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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: WhatAmIDoing on February 01, 2015, 12:07 PM

Title: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 01, 2015, 12:07 PM
I have one more question.  I have the book 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and am planning on contacting agents but am overwhelmed by the number of agents in the book.  Is there any resource that reviews agents or provides any other information that could help me decide where to start?

Thanks!
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 01, 2015, 12:23 PM
Also, if the agents accept simultaneous submissions, how many agents should I submit to at one time?  Everyone that is accepting picture books from unpublished authors?
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: June Smalls on February 01, 2015, 01:21 PM
My advice is to make sure you have at least 3 manuscripts polished, passed through your critique/beta readers, and polished again. Most PB agents will ask for more if they like the first you send.
Now that you have finished and are ready to submit pick a few agents and submit.  Not too many at once.  Research them online and see if they are looking for your style, age range, author only vs. author/illustrator.  Personalize your Query letter.
Send a few and wait to see if you get any feedback.  Keep track of who you send to, when you sent, what you sent, and what their response time is if it is listed on their site so you know when to stop holding your breath and move on.  Many agents are now 'no response means no thank you'.
Use feedback to look over your work again.  Are all the agents saying the dialogue isn't working? Maybe this needs to be revisited.  Then after seeing your responses send out your next batch of queries to your next few agents.

Best luck in the query trenches!
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 01, 2015, 01:21 PM
I'm not sure about reviews of agents, but the Literary Rambles website has compiled a fantastic list of agent profiles. (I found my agent that way) It's best to research agents and submit to those that seem best suited to you and your work. I think most people will send to a handful first (maybe around ten) and see what kind of response you get. If the agents all give similar feedback, or mostly give form rejections, or you get a lot of personal rejections, you can revise your query letter/submission accordingly before sending to another round. It's not uncommon for authors to query many many agents and even many projects before finding the right fit. The query tracker website is another great resource. It can help you keep track of your submissions, find agents to query, and interact with others querying the agents. (There are comments forms on each agent's entry)

Hope that helps!
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: dewsanddamps on February 01, 2015, 01:34 PM
What, please don't submit to everyone at once! If you discover a problem with your query letter, and you've already sent it to everybody....

I'd suggest: look at the book, but also go online to agentquery dot com and querytracker dot net. It may be worth paying for a subscription to Publisher's Weekly (PW), too. You can pay by the month, so you don't get stuck with a long subscription. PW lets you see deals by individual agents, by agency, and by date (maybe somebody used to sell, but isn't now), and lists the top 100 agents by genre. There are lots of ways to chop up the data, and it's a fabulous procrastination tool. (And you'll find some agents who claim to rep a certain genre--but have never made a sale in it.)

And it's worth running a search on the agent's name to see if there are complaints/problems. Also, absolutely check the agency website. There are people who've started agencies and have no background in publishing, and you need to avoid those people.

When you've narrowed down your agent list, research the people you're interested in. Maybe read a few of their clients' books (much easier when you're writing PBs!) This will make it easier for you to personalize your query letter.

Then workshop your query, here or on querytracker's forum--somewhere. You'll be amazed at how much better extra eyes can make your letter.

Once you have a well-researched list of agents, and a query that's as good as you can get it, send to FIVE agents. (Follow the submission requirements on their website.) Many people send "revenge queries." The idea is that every time you get a rejection (R), you send out a new query. When I got an R that really stung, I'd send out two new queries.

Also start a spreadsheet or word doc or some way to keep track of the date you sent, exactly what you sent (for PBs maybe it's always the whole ms., but I write YA and MG, and sometimes sent 10 pp., sometimes 50, etc.), and what date you nudged if you did, when you got a response or closed out as a no response=no. In other words, keep track of it all, because if you wind up querying 100 people, you'll have forgotten some things. I always kept the responses in an email folder, so I could look at what the agent said when I was ready to query the next ms.

 :goodluck

ETA: Cross-posted with June and Artemesia. (Arty, I didn't edit your post, I just clicked on it by accident, trying to modify my own.)  :hiding

:arty
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 01, 2015, 01:47 PM
Hacked ya back.   :poopstatue

WhatAmIDoing, you should also beware of administrators gone mad with power. Like me, Arty.  :crazy
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: dewsanddamps on February 01, 2015, 02:12 PM
(Pssst--Katie...did Arty have her meds this morning?)  :poke
:dr :dr :dr
I suspect she did take them, Marissa. She doesn't look this good without them. Arty:  :crazy

WhatAmIDoing--sorry to hijack your thread.  :hijacked
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 01, 2015, 02:16 PM
Well going mad without power is just no fun.  :slap
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: dewsanddamps on February 01, 2015, 02:26 PM
Well going mad without power is just no fun.  :slap
Excellent point, Arty.  :lovedance
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 01, 2015, 02:27 PM
:giggle
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Jayca on February 01, 2015, 08:42 PM
 :lol4 :like Take a  :curtsy, ladies. Nice job.  :hijacked
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Larissa on February 02, 2015, 07:13 AM
LOL. Well, at least you got some advice before they went all :tornado on your thread, WhatAmIDoing...
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: DianaM on February 02, 2015, 07:28 AM
Query a small handful and see how it goes. Google each agent individually. Read every interview with him/her and visit his/her site for specific, updated guidelines. Querytracker is great, too, as someone mentioned.

Here is a good blog post geared toward pb writers: http://frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com/p/monster-list-of-picture-book-agents.html


(Naughty mods and admins!  :whip :dr)
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Marissa Doyle on February 02, 2015, 07:33 AM
(This Admin will behave now...)

I second (third) posting your query letter here in the Queries and Critiques section...some amazing query letter transformations take place there!
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 02, 2015, 12:04 PM
Thanks, everyone, for the tips!  They certainly help with this daunting process!  If you receive a lot of similar criticisms that cause you to revise your query letter do you ever re-send it to agents?  Or just accept that they aren't that into you and move on?
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Marissa Doyle on February 02, 2015, 12:25 PM
Not a good idea.  The only time to re-send to an agent is if they invite you to do an R&R (revise and re-submit), or maybe (but very maybe) if you substantially (and I mean substantially) revise the ms. on your own and have allowed several months to pass.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 02, 2015, 01:51 PM
just to add to what Marissa said, you can also sub to the same agent again with a new project, but the same wait a few months (like 4-6) rule applies.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 06:59 AM
One more question (please stop me if I am asking too many questions!!!!) I have had several scholarly articles published and I regularly contribute to a blog.  Should I include that sort of experience or does it make me look like I think writing picture books is easy and I am assuming my writing style will translate from scholarly to children?  I am trying to up-play(is up-play a thing?....play up...) the part of my query letter about the idea and downplay/soften the part about my experience.  I don't  even have a good undergraduate degree to stick in there (engineering....).  I do, however, spend hours writing every day and I have to believe that that exposure to words and thinking about words would help write any type of story.  And a lot of being a lawyer is weaving a story and translating a complex idea to a new audience...I'm really reaching here....
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: June Smalls on February 03, 2015, 08:17 AM
I would add the articles. It shows you can revise and have a solid grasp of grammar and punctuation (or should). Leave out engineering unless you wrote a book related to engineering in some way, such as a book on building etc.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Mike Jung on February 03, 2015, 08:22 AM
I agree with June, the articles are relevant in terms of you having baseline writing skills, and the degree is not.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 08:39 AM
You guys are insanely helpful.  Is it worth a mention that I have children in the target age group so that I have lots of exposure to both the elements of picture books that they and their friends are interested in and the way that they play for believable age-appropriate dialogue?  Listening to my daughter play has been my biggest inspiration.  Everything she says is hilarious and it is so interesting to hear the type of things she is thinking about or concerned about and the way that she understands and interprets the books that we read together.  Does mentioning the children sound immature/unprofessional?  "I know about kids because I have them, lol!"   (.....that is not what I would put...just a dramatic interpretation of how it might be perceived by an agent).   
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: mrh on February 03, 2015, 08:42 AM
I wouldn't mention your children. Honestly, it tends to make their eyes glaze over. "Everybody" thinks everything their kids say is hilarious -- you know? And, truly, having children doesn't speak to our ability to write. However, your exposure to kids in the age group you're writing for may well shine through in your work.  :flowers2
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 08:45 AM
Ha, but **my** kids really are hilarious.....  ;)

That makes sense about not mentioning.  I'm sure a ton of people that submit manuscripts have kids. 
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: June Smalls on February 03, 2015, 08:45 AM
Family info may be best for after the agent is interested.  Keep your query short, sweet, and professional.  Only add things that make you stand above the rest. Just like the degree, having kids doesn't mean you are a great writer. Impress them with your words.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Marissa Doyle on February 03, 2015, 08:45 AM
I think I'm going to be a voice of dissent here...while you can mention briefly that you have been published in an academic setting, it really isn't relevant to your PB writing abilities.  Don't worry about your creds too much--if your stories are amazing, they don't matter a whit...and they're what an editor or agent cares most about.

ETA: And no, don't mention the children.  It starts skating too close to the query letters that read, "My child/grandchild/niece loved this story!"  This is a sales letter: you're trying to sell not only your stories, but yourself as a non-crazy, professional person. :)
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: June Smalls on February 03, 2015, 08:46 AM
I just realized that may have sounded snarky. I meant just let your story be the selling point on its own. No snarkiness intended.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 08:59 AM
No snarkiness perceived!   I completely agree.  I am just struggling to provide any reason, beyond my clearly amazing story  :P, why *I* would be someone that an agent is interested in.  I agree that it doesn't sound professional to mention the kids but I have been in a completely non-creative field and am not totally clear on the different professionalism rules that creative types adhere to.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Mike Jung on February 03, 2015, 09:01 AM
Marissa's dissenting! OH YEAH, MARISSA? PUT 'EM UP! I can take on you and your rabbit henchmen with one hand tied behind my back...

OH, I'M JUST KIDDING. Marissa's a smart cookie, and she does make a valid point. Listen to her. NO WAIT, LISTEN TO ME! No, no, listen to her, I'm confused about everything. WAIT, I MEAN, LISTEN TO ME, VALIDATE ME, I NEED LOVE...
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 09:03 AM
I am having flashbacks to when I was applying to jobs while in law school.  It is really important to legal employers that you are serious about staying in the city.  My only connection to my future city was that my boyfriend (now husband) lived there.  We fully intended to get married and settle there (and did).  I debated including that connection in my cover letters because it sounded so juvenile.  I think I ultimately decided to include it and it did not go over well.....ha.  Hopefully I learned from that experience.... 
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Marissa Doyle on February 03, 2015, 09:21 AM
Aw, Mike needs love...  :love5 :love5  And my bunny henchmen love you too.  :bunny2 For validation, you're on you own, dude.  :grin3

WhatAmIDoing, ultimately what you include in your letter is up to you.  Try reading through the archives here in Queries and Critique Requests and at other sites like Janet Reid's Query Shark blog and elsewhere--reading a crap-ton of query letters, good and bad, will be a help to you in deciding what should go into yours.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: June Smalls on February 03, 2015, 09:49 AM
LOVE Query Shark! Great place to learn!

WhatAmIDoing, fear not.  I sold a PB with about 5 sentences.

Dear (Specific person spelled correctly):

TITLE is a ### word PB about (hook)

This will be my debut PB. I am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
June Smalls

We stress so much over making it perfect but keep it simple and let your story sell itself.  Get critiques for sure! Nothing beats a good critique on you manuscript and your query letter.

Best of Luck!
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 03, 2015, 10:27 AM
I think maybe what Mike really needs is a doughnut. Here , Mike.  :donut2 *pats Mike on head* There ya go.  :grin3

And What, I had absolutely NO relevant credentials or experience. No online presence AT ALL (I do now, but when I was querying I did not). So yeah, I agree it's about the story. A carefully crafted query letter will show that you can form coherent, grammatically correct sentences. I tried to keep the majority of my neuroses out of the letter, though. Not as easy as it sounds, actually.  :crazy
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 11:02 AM
Thanks, guys.  I like the idea of limiting the 'about me' portion as you indicated, June, since there really is nothing about me that is really interesting or relevant.  I'm sure an agent would appreciate an economical use of words in a picture book query letter as an indication that the book itself is similarly restrained. 
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 11:06 AM
Should I move my questions somewhere else?  Like the queries board or keep them here?

I have one more....the first agent I'm planning on submitting to mentioned in an interview that one of her favorite picture book authors was Doreen Cronin.  The voice of my story reads similar to her style (tongue in cheek humor-ish that the parents can appreciate along with the kids).  Would I ever mention anything along those lines or is that a no-no?
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: Artemesia on February 03, 2015, 11:15 AM
Some people recommend listing comparable titles, and some agents will even ask for that to be included in the query. But I never felt comfortable doing that, because it felt icky to say, hey if you love them you'll love me. (but that's just my own hang up, a lot of people really like to include comp titles) But you can also mention Doreen Cronin in a she's an author I admire sort of way if like me you feel weird about making an actual comparison.

And your questions are fine here for now. Once you have a query you might like to share for feedback, then yes, post it on the query board. :)
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: dewsanddamps on February 03, 2015, 11:16 AM
That's a yes-yes. You're supposed to personalize the query for each agent, and some of them take that seriously. Why do you want him/her specifically? And they don't like you to say, Because you're breathing!, or I'm really desperate!

If you've got a ms. that reads similarly to one an agent's said she likes, you've got a way to personalize that query. Yay!

An aside: one very good agent asks why you write/why you wrote what you did. When I queried her I wrote a whole separate sheet of paper and did my best to plumb my psyche for reasons I write (and who even knows? Who even cares?) Later I read an interview with her--turns out she's just fishing for relevant experiences. So, for ex., if you wrote a book about the circus, and your name is Barnum or Bailey, that's something to bring up. She felt that a lot of writers failed to mention relevant connections between their life and work. But holy smokes, if she'd just said that I wouldn't cringe every time I think of that query.  :hiding

Editing to add: When Artemesia and I disagree, you should listen to her. She's goofy, but smart.  :grin3
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 11:54 AM
I found this in something else she wrote "I’m also intrigued by salient comps to other books or hybrids when something is pitched as x meets y, since I need to do that kind of pitching a lot to hook editor interest" so I guess the comparison is a yes-yes!

Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: June Smalls on February 03, 2015, 12:40 PM
For comps I like to say "it will appeal to fans of x author or x story" so I'm not saying I'm the next Mo Willems but for fans of Elephant and Piggie.
Title: Re: Which agent?
Post by: WhatAmIDoing on February 03, 2015, 07:15 PM
That makes sense, thanks!

My story is written in "conversation voice'--a term i learned from Ann Whitford Paul's book.   The first few people that reviewed my query letter were tripped up by the term.  Is this a term of art that is generally known that will be familiar to an agent?

Thanks!