One Writer’s Journey

April 17, 2018

The Agent Search: Wait for a Good Match

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:54 am
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SCBWI members have through this month to submit their work to Alexandra Penfold, an agent at Upstart Crow.  So I’ve read up on Penfold and I love so much about her.

  • She represents fiction and nonfiction.
  • She’s an agent and an author.
  • She represents picture book authors as well as people who write children’s novels.
  • She’s an editorial agent.

Cool, cool, cool!   So I logged onto my library’s catalogue and started requesting books.  I requested four that she wrote and three that she repped.

First I read the books that she wrote.  She’s a picture book author so I could do this in one sitting, especially since only three had come in. They were all really sweet.  Maybe that’s not the word she would use, but that would be my one word description.

The fourth book she’d written came in and so did the three she repped so I sat down to read again.  These were less sweet but still very “awww!”  Again, this isn’t a judgment call.  Just a description.

But the problem is that absolutely nothing that I’ve written could be described as sweet.  Clever, yes.  Surprising, yes.  But not sweet.

As much as I like her books, I just don’t think we’re a good match.  But still I’ve been tempted to send her my work.  I really want an agent.

Fortunately, I met to agents that I think would be a good match at the KS-MO SCBWI Agent Day.  One of them even recommended another agent for my work, someone she thinks would be a good match.  So that gives me three agents to approach.

And that might be why I have the guts to pass on Penfold.  We just have different sensibilities. I want an agent who gets my work, really gets it.

Still, I really liked what I saw of Penfold. She’s a top-notch agent so if your work is sweet or touching and you’re a SCBWI member read some of what she’s written.  Read what she’s repped.  See if she’s the right match for you.




February 8, 2017

Agents: Susan Hawk

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:34 am
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moving-dayToday is #MSWL day over on Twitter.  If you have an account, be sure to pop over there and see who wants what in terms of manuscripts.

If Susan Hawk is one of your dream agents, note that she has moved.  Formerly of The Bent Agency, Susan is now at Upstart Crow Literary Agency.

Susan recently blogged about what she would like to find this past year.  She is interested in:

Picture books that click in terms of the childhood experience (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), concept books (Not a Box), great character stories like Olivia or Pigeon, and lyrical, informational books (Over and Under the Snow).  

Middle grade mysteries ala US Agatha Christie, edgy and dark stories that push boundaries, contemporary stories with STEM interested female characters, historical fiction, and fantasy.

Young adult stories that focus on family, siblings and strong parent/child relationships, rich world building, non-Euro American historical fantasy, science fiction that deals with changes that might happen in our lifetimes, epistolary novels, unreliable narrators and more.

Good luck on your agent searches!   I still have two pitches out and am getting ready to work on a third.



January 3, 2017

Finding an Agent

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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Agent HuntAlthough I did send out material to several agents last year, I think it would be stretching it to call it an agent hunt.  Hunt implies an active search and a lot of effort.  I printed things off.  I made a list of names.  I looked into about 20 people and ruled out a lot.  But I submitted to or queried very few.  I need to make a concerted effort to seek out agents and submit every month.

So what do I look for in an agent?

First things first, I look for someone who represents what I write.  I know it sounds a little obvious but a lot of people skip this step altogether judging by the number of agents I see complaining.  “I only represent romances, don’t send me picture books.”  “I only represent children’s literature.  Why do people send me erotica?”  Okay, I made up those two examples but you get the point.

I need to find someone who handles materials from picture book to young adult and both fiction and nonfiction.  Granted, I’ve sold very little fiction but I’d like to write and sell more.  Besides, the hard part is finding someone who is serious about nonfiction.

Second, I need to make sure they are accepting materials right now.  If this is an agent that I research in January but she is closed until March, she needs to go back in the March folder.

Third, I need to look at what they represent.  I’ve met a lot of agents whom I genuinely liked, and some that I really connected with, whose sales are nothing like what I write.  I couldn’t do cute to save myself.  I am, at best, your gritty realist and on other days I’m a bit more than gritty.  I need an agent with a similar outlook.

As I’m looking into what they represent, I need to make sure they don’t have someone whose work is too similar to my own.  After all, that author already has his or her foot in the door.

Today, I have my short list for January (Ed Maxwell, Molly O’Neill, Rena Rossner, Mark Gottlieb, and Clelia Gore).  Now I need to look at their clients/books.  Next week, I’ll be sending things out. Yes, it is a lot of work but it will be worth it to have someone representing my work.


June 23, 2015

Finding an Agent

This week, I drafted the backmatter for a nonfiction picture book on prayer.  I actually wrote that I revised it but then changed that to drafted.  This version is so different from the first that I’m hesitant to call it a rewrite.  This means that I have two picture books ready to go out.  One more and I’ll start submitting to . . . agents?  Editors?  Today, I’m thinking agents.  Because of that I’ve been reading agents blogs looking for information on how to query.  One of my favorites is Janet Reid’s blog.

One of the things that she wrote about was how to tell an agent that an editor you met at a conference currently has the manuscript in question.  That’s good news right?

Actually, Reid says that it really isn’t good news.  It is, in fact, the kind of thing that agents hate to hear.  The reason is that although the editor agreed to read it, it may not be perfect for them.  The agent will read your manuscript and immediately know that.  But now that the editor has received your manuscript in submission, the agent can’t send your work to anyone else in that imprint.

What this means is that the fewer people who have seen your manuscript as a submission the better.

I wonder how many of these things that authors consider great news (someone liked my work!) are really no help in attracting an agent. My guess is that this list includes won a writer’s guild writing contest, got a good critique at a class or was much acclaimed by your college writing professor.

I’m not saying that you don’t want to show other professionals your work if it means that they can help you improve as a writer.  Improve all you can and then submit the best piece of writing you can create.  It’s this writing, not the glowing words of a conference critiquer, that are going to attract an agent.



February 11, 2015

How to Choose a Market

to market pig 2In addition to my writing for Red Line Editorial, I’ve also been working at getting some of my own book manuscripts out there.  I’m submitting one of these manuscripts to publishers while I market a few others to agents.  Whether I’m submitting to agents or editors, I have to find a good match that isn’t too close.  Let me explain.

The chapter book that I’m submitting to publishers is about a boy who wants a pet scorpion, but ends up with a hermit crab he doesn’t really know how to care for.  To find a potential publisher I need to match:

Fiction vs nonfiction.  Some publishers do one but not the other.  I need to find a fiction publisher for this particular manuscript.

Level.  Not everyone is interested in chapter books so I have to find a publisher that not only wants this step between begining reaaders and middle grave novels.  At this point, I’m still submitting only to those who want chapter books.  Later I may expand to publishers who want “all levels.”

Category.  A publisher who only does science fiction or fantasty would be a bad match for this.  I need to find someone who does contemporary fiction.  So much of my fiction is fantasy that this means studying new-to-me markets.

Finding a match with just these three areas isn’t too difficult but then you have to consider the last two — belief system and gap.

Belief system.  I have to find a publisher who is interested in hermit crabs.  That isn’t too tough. A lot of publishers have books on hermit crab care but that is a problem.  In my story, my character decides not to keep a hermit crab because they are all captured in the wild.  A publisher who is teaching kids how to keep a hermit crab as a pet probably won’t adore this idea.

Gap.  Or, is there a space on this publisher’s list for my book?  If I know that a publisher is pro-hermit crab, that’s good.  The problem is that if the publisher has a hermit crab book, there may not be room for another.  A picture book but no chapter book?  That might be gap enough.

Fingers cross that I find just the right match.  If not, the problem may be that I don’t have a topic that is marketable on a national scale.  For more on how to find local topics with national appeal, check out my post today on the Muffin.


March 17, 2014

Breaking In

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:58 am
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Breaking inMost of us write because we have stories to share with potential readers.  Finding potential readers often means finding an agent or an editor.  But how do you make that first sale, or break into that new market, when you are up against established professionals?

There’s no doubt about it.  It is hard.  Editors and agents with good reputations have generally been in the business for a while.  Their stables are already full of well-published writers.  You might be able to get your toe in the door but you are likely to get a lot of rejection letters before you get the all coveted YES.

Improve your chances by looking for new editors and agents.

Wait a minute.  Didn’t I just say that you want someone with a proven track record?  No, I haven’t forgotten that.

A new agency created by an established agent who has decided to strike out on her own is going to need clients.  Yes, some of her old clients will follow her to her new position, but there may well be openings.

A new agent at an established agency won’t have as much experience as an established agent, but she will be working alongside someone who does have the experience.  Additionally, she will have access to all of the agencies contacts and may also bring a few new ones into the mix.

An established publisher will have the weight of their name.  A new editor, such as an assistant editor, will have the resources of this publisher on hand but will need writers to publish.

Combine the old and the new to increase your chances of getting a YES on your next submission.


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