Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Agents, Inspiration, and Sales, Oh My!

A while back I posted about how I got my agent. It came down to a combo of good timing, her #MSWL post (which really summed up the type of MS I was just sending out to agents), and just really jiving well with each other.

While we all know Agents sell your work and cheer you on, sometimes they are your source for inspiration.

Back on International Woman's Day, March 8, 2018, Rebecca shot a simple tweet my way.
Of course I said, "I love elephants!" and we had a fun little back and forth where, like all highly evolved creatures, we spoke in GIFS and pictures.
But now I had a problem. I couldn't get this idea out of my head. Like I'd told my agent, I'd done a good amount of research on elephants already for a possible Chapter Book Series. I even went to meet one and interview a caretaker. But did I have enough info? I had only done generic research and it was mostly about captive elephants. Was there a solid story here?
I couldn't stop thinking about the elephant I met, the elephant matriarch, and their beautiful and complex family structure.
On March 12th, 2018 I emailed my agent a REALLY rough draft and asked, "Should I pursue this further?"
Her response was simply, "YES!!! Please pursue this !!!! :-)"
So I put everything else I was working on to the side, stayed up way too late watching elephants on the internet, Animal Planet, Net Geo, pulling every elephant book off the shelf at my library and pulling out all my old notes. After fast tracking it to my critique buddies I gave my agent on April 12th.
I was so attached to this piece. I lost sleep over it. I reached out to trusts in Africa to have it vetted. I was terrified that she'd say it was all wrong. (Not because she is mean or harsh, but every writer worries their stuff is crap at some point, right?)
She read it on April 16th. This is what I got back.


We sent it on an exclusive to an editor who ultimately didn't offer. Then we sent it on its first round of submissions.

Friday, August 3rd, 2018 it went out.

Tuesday the 7th we had interest and they wanted to call and speak with me. Within a month we had another editor who wanted a call. We received multiple offers but we chose to publish with Familius.
That they offered is still a little shocking since I'd never spoken with an editor or publisher on the phone so I nervous giggled for half of the conversation and forgot the English language a few times. Thankfully they still loved SHE LEADS. (Whether or not they think I'm nuttier than a peanut shell... we can't be sure.)

I signed the contract on Friday, September 14th. Six months after my Agent playfully pitched me an idea on twitter.

Agents are more than the person who can get your MS seen at big houses. They are more than a contract translator. They are friends and inspiration and cheerleaders and editors and I for one am thankful!

DISCLAIMER FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS: This is not a normal timeframe! Six months is ridiculously fast!!! It took me about three years to sell my first picture book. I've been seriously writing for two to three years prior to that.

SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH will be published in Spring, 2020 by Familius.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How I Got My Agent

So, obviously I am not a great blogger. BUT I have spent the past year really buckling down on my writing. I’ve finished a middle grade fantasy manuscript, polished a number of my picture books, and GOT AN AGENT! But wait, there’s more. I have a picture book under contract with Blue Manatee Press!
I’ve been working towards traditional publication for 5 years. I’ve grown each and every year.
Starting with preachy picture books with long word counts, I didn’t get very far.
I joined SCBWI. Seriously, if you write for kids and want to be a part of a large tribe with education, comradery, and networking, then you should look into The Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators.
So I started going to conferences. I met others like me. I met agents and editors and had critiques. I attended classes, webinars, and workshops. I grew as a writer.
At an SCBWI Critique Fest I met my in person critique group. They have been invaluable in helping me hone my skills, question my characters motivation, and most of all, grow as a writer. Recently I've also joined online critique groups.
Highlights Foundation Retreat cabins
At a Highlights Foundation Retreat I really broke down my works, focused on word choice, and page turns and… did yoga and went on hikes and had the best butter I’ve ever eaten in my life… and I grew as a writer (and maybe as a person. I couldn’t stop eating the butter.)
I’d become confident in my writing. I got some likes in Twitter contests, my percentage of personal rejections grew, I applied for, but did not win mentorships, and finally I had some interest from an editor. I reached out to the agents who were currently reviewing my work in their slush piles and from some requests to inform them I had a contract in hand.
I received multiple offers and the decision wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. There is a ton of pressure and doubt that I think plagues many writers. But the enthusiasm and connection with one agent in particular was too great to ignore. I’m proud to announce I’m represented by Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary.
I had submitted to Rebecca after seeing her #MSWL about creative non-fiction. She’s already negotiating contracts and guiding me along the process. We already have a second manuscript under review. I hope together we sell a bajillion books and make readers happy.
I want to make it clear. The path was long and ultimately I was discovered in a slush pile. But every path is different and there is no one way to be a writer or to become traditionally published. Just keep pushing and growing as a writer.