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picture book writers sub questions

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CaroleB

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Would love input on submitting picture books, (am currently without an agent.)
Interested in discussion since "things" seem to have a changed quite a bit in the past couple years or so.
So here's a few questions:
If you only write pb's are you seeking an agent? Any luck with that? Or are agents mostly wanting diversified authors? (pbs, MGs and YA?)
Or are you subbing to houses only? (I know there aren't many open anymore)
Or is it acceptable today to sub to both since things are so tight?

I'm feeling wishy washy about which direction to take and I know there's pros and cons on each side. I've queried one, yes only one, agent so far, but am wondering the best way to move forward.
Please tell me your thoughts!
Carole  :exclamationpoint:

Oh, and Arty, just saw you mod this thread. Didn't even realize you were admin-eral. Hah! Please move if I posted in wrong spot.
#1 - May 30, 2012, 05:47 AM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2012, 05:51 AM by CaroleB »

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Dear Carole,

I have subbed to agents and received some good responses, but yes, it is really hard to get them to take on a PB author unless you also illustrate or write other genres. My agent pursuit has been very sporadic -- I've only done it if I have a particular connection with an agent through a conference and have good reason to believe they would be interested. I am putting a lot more of my energy into subbing to houses directly. I've had several trips to acquisitions but no contracts yet. Again, the most fruitful path for me has been to sub to editors I have made connections with through conferences -- the Rutgers One-on-One Conference has been particularly helpful in this regard. If you think you can get to NJ in October, I'd highly recommend applying.

http://www.ruccl.org/One-on-One_Plus_Conference.html

Good Luck!

Elizabeth  :hedgehog
#2 - May 30, 2012, 06:32 AM
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Don't submit to both agents and editors at the same time. An agent won't want to take on a work that has already been "shopped." Laurie
#3 - May 30, 2012, 08:13 AM
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What did I do?? I was sleeping when you posted, honest!!

or did you mean I modded another thread on this board...yes, I have AWESOME MOD POWERS now, so you should tread lightly, Carole!! Got my eye on you  :eyeballs:  hehe
#4 - May 30, 2012, 08:14 AM
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Carole, there are very few agents these days who will take on PB writers only, but they are still out there. I'd maybe exhaust your search with them before subbing to houses. If you happen to get representation, then there will be more houses open to you, as many houses now are closed to unagented subs.

That's just my opinion tho, as I'm a big believer in the awesomeness of agents. There are many successful people who have shopped their PBs themselves, but they were probably better equipped to handle contract stuff than I am. (pretty sure I'd say yes to a jar of jellybeans in payment)



#5 - May 30, 2012, 08:21 AM
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CaroleB

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Thanks gals!

Elizabeth, hmmm, the Rutgers Conference, I'll think about it. I know folks who have attended. Guess I need to get self out there to these events and get chummy. I'm not much of a schmoozer.

Laurie, yes, I figured as much, but wondered if anyone was breaking the rules and going all out.

Artypoo, contracts totally FREAK me. I got one a few years back and didn't have a clue what to do with it! So, I signed. (even tho my bil is a judge and read it. He said it was badly written) Anyway, WRONG move on my part. Long story.

Keep your thoughts coming folks, I need to decide something.
Carole
#6 - May 30, 2012, 08:33 AM

CaroleB

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Oh, and someone whose name rhymes with Smarty mentioned writing MG's, too. *sigh* I like pbs. But I suppose I could try writing other stuff.

Though after being gone for a few years, I HAVE noticed a lot more folks moving into other age groups. What's up with MG, anyway? Is there a huge demand for them now? If so, why? Just curious.
#7 - May 30, 2012, 08:37 AM

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I think when the YA market exploded, a lot more people tried their hand at YA and MGs kind of took a back seat for a while. Then I saw a lot of agents and editors putting calls out for MGs as they weren't getting as many submitted to them. This is just my speculation, not hard fact, btw.

And as I mentioned to you before, I write and illustrate PBs, and my agent still asked me if I write older stuff, as she said it's hard to get by on PBs alone.
#8 - May 30, 2012, 08:58 AM
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Quote
What's up with MG, anyway? Is there a huge demand for them now? If so, why? Just curious.

I've heard many editors say that their slush piles are saturated with YA manuscripts because of the success of Twilight, Hunger Games, etc.  It seems that they'd love to see more marketable MG fiction.

I've also heard quite a few agents say that if they take on a PB client, they'd also like them to write in other genres because, in all honesty, it's more profitable for the agent.  The advances on novels tend to be much higher than the advances on PB's (especially when you consider that the advance on a PB must be split between the author and illustrator, unless they're one in the same).
#9 - May 30, 2012, 09:11 AM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2012, 09:13 AM by wolfie712 »
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Just wanted to chime in with my experience, since it is a little different from conventional advice:

I was able to get an agent for PBs only, but I signed with her when I had a sale in hand. I got an offer from an editor days after I had subbed (a different manuscript) to agent, and sent her an e-mail with the update (putting OFFER RECEIVED in the subject line, that will get their attention!) Got a call back from agent same day. As we spoke, I mentioned that I was trying my hand at longer stuff (chapter books, MG), thinking this would be a good thing. She said, "Why would you do that? You are great at PBs, don't split your focus!" HUH? That went against everything I had heard about what agents want. I am glad though, because PBs are where my heart is at, and I am happy to focus there. She did want to see several manuscripts, though, and I think if you are going to query agents, you need to have at least 3 strong, marketable stories ready to go.

Good Luck, Carole!
#10 - May 30, 2012, 09:38 AM
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CaroleB

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Wow, cool experience AmyD.
Am curious how long ago this happened for you. I'm thinking all things are possible, but perhaps not as likely or rather not as common.
Yes! I need to get more pbs ready for eyes. Only have one shiny enough.
Worked on one recently and didn't pass the "ready to go" test. Need to rewrite.  :taz:

Thanks for sharing your story!
#11 - May 30, 2012, 09:47 AM

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That's good to  know, Amy!  Thanks for sharing your experience! :)
#12 - May 30, 2012, 09:58 AM
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If your focus is solely pbs, I think that first searching for an agent who loves your pbs is a good start. With all the legal-speak about options, advances, rights (esp e-rights now), etc. having an agent on your side may help you set things up for the future.
 :)
#13 - May 30, 2012, 10:38 AM

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Amy, Thanks for the information, it's good to know:)

Carole, As others have already said, I think it's best to sub agents first because if an agent loves your ms, they can send it to places/publishing houses that might be closed to you. It's smart of you to ask this question before you start submitting, it will save you a lot of time:)

Agents have such varied tastes, sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right agent. I read somewhere that it's best to query twenty agents at a time. And don't stop at one or even ten queries, shoot out at least a dozen at a time. I read somewhere that twenty is a good number of queries to start with:)

Happy subbing, Cali
#14 - May 30, 2012, 10:58 AM

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I don't necessarily think going to agents is the best first choice. It can just be demoralizing! If you've got two MS that you think are top-notch, why not try sending it out to a handful of publishers? Then you've still got the other MS to try and snag an agent if you want to, but you've also got your story out there possibly catching the eye of an editor. Once you've got a contract it's a lot easier to get an agent's interest!

Also Amy's agent sounds great... but perhaps a little unusual? Every single agent who's shown interest in my PBs has also made it pretty clear they'd love it (gently request it?) if I wrote in other genres. Other PB writers who've signed up with agents have also been encouraged to write in other genres.

It is tough to get an agent for PBs – more and more of them are taking on only author/illustrators or no PBs at all – but several on these boards (including me) have done it in the last couple of years. So it can definitely be done. But it might not be right for you. It wasn't for me. I found myself frustrated with only being able to sub one MS at a time. Now I can choose one MS to send to x, y, z publishers, and send another one that's better suited to other publishers at the same time. Maybe some agents will deal with more than one MS at a time but mine didn't so we had to wait to hear back before I could even get detailed feedback on the next MS.
#15 - May 30, 2012, 11:29 AM

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Wanted to chime in with my experience, which was similar to AmyD’s. I landed my agent with PBs only—it took three polished stories and an idea for a fourth. I’ve dabbled in MG (have a very rough manuscript) and mentioned that during email correspondence with agent. She liked my PBs and never asked about the MG work. I signed with her September 2011.
#16 - May 30, 2012, 05:45 PM
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I wasn't going to chime in, but why not.  The more the merrier, right?  So, I signed with my agent in 2010 for PBs with the understanding that I also want to write MG.  I parted ways with my agent in February of this year and am back out there looking for an agent.  Siski (Franzilla) is right...many agents that rep PBs are either closed now to queries or are seeking the author/illustrator package.  As much as I want an agent and believe in that approach, I also recognize that it's tough and I need to be my own advocate.  So, slowly, I'm starting to submit on a very limited basis to houses/imprints that are open. 

In the meantime, I'm working on my MG. 

My attitude is it will happen when it's meant to happen.  So just keep writing!

Best of luck!
#17 - May 30, 2012, 06:22 PM
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CaroleB

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So very glad you ALL chimed in. Love hearing your experiences.

I'm totally twisted out of shape. Still don't know which direction to take.
That's my dilemma, I'm stuck. This way or that way  :thinktoohard:.
*sigh*
I have subbers block.

Carole  :groan
#18 - May 31, 2012, 08:02 AM

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I have subbers block.

Carole  :groan


Sub to one agent and one editor. That'll remove the need for a real decision and remove your subber's block too. And while you're waiting for responses on either of those, you'll go slowly mad with the waiting. Then you'll have subber's madness and will look back fondly on the days when you only had subber's block. Sorted!
#19 - May 31, 2012, 08:22 AM

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I was sorta subbing to agents and editors at the same time, but with different manuscripts. And quite slowly. I was subbing to agents with one that I felt was more commercial and had a strong hook. With MARATHON MOUSE, I felt (with the help of some editor feedback at a conference) that it was more of a niche book. So I wasn't subbing it to agents, I was trying to find editors or publishing houses that had a connection to the running world. So, I think it does matter what kind of manuscript it is that you are subbing.

If it were me and I had one manuscript that was ready to go, I would either wait until I had a few more that I felt were show-to-an-agent-able (we're pb writers! we get to make up words!) OR if the manuscript that was ready was specific enough to be a great fit at one or two particular houses, then I would go ahead and send it to those one or two places. One or two subs is not going to make a manuscript "shopped." I think one thing we are all agreeing on, even with our different experiences, is that if an agent loves your one manuscript, they are most definitely going to want to see more. And it would be pretty stinky to have to tell them you don't have anything.

Am curious how long ago this happened for you.
I signed both contracts (agent and book) in August 2011.
#20 - May 31, 2012, 08:59 AM
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Like AmyD and LoriA, my agent took me on based only on my PB mss. I would highly suggest, as others have mentioned, that you have at least three mss as polished and ready as they can be. My agent really liked the ms I subbed, but immediately wanted to know what else I had ready to go. I think I sent in four additional mss. When I decided to start subbing to agents, I worked hard to develop what I called a PB "portfolio"--even though it was only the text itself. I wanted to be able to have several strong mss to share if I received interest in the original sub. And I'm really glad I took the time to do that; I'm not convinced that she would have taken me on with just the original sub and nothing else. I think agents who sign PB writers need to know that the writer isn't a one-ms wonder before they commit.

As far as subbing to agents vs subbing to editors, I'd always thought I'd prefer subbing on my own rather than going the agent route. But over the past few years, I've found it more and more difficult to get my work in front of the editors that I'd like to see it. I felt I had some ms that had pub potential, but I just wasn't capable of getting them out there. That's why I decided to go the agent route, and I'm very happy that I did. Actually, I'm sorry that I didn't do it sooner, but only you know what's right for you.

Good luck with whatever you decide!

I've enjoyed reading everyone's experiences!
Good luck with whatever you decide.
#21 - May 31, 2012, 01:47 PM
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Great thread!

Thanks for starting it, CaroleB.

I asked an agent panel at a SCBWI event a few years ago, about when they considered a manuscript 'shopped' before  a writer sent it to the agency.

They said one or the most 2 editors. One of the reasons they gave was that the writer may have subbed it to Editor A  and the agent has a great connection with Editor B at the same publisher, but now can't send it there because it's been rejected.

Something to consider.

--LiZ
#22 - June 01, 2012, 02:46 PM

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My best advice is to wait to sub anything at all until you have three to five polished manuscripts. Wish I had done that. I wasted a lot of time with sub-par manuscripts because I was so anxious to get published. Manuscript 1 wasn't ready, nor was 2, 3, 4 or even #10. What you think may be your best work now may look differently in a year from now.

I think with more and more houses closing to unsolicited manuscripts, and the sheer size of their slush piles, you have more options with an agent. There are agents who seek PB-only authors. There might not be as many as those who take MG & YA, but they are out there and they want to represent you. Like others mentioned, send to a few editors and a manuscript would be considered "shopped" and the agent may be very reluctant to take it on unless it's been seriously revised.

It does make sense to get out to as many events as possible and network. You can also network online, as you well know! The more people you know, the more introductions you'll get and they may just lead to an agent. That's how I got mine--a friend sent my ms to another friend who Tweeted about it and the agent saw the tweet and then we got in touch.

Good luck in whatever you decide!
#23 - June 05, 2012, 11:06 AM
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There is so much wise advice on this thread, that I'm not sure I really need to add my two cents, but I will anyway.  Like AmyD and LoriA, my agent also took me on as a picture book writer - a rhyming picture book writer, at that.  And that's what we're focussing on subbing right now. So, don't give up on the notion that agents still take on clients who write picture books. That being said, it was a long process from sub of first pb manuscript to offer of rep.  During the "yes, I'd like to see more" stage, I think I subbed at total of five more pb manuscripts to her.  So... my advice, if you want an agent, is to build a portfolio before subbing agents and, tempting as it might be, don't sub to a massive list of editors first. I think subbing to a three or four would be fine, however.
#24 - June 07, 2012, 04:03 AM
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CaroleB

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Thank you, thank you, thank you all for commenting. You've expanded my perspective which was not only extremely narrow, but downright gloomy.

And I am getting those wips finalized. Only one is really top notch, the others are getting close. Should have 3 ready soon. After that I'll make some kind of serious plunge.
#25 - June 07, 2012, 04:36 AM

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I've found this discussion very enlightening.  Thank you all for your replies  :thankyou
#26 - June 07, 2012, 05:35 PM
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I've found this discussion very enlightening.  Thank you all for your replies  :thankyou
Agree!! Thanks!!
#27 - June 07, 2012, 06:57 PM

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Great thread! I like how KatyD put it -- building a manuscript "portfolio." This is what I've been working on this year, through the 12x12 challenge, and will continue next year. Thanks for all the great responses!
#28 - June 11, 2012, 06:31 PM
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Chiming in that this is, indeed, a very enlightening discussion. I'm right smack in the middle of this too.

*blows bangs out of eyes*

Thanks for everyone's input! Hugs, Jodi  :love4:
#29 - June 13, 2012, 03:48 PM
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After thinking about all this there's one thing that simply makes no sense to me.
Why on earth would an agent care if someone subs to an open house when most are closed anyway? I mean they have the inroad to closed houses so basically a ms wouldn't be "shopped" to their market. I'm asking regarding trying to get an agent even while subbing to open publishers.
Hope that's clear (I'm tired).

Carole
#30 - June 24, 2012, 06:04 PM

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