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Finding agents for NF MG and picture books

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Hey everyone,

I currently have NF middle grade series under consideration with Scholastic Book Clubs (thanks for helping me figure out what to call it), and a standalone nonfiction picture/middle grade book under consideration with Scholastic trade. These are nature-based science topics for the elementary age. I really want an agent to handle the offers WHEN they come in (thinking positively).

I queried a few with the Book Club manuscript and had one respond positively, mostly because I've basically done the leg-work for him. He said he'd be happy to negotiate the contract for me. Then I sent him the standalone ms and he said he thinks it's for the educational market and he doesn't know what to do with it. It's now under consideration at Scholastic trade (my doing), and I know at least three other publishers it would be right for.

Where do we find agents who want to represent this type of book? I've scanned dozens of agent wish lists and find very few looking for science-based books for the elementary crowd, yet Scholastic, Charlesbridge, and Firefly would be appropriate publishers. Most who say they want nonfiction are looking for biographies.

Any suggestions are welcome!

Teresa Klepinger
#1 - November 01, 2019, 05:01 PM

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Can you find similar books on the market and look up their authors? You might find a mention of who reps the author.

Congrats on the editor interest! This is not a bad problem to have.
#2 - November 01, 2019, 09:03 PM
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Huge congrats, Teresa! Have you looked at #MSWL (manuscript wish list) on Twitter? When you query agents, be sure to use this as your subject: OFFER TO PUBLISH. Then explain what you said above and include your mss, per their guidelines. By using this as your subject, you'll jump up in their reading pile.

You might try Christa Heschke, Kathleen Rushall, Brent Taylor, and Adria Goetz.

Good luck!!
#3 - November 02, 2019, 04:24 AM
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As Debbie mentioned, it's pretty easy to reverse engineer. Find the books like yours, figure out who writes them and then look at their website, twitter handles, Publisher's Marketplace, etc. to see who reps them.

But also know that in some cases, successful authors in this area don't have agents because many of the publishers that specialize in these types of books are open, like Millbrook, Charlesbridge, Peachtree, etc. For example Melissa Stewart was unagented for some years, though repped now. Laura Salas is unagented and does quite well. In fact, Laura shares quite a bit about how she researches and tracks publishers who might be appropriate for her work.

Best of luck with whatever you decide.



#4 - November 02, 2019, 08:49 AM
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I didn't have an agent for my two books with Scholastic Teaching Resources, but if I get offers from these other two branches, it seems much more complicated. Scholastic Book Clubs would be for a series, and the trade side could pick it up and publish it, too. If the trade side publishes the standalone title, Book Clubs may put it in their magazines. It all seems complicated enough that I would want some negotiating help with royalty rates and advances, possible escalation clauses, translations, etc

But thanks for the idea of looking up the authors to find their agents. I'll do that!
#5 - November 02, 2019, 10:10 AM

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Teresa, you've already gotten great advice on looking for agents for NF books. Some only rep NF but in the kidlit world, I'm discovering that many who rep fiction will also rep NF from an existing client though they won't mention it on their website. Look at the body of your work--do you write both F and NF? Look for agents who do both. If you're also writing for adults you might need two agents. Good luck!
#6 - November 02, 2019, 10:35 AM
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One thing we didn't mention is that you can get contract help from the Authors Guild if you join. It may well be worth your while. They have lawyers who look over contracts and they know publishing. Just make sure you use someone who knows children's publishing. I'm not published, so I don't know more about it but others here do.
#7 - November 02, 2019, 06:51 PM
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Most who say they want nonfiction are looking for biographies.

I was going to mention the Author's Guild that Debbie mentioned. Also, I was at a SCBWI conference today and in one Q& A about NF, an editor mentioned that the market is actually quite saturated with biographies. I don't have my notes in front of me...so I'm not certain this was about all age groups or whether it was just PB ( I know for sure it pertained to PBs).
(*calls Jody back to this thread*--was it just PBs?)

Congrats on the interest and best of luck, Teresa!
#8 - November 02, 2019, 07:53 PM
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Laura Salas is unagented and does quite well. In fact, Laura shares quite a bit about how she researches and tracks publishers who might be appropriate for her work.
Just letting you know that Laura has decided to stop that kind of blogging for the moment (I was a subscriber) so she can make time to focus on her poetry. It was very generous of her to share so much for so long. Her archived blogs may still be available, but won't be entirely current.

I find it useful to subscribe to the Publisher's Weekly  Children's news e-newsletter (it's free). It lists a selection of new deals, some of which are PBs, and lists the authors, illustrators, who bought the ms, and who sold it. It may take a while to build a list of books with themes/topics like yours, but it's one thing you can do.
https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/index.html
#9 - November 03, 2019, 01:22 AM
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I was going to mention the Author's Guild that Debbie mentioned. Also, I was at a SCBWI conference today and in one Q& A about NF, an editor mentioned that the market is actually quite saturated with biographies. I don't have my notes in front of me...so I'm not certain this was about all age groups or whether it was just PB ( I know for sure it pertained to PBs).
(*calls Jody back to this thread*--was it just PBs?)

Congrats on the interest and best of luck, Teresa!


I think she was referring to PB bios, Jess, but I wouldn't let that deter you, Teresa.
#10 - November 03, 2019, 03:48 AM
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Thanks Jody:) I think(?) Teresa’s concern was that she was under the impression agents/eds were mostly looking for Bios in NF, and hers are not Bios. If I understood that correctly ;-)
#11 - November 03, 2019, 08:18 AM
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Teresa, many congratulations!  I would highly recommend paying the membership fee for Author's Guild and taking advantage of their legal services to review contracts.  Basically, you have done all the heavy lifting and there is no point in giving any agent 15% of your advance and future royalties. 
#12 - November 03, 2019, 03:02 PM
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What a great community - jumping in to help!

My books are science-based NF, about weird animals, tardigrades, slime mold. They would be photo illustrated and aimed at 3rd-5th grade.

I've spent a little time looking up comp book authors to find out who represents them with only a little luck. Websites, author interviews, etc. It's almost like it's supposed to be a secret! I do subscribe to PW, but they rarely highlight this genre. The 2020 Sneak Peek article on new releases doesn't list the agents.

I'll keep hunting. Please let me know if you find more resources!

Teresa
#13 - November 03, 2019, 04:38 PM

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There's a Facebook Group for non fiction authors.It might be a good place for you to ask about agents. I think you'll find that a lot of members aren't agented, but it's a thought as a resource. It's called NFforKids.
#14 - November 03, 2019, 06:07 PM
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FYI: NF4Kids hasn't been active in a while. Another place to check is the archives of INK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids blog)--you can click on the authors' names and see who reps them. Best of luck!
#15 - November 04, 2019, 05:03 AM
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FYI: NF4Kids hasn't been active in a while. Another place to check is the archives of INK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids blog)--you can click on the authors' names and see who reps them. Best of luck!

This is not true. The Facebook Group page is pretty active with people posting all the time. but it's NFforKids, not with the number 4.
#16 - November 04, 2019, 06:29 PM
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Mea culpa--I was thinking of the yahoo group.
#17 - November 04, 2019, 06:40 PM
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Publisher's Marketplace is a much easier place to research agents and deals (as opposed to PW). If you search an author's name, it will pull up all their announced book deals, and who reps them (if anyone). Then you can search that agent to see all their clients and types of deals they've done.


It does require a subscription. However, last I checked, you could subscribe for one month for about $25, do you all the research you need, then cancel. It might be worth the small investment in my opinion.
#18 - November 05, 2019, 08:02 AM
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Thanks, all. Great tips. And I like the NFforKids facebook page!

Stephanie's reply got me thinking again. Do I really need an agent? They aren't revising or submitting for me, just negotiating the contract. It seems like a book series with Scholastic Book Clubs and possible overlap with the trade side could be complex, but Scholastic may also have standard contracts with not a lot of wiggle room. (Teaching Resources is boilerplate, yet I was able to negotiate a higher advance with the second book.) It's not like they're a little, unknown entity.  And, as was suggested, I could join the Author's Guild and have the contract looked over. So confusing!
#19 - November 05, 2019, 09:31 AM

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There's also Melissa Edwards. She's an agent and also a literary attorney who can help with contracts, even if you're not formally repped by her. https://www.melissaedwardsesq.com/
#20 - November 05, 2019, 09:41 AM
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Teresa, I'm a Scholastic author who's unagented and there was no wiggle room in my contract. Lol, I tried.
I use a slim gem of a book: Negotiating a Book Contract by Mark Levine. A fatter book with more details and explanations is How to be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis. Good luck!
#21 - November 05, 2019, 10:07 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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And to be clear, I think having an agent can be a godsend (as long as the agent doesn't think they are god).  A good one will work with you on developing the project, widely market it to publishers and negotiate a good contract. They will earn their 15%. But, in this case, you have done all that. Let the lawyer at Authors Guild give the contract a thorough look. That's really all you need at this point.
#22 - November 06, 2019, 07:56 AM
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Thanks all! I've been recommended to the Author's Guild by several people. I looked them up, and they certainly offer a lot for such a small yearly fee. I'll use them!
#23 - November 06, 2019, 08:37 AM

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