As promised, children’s writer, Elaine Kiely Kearns, shares her tips on submitting to agents and editors in this bonus post.
Thank you Elaine!
SUBMITTING TO AGENTS AND EDITORS
by Elaine Kiely Kearns
Okay, so you now have a manuscript that you love and are proud of. (Hopefully, you have more than one, because that first awesome manuscript is going to impress the hell out of some agent/editor and they are going to request additional manuscripts, right?)
Okay, so where do you go from here?
We’ve all heard it repeatedly that it is necessary to query agents that will be interested in your manuscript, but how in the world do you figure that out? Why shouldn’t you just make a list of picture book agents and start submitting? I think that the first thing that people forget in their race to secure an agent is that they forget that you are looking for a partner in your career. A long lasting relationship! And just like a friendship, or a partner, you cannot just randomly query people and expect that to work out in the long term. You need to have a plan.
Step 1- Make a general list of picture book agents that you are interested in querying. Here is the place to make your all encompassing list. Add every possible agent that you would like to query, big names, small names, it doesn’t matter, just list.
Step 2- Make educated decisions about the people on your list. You must be very practical when you now look at your list. Think about what kind of agent you want to represent you. For example, I write silly, funny manuscripts. That is my thing. So I am interested in finding an agent who is also interested in funny, quirky manuscripts. Do you know why that is important? Not only because my agent needs to believe in my manuscripts (duh), but because (like it or not) this is a business. If my agent is interested in quirky, funny manuscripts, my agent will be really good at SELLING quirky, funny manuscripts. And, after all, that is the name of the game, they need to sell your product.
Step 3- Figuring Out What in the Universe an Agent Likes or Doesn’t Like.
Welcome to the internet, Detective Querier! This is where search engines will be your best friend. You need to take each of those agents on your list and spend time googling them on the internet. Most agents will post what their likes and dislikes are on their agent pages. Most agents do online interviews. Do you know why? Because they WANT you to send them the stuff they like! Yes, they do! They don’t want to get the manuscripts that they do not represent any more than you want to get a rejection letter. Some like rhyme, some like quirky, some want an educational element, some want less than 300 words. You can find all of this information through the internet. For example when I am looking to query, I do the following:
a.) Google the name of the agent.
b.) Search their own literary agency site first, make notes.
c.) Search for recent online interviews, make notes.
d.) Search Query tracker. READ the comments left by others about queries. (You can learn a lot from the people who came before you)
e.) Search Preditors and Editors (especially if the agent is not in a big house) http://pred-ed.com
f.) Search Verla Kay’s Blueboard on the SCBWI site, http://www.verlakay.com/Blueboard/ read the notes.
h.) Don’t forget to check their tweets! Very often agents will reference books they love, or mention authors they love. This is very valuable information! You are getting some insight into what they like and you can query accordingly.
After you have completed the above, you should get a good picture of the person you are ready to query. You can eliminate the agents that won’t be interested in your manuscripts, and target those who will!
Conferences and Submissions:
If you are invited to submit to an agent or editor after a conference, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity! And although the invitation is welcomed, you still need to do the homework above before you submit. The difference is with a conference (as in a roundtable) you have hopefully made some type of connection with the agent or editor so that they will remember you. Make note of that in your query submission! Give the agent or editor a reason to remember you so that they can put a name with the manuscript!
I wish you all the best in your query process. Please let me know if there are any other tips that you can offer that I have neglected to mention.
For additional writing resources, from querying to accepting an offer visit www.KidLit411.com
Elaine Kiely Kearns is the founder of KidLit411.com and a member of the SCBWI. She earned her Masters in Education from Fordham University in 2002. She dreams up wild and wonderful stories in New York where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and menagerie of animals. She lives on coffee, chocolate and humor. (Mostly chocolate.)
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