If the publisher controls the rights, then your agent should still be talking with them on what they are doing with those rights.

MODERATOR: What rights should authors seek to obtain?

JOSH: All of them!

GINGER: There is a lot of arguing about audio rights, and there is plenty of discussion about multi-media and enhanced media rights. Boiler plate rights is when we’ve settle on one clause or term for all media. And that can be a problem. Film people don’t like to see that the publisher has the media rights, because there is some overlap and this can be very tricky. Media is more interactive with picture books.

KEN: We’ve started inserting aversion language into our contracts. Time limits for example…if they haven’t used said rights yet then they revert back to the author, etc.

JOSH: More publishers are looking for audio rights when they don’t have audio programs. We see rights grabs with the higher the advances. Don’t grant commercial and film rights to publishers.

LISA: There is so much new technology that we don’t know what the next thing will be. “Winter is coming and we all want to be in on it.” Publishers have been doing presentations for agents to show them the possibilities. But we are still waiting to see what’s really going to happen.

MODERATOR: Is a simultaneous book and e-release a good thing?

JOSH: The talk in Hollywood is all about convergence. What platform do you want to see it on NOW! Traditional books are still selling better, and e-commerce is only a fraction of the other sales. So the question is what’s fair for the author with these rights?

KEN: Three years later we often look back at rights and see what was used.

GINGER: 25% of net for e-book is the royalty right now. We are hoping this will change. Andrew Wyle launched his own e-rights publishing house (he’s an agent). Will this help or hurt?

MODERATOR: With so many new platforms how does this affect your opinion of self publishing?

GINGER: There’s a question right now with people like Andrew Wyle starting his own publishing company. Can we (as agents) ethically function as a packager for our clients? Do we do direct to self publishing? What’s okay or appropriate for an agent to do? We may see the cannon of ethics changing in the future and it may change our jobs as agents.

JOSH: Do you see self publishing as a way to break into traditional publishing? Everyone is looking for a new way to break into publishing. Maybe…

LISA: Most people who self publish are struggling to get the numbers. This is a grey zone and I’m not sure how an agent fits into that picture.

MODERATOR: How do you assess the business, conglomerates, and the opportunities right now?

LISA: It’s really hard for mid-list authors right now. Lots of imprints are looking for new authors. Amazon’s power grows daily and the publishers have to listen to them. How do you allocate money, balance budgets, etc.? An agent may need to help an author get a publicist if they are a mid-list client.

JOSH: It can be easier to sell a debut novel than say a third book. This is because there is no track record for that author. The PNL has more unknown variables. Some authors struggle in one genre and were trying to stretch them into a new place. Quality fiction will always find a home. But there are more challenges today.

KEN: The adult book market focuses on big books. But the editors are looking for great new voices.

GINGER: We are heading into a golden age for children’s books (particularly YA). People are seeing the importance and power of children’s books. I’m seeing the snobby side of the industry start to take note. Children’s books are paying people’s salaries!

MODERATOR: What services do you provide your clients? And what is your client/agent relationship?

JOSH: We are all about teamwork! Communication, and making sure you are on the same page in the relationship. Authors are looking for editorial agents, but agents aren’t here to replace the editor. I’m not going to re-decorate the house. But I will help you stage your book. It’s like real-estate.

BEN: Sometimes I’m your shrink. I’m your eyes and ears to the market. I’m the bad cop to your good cop.

LISA: I do edit quite a bit. I want to give the project the best opportunities. Communication is important. How will we work well together depends. Do you need hand holding, etc. I will help to manage your career, and I take my job very seriously.

JOSH: I like to strategize together. Always tell me what you are working on next, so we can think about the big picture. We may need to put things in the drawer depending on where we are taking your career. I want to manage your career to help maximize the earnings of your career.

GINGER: I am not your therapist, best friend, or your mom! This is a professional relationship. I won’t talk on the phone with you for two hours to shoot the shit.

JOSH: Some authors email or phone all the time. Some I don’t talk to for a month. We are here 24/7 for you.  And occasionally I can be your shrink for you, or at least suggest one. We are your rock. We want to help instill confidence in you so that you can do your best. Our job is to help you gain that confidence.

Audience Question: Can you address Asian Markets?

GINGER: Manga is its own world. It hit its peak and what’s here has been translated. Non-fiction adult books do well in Asia. Asia does not have the vampire virus. What’s doing well in Europe doesn’t quite sell well in Asia.

Audience Question: Can you comment on the state of non-fiction books in the market?

KEN: It’s been a great year for non-fiction! 2009 was a banner year for non-fiction. There’s been a ground swell of interest in non-fiction. Nonfiction doesn’t sell as well in the trade market, but it’s great in the educational market.

Audience Question: Is there a good season to submit to an agent?

KEN: Summer is a good time. We are trying to get things lined up for the Fall.

JOSH: When the work is ready that’s when you should submit! Some people mention the “lazy days of summer” but I don’t know what that’s about, I’m always busy!

KEN: Agents submit less to publishers in the summer because they are often on vacation.

GINGER: If an agent goes to Bologna, that’s not a good time to query.

LISA: There are spikes around certain times of the year.

Ken Wright was an editor and publisher for 20 years, most recently at scholastic, where he was an editorial director. Ken joined Writer’s House in 2007 as an agent, specializing in children’s literature. Ken’s clients have been the recipients of many awards including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Awards.

Ginger Clark has been a literary agent with Curtis Brown LTD since 2005. She represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, literary horror, and young adult and middle grade fiction. In addition to representing her own clients she also represents British rights for the agency’s children’s list. She previously worked at Writer’s House for six years as an assistant.

Josh Adams, together with his wife Tracey, runs Adams Literary, a boutique agency exclusively dedicated to children’s book authors and artists. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Business School, Josh spent years in publishing and media before bringing his editorial and business backgrounds together as a literary agent.

Lisa Grubka spent six years at the William Morris Agency before joining Foundry in 2008, and represents both fiction (literary, young adult, and women’s) and non-fiction (pop-culture, food, and narrative). Lisa has worked with a broad variety of authors, from debut novelists to Food Network stars. She take a very hands on approach in working with her authors, and is a thorough editor, ensuring to the best possible proposal or manuscript.

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

Twitter has become a great way to get involved in the kidlit writing community. Online you’ll find authors, editors, agents, illustrators, and pre-published writers alike all posting great articles on writing. Or simply letting you know what type of cream they take in their coffee. It’s a great place to get to know agents/editors pet peeves or insights into the marketplace. You can support fellow writers as they punch out thier 1000 words per day. Or just say hi to a favorite author. And nothing makes you feel more connected, than finishing an authors book, tweeting about it, and having them thank you for reading their book the next day! How cool!

Therefore, I’ve compiled the following is a list of Kidlit professionals and their twitter names/profiles.  I highly recommend you follow all these great tweeps.

Kidlit Book Editors and Publishers

@planetalvina : Alvina Ling – Editor at Little, Brown and Company

@editrixanica: Anica Rissi – Editor at Simon Pulse

@sadtoby: Sara Sargent – Assistant Editor at Balzer and Bray

@ABBalzer:  Alessandra Balzer – Editor of Balzer and Bray

@GCPeditor: Grand Central Publishing

@thisjordanbrown: Jordan Brown – Editor at Harper Collins

Kidlit and Adult Literary Agents

@MichaelBourret: Michael Bourret, Agent with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

@bradfordlit: Laura Bradford, Agent with Bradford Literary Agency

@literaticat: Jennifer Laughran, Agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency

@RachelleGardner: Rachelle Gardner, WordServe Literary Agent

@JillCorcoran: Jill Corcoran, Agent with The Herman Agency

@Natalie_Fischer: Natalie Fischer, Agent with Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

@Kid_Lit: Mary Kole, Agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency

@ChrisRichman: Christ Richman, Agent with Upstart Crowe Literary Agency

@RebeccAgent: Rebecca Sherman, Agent with Writer’s House

@BostonBookGirl: Lauren E. MacLeod, Agent with Strothman Literary Agency

@Janet_Reid: Janet Reid, Agent with Fine Print Literary Mangement

@NathanBransford: Nathan Bransford, Agent with Curtis Brown Literary Agency

@colleenlindsay: Colleen Lindsay, Agent with Fine Print Literary Mangement

@mikalroy: Michael Sterns, Agent at Upstart Crow Literary

@UpstartCrowLit: Upstart Crow Literary

@bbowen949: Brenda Bowen, Agent at Greenburger and Associates.

@JuliaChurchill: Julia Churchill, Agent at Greenhouse Literary

Young Adult and Kidlit Authors

@KarstenKnight: Karsten Knight (Wildfire – Coming 2011 Simon and Schuster)

@rachelvailbooks: Rachel Vail (Gorgeous, Lucky, Brilliant)

@carolynmackler: Caolyn Mackler (The Earth My Butt and Other Big Round Things, Virgin Vegan Valentine)

@jtdutton: JT Dutton (Stranded, Freaked)

@barrylyga: Barry Lyga (Goth Girl Rising, Boy Toy)

@gayleforman: Gayle Forman (If I Stay)

@jandynelson: Jandy Nelson (The Sky is Everywhere)

@halseanderson: Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Twisted, Wintergirls)

@realjohngreen: John Green (Looking For Alaska, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines)

@maureenjohnson: Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett, 13 Little Blue Envelopes)

@EllenHopkinsYA: Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Impulse, Glass)

@hollyblack: Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles, White Cat)

@sarahdessen: Sarah Dessen (Just Listen, Lock and Key, How to Deal)

@megcabot: Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries, Teen Idol)

@elockhart: E. Lockhart (Fly on the Wall, The Boyfriend List)

@JustineLavaworm: Justine Larbalestier (Liar, How to Ditch Your Fairy)

@PaulaYoo: Paula Yoo (Shinging Star, Good Enough)

@suzanne_young: Suzanne Young (So Many Boys, The Naughty List)

@susanecolasanti: Susane Colasanti (Take Me There, When It Happens)

@libbabray: Libba Bray (Going Bovine, A Great and Terrible Beauty)

@sarazarr: Sara Zarr (Once Wast Lost, Story of a Girl)

@kdueykduey: Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger)

@serenarobar: Serena Robar (Give Up the V Card)

@RichelleMead: Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy Series)

@MelissadelaCruz: Melissa De La Cruz (Blue Blood Series)

@heatherbrewer: Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)

Who Do You Follow?

Please leave a comment and share your favorite kidlit authors, editors, agents, and community members!!

Query Letter Suicide

Agent Jill Corcoran (of the Herman Agency) shared the following lists of things you should NOT write in your query letter. Take a look and make sure you aren’t committing query letter suicide!

Things NOT to write in you Query Letter:

1. I’m a new writer.

2. This is my first book or this is the first book I have written.

3. This is the second/third/forth/tenth book I have written.

4. This is the first book in my 9 book series.

5. I have recently completed the second book in a series of four.

6. The following example doesn’t tell the agent anything about the book: My book XXX, is a series of stories involving a cast of recurring characters. I have written approximately 20 stories in XXX series. Each story is more exciting than the last, and take the XXX to farther away places and more fantastic situations. The story, “XXX”, which I am sending you, introduces XXX, draws the characters and sets up the premise for the book. While each story may stand alone, they could be combined to form a chapter book following the progression of story lines and new characters.

7. This is not a good way to start a first paragraph: My book is called XXX. My target readership would be geared towards middle school children around ten years of age. I have completed the book, it is 88 pages in length and is the first book in the series XXX. (This intro is choppy and dull).

8. I hope you and everyone around you are doing well. (This is too familiar).

9. In my pursuit for agent representation, I am about as bedeviled as X, the protagonist, in XXX. (An odd way to start).

10. I am looking for an agent to help me publish my book, XXX, a 77,000 word long fictional young adult novel. (Get rid of the word “fictional”. Also, this is too non-specific, it seems like any agent will do. You need to say why you have picked this particular agent to query.) (It is best – and business like – to start a query like this: I am looking for representation for XXX.)

11. I am looking for an agent to help me publish my book, XXX.

12. Do not write in the subject line of an email query: One minute read. CB Query. (It’s rude).

13. I’ve worked on XXX for a decade, which includes feedback from writers groups, a freelance editor, and now an interested publisher. I believe XXX will benefit anyone, but targeted girls, ages 9-12. (Why have you been working on this book for a decade? That’s a big red flag.)

14. I hope you would like to represent my book, X, to publishers. (Too unprofessional, and not a strong sentence.)

15. This is not a full query, though I get this a lot: My children’s book is called: XXX. It is the story of an eight year old girl, X, who gets seperated (use spell check!) from her family on a fishing trip. She is rescued by and spends a couple of weeks in the company of a small family of x-fish. It is a simple fantasy story that includes a valuable lesson (Lessons are  no no!) for small children. The importance of heeding their parents advice even though it interferes with every childs wish to grow-up to fast. (This whole paragraph is blah, and lacks specifics.) If you would like me to e-mail you the full story, I would be more than happy to do so.

16. My completed novel, XXX, is an original and unique coming of age romance that will appeal to young adults, with a distinctive plotline. With so many stories in the YA genre out there now, I have managed to blend genres – contemporary YA and historical romance together into an interesting and one-of-a-kind premise. The writing is energetic, and the supernatural twists and turns make it a page turner. (I don’t think there is anything that is one-of-a-kind out there. There’s always something similar to it.)

17. XXX should fit in well with your other titles, though it is very unique in its own right, since there are no other YA novels out there like it. (Agents don’t have lists – like publishers. We don’t want things to fit in with our titles. We have clients not titles.)

18. Don’t write back and ask for a critique or a quick opinion. Most agents put this in their rejections if they feel like sharing. Often we don’t share so that we do not get more and more questions. If an agent is interested in your work they will offer critiques.

Jill Corcoran shared the above information at the 2010 Southern California SCBWI Writers Day. Corcoran is an agent with the Herman Agency. She has an English degree from Stanford University and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from The University of Chicago, Jill has marketed everything from sneakers to cereal at Leo Burnett Advertising, LA Gear, Mattel, and at her own consulting company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing. Jill is also a children’s book author and poet. You can learn more about her on her blog: www.jillcorcoran.blogspot.com

Queries and Synopis: How to Get an Agent Salivating to Read Your Manuscript

Writer turned agent extraordinaire Jill Corcoran, of the Herman Agency, spoke at the 2010 Southern California SCBWI Writer’s Day about how to get an agent to request your manuscript. The following are her tips, personal preferences, and insight to help ensure your inbox is full of requests instead of rejection letters.

What’s a Query Letter?

  • A query letter is a simple letter to get an agent to read your book. That’s it.
  • It’s a pitch.
  • It’s a business letter. So be professional.
  • The purpose of the letter is to entice an agent to request your full manuscript (that’s your objective).
  • Sometimes an amazing query letter will have a book that doesn’t live up to the query.

What To Do Before You Write Your Query Letter:

  • Finish your book!!! Never query before the book is finished. In fact, the book should not only be finished, but should be so good that it is ready to be published! Be critical of your work.
  • Research what agents are good for you (and your book).
  • Know what your book is about. You need to be able to summarize your book in your query letter.

Great Ways to Research Agents:

  • Follow agents on twitter. You’ll really get to know them by what they post.
  • Read an agent’s blog! This is a great way to find out an agent’s individual tastes, personality, and what they are looking for.

How To Query:

  • The First Paragraph: There are two schools of though on how to open your query letter. The first one is to start your query with your story, just jump in and start with the synopsis. The other school of thought (which Corcoran prefers) is to explain why you are contacting the agent. The first paragraph in this situation should include short, precise and true reason(s) you are querying this particular agent. Research helps you to write this part, because it will show how well of a fit you and the agent are.
  • The Second Paragraph: Next is the story synopsis. Write a 2 to 10 sentence synopsis of your story. Here’s how: In (Title of book), X-Main Character needs to (define problem) before (obstacles). Now not all stories will fit into this neat and tidy premise, but you get the idea. Just remember that this is a sales piece and not a play by play of the story. The important information to include would be: title, main character and his/her age, the dilemma, the genre (YA, Picture Book, etc.), and the setting (if applicable).
  • The Third Paragraph: Write about yourself. Agents vary on what they like to see here. Corcoran likes to know whatever you think is important. While other agents don’t care if you train lemurs as a hobby, Corcoran thinks that would be interesting. But in general you should include: previously published work (yes, magazine publications count), writing honors and awards, a writing MFA, a specialty that relates to the book, SCBWI memberships, etc. Don’t include how many cats you have, or that your kids loved this book.

How To Write A Fantastic Synopsis:

  • Read flap copy from published books. This is a sales pitch to you the reader. When writing your query you are doing the same exact thing. Be enticing and keep it simple

Things to Avoid When Writing a Query Letter:

  • Always default to Ms. or Mr. and then the last name of the agent. You don’t need to include the first name. And be careful of using the prefix of Mrs.
  • Don’t be to “sales-y” in your query. It’s a turn-off.
  • Stay business-y and avoid getting to cutesy.
  • Don’t use large blocks of text. White space is good. Break up your paragraphs and keep things short.

Other Tips Before You Query:

  • Most agents do e-queries these days. But check submission guidelines to be sure.
  • You’ve got to know what sells “you”! If you’ve written books and are published then start your query with that. Know what makes you unique and will make you stand out.
  • Be specific!
  • It’s not bragging to talk about yourself and “sell yourself.” You’ll have to do this over and over. Get used to it.
  • Your query should be different for each agent you submit to. Particularly the part where you specify why you are submitting to this particular agent. Your synopsis may be the same, but the intro should be different.
  • Remember your query is a business letter.
  • Find out what other books are in the market that are similar to your book. Make sure that your work isn’t done already by someone else.
  • Sometimes an assistant will read your query before the agent will. Don’t fret, the assistant is trained to have the same taste (and look for) what the agent is interested in.

The Order In Which Jill Corcoran Reads Your Submission/Query:

  • Corcoran doesn’t always read query letters in order. She starts with who you are. Have you been published? What makes you interesting.
  • Then she look to see what genre your book is. Is it YA or MG (which she represents).
  • Now she goes back and reads your first paragraph, followed by the rest of the query.
  • If the query is interesting, she’ll read the first 10 pages (which you should submit with your query).
  • Then she goes back and reads your synopsis to see if the rest of the book seems interesting.

A Few Formatting Tips for Your Submission:

  • Use the Font Times New Roman with a 12 or 14 point size.
  • Don’t send your manuscript in Courier, as it will skew the page count.

About Little About Jill Corcoran and What She Likes:

  • At the Herman Agency, Corcoran represents young adult books, middle grade books, and chapter books. Meanwhile the other agent at the Herman Agency covers picture books and illustrators.
  • Corcoran and her partner are very close so it will feel like you get two agents in one!
  • She don’t like books about bullies. That is an automatic rejection based solely on subject matter.
  • Corcoran likes tight writing and poetry.

Jill Corcoran is an agent with the Herman Agency. She has an English degree from Stanford University and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from The University of Chicago, Jill has marketed everything from sneakers to cereal at Leo Burnett Advertising, LA Gear, Mattel, and at her own consulting company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing. Jill is also a children’s book author and poet. You can learn more about her on her blog: www.jillcorcoran.blogspot.com

Agent Day: Insight from Brenda Bowen

The final speaker at the SCBWI OC Agent Day was the lovely Ms. Brenda Bowen. In addition to her great talk about agent/editor negotiation she also shared the following tid-bits about herself, her agenting style, and what she’s looking for:

About Bit About Greenburger Associates:

  • We are a full service agency with a large back-list that includes The Little Prince, Simone De Beauvoir, Kafka, and Dan Brown. We like to joke that we are the agency that represents Fancy Nancy and Kafka!
  • We have 8 full agents, and a sub-rights dept. Each agent seems to cover a specific area/genre so we have less overlap than other agencies. I am the children’s literature rep!

A Bit About Brenda Bowen:

  • I graduated from college with an English and Art History degree.
  • I started out as a secretary at Basic Books. I became a reader, and worked my way up. I have worked in everything from Middlegrade, to Young Adult (both commercial and literary), Picture Books, Trashy Teen Romance, the whole gamut!
  • Harper Collins created their own Bowen Imprint in 2007, but it was shut down in 2009.
  • When I got canned I decided to become an agent, and I really felt I could compliment the Greenburger agency.
  • I am also a published author and I write under the pen name of Margaret McNamara.
  • Some of my clients include: Rosemary Wells (her first agent retired), Hillary Knight (Eloise books illustrator), Vladimir Redemski, Karen Berger, and Bryan Karas.

What Brenda Bowen Likes and Wants to See in Her Submissions:

  • I am very Catholic in my tastes, but I can like anything from the trashy to the literary.
  • I am not a fan of paranormal books, and in general I am not hugely into young adult novels.
  • I really like to focus on Picture Books through Middle Grade (including chap books and the educational market).
  • What I like is hard to define.
  • I also fear the “conference polish” as Mary Kole mentioned earlier. So I always ask for the first three chapters in a submission.
  • I want to work with people I love to be around! I want to be happy to see their name in my in-box.
  • I would like to do more fiction, I already have a lot of picture books on my plate. I represent both picture book authors alone, as well as author/illustrators.
  • I like boy oriented books that are funny.
  • I want a story that I have never read before.

What Gets Brenda’s Attention in a Query Letter:

  • A catchy title can be reason alone for me to request a manuscript. For example: The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant. This shows me that the author is confident enough to name his/her book this. It shows me the book is not a trend, and the title has a lyrical sound to it.
  • Please query me as Ms. Bowen and not Mrs. Bowen.
  • I like non-classical queries that are whimsical and share a confident story.
  • Have a query that shows your voice.

Other Bits of Advice:

  • If you don’t have an agent, but you do have a relationship with an editor or and offer from an editor, ask the editor to give you an agent recommendation.
  • I don’t have a favorite house that I like to submit to. Different houses offer different things and it is an agents job to know these things. One house may be great for contracts, another may have fantastic production (which is important for picture books), another may have great marketing. There are a lot of reasons to pick a house, it is not always about the editor.
  • If you have a blog, don’t just talk about yourself. Make your blog interesting. Make content that will be interesting to multiple types of readers – teens, writers, librarians, etc.
  • School visits are great for you and your book!
  • Advances always come in three installments. One on signing, second on delivering an accepted book, and third upon publication. Publishers will do their best to push back payment as late as possible, and an agent is always pushing for payment to be sooner.

Brenda Bowen has held a variety of positions during her twenty five-plus years in children’s publishing. She has been editorial director of Henry Holt & Co., Disney/Hyperion, Schoolastic Press, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. Books Brenda has edited have been #1 New York Times bestsellers, and have won the National Book Award, The Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, The Caldecott Honor, The Printz Honor, and the Eisner Award. She is now a literary agent with Stanford J. Greenburger and  Associates, and continues to work closely with clients on the editorial direction of their projects.

Let’s Make a Deal: An Editor/Agent Mock Negotiation

Show Me The Money!

Often times at conferences and seminars agents and editors speak ad nausem about the craft, query letters, and what they want to see in their slush. Seldom do they talk numbers and negotiations. But at the SCBWI OC Agent Day this May, Agent Brenda Bowen (previously an editor) gave a rare insight into the agent/editor negotiation process. With the help of fellow agent, Rebecca Sherman, the following mock negotiation was presented:

The agents would like to note that this mock negotiation is meant to give an idea of the process, but is indeed a simplification. Specific details and time-line are made up, and some steps have possibly been skipped.

Mock Negotiation:

MONDAY:

The Agent: Submits a client’s book to a variety of appropriate editors around town.

The Editor: Is excited to see a submission from this agent in her mail box. She’s a good agent and often sends great work! She decides to read it as soon as she can.

WEDNESDAY:

The Editor: Reads the book and gets very excited about it. She’s so excited about it that she calls the agent and lets her know that she is putting together an offer!

The Agent: Calls all of the other editors she’s submitted the manuscript to and lets them know that she has an offer coming in on said book, but she would still like to give the other editors a chance to take a look at the work and see if they are interested.

The Editor: Takes the book to an editorial meeting and shares it with the team. They discuss the viability of the book. This is a first time author, but she thinks they should put together a competitive but modest offer for the book. The editor then runs a profit and loss statement on the book to find out the numbers. In the profit and loss statement they estimate that the book will  sell between 2000 and 5000 hard cover copies, and 5000 to 8000 paperback copies. With those kind of numbers the editor knows that the highest advance she could offer is about $17,500, but she’d rather start low – somewhere around $12,000, hoping after they negotiate they will land in the ball park of $15,000.

The Editor: Calls up the agent, and lets her know how much she likes the book. It’s a nice sweet book, something she could probably take to ALA (American Library Association). She would be delighted to make an offer of: $12,500 advance, 10% royalty on hardcover, 6% royalty on paperback, and she would like to have the world rights and e-book rights. She will also offer 25% of net for e-rights.

The Agent: Thanks the editor and says she needs to speak with some other editors, as well as her colleagues. At this point it is all together possible the agent has had other editors drop like flies. Sometimes they don’t want to take the time if there is already an offer on the table. Other times they will read it and not be interested. But she’s still waiting to hear from some people.

The Editor: Notes from the conversation that the agent didn’t say that she had any other offers at this time. This may cause her question why others are passing. This could also mean that she doesn’t have to go to her maximum offer number, and sometimes it can make her reconsider her max number all together. Either way, she still loves the book.

The Agent: Calls the author to let them know that their is an offer on the table, and no matter what they are going to be a published author!! The agent knows that a first offer is always – just that – a first offer. There’s room for negotiation. Right now she doesn’t think the offer is strong enough to accept.

THURSDAY:

The Agent: Contacts the other editors, but it turns out that no one else is interested. (A negotiation can always be done differently if there is someone else interested because then there is leverage. But let’s say, for this scenario, the agent doesn’t have any leverage.) Now the agent goes back through the offer, and knows their are choices to be made. She discusses the offer with her colleagues. She knows that since this is a debut author and their are no other offers on the table that asking for as much as  a $25,000 advance is really out of the question. Now she needs to look at the rights and what she wants to let them keep or take away. She considers how the book will sell. Lets say the book is very American, so it will probably be hard to sell it in foreign markets. What about audio book rights, etc.? These are all elements she needs to consider.

The Agent: Calls up the editor and says she’s talked to her children’s subsidiary division and she needs to retain the world rights. She also needs to retain audio rights, and would like an escalation in royalties. The editor can have e-rights. The agent makes a counter offer of a $20,000 advance with the rights conditions mentioned.

The Editor: Thinks to herself – $20,000! Is she crazy! I’m the one who has to put everything on the line! What the agent also doesn’t know is that the editor has also just been to a big corporate meeting and they stressed how important it is to keep performance rights, and she’s simply going to have to have world English rights as well.

The Editor: Mentions she must have these rights (mentioned above) and will offer and escalation at 30,000 copies (after royalty paid). And she will offer an advance of $15,000. She’ll also throw in escalation royalties of 10% to 12% at 12,000 copies (hard cover) and 6% to 8% at 20,000 copies (paperback).

The Agent: Asks about bonuses.

The Editor: Offers a Newbery Bonus of $15,000 if it’s an honor book, and a $25,000 bonus if it’s the winner. (Sometimes they offer additional bonuses for other awards as well).

FRIDAY

The Agent: Closes the deal! (This is the simplified short version). The Agent calls the author! He/She is going to be published! The agent also keeps the client in the loop throughout this process.

OTHER NOTES:

  • There is usually a lot of things to negotiate including additional rights of dramatic rights, merchandising rights, cover approval, etc. etc. etc.
  • If there are competitive offers then the agent may have the author speak to the different editors to get a sense of who the author would like to work with.
  • As an Agent, Brenda Bowen does do some P n’ L’s (profit and loss statements) in her head so she has an idea of what the numbers would be for a book in order to negotiate with an editor.
  • A profit and loss statement is meant to figure out what the proper ratio is so that the publisher and the author make equal amounts of money on the book.
  • In regards to promotion it is the publisher’s job to promote your book. But you as an author can help, but it is not your obligation. An agent should try to exploit marketing for the author.

Brenda Bowen has held a variety of positions during her twenty five-plus years in children’s publishing. She has been editorial director of Henry Holt & Co., Disney/Hyperion, Schoolastic Press, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. Books Brenda has edited have been #1 New York Times bestsellers, and have won the National Book Award, The Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, The Caldecott Honor, The Printz Honor, and the Eisner Award. She is now a literary agent with Stanford J. Greenburger and  Associates, and continues to work closely with clients on the editorial direction of their projects.

Check out these other great posts with Brenda Bowen: Quote of the Week

Rebecca Sherman is an agent for Writers House. For over 30 years, Writers House has played a critical role in developing novelists and non-fiction authors. They have one of the industry’s finest lists of juvenile and young adult authors. Rebecca continues to build her own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, she’s looking for books with something to say, books that make her laugh, and characters that truly remind her of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be. She is also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night after night.

Check out these other great posts with Rebecca Sherman: 8 Myths about Literary Agents and Query Letter Do’s and Don’ts



Eight Myths About Literary Agents

Is it true that big agencies doesn’t care about small writers? Or that everything you read about an agent online is true? Writers House agent, Rebecca Sherman spoke at the 2010 SCBWI OC Agent Day and debunked all the myths you may have heard. So here is what she had to say to set the record straight!

Myth #1: An Individual Author Gets Lost in a Big Agency

Not True! Even though an agency may be big, like Writers House, every agent has autonomy over his or her list. Therefore the choice to choose a client is entirely up to the agent. And even though agents have obligations to their agency – meetings, priorities, etc. agents do work independently as well to oversee their own clients. The reputation of both the agent and the company relies on how he/she represents a client so it is very important to cultivate each career individually.

Myth #2: Everything You Read Online (and on Publisher’s Marketplace) is One Hundred Percent True.

Let’s clarify here. What you read on Publisher’s Marketplace – is - true. However, it may not be the whole picture. We often withhold information because it is  not the right time to make it public. For example we may not want to mention a new sale because a book won’t come out for two years, or we need to protect the material of our clients so it isn’t bumbling around out there in the internet. Don’t over analyze the info you read online, because you seldom have the whole picture.

Myth #3: Agents Will Sign an Author Based on a Book Proposal or Pitch.

You should always, always, always, finish your book before you query an agent! You want to also research an agent before submitting to make sure he/she is right for your work. However, you will never land an agent if you don’t stop researching and SUBMIT!

You can also read Rebecca Sherman’s Do’s and Don’t of Querying and agent here: Rebecca’s Do’s and Don’ts

Myth #4: If I Don’t Hear Back from an Agent Right Away it Means They Hate My Book.

I know that waiting is hard, but in this industry, patience is a virtue! Please don’t take it personally if you have to wait. Agents are busy people, they have more important things to do that just read through the slush (spread the word!). They need to work with their clients first!

A Client = Actual, where as,  A Query = A Hypothetical.

All material will be read and responded to (if you submit to me). I have three very capable assistants who do look through the work first. The Assistant Agent is your gate keeper, and it is their job to know my taste. I have a current list of 25 – 30 clients and they are my priority. I get thousands of submissions every year. And occasionally my work load will reflect if I am willing to take on a new client or not. We will get to you! Patience!

Myth #5: You Should Take the First Offer of Representation That You Get From an Agent

This relates to my previous comment about being patient. If you’ve submitted your work to multiple agents and you get an offer, please keep me abreast to this information. Email me and let me know that you have another offer. I would like a fair chance to review your work, and I will review it if you let me know there is interest elsewhere. Don’t make a decision about representation based on who reads your work first. Find the person who is right for you. Please contact me and let me know of the other offer and allow me a fair amount of time to review it. As an agent myself, I am very open to waiting for clients that I’ve offered representation to so that they can hear back from other agents. This is professional and important. Also, if you decide to accept representation from another agent please let me know that as well so I don’t waste my time on your submission.

Myth #6: Agents Just Want to Sell Your Book, they are Salesmen and Accountants.

Though selling your book is part of the job, it is not all that the job entails. I also want to help an author develop his/her craft. I am an editorial agent with nine years of experience. I am also my client’s advocate and I want to help them to see the big picture of their whole career. The key between the agent/writer relationship is synergy. I want to help the author strategize, and put the author into the spotlight. I also help clients to manage their schedules if they have multiple books and contracts with different publishers (particularly if they are an author/illustrator). I keep a very open relationship with my clients and make sure they are aware of the whole process, and I also want to be kept in the loop on how things are going between an author and editor. I like to see the new drafts and see how the project is developing.

Yes, it is also my job to sell books, but I am not an accountant. My job is to find the best deal for my client that reflects the worth of the book. It is my job to network, know the editors and what they want, understand the trends, the market, etc. Editors who know me trust my judgment. My reputation with them is important. My taste and how I help an author develop his/her project shows. Editors are excited when I contact them because they respect my opinion and I have the backing of a reputable company (writers house).

Myth #7: Now That You Have an Agent You Will Never Be Rejected Again!

Unfortunately this is not true. Having an agent opens doors you might not have had access to before. But it doesn’t mean that there wont be rejection. You still have to be patient and persist. I love your book. I won’t give up on it. No news does not mean you’ve been rejected. No news just means no news.

Myth #8: Agents Have No Life!

Agents are passionate about what they do, but yes, we are people too! We have lives outside of our work. Again, this is another reason to be patient. I personally also maintain two book clubs outside of my work. These clubs are often with other agents, editor, and librarians. One is a YA/MG book club and the other is an adult book club. I think it is important to read.

I also pitch books to editors. I take this very seriously. (Rebecca shared a pitch letter that she wrote for the book Scones and Sensibility. The pitch letter was clever and creative and reflected the tone of the book, and Rebecca’s dedication to selling your book in a strong and confident way.)

A Little About Writers House and Rebecca Sherman:

  • Writers House is a full service agency which includes a four person foreign rights department, a contracts manager and associate, a three to four person accounting team, and 14 senior agents that cover various aspects of literature from children’s books to adult literature and non-fiction and memoir.
  • Rebecca began at Writers House as an assistant. She worked as an assistant for five years, and learned the business. She began to develop her own small list, and later became a senior agent.
  • Rebecca has been a senior agent for four years.
  • Rebecca’s client list includes: Grace Lin, Bryan Audrey Pickney, and Matt Phalin.

What Rebecca Sherman Likes and is Looking For:

  • Mostly author/illustrators, and less picture book authors.
  • For young adult and middle grade books she likes humor and books that will pull on the heart-strings.
  • She does represent picture book non-fiction.

If You’d Like to Submit to Rebecca Sherman You Should Send:

  • For Picture Book Author/Illustrators: If sending by snail mail include: One full-color picture book dummy image, the full sketched-out picture book dummy, and a typed copy of the manuscript. If sending material online, send the same information in the form of a link to dummy or website. Paste manuscript into text of email. No attachments!
  • For Picture Book Authors: Send a query letter and the manuscript.
  • For Novelists: Send a query letter, a synopsis, and the first ten pages of your novel.
  • For Illustrators: Send a link to your website and a query letter.
  • Don’t pre-query!

And A Few Questions From the Audience:

What are you looking for in a synopsis?

The pitch and the synopsis are two different things. A pitch is meant to lure you in, but a synopsis needs to tell us what happens in the end. Your synopsis can be longer than a page, in my opinion. I only read a synopsis if I have reservations when I am reading the first few pages. I read it to see what the major plot points are that are coming.

How many writers actually earn a living in this business?

That’s a tricky question. I won’t go telling you to quit your day job. A lot my clients are hybrid authors – they do both picture books and middle grade books. This allows them to shine in multiple markets and sell more, particularly when they can get into the school markets. Young Adult books that is much harder to do. Most of my debut authors still have their nine to five jobs. In terms of advances, it’s hard to say. Novels don’t usually go for less that $10,000, but it has happened. A picture book can be around $15,000 and up for an advance. But you have to split that if you are not the author and the illustrator. And picture books in general can be wonky when we talk about prices. YA books can often take a higher advance.

Rebecca Sherman is an agent for Writers House. For over 30 years, Writers House has played a critical role in developing novelists and non-fiction authors. They have one of the industry’s finest lists of juvenile and young adult authors. Rebecca continues to build her own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, she’s looking for books with something to say, books that make her laugh, and characters that truly remind her of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be. She is also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night after night.