Tag Archives: agent search

Dessert from SCBWI Iowa

Aaand I’m home.

 I’m also motivated, energized and a whole lot smarter about what’s going in the children’s lit biz.  But that comes later.  What I wanted to share today is the agent/writer connection.

Conferences can be expensive and time consuming.  For me, living in the very, prairie corner of Minnesota where Iowa meets South Dakota, writer’s conferences are few and far between.  Not to mention I typically have to drive, drive and drive some more.  While I have been all shades of green over the Iowa chapter of SCBWI, I’ve never been able to justify the time (three days away from my fam), the travel (fourteen hours round-trip) and the money ($175 for the conference, three tanks of gas and hotel) to actually register and attend.

Yet this year, I noted my agent was going to be a speaker and HAD to go. 

Some writers are lucky enough to meet with their agents before signing or on a fairly regular basis after their working relationship begins.  But, being from the interior of the earth, this is not a likely scenario for me or many Midwestern writers, for that matter.  So when the opportunity arose, I nabbed it.

It was the single most amazing moment in my career to date.

Even better than receiving an offer for representation was actually holding a conversation with my partner in crime, my biggest cheerleader and my strongest advocate in the business—face to face.

Before querying agents, I researched heavily.  I didn’t just check out Preditors & Editors.  Nor did I simply read a blurb or two online—an agent data base and agency websites.  My research took months.  It started with the Agent Query data base then moved to a print copy of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.  If there’s a writer’s site with agent info, I hit it.  Blog commentary?  Read it.  Articles?  I checked them all.

By the time I started querying I had narrowed down my search to those who fit my “musts” and my “wants”.  They also had to want what I had to offer.  Needless to say, my A list was very small.  My B list slightly smaller and my C list added just enough to include a total of about 20 agents.  What can I say?  I’m picky.

I guess I figured that if I was going to partner with somebody, I wanted to be compatible.  And yet, paper doesn’t tell all.  Even a phone conversation can be misleading.  Think about it in terms of friendships.  Some friends are casual, others close.  Some friends are for the moment and others are life-long.  They all have their place in our lives and they are all important, yet we don’t always get a sense of this the first time we meet them.

What I had done during my search was to distill the qualities that mattered to me as a writer and applied them to my agent search.  No point in finding a casual friendship if what I really needed was life-long connections.

And I got lucky.  My offer came from a TOP agent on my A list.  Okay, I only subbed to my A’s with a B or two thrown in to satisfy conventional wisdom.  But my thought was this: “I know I have a solid query.  It’s unique and breaks every rule in the book, but it works—for my manuscript.  So why target agents who had only some of my musts and wants when I could target agents who had everything I wanted?”

But it wasn’t until I actually met Agent Awesome this weekend that I realized just how lucky I got.  We share the same quirky sense of humor—trust me, this is important.  It’s why I married my DH.  He’s a gentleman through and through—a consummate professional.  Our visions for my career align so nicely and the enthusiasm he shows for my writing is astounding.  In its totality, this does not come across on paper, during the research period or even during the offer stage. 

Like I told my licensing social worker for my preschool, “I could be the worst person in the world to work with kids, but if I know how to play the game, I can come across looking like Mary Poppins.” 

The same goes for your agent search.  Dig deep.  Deeper than you believe is possible to find all the dirt, not just the raves.  Nobody wants to be fooled into an artistic partnership with someone who is Jeffery Dahmer in disguise. 

Don’t settle for an agent who only reps picture books when the bulk of your work is YA.  It will be difficult to build career relationships this way.  Don’t accept an offer from an editorial agent when all you want is a therapist to support your journey, not help change your destiny.  But above all, don’t even query if you feel the fit won’t be right. 

While some writers believe that snagging an agent is a numbers game—the more I send out, the bigger the odds—I come at if from an entirely different angle.  If you do your research and write the best query and best manuscript you are capable of, the stars will align and provide you with your dream agent.  Because in reality, you won’t sub to any who aren’t.

And above all else, if you have the chance to meet your agent in person, do.  No matter the cost or time.  It is the single best thing you can do to ensure your partnership is exactly what you want and need it to be.

How do you research your potential agents?  How do you define your wants versus your needs?  What is important to you in an agent?

Shopping for Agents Online

I’ve been purchasing a few needed items for my preschool.  In the process, I discovered the beauty of online shopping.  I know, everyone else has been doing it for years.  But I’m always a little late to the technological game.  Anyway…

Price check on website three, please.

It’s super easy to shop around for a great deal.  When DH and I purchased patio furniture three summers ago, we drove to seven different stores to compare product and price.  Gas+time=frustration.  Times SEVEN.

E-pinions and product reviews are dandy.  I love getting this feedback from other consumers.  Short of asking everyone in the store if they have bought a Tiny Tot Tinker Trike and what they think about it, I have no way of knowing how good the Tinker Trike might be.  Enter online reviews and you know instantly that seven out of ten people hated the Tinker Trike.  In which case, I would buy the five-star TuffStuff Trike-o-rama

The experience is instantly gratifying.  I like.  I click.  I pay.  Then I move on to the next item on my list.  Like painting.  If I were on the road, chasing down good deals, I wouldn’t be painting the inside of kitchen cupboards and sewing puppet theater curtains.  I would be wasting time and gas and gaining a new level of frustration.

Online shopping is easy–for playground equipment and agents.

While I have only really entered the online age about two years ago, I have learned a few things along the way. 

What did I learn?

  1. The internet is a great place to do comparison shopping.  By the time books on the writing biz come out, they are outdated.  Agents and editors have swapped companies, started their own business or dropped out of the game altogether.  Relying solely on printed info is a bit like traveling to seven different stores and can keep you one step behind the competition.  Websites and blogs are amazing places to glean info about your potential victims and their tastes. 
  2.  Be sure to check out the epinions of your future agent or editor.  This can safeguard you from inadvertently purchasing the Tinker Trike instead of the Trik-o-rama.  Preditors and Editors is a great resource, as are blogs and articles found during an engine search.  It’s a bit voyeuristic, but if done well, it can help you pinpoint agents and editors with similar literary tastes, ethics and personalities.
  3. Online querying is more instant than microwave oatmeal.  We write.  We click send.  I could no longer use the excuse of not having stamps or the fact that our post office was never open when I was ready.  Write and click.  This method forces us to find new excuses for our procrastination habit while freeing up oodles of time to actually write and edit our manuscripts.  Double bonus.

In a nutshell, we write in a time of relative ease.  Free information is at our fingertips and should make targeted queries the rule, rather than the exception.  E-querying is less time-consuming and should allow us more time to hone our craft.  Our quality and quantity of writing should increase. 

But there is a downside to shopping in our jammies with bed head.  The casualness of this process can become so comfortable we forget to put our best foot forward.  And that’s a mistake we can ill-afford to make.

How has online shopping changed your writing life?  Have you ever encountered an agent/editor you loved on paper, only to discover the blogosphere is not as pleased with him/her as you would like?  Do you feel that online information can help target an agent/editor with similar tastes or is the info still too broad to make a better match than a blanket submission approach?