I got my agent because she got me. This sounds incredibly simple and easy yet, as many of you have experienced, finding an agent is anything but. You should also know everyone’s Agent Quest is different. But here, in a nutshell, is mine: SCBWI.
The longer version:
Step 1: My first picture book, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX (Atheneum/S & S), was a slush pile success story. After my second book, LITTLE BO PEEP CAN’T GET TO SLEEP was acquired, I asked my editor, the fabulous Caitlyn Dlouhy, for some agent recommendations. List in hand, I researched each one, certain my publishing success would soon be skyrocketing.
The good news: I had two published picture books and a list of magazine articles on my resume.
One problem: Each of the agents concentrated on a specific genre, while my project ideas and manuscripts ranged from board books to YA.
Step 2: Several very sage #kidlit articles—though their advice varied—agreed on one thing: Finding an agent is like a marriage. While this is absolutely true and key to your Agent Quest, unlike dating, there’s no gym/social group/singles bar where all the hot agents hang out. Except for SCBWI events. Upcoming conferences in my area featured a few stellar agents on their faculty, but I wanted more options. And I wanted an agent NOW. In retrospect, it was almost like my #kidlit clock was ticking—definitely NOT a great way to approach marriage or your Agent Quest, by the way. So I took a different plunge, attending the annual SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC.
The good news: I could scout an entire panel of agents (Think The Dating Game.) and find my perfect match.
One problem: Although said agents were knowledgeable and highly successful, the more they talked about their clients and their wish-lists, I knew they weren’t for me.
Step 3: I rebounded. I mean, who needs an agent anyway? I’d heard about authors who were published after they’d submitted manuscripts for SCBWI conference critiques. I followed suit at several regional conferences—submitting directly to editors and eager for that magic book deal.
The good news: I got some extremely helpful feedback and my manuscripts truly improved.
One Problem: No magic book deals.
Step 4: Maybe I’d paid enough Agent Quest dues, or maybe I’d gotten over the off-putting I-NEED-AN-AGENT-NOW pheromones, but I relaxed. I wrote wherever there was an opportunity—books for reading companies, work for hire. I joined a critique group. I focused on making my NEXT manuscripts the absolute BEST they could be—instead of assuming someone would want me because of past successes.
The good news: Conferences were fun. I learned from editors and agents and fellow SCBWI members and enjoyed the journey. My writing improved.
Even better: At an SCBWI SF/South’s Golden Gate Conference in Asilomar, I met Deborah Warren of East/West Literary Agency and we hit it off. She reps everything from board books to YA, including manuscripts in rhyme. She GOT me.
Step 5: I signed with East/West Lit. We submitted my best manuscripts. Huzzah!
One problem: In the decade of downsizing at publishing houses, editors were saddled with manuscripts left by editors who were let go, leaving no time nor room for new acquisitions.
The good news: Deborah continued to believe in my work and I in her, like a marriage, in good times and not-so-good. I volunteered with SCBWI; kept busy with author visits and writing. DECK THE WALLS was published.
Even better: I have FIVE new picture books under contract COMING SOON!
If you have an agent and would like to share how all that wonderfulness happened, please send your story (300-600 words) to email@example.com.