Monday, October 24, 2016

That Perennial Agent Question PLUS Book Giveaway!

That perennial Agent Question.
We’ve all been asked it, in some variation, while speaking at the podium or on a panel, and heard it asked while seated in an audience.
(Indeed, I’ve posed it myself in the middle of the night, in the throes of self-doubt.)
“Do I need an agent in order to publish?”
The variations are sure bets, too, in the following order.
So how do I GET an agent?” - and - “Can you share YOUR agent’s name and contact info?”

Like JoAnn, whose CWIM 2017 article “Be Your Own Literary Agent” sparked this blog conversation and Book Giveaway, I too am un-agented.  I submit my work, when appropriate, to editors with whom I’ve worked and/or connected via previous submissions, conference contacts and networking. My literary attorney oversees my contracts and is also available to negotiate on my behalf.

After a very long residency in the Children’s Book World that began with Jimmy Carter’s election (!), I now wonder if instead of asking that one Agent Question, writers might be better served by asking these six.

(1) WHEN is a writer ready to consider and/or query an agent for representation?

The esteemed Dorothy Markinko of McIntosh and Otis said it best. I’d won a conference competition at which she was presenting and she offered me representation! “Why now and not before?” I asked, reminding her I’d unsuccessfully queried years earlier.  She smiled wide.  “You weren’t soup yet."
If an agent is to sell your work, it must be ready.  Think: a good story, finely-crafted, appropriate for its format, its audience, the marketplace, able to distinguish itself from the competition and/or fill a niche. 
It’s foolhardy to send off work not quite ready for Prime Time, or work that doesn’t showcase our talent, our professionalism, our uniqueness and heart?

(2) WHAT is agency representation and (3) WHY might it matter?

As Carla shared and April poetically underscored, agency representation is NOT a ticket to fame and fortune.
Agent-interested writers can certainly check out the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc. and their Canon of Ethics.
However, not all agents are AAR members.
I like former Curtis Brown Ltd. agent and author Nathan Bransford’s agent job description, from determining likely editors and houses, pre-submission editing, negotiating contracts and subrights and tracking the publishing process  to career-shaping and ultimate advocacy.
Given today’s fast-changing publishing world, it’s advantageous to have an invested partner watching out for you, over you, eyeing your back.
Here’s another way to answer the above questions, especially once you’re offered representation: check out these suggestions from AgentQuery. 

(4)WHO might best serve my manuscripts, my career and me?

Lists of likely literary agents abound.
There’s SCBWI’s The Book, CWIM 2017 (Writer’s Digest), Chuck Sambuchino’s GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS 2017 (Writer’s Digest), Chuck’s agent blog, AgentQuery and Manuscript Wish List, as well as Cynthia Leitich Smith’s CYNSATIONS blog and Darcy Pattison’s just released list of Top Agents in 2016.

It goes without saying, writers must delve deeply into each agent’s agency, interests, authors, represented books, sales record and online interviews to determine a comfortable fit.  Google is your friend. Do your homework.  

Here’s another friend: Publishers Weekly’s Rights Report that appears each Tuesday and Thursday, for free, as a part of the Children’s Bookshelf.  This is the listing from this past Thursday.

Tracey Keevan at Disney-Hyperion has acquired, in a four-house auction, Captain Superlative, J.S. Puller's debut middle grade novel. In this mystery, a quiet outsider becomes obsessed with the eccentric and enigmatic Captain Superlative, a masked superhero who runs through the halls of their middle school, performing radical acts of kindness. Publication is scheduled for fall 2018, Brianne Johnson at Writers House did the six-figure, two-book deal for world rights.

Which agents are selling books like yours – especially in format and genre?  Or, which editors/publishers are buying books like yours?  Note, color-code and record the editor/publisher, the one-sentence book description (your pitch) and the agent listed in each report.

 (5) HOW do I best connect with an agent?

Even more plentiful than lists of literary agents are instructions for how to query an agent and/or editor.
Check out Chuck Sambuchino’s blog
Knowing your one-sentence pitch is essential.
Here’s a link to Nathan Bransford's post on how to pitch.
Remember, though: successful querying and/or pitching often leads to a full manuscript request.  Make sure your query/pitch makes a promise your manuscript delivers. J

(6) WHERE are the best opportunities for connecting with agents?

Authors interviewed in JoAnn’s CWIM 2017 article share Conference success stories. Check out SCBWI – local, regional, national, international, Big Sur and The Rutgers One-on-One Children’s Literature Conference, to name a few.

But what about online?
CWIM 2017 also shares Lisa Katzenberger’s article “Pitch Agents Through Twitter.”
BrendaDrake offers Pitch War opportunities.
Don’t forget Manuscript Wish List.  
Chuck Sambuchino also offers Dear Lucky Agent ContestsTomorrow is the deadline for thriller and horror mss.!

So, think about the WHEN, WHAT, WHY, WHO, HOW and WHY of seeking an agent.
Take plenty of B vitamins.  (The response time can prove stressful.)
And keep the Faith!
In the PW Rights Report above, I know for a fact the debut author, a former student, queried 106 agents before successfully gaining representation by the 107th.  And that agent was mentored by the first agent she’d ever queried; the two share an agency.

Faith – in yourself, your story, your writing, is essential.
Faith, as in my 2016 Chicago Cubs who Saturday night won the National League Pennant after a 71-year wait!

If both you and your manuscript are ready for prime time, I believe you can make today your someday.

Good Luck, no matter which submission a(venue) you choose!

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now, speaking of Winners, let’s make today the someday you enter our Book Giveaway to win a copy of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market 2017.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Agents: Why & Why Not (in 3-part harmony)

Howdy, Campers! Happy Poetry Friday!  My poem and the link to PF are below.

Pardon me while I st---re--tch for a moment...
...I'm climbing out of my first TeachingAuthors hibernation...I mean, I'm just off the plane from my first TeachingAuthors sabbatical! It was soooo nice to take a break--and I also missed my blogmates--(hi, gang!)

A sabbatical, you say?  Yes!  You see, because we make so much money blogging (thank you, loyal readers), each TeachingAuthor gets two free tickets to anywhere in world for six months. NO WE DON'T!--kidding!

But, I did just get back from nearly a week at Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple's Picture Book Boot Camp on Jane's farm in Massachusetts. It was informative, warm and inspiring.  Each of ten (wonderful) published picture book writers submitted two manuscripts which were privately critiqued by both Heidi and Jane. Then we plunged into four days of lectures, poetry, philosophy, field trips (to the Eric Carle Museum!) and fabulous food (made by Heidi Stemple, an amazing chef).  Wow

Jane Yolen's Phoenix Farm
California girl holding her first bouquet of fall leaves
I'm thrilled to be back with you! On to my take on our topic--AGENTS: Why or why not--in three part harmony.

Carla started our new series with a dynamite post on this topic. Carla's a master at pulling out relevant points in her posts. On this topic, they are: 
1) An agent is not a magic door to fame and fortune
2) It is a business decision. Writers need to remember that.

Like Carla, I, too, have sold books on my own and have had several agents. I love my current agent and I'm sticking with her--but I also enjoyed selling my own work.'s today's poem:

AGENTS ~ in three part harmony
by April Halprin Wayland

Horace, Sid and Doris—
our Greek chorus—do proclaim:
An agent's not a magic door to fortune or to fame.  

The spotlight's on our hero,
who is doubled up in pain.
"Shall I saddle up and gallop o'er the hills across the plain?

If I ride along alone again
There's no one else to blame.
An agent's not a magic door to fortune or to fame.  

Is it best to take an agent
and adopt an author name?
Or better I should wait a while? (I'm not sure I am game...)

Or maybe...
I will fill my quill...
stay steady...then...take aim?

Horace, Sid and Doris—our Greek chorus—still contend:
An agent's not a magic door to fortune or to fame.  
It's up to her. They take their bows. G'bye—this is

The end.

poem (c) 2016 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Greek Chorus?
As JoAnn noted, hundreds of new children's books published in 2016, both traditionally and independently published, are celebrated in the SCBWI Book Blast. You can search for specific titles and authors and even buy books. Among other treasures, you'll find Carmela's new edition of Rosa, Sola (in paperback and ebook) with discussion questions for classroom use.

And be sure to enter the giveaway for Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2017!  It ends on October 31 and is open to U.S. 
For more details see the following post by JoAnn Early Maken.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Tricia at The MissRumphius Effect Thank you, Tricia!

posted with love (and in a jet-laggy mist) by April Halprin Wayland and her trusty dog, Eli who is glad his mom is home 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Do I Need an Agent?

This TA series of posts is about agents.  There isn’t a right or wrong answer about agents.  Like everything else in this business the benefit of having an agent is subjective.  As most writers can attest, it is almost as hard to get an agent, as it is a publishing house. 

An agent is not a magic door to fame and fortune.  

Just because a writer signs with an agent doesn’t mean instant success.  There are many times when an agent sells nothing for a particular writer. 

I began writing without an agent.  I wrote my first four books, found publishers, and negotiated the contracts without any help.  It can be done. 

By my the time I negotiated my fourth book contract, the third with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, they would not budge on some of the contract details they changed on earlier contracts.  They refused to change a lot of things saying this and that was now “boilerplate” in the contract.  I suspect they would not have done the same with an agent representing me. 

I decided an agent could get better contracts for me in the future.  So I signed with an agent before my next book.  I changed publishers for the next two books with a different publisher. Having an agent took some of the pressure off of contract negotiations.  But for that, I will pay her 15% of every dollar I ever earn on that book.  And every other book she sells for me, as long as any money is ever made on those books.    

Every author must decide if the agent can help him or her make 15% more money than they could have negotiated for themselves.  Or is their help worth 15% to them?  

It is a business decision.  Writers need to remember that.

That said, I am happy with my agent.  It was only through my agent that I was asked to write a book for Scholastic titled Tech Titans.  It was a work for hire book that paid well.  I never would have gotten that chance without her.  So for me, she has been a great help to me for that book alone.  Plus she has negotiated good contracts.  And when she calls the editor or contracts department to ask a question, she gets an answer right away.  Then a few months ago, my agent handled all the details when my new book went to auction-which would not have happened without her. 

Can you succeed without an agent?  Yes. 

Are there times when having an agent really helps?  Yes.

Is having an agent a guarantee for a successful writing career?  No. 

Like I said, everything is subjective. 

Carla Killough McClafferty

Enter the giveaway for Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2017!  It ends on October 31 and is open to U.S. 
For more details see the following post by JoAnn Early Maken.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Poetry Camp, a CWIM Giveaway, and Lots More!

Our Teaching Authors topic for this new series of posts is agents: who has one, who doesn't, and the advantages and disadvantages of submitting with or without an agent.

But before I begin that discussion, I must mention Poetry Camp, an amazing experience organized by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, the geniuses behind Pomelo Books and the Poetry Friday anthologies, along with Western Washington University's Sylvia Tag and Nancy Johnson. I was so happy to see our own April there, along with 35 or so other children's poets and a very enthusiastic audience of teachers, librarians, and other poetry people. What fun! Besides meeting, talking with, and learning from all those wonderful poets, we ended the conference with a performance by Jack Prelutsky. In its online Industry News, Publishers Weekly included a photo of our group.

My husband and I drove from Wisconsin to Bellingham, Washington, for the conference--an amazing journey of 4,685 miles! We took advantage of a few opportunities to camp along the way. Here's a camping poem from our first night outside:

in the middle of somewhere
vast star-bright sky
tiny dome home
we fall asleep to owl hoots
coyote howls
train whistles
wake up to bluebirds
singing in the new day

Now back to our scheduled topic. I've never worked with an agent, so I can only discuss the pros and cons of submitting on my own. In a nutshell, I have the freedom to submit to any editor who accepts unagented manuscripts (I also add names to my contact list when I meet editors at conferences), and I bear the responsibility of managing all that submitting and negotiating on my own.

I wrote about submitting directly to editors in an article in the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) 2017. For "Be Your Own Literary Agent," I interviewed four other children's book authors who also submit their own work. Mary Ann Rodman, Lisa Moser, Janet Halfmann, and Gretchen Woelfle answered questions about networking, finding editors, tracking submissions, and negotiating contracts. To celebrate the article, we're giving away a copy of the CWIM 2017, courtesy of Writer's Digest Books. You can enter below.

Another announcement: Hundreds of new children's books published in 2016, both traditionally and independently published, are celebrated in the SCBWI Book Blast. You can search for specific titles and authors and even buy books. Among other treasures, you'll find Carmela's new edition of Rosa, Sola (in paperback and ebook) with discussion questions for classroom use.

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win your own copy of the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2017. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. If you choose option 2, you must leave a comment on today's blog post. If your name isn't part of your comment identity, please include it in your comment for verification purposes. If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. The giveaway ends October 31 and is open to U.S. residents only. Email subscribers, if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

Irene Latham has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Live Your Poem. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 10, 2016

In Need of a Smile?

Photo by Visual Hunt

Following our incredible discussion on punctuation, I thought I’d punctuate (see what I did there?) the discussion with what others have to say about the subject. And besides, given the current air of politics, we might be in need of some smiles…

"I’m tired of wasting letters when punctuation will do, period." -- Steve Martin

“I want to change my punctuation. I long for exclamation marks, but I'm drowning in ellipses.” -- Issac Marion 

“I use a whole lot of half-BLEEP semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after 'semicolons,' and another one after 'now.” -- Ursula LeGuin

“If commas are open to interpretation, hyphens are downright Delphic.” -- Mary Norris

“While we look in horror at a badly punctuated sign, the world carries on around us, blind to our plight. We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation. Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones: dead punctuation is invisible to everyone else - yet we see it all the time.”Lynne Truss

“Today, I learned, the comma, this is, a, comma (,) a period, with, a tail, Miss Kinnian, says its, importent, because, it makes writing, better, she said, somebody, could lose, a lot, of money, if a comma, isnt in, the right, place, I got, some money, that I, saved from, my job, and what, the foundation, pays me, but not, much and, I dont, see how, a comma, keeps, you from, losing it, But, she says, everybody, uses commas, so Ill, use them, too,,,,” -- Daniel Keyes

“What sort of person," said Salzella patiently, "sits down and writes a maniacal laugh? And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head. Opera can do that to a man.” -- Terry Pratchett

Photo by Visual Hunt

Wishing you smiles!

Bobbi Miller

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why I Write: An Imaginary School Visit Q & A

    I love school visits. I was a school media specialist for years, and I miss that world every day.

    My favorite part of school visits? Talking to the kids. Specifically, the question and answer part of my presentation. I have learned so much from those questions. 

    For instance, my very first school visit was to my daughter's kindergarten class. This is where I learned not to say, "So does anyone have any questions?"

    A boy waved both hands in my face, bursting with intellectual curiosity (I assumed).

   "Yes?" I gestured toward the boy by waving him out of my personal space.

   "Where do puppies come from?" he shouted.

   That day I learned to begin Q & A with the more specific "Does anyone have a question about writing or writers or books?"

    Over the years, the questions have grown more thoughtful, and have made me think about just why I do this writing-for-children thing.  Here is an imaginary Q & A showing how I arrived at an answer.

    Me: Does anyone have a question about writing or writers or books?

    A hundred hands shoot up.

   Me: I know everyone of you is either writing a book now or wants to be a writer some day, and I'll talk to you when I sign books. Now who has a question?

   Two thirds of the hands drop.

   Boy in a Hogwarts hoodie:  Do you know JK Rowling?

   Me:  Not personally, but she is a terrific writer.  Don't you think so?

   Room agrees enthusiastically.

   Girl with braces:  Do you make a lot of money?

   This answer depends on the age group. Answer for elementary students.

   Me:  Most writers have other jobs like teaching because most of us don't make a lot of money from our books. Not enough money to pay the bills at least.

   Middle school answer.  Me:  Last year my daughter made twice as much money bussing tables at Golden Corral than I did writing and teaching writing.

   Silence. I sense a number of kids deciding against a writing career.

   Child in neon orange from back of room:  Where do you get your ideas?

   I used to tick off the specific story seed for each of my books, until the day a second grader said, "So you just pretty much write about your family?"

The Rodman family 1916---my current WIP
    Me:  My husband and I come from storytelling families. My daughter tells me stories about her friends and teachers. Thanks to them, I never run out of ideas.  I think the best ideas come from stories families remember and tell about each other. You just have to pay attention to find them.

Teacher, leaning against the wall, arms folded: So, Ms Rodman, I think the students would like to know why you write?

   Me: (Cold sweats, racing heart, blank brain) That's a terrific question.

   I stalling for time. Is the next group of kids standing in the hall, waiting to come in?

   No, they are not.

    I mentally run through possible answers.

   I wanted to be rich and famous (too snarky).  I'm not very good at anything else (not entirely true; I was a great librarian). I'm not really a writer; it's just an expensive hobby I pursue to annoy my husband (super snark...and only the teachers might get it..)

    Me:  I have to write. (Well, that was weak.)

   Teacher: Excuse me?

   Me: (regrouping) I can't not write.

   (Double negative. Ouch. Not good. Try again.)

   Me:  As long as I can remember, I've told myself stories. When I learned to write, I had a way to save and share them. The more I wrote,  the more I want to write. There are so many, many stories I want to share, I'll never be able to write them all down.

Same Teacher:  Would you still write if you weren't published?

    Me: I wrote for years without being published. I wrote other stuff, things like diaries and journals that were just for me. When I was your age I wrote letters.  I have dozens of cousins, and a bunch of other relatives who all lived far away from me. I wrote at least two or three letters a week.

    (A brief digression to explain snail mail, and the world before the Internet and cell phones.)

     Me:  I wrote for my school newspapers and a school column for my neighborhood paper.

    (Similar digression on newspapers.  My life starts to feel like it took place in the Bronze Age, for the resemblance it bears to my readers' lives.)

    Same Teacher (who I now suspect has an agenda. Maybe she's a secret writer?): Don't you ever get discouraged and want to quit?

    Me: All the time. Sometimes you spend years writing a story, and then no one wants to buy it.  Sometimes you work and work on a book, and when you go back and read it, it's not as good as you thought.  That's when I say, OK, I quit.  I'm not going to write any more. It's too hard.

    Same Teacher: (prompting. Definitely has an agenda!) Then what happens?

    Me: After a couple of days I'll hear or see something and think "I've got to write this down. This is part of a story." I'll remind myself that I'm not writing any more. ..but I go ahead and write it down anyway.  Before I know it, I'm writing again. I can't help it.

    Girl in black (fourth grade Goth girl?) :  So how do you know if you are a writer?

     Me:  If you knew no one but you would ever read your stuff, and you knew you would never make any money writing, and you still write because you just have to....then you're a writer.

     Boy in LeBron James jersey:  For real?  Even if you didn't make money and nobody read your stories?  You'd write anyway?

     (I can tell he's thinking, but not saying, "well, that's stupid.")

     Me:  You like Le Bron James.  You must play basketball, right?

      Boy: Yeah.

     Me:  Are you any good?

      Boy: (trying to look modest but not succeeding). Yeah. Pretty good.

        Me:  What if somebody told you that you were a good player, but not good enough to play for the NBA?  Would you still want to play ball?

       Boy: Well, yeah. (His body language implies "duh, writer lady.")

       Me:  Why?

       Boy: Because it's fun.  I love it. I play all the time.

       Me: So you're kind o like me.  Writing is fun.  I love it. I write all the time or I'm thinking about writing. I'll keep writing even if no one ever reads another word I write.  And I think we have time for one more question.

      Girl:  Ms Rodman, why hasn't Yankee Girl ever been a movie?

      Me:  Oh, look, the next group is already at the door. Well, this has been fun and I'll see you guys at the book signing. Bye, now!

     Nothing like a school visit to remind me of my priorities.  Writing, writing and writing. And if someone reads it, so much the better.  School visits will always set you straight.

----Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Monday, October 3, 2016

With Thanks to an Unforgettable TeachingAuthor and Mentor

In THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, Christopher Vogler notes that the Hero must connect with some source of wisdom before answering his Call to Adventure.  Usually that source is a teacher, a protector, a trainer, a tester whose offerings ensure the Hero begins his adventure ready, willing and able.
Vogler labels this particular stop along the way Stage Four – Meeting with the Mentor.
I consider myself life-changing lucky to have met such a Mentor on my Writer’s Journey -  the ultimate TeachingAuthor, Barbara Seuling
The second she left the world on September 12 she was instantly missed.

Barbara’s Children’s Book World friends and colleagues continue to sing her praises.
Her accomplishments were many, as noted in the September 13 Publishers Weekly announcement:  author of picture books and the popular OH, NO, IT’S ROBERT series (Cricket Books), picture book illustrator, former Dell and Delacorte Press editor, teacher and Emeritus SCBWI Board of Advisors member.
Even more plentiful were the legions of children’s book writers Barbara launched, watched over and celebrated, thanks to both her successful HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED (John Wiley & Sons, 1984, 1991, 2005) and her long-time Manuscript Workshop.
Begun 23 years ago in her Upper West Side New York City apartment, Barbara eventually moved the July Workshop to Applebrook, her cottage in Londonderry, Vermont, and then to the Landgrove Inn down the road, where it remains a go-to proving ground for dedicated children’s book creators.

The first edition of HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED served as my Children’s Writer’s Bible through the 80’s.  The 1991 Vassar Publishing Institute allowed me to meet and learn from Barbara in person, as did several Summer SCBWI Conferences that followed. It was in 2001, though, as I was considering answering the Call to a few New Adventures – serving on SCBWI’s Board of Advisors and becoming a Children’s Book Writing Coach, that Barbara’s mentoring made the difference. She guided me as we shaped my new career, instilling in me the confidence to move forward.  And fortunately, she did the same this past year, when she honored me with her invitation to continue her Vermont Manuscript Workshop. 

What joy, sitting in July with my fellow writers as our Guest Speaker and Workshop Founder passed on her know-how, insights, advice and Spirit.
And even more joy, when I visited Barbara and her wife Winnette Glasgow at Applebrook.  Barbara’s pride was palpable as she turned the pages of years of Workshop scrapbooks, calling attention to the writers she’d launched, the book creators she'd mentored, the workshop sessions she'd conducted, summer after summer.

Barbara began HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED with one of my favorite quotes, written by Atheneum Founder and Publisher Jean Karl.

“A good book respects a child’s intelligence, his pride, his dignity, and most of all his individuality and his capacity to become.”

I love that verb to become, and the infinite number of nouns and adjectives that might someday follow it.

Simply put, Barbara Seuling respected each of her writer’s capacity to become, including this writer, and for that I remain forever grateful.
She held the bar High, because we write for children.

This summer, when I finally saw the crystal-clear waters that ran behind Barbara’s cottage, giving it its name, I could only smile. For years I’d used Barbara’s handle “aplbrk” when emailing her.

Some Mentors, like Barbara, gift their mentees with magic, a magic I know flows always and ever.

With enormous gratitude,

Esther Hershenhorn