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Picture Book - Do I need an Agent?

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Very confused maybe someone out there can help this first time author.

With a picture book do I need an Agent? Some places say absolutely yes, others say absolutely no.  So should I?

1. Pursue an agent?
2. Pursue a publisher?
3. Do both
4. Neither and self-publish?

Any insight would be so great, grand, wonderful!
#1 - June 02, 2016, 12:50 PM

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You do not necessarily need an agent for PBs, but there are many publishers that will not look at an unagented book. Plus an agent can help you get a better deal, and most likely get you more deals throughout your career. But you can look for a publisher without one, and many PB writers on this board have done well without agents. However, if you try to find a publisher first, it will be harder for you to interest an agent because you will have reduced their opportunities to submit it to editors. As for self-publishing, picture books are a VERY tough sell.
#2 - June 02, 2016, 02:26 PM
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Thank you Vonna!
#3 - June 02, 2016, 02:34 PM

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Vonna gave great advice. The only other tidbit I would add is that agents will usually want you to have 3 PB manuscripts ready before they will take you on as a client. So query with just one, but wait until you have 3 submission ready before you start the querying process.
#4 - June 02, 2016, 02:42 PM
Lisa Katzenberger
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Thank you Lisa. So If I only have the one PB done, you are saying NOT to send the Q letters out? Wait until I have 3 and then Query will all three?
#5 - June 02, 2016, 02:55 PM

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I agree with both Vonna and Lisa.

Self published books are hard to sell and even harder to get paid library and school visits unless you are traditionally published.

When querying an agent, add "additional manuscripts available upon request" to the end of your query to let them know you have other work. And of course let them know you are a member of SCBWI :)
#6 - June 02, 2016, 03:10 PM

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Yes--query one at a time, but make it clear in your letter that you have other completed manuscripts as well.
#7 - June 02, 2016, 04:08 PM
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Where do you want to be published? Big-5 and other major publishers/imprints require agents if you want to get in the door. If you want to be published there, practically speaking you need one. Even though a few might say you can send unagented mss., *realistically* you need an agent. The vast majority of material that they buy is agented, simple as that, and "open submission" periods that some offer seldom yield much of anything. Why make it any harder on yourself than it already is by not having an agent.

OTOH, of all the categories in kidlit, PBs have the best chance of selling without an agent, and if you meet an unagented author who's doing well getting traditionally published, chances are good that they write PBs. Do keep in mind, though, that some of them got started before agents were as necessary as they are now, and they continue to publish based on their track record and editor contacts. A new writer's situation doesn't compare.

Yes, query only one PB, but have at least 3 polished and ready. You won't talk about the others in any detail unless you have a phone call with an agent.

If you want an agent, pursue agents first. You can always look for a publisher if you don't get an agent, but you can't exhaust a bunch of publisher possibilities first and then query agents. They won't pick it up because it's shopped.

As for traditional vs. self-publishing, choose one career path and stick to it for now. If you want to be traditionally published, it's a long haul so don't give up "too quick." If you want to self-publish, that's an entirely different business decision and not something you want to jump to just because you got impatient with your first goal, or because you think it's a shortcut to getting a traditional deal (it will almost certainly prevent any traditional deal for that book). The self-publishing boards here are a wealth of information. Some authors become hybrids -- having both traditional and self-published works -- but almost never for the *same* material.

In the children's market, self-publishing is hard to succeed at for anything younger than YA.
#8 - June 02, 2016, 05:43 PM
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Don't forget you can often submit to the Big-5 if you went to a conference where they were on faculty.
#9 - June 02, 2016, 06:06 PM
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I would also suggest poking around more of the Boards here (or doing some searches) as there are lots of threads from the recent past on the pros and cons of having an agent. Best of luck with whichever path you choose!
#10 - June 02, 2016, 06:53 PM
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Where do you want to be published? Big-5 and other major publishers/imprints require agents if you want to get in the door. If you want to be published there, practically speaking you need one. Even though a few might say you can send unagented mss., *realistically* you need an agent. The vast majority of material that they buy is agented, simple as that, and "open submission" periods that some offer seldom yield much of anything. Why make it any harder on yourself than it already is by not having an agent.



OTOH, of all the categories in kidlit, PBs have the best chance of selling without an agent, and if you meet an unagented author who's doing well getting traditionally published, chances are good that they write PBs. Do keep in mind, though, that some of them got started before agents were as necessary as they are now, and they continue to publish based on their track record and editor contacts. A new writer's situation doesn't compare.

Yes, query only one PB, but have at least 3 polished and ready. You won't talk about the others in any detail unless you have a phone call with an agent.

If you want an agent, pursue agents first. You can always look for a publisher if you don't get an agent, but you can't exhaust a bunch of publisher possibilities first and then query agents. They won't pick it up because it's shopped.

As for traditional vs. self-publishing, choose one career path and stick to it for now. If you want to be traditionally published, it's a long haul so don't give up "too quick." If you want to self-publish, that's an entirely different business decision and not something you want to jump to just because you got impatient with your first goal, or because you think it's a shortcut to getting a traditional deal (it will almost certainly prevent any traditional deal for that book). The self-publishing boards here are a wealth of information. Some authors become hybrids -- having both traditional and self-published works -- but almost never for the *same* material.

In the children's market, self-publishing is hard to succeed at for anything younger than YA.


Thank you so much!!!
#11 - June 03, 2016, 08:10 AM

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Don't forget you can often submit to the Big-5 if you went to a conference where they were on faculty.

True, but it's still a real long shot, and it can be a long time before you get a reply, if ever. They keep agents waiting too at times, but not the year that it will probably take you to hear back.
#12 - June 03, 2016, 10:00 AM
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Also, one thing to consider with conference subs, you are submitting to whichever editor was on faculty, whether they are the best fit for your manuscript or not. An agent normally knows the best match for your work at every house. With a conference sub, you may get a rejection from a house when you could have had a "yes" if you had approached the right editor. Yes, there are success stories. There are also slushpile success stories. But IMHO, an agent give you the best odds of success with traditional, Big 5 publishers, if that is your goal.

Good luck!

Kirsten
#13 - June 03, 2016, 04:48 PM
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