Yep! I met the AMAZING, Erica Rand Silverman, who now resides at Stimola Literary Studio, through #PBPitch on Twitter in the fall of 2015. #PBPitch is sort-of like an online “speed-dating” or “speed-meeting” Twitter event for picture book authors and agents.
Well … the moon, stars and planets must've aligned that day to allow such an unlikely meeting of two fairly “un-Twitterly” people at the time. I decided to participate in the pitch contest very last minute, based solely on encouragement from my critique group to give it a go. And Erica told me in hindsight that she truly had a full plate then and really had no business looking for more work to represent. BUT, for some reason, she browsed the pitches anyway, saw my pitch with an illustration included, “favorited” it, and then sent me a personal email afterword.
Erica didn't have to send me an email. But that extra little email let me know two things:
1. Erica was a go-getter!
2. She really liked my work!
So I quickly Googled Erica and saw that she had an impressive talent line-up already and a like-minded love for beautiful/cool children’s books which further justified my good gut-feelings about her. Eagerly, I sent her a paper book dummy in the mail and then we had a phone call where she said that she was interested in working with me too!
Erica is a great agent match for me. She has remained a believer in me and my work even when I was (and still am) battling some health issues with my eyes and couldn't work (unexpectedly) for almost a year.
So the debut of DOLL-E 1.0 is a special one for both of us, a real testimony of perseverance, friendship, tough love, and all that surrounds the unique relationship of an author and an agent.
In conclusion – Listen to your friends, try technology, trust your gut, and keep going!
DOLL-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey
Little, Brown and Company, May 1, 2018
Available for Pre-order now!
Interview with Stacey Glick, Vice President of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC
Kate: Welcome, Stacey! I’m so happy you could join me today, and I’m so excited to talk about how we met.
Stacey: Me too, thanks for having me!
Kate: To start off, could you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and how you became an agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC?
Stacey: Sure. I was a child actress and worked in film and tv development after college, looking for books to be adapted into movies. I got to know and love the publishing business and decided instead of moving to LA for a career in film to segue into agenting.
Kate: Thanks so much for sharing that information about yourself. One of the qualities I admire about you, is your generosity. The kidlit community is full of people who help others, and you are someone who gives an incredible amount of time to help aspiring authors and illustrators through your involvement with the Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference. For those who are listening and are unfamiliar with this amazing opportunity, could you explain what the Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference is and the role you play in it each year?
Stacey: It’s such an amazing conference, and I am so happy to be a part of it! We work all year round to bring aspiring children’s authors together with industry mentors, including published authors, editors and agents from all walks of the industry. The conference offers an opportunity to these aspiring authors to have a private one-on-one 45 minute long meeting with an industry mentor. It’s the only conference I’m aware of that offers this. As a member of the council, I meet with other members of the council several times a year to help plan the conference and our most important role is to actually facilitate the pairing of conference attendees with industry mentors. It takes a full day in August to do this and we do our best to pair everyone for the best benefit of mentee and mentor.
Kate: Wow! Now I have an even bigger appreciation for what you and the Rutgers board do to facilitate The One-On-One Plus Conference every year. As some viewers may have guessed by now, I found out about you at Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference. In addition to the incredible opportunity to have a forty-five minute critique with an industry professional as well as a forty-five minute round table discussion with your mentor and four other mentor/mentee pairs, there’s also a useful panel discussion for attendees. In 2015, I attended Rutgers for the fifth time, and you and an editor were talking about what you look for in a manuscript while the author and the illustrator on the panel talked about their creative process. When you told the attendees how you would do whatever it took to sell your clients’ manuscript, including submit one manuscript up to fifty times, the room was spellbound. Could you share that story here?
Stacey: Well, I can’t promise that I will send every book to 50 editors! But what I was trying to illustrate is that for the right project, agents sometimes have to fight hard to make them work and find them a good home. Rejection is a big part of what we face, just like aspiring authors. No sometimes just means not yet.
Kate: Just love that story! In addition to the above story, you also brought a copy of TAP THE MAGIC TREE by Christie Matheson. For those viewers unfamiliar with this magical book, I’ve included a link to the book trailer https://goo.gl/765gQk Not only did you bring the book, but you passed TAP THE MAGIC TREE around the audience. When I began to read the book, I became excited because I realized that counting played a role in Christie’s book. That made me wonder if perhaps you’d be interested in 100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK and after the conference I sent BUGS your way. Could you talk about what happened when you received the manuscript?
Stacey: I recall thinking that this project had a unique angle that would be not only appealing to readers but educational as well. Like with Christie’s books, I’m a big fan of nature and books that explore the natural world. It seemed to me a good fit for the market and for my list.
Kate: Then, we talked and it felt like we would enjoy working with one another. The rest is history in the making. Is there anything else you want to add that you think would be useful for authors and illustrators to know who are currently looking for representation, or anything else you’d like to share with the viewers about yourself and/or Dystel, Goderich and Bourret LLC?
Stacey: I’d just say to keep working, keep trying, keep writing, and keep an optimistic outlook on the entire process, which can be very long and laborious and sometimes discouraging. Always remember your end goal and don’t let the rejection get you down. Instead, use it to learn and grow and help give you energy to take your work to the next level.
Kate: Thanks again for joining me. It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you.
Stacey: Lovely to talk with you too. Thanks so much for the opportunity.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read the interview. If you’d like to learn more about Rutgers, here’s the link: http://ruccl.org/
100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK by Kate Narita illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
Farrar Straus Giroux June 12, 2018
Available for Pre-order Now
I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC when it was a new release in fall of 2015. I connected with her mystical concept of creativity - that ideas exist outside of ourselves, and we just act as doorways for them to enter the world. That is often how the creative process feels. I also loved Gilbert’s vision for a sustainable, happy, creative life, focused on the work itself rather than external rewards or criticism.
Inspired by the book, I set out to notice the creative nudges of Big Magic in my own life. At the time, I had been participating in several online critique groups, but I was feeling a need for a deeper critique of both words and images. I felt I needed not just any group, but a group of people who were all at about the same point in their writing/illustrating journey as I was. I wrote down “find or create a critique group” as a to-do item in my journal.
One day I saw a post on a national illustration group from someone who was re-entering illustration after a few years away, and who looking for a critique group. I realized I had met her in a class, and that she lived near me. I sent her an email. I sent an email to another former classmate who I sometimes swapped critiques with.
Suddenly, there were three of us. We were a critique group! We met a few times, and we all started to create more work than we had been. We all tried out new techniques and ideas. I felt that each time we met, my work got better.
One day I woke up with the thought: “Doesn’t that school fundraising sale happen around this time of year?” I looked it up, and the sale was that day. I dropped my kid off at preschool and drove 45 minutes out of my way with this burning sense of urgency that I needed to be at the sale when the doors opened. I waited in a line that stretched around the block, wondering why I was there. I hate shopping, why was I in this crowd of intense shoppers?
Once inside the school gym, I picked up a pair of kid’s rain boots and a couple of dresses, but I really didn’t see anything that would have compelled this feeling of needing to be in that particular place. Then I bumped into someone straightening the racks - a parent volunteer who turned out to be another illustrator I had taken classes with. She was looking for a critique group… and suddenly I knew why I was there.
Over the last couple of years, our group has produced a lot of new work. Two of us have debut books coming out in 2018. One has a book on submission, and is selling a line of greeting cards. Another won a prestigious award and has started showing her fine art. All of that external success, though, grew out of each of us having a commitment to our own creative practice, and to supporting each other’s creative lives.
I have an agent and an editor that I feel incredibly lucky to be working with. I think Big Magic played a role in connecting me with just the right people for my book to shine, although the story of how I met them is not nearly as dramatic. (I queried.)
I leave you with my doodle musings on external success vs. maintaining a creative practice. Work is its own reward, and so is connecting with other creatives.
Around this time of year, we’re often thinking about the many things in our lives we are thankful for. In my case, this year, I’m especially thankful for a particular decision I made early on in my career- the thing that led me to meeting my editor, Jonathan Eaton of Tilbury House Publishers, and becoming the illustrator for MOTH AND WASP, SOIL AND OCEAN: REMEMBERING CHINESE SCIENTIST PU ZHELONG.
It is well known in the children’s book industry that being a member of the SCBWI definitely has its perks and rewards. So when I began my journey to publication, back in 2009, starting a membership and putting together an artist profile was at the very top of my priority list. At first, I was very involved in keeping up with all the news and going to the conferences. But then over time, life got a bit busy, and I had all but forgotten about it.
A few years ago, I received a surprising email from an acquisitions editor at Tilbury House Publishing. She had asked whether I was interested in illustrating a picture book for them. I was in absolute shock. I hadn’t sent anything to Tilbury House prior to receiving this email, of which I could recall. We arranged a telephone interview. I was SO nervous! It turned out that she was very easy to talk to, and I felt more comfortable by the time our conversation had ended. It was then that I learned how she found me- through my SCBWI Illustrator Profile! She had been browsing the site and came across my art and felt that it would make a great match for a book they were publishing.
She asked me to read their current manuscript and that I should send some sketches and sample spreads, and she also asked for any other projects I’d like to submit for their consideration. I was thrilled! Their story was Non Fiction, and there were many topics I needed to do a bit of research on before I could even consider doing proper sample art. Hours of research, thoughtful planning, and sketching ensued.
And then I was told the project was to be put on hold! The story needed additional research and editing to make the story truly shine.
Although I was bummed, I figured it was for the best. I believe that every story deserves every bit of hard work and research to make it the best it can be. So I worked on other projects, traveled, planned to start a family and started shopping around for our first home. Two years later, I was in the middle of doing all of those very things when I received a phone call from a mysterious number. My husband answered the phone, and his eyes were round as saucers when he handed it to me. “It’s a PUBLISHER. A REAL PUBLISHER!” he whisper-screamed.
I answered, and it was Jonathan Eaton from Tilbury House! He explained that their story about the Chinese entomologist was finally ready to be illustrated. He asked if I would be interested in taking on the job!
I couldn’t believe my luck! I wanted to say yes right away! But now I was an expectant mother, and in the middle of moving into our new home. Would the timing be right? How often does the very same opportunity arise more than once in one’s life? And where on earth was I supposed to DO all of this painting? My studio was packed away in boxes!
Needless to say, I did say yes. And I am ever so thankful I did so! Furthermore, my editor was absolutely amazing and very understanding of my changing circumstances regarding my home life and pregnancy. I somehow managed to move into a new home, have a baby, and illustrate a picture book all in a year’s time.
I couldn’t have pulled it off without the help from my editor Jonathan, my supportive family and friends, and my awesome critique group! (Tune in to Jeanette Bradley's post on the 23rd to hear that magical story!)
Oh... and let’s not forget SCBWI!
Melanie Linden Chan
MOTH AND WASP, SOIL AND OCEAN: REMEMBERING CHINESE SCIENTIST PU ZHELONG by Sigrid Schmalzer, illustrated by Melanie Linden Chan
Tilbury House Publishers. February 6, 2018.
Available for Pre-order now!
Once you have a manuscript that you’ve poured your heart into, exposed to critique group scrutiny, and reworked until you think it’s ready…then what?
After reading up on the industry, I weighed the pros and cons and decided to pursue representation by an agent rather than submit directly to editors. I researched agents, started a spreadsheet, and, in 2014, began to submit manuscripts, one by one, to several agents at a time. I kept on, trying out different manuscripts, expanding my list of potential agents. Rejections dribbled in—the standard “not for me,” black holes of “no response,” and an occasional “no” laced with encouragement. In January 2016, as I was sending out a new manuscript, I saw an announcement for a new agent at Red Fox Literary. By that time, I knew that was a primo agency. There was very little information available on Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, but I liked what I found. I had no idea if she liked nonfiction or historical fiction, but sent her my manuscript anyway.
A week later, I heard back. She liked it! After emailing back and forth, lots of questions, and a phone conversation, I signed with Stephanie! Submissions to publishing houses began. And of course, more rejections, but now I had a knowledgeable partner in the process and an agent who could submit to all those houses closed to non-agented writers.
Preparing for the WOW Writing Retreat in July, I chose three manuscripts for paid critiques from editors, and Stephanie advised which manuscript to submit to whom. There, I met Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster and discussed AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. With her feedback in hand, I dug back into the research and revised for a month. Finally, in September, Stephanie sent it off to Sylvie. She loved it! In mid-October, we had an offer. AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET was on its way to becoming a real book! I know it’s rare that a critique leads to a book contract, but I’m proof it can happen.
Stephanie and Sylvie have both contributed super posts to my blog series “Mining for Heart.” If you’re interested in what agents and editors look for in a manuscript, please check out their posts.
Mining for Heart: An Agent’s Point of View
Mining for Heart: An Editor’s Point of View
AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, BEN FRANKLIN & NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Fall 2018
About two-and-a-half years ago, while still tirelessly querying my middle grade novel, I wrote THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. I sent this manuscript out slowly and selectively (roughly a dozen agents from first query to signing). After receiving a personal rejection that had me wondering Maybe this is just a story for me, I was tempted to put it aside. Fortunately, my friend and critique partner, Myrna Foster (of Storyteller Academy), talked me out of it.
Fast forward about five months, and I had the chance to pitch my picture book in a Twitter contest. I'd done my share of these contests before. They were fun, and I'd had some mild success with requests. I went ahead and entered #pitchmas the Friday before Christmas 2015. I pitched a few times and did pretty well staying busy outside of Twitter that day. (As seasoned contesters know, it's tempting watch for "likes"—but can drive the best of us crazy.)
When I checked my account toward the end of the day, I saw I had a "like," and it wasn't from a Twitter friend. (Bless everyone's Twitter heart, but sometimes well-meaning friends will "like" a pitch, not knowing they're reserved for agents and editors.) I did my research and discovered my "like"—Mike Hoogland—had been an agent for a few years at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret. The next day, Saturday, I sent him my query and manuscript.
I mentally put it aside because who gets immediate responses to queries? It was a happy surprise when Mike emailed me Monday to say he loved the idea and do I happen to have any illustrations? I told Mike I didn't illustrate but let him know about my other work. Then I tried not to get my hopes up. He must be looking for an author/illustrator, I thought. (Writers are so good at talking themselves down from the precipice of hope.)
Tuesday, he emailed me and told me he'd love to offer representation. It was pretty surreal to open and read that email. That night my husband took our kids out while I had The Call. Mike really believed in my manuscript and liked the sound of my other work. We had another call about a week later before I officially signed. It was amazing how quickly it all happened! And speaking of speed—Mike sold my picture book relatively fast. We were on sub for less than a month before we had an offer. (To spice up the offer deal even more, it happened a week after we closed on a house and a day after I brought my fourth baby home from the hospital. Things like to happen all at once around here!)
The takeaway: Don't give up too early on your manuscript. Be patient and just keep writing.
Thanks for reading!
THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Coming Fall 2018 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers