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This list of literary agents on Twitter is mostly comprised of kidlit agents, and it isn’t comprehensive, and some are no longer agents…but all are worthy of a follow. They are in no particular order.
Know other literary agents on Twitter? Please post a comment and I’ll periodically add to the list.
You can also find this list here: http://twitter.com/#!/taralazar/literary-agents/
We are a boutique literary agency dedicated to the management and representation of the finest authors and artists working today.
Children’s agent for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Brooklynite, children’s book agent, Squarespace support specialist, semi-pro Jew, bourbon drinker. I work for lots of people. None of these tweets are theirs.
At work, I’m a literary agent focusing on the YA genre, and I have to bite my tongue. On Twitter, I’m the anonymous Marie Suzette, who says whatever she wants.
Literary agent representing nonfiction for adults and nonfiction and fiction for YA and MG readers I tweet mainly advice for writers and updates on my books.
Alanna Ramirez is a literary agent with Trident Media Group.
Director and Principal Agent, Children’s Department, McIntosh & Otis, Inc.
We’re the Greenhouse Literary Agency, a transatlantic agency specialising in children’s fiction.
Founder and agent of children’s/YA at Greenhouse Literary Agency, based in DC and London. Dachsund-slave, photographer, lover of history and wild places.
Agent with D4EO Lit and multi-pubbed author writing as Mandy Hubbard and Amanda Grace. I like words. And pasta. Not necessarily in that order.
Literary assistant and junior associate at Nancy Coffey Lit. Lover of books and food. And cupcakes.
There’s more to life than books, you know, but not much more. Children’s Literary Agent at Waterside Productions, Inc.
When one arrives at their summer rental home, the sandy carpets, wood paneling and fishnet curtains can be largely ignored. You’re there for the beach, not for the house.
But when a foodie arrives in their temporary accommodations, the heart sinks upon discovering a less-than-accommodating kitchen.
Preparing for our annual excursion to the Jersey shore, I packed the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, ginger and jars of spices. I collected basil, chives, parsley, cilantro and mint from my garden. Yet I didn’t bring my trusted chopping knife, so I’m forced to mince and julienne with a butter knife. What I wouldn’t give for a serrated edge.
The hutch stores silverware for 50 people and wine glasses for 75, but not a single can opener that works. I must remind myself to buy dried beans next year.
Paper-thin pans burn their sizzling contents even on the lowest heat, so I’ve adapted a cooking method of removing them from the stove every few seconds. On, off. On, off. The scrambled eggs cannot brown, or else the kids will deem them “dirty.”
The first few days were filled with frustration. I cursed the dull peelers, all seven of them. I laughed at the bevy of bottle openers. If two dozen people wanted to open their Coronas in unison, no problem. There’s an entire shelf of serving platters, but not a single baking dish.
But now I’ve settled into the groove of my poorly stocked summer kitchen. Forced into a culinary simplicity, I plan our meals accordingly. Grilled chicken with roasted tomatoes. Pasta with grated cheese and torn herbs. Sole with browned butter sauce (I knew those pans were good for something). Cutting shortening into flour for biscuits works just as well with two forks as a pastry blender.
When I’m forced to do without, doing with seems complicated. For instance, my cupboard at home features the fruits of a ridiculous Nordicware Bundt pan fixation. But the shape has nothing to do with taste. Baking on an island with inferior cookware feels like a greater accomplishment than serving a cake that resembles a castle. Those pans allow me to cheat. What epicurean expertise can I claim if I own every tool of convenience?
So I’m learning to love my summer kitchen and the skills of culinary compromise it’s teaching me. Now if I could just rip that fishnet off the window, this house might be perfect.
Yes, I’m on vacation and this blog is quiet. Can you guess today is rainy? I will return to kidlit upon returning home. I hope you’re having a fun and relaxing summer!
Agents and editors have told me they occasionally receive calls from writers who are brand new to children’s books. These aspiring authors ask, “How do I get my book published?”
Kindly folks that they are, these agents and editors don’t slam the phone down. They’ll sometimes spend a few moments providing basic details. But this information can be easily found online. That’s what makes being a new writer so exciting these days: there’s professional advice available via websites and blogs, you just have to search for it. It’s not all so mysterious anymore.
So if you’re looking to launch a kidlit career, please don’t call an agent or editor to learn the basics. Let them read manuscripts, sell books and do their jobs. Come here instead…
A New Children’s Writer’s To-Do List:
I knew you’d like that one.
- Read children’s books.
Become familiar with the genre in which you write. Understand appropriate length and content for specific age groups. See what’s being published. Don’t follow trends, but know the competition. When pitching editors and agents, it’s often helpful to compare your book to another title. You can’t compare if you aren’t well read.
- Join SCBWI.
Take advantage of their resources—local chapter events, national conferences, online discussion boards and publications.
- Join a critique group.
Find fellow writers who work in the same genre as you. They provide support, motivation, and helpful feedback. (And if you can, find a group with writers who are more experienced than you.) P.S. Your mother, daughter, spouse, and neighbor’s 2nd grade class are not a critique group.
- Attend workshops, conferences and events.
Seek out opportunities to learn and network with authors, agents, editors and writing peers.
- Read books on the craft.
Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
Writing for Children and Teens by Cynthea Liu
Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz
- Revise and rewrite.
It’s not going to be right the first time (or maybe even the second or the fifteenth). It’s just not. Resist the temptation to submit an early draft to a publisher.
- Take time to develop your skill.
Your writing will improve with practice. Most professional authors need at least two years of serious writing to hone their craft, and it’s not unheard of to work for ten to fifteen years before becoming published.
- Submit when you have more than one project polished.
Finished your first manuscript? Keep writing. If an editor or agent likes your manuscript, but not enough to make an offer, they may request other material. Have a few manuscripts at the ready.
- Learn to have patience.
It can take many years to write publishable material, sell your first project, and develop a career. Even after you become published, the business is still full of waiting—waiting to hear from your agent and/or editor, waiting for a book to be released, waiting to earn out. You will never NOT be waiting. Patience and perseverance are key.
- Call yourself a writer.
Because you are one!
If you have some newbie suggestions, let’s hear them. Please leave a comment.
What separates the south from the north? Nope, it ain’t the Mason-Dixon. It’s the road signs.
New Jersey’s exit signs remind us that the road we’re on is not the road we want. Ads for dating websites wilt on the medians. The giant green gecko stares down at our cars, telling us to save on insurance. There’s not much personality there.
But South Carolina? There’s treasures along the roadside. And I’m not talking about boiled peanuts.
Reading the signs along a rural route, I was reminded of how small, specific details in your writing–like a street name or a slogan on a church billboard–can contribute loads to the mood and setting of your story.
Here’s the southern road signs that charmed me.
Christians Like Pianos
Need Frequent Tuning
Pumpkin Girl Road
Heavy Father Lane
There’s Only One Heaven
and Only One Way
to Get There
Groceries & Hunt’n Stuff
are Tomorrow’s Fathers
Mars Oldfield Road
There are stories buried in these signs.
Do you pet bees at Bee City?
Was Pumpkin Girl related to Heavy Father?
Is the welder married to the organic farmer? Or are they the same person?
Did aliens once land on Mars Oldfield Road?
What stories do your town’s signs tell?
Did you know that words on a page make a sound in your head? Reading expository stretches is like someone whispering in your ear. Too much and it makes you doze off. Page upon page of dialogue can be tiring as well, like listening to a loud, non-stop talker. Blah blah blah. And awkward arrangements will make a reader dizzy and confused. The ears hear what the eyes see.
Words on the page should have a pleasing rhythm or euphony. Words should mix and mingle in our minds to elicit rich imagery. Sure, you might want some words to clash for effect, but overall, clunky language is junky language.
I enjoy writing in first person because I can become my character. I sometimes speak a scene aloud before committing to paper, to test the sound of the words. (And I’ve even been known to speak with an accent, since my current manuscript is set in the south.)
Reading your manuscript aloud differs from scanning it on the page. Your ears will immediately find awkward passages and stilted dialogue. While reading aloud, you’ll be able to examine:
- Repetitive phrases. Many writers have crutch words or phrases that they use repeatedly without noticing. Reading aloud can make those redundancies obvious. Even a word used twice on the same page can sound faulty to the ear, especially if it’s an uncommon word.
- Authenticity of dialogue. While reading, ask yourself, do people talk like this? You might find yourself adding words or skipping some to fit a more natural speech pattern.
- Wordy descriptions and run-on sentences. Too many adjectives can bog a sentence down. And don’t even get me started on adverbs. That requires a separate post!
- Pacing. Do you have long passages of description or introspection? Too much dialogue? Is the piece too slow or too fast?
Your body will also give you cues. Do you need to catch your breath? Are you thirsty? That may sound funny, but it was true with one of my early stories. I stuffed my sentences so full of curlicue words that I needed a big glass of water afterwards.
But be forewarned, like any technique, reading aloud does have its cons. A writer may inject a tone or inflection while reading their own work that doesn’t come across on the page. I learned this recently at a first page session when someone else read my story. The humor and liveliness that I intended fell flat. Was the reader’s performance or my words at fault?
So you might want to consider having a critique partner read your manuscript aloud instead. Even if it’s read in monotone, the meaning should shine through. Are the words doing what you want them to do?
Have a listen; make a revision.
It’s Children’s Book Week! So what does that mean? It’s time to celebrate children’s books across all genres.
Read to children. Inspire their creativity. Write a story together. Draw pictures. Enter Carin Berger’s Contest. Do whatever you want to make reading a priority in your family’s life! (Although I’m sure it’s already a priority.)
To help you along on this salute to Silverstein, this festival of Fox, this jubilee of Jeffers, here are some links:
- Read story starters by children’s authors and finish what they started.
- Visit the Write For a Reader blog. Shelly will have author interviews and give-aways all week.
- Check out IlluStory and Create Your Own Pop-up Book, fun ways for your child to publish their own book.
- Review the Top 10 Summer Reading Lists from various organizations and the children’s choice reading list from the Children’s Book Council.
- Share your favorite children’s book with us. Comment below so others can discover great books.
And here are some marvelous picture books being released this week! Enjoy!
And now–finally–middle grade authors have a list to call their own.
Below you’ll find authors of published books (or soon-to-be-released titles) for middle grade readers. Chapter book and tween authors have been included as well.
If you know of others who should be on this list, please leave a comment and I’ll update the list periodically.
Enjoy! Discover talented writers; make new connections.
- R.J. Anderson @RJ_Anderson
- Elizabeth Atkinson @tWeenBooks
- Susan Taylor Brown @SusanWrites
- Meg Cabot @MegCabot
- RJ Clarken @LightVerse
- Bonnie Doerr @BonnieDoerr
- Michelle Knudsen @MichelleKnudsen
- Adrienne Kress @AdrienneKress
- Cynthea Liu @Cynthea
- Lauren Baratz Logsted @LaurenBaratzL
- Anne Mazer @AnneMazer
- Kate Messner @KateMessner
- Lauren Myracle @LaurenMyracle
- Nicole O’Dell @Nicole_Odell
- Ellen Potter @EllenPotter
- Sarah Prineas @SPrineas
- Karen Rivers @KarenRivers
- Christine Rose @ChristineRose
- Laurel Snyder @LaurelSnyder
- Cynthia Chapman Willis @CynthiaCWillis
Children’s book writers were treated to another fun and informative first page session this week in Princeton, hosted by the NJ-SCBWI. Editors Michelle Burke and Allison Wortche of Knopf & Crown Books For Young Readers listened to 30 first pages read aloud as they followed along with each manuscript page. Then they gave their immediate first impressions of the work.
If you’ve never attended a first page critique, it’s a quick way to get a handle on what your peers are writing. A first page session shows you what it’s like for an editor to spend two hours in the slush pile. Common themes emerge. Mistakes reveal themselves. If you listen carefully, you’ll learn how to avoid first page problems and encourage an editor to read on.
So what did the editors say? I encourage you to read on…
Use varying imagery in picture books. One manuscript conveyed a lot of emotion and the editors didn’t see where the illustrator would take inspiration for art. The same scene through several page turns may lose a child’s attention.
Dialogue needs to match the age of your character. A picture book character shouldn’t sound older than a five- or six-year-old child. Their actions should also match their age.
Cut excess detail in picture books. The first page of the manuscript should reveal a clear story arc. If the manuscript is bogged down with details, it slows the story down. For example, writing that a mother is carrying a napkin to the table and setting it down next to the plate is unecessary (unless that specific action is crucial to the story, and even so, it could probably be illustrated).
Premise and conflict should be apparent on the first page of a picture book manuscript. For example, dialogue between two characters should reveal a story, not just serve as adorable banter.
Every line in a picture book should move the story forward. There’s no room for chatting or extraneous stuff.
Picture books should have a linear approach. Moving back and forth in time can confuse a young child.
With holiday stories, you automatically have to work harder. Stories about specific times of year are a tough sell. There’s a lot of competition and a small sales window.
Some picture book stories are told better without rhyme. If the phrasing is unnatural in rhyme–things you wouldn’t ordinarily say–it can be jarring to the story. One bad line can ruin the manuscript’s chances.
The narrator/main character should be the highlight of the first page. One manuscript began by describing a minor character as a way to compare/contrast the narrator. However, when that minor character disappeared from the rest of the page, the editors were confused. Was that comparison necessary to introduce the narrator?
Historial fiction should tell a story. The reader should get a sense of the main character first–how he/she is affected by historial details. Too much fact will bog the story down and lose the character.
Don’t be too reptitive in a novel–get on with the story. If a main character reveals the same thing over and over again on the first page, it feels overdone. Introduce a concept and then move on with the story; don’t circle back paragraph after paragraph.
A first person narrative should have more narrative than dialogue on the first page to take advantage of this device. Plus, the narrative voice and the dialogue voice should match (unless the disconnect is for a specific purpose).
Avoid the stereotypical whiny, displaced, unhappy middle-grade voice. More than one middle-grade manuscript began with a character learning that he/she had to move. The result was a whiny narrator who wasn’t necessarily likeable. Editors warned that they see a lot of the parents-uprooting-child theme, so to rise above the slush, consider a different approach.
Be cautious in stories with several important characters. It’s difficult to write a story with multiple characters because introducing them can sound like a laundry list. Reveal their personalities in a way that’s organic to the story. It also asks a lot of the reader, to keep track of several characters.
Watch tense. The switch from dialogue to narrative in one story felt very abrupt because the dialogue was in past tense and the narrative was in present.
The difference between MG and YA is edgy, gritty. If the main character’s personality feels innocent, the genre might be middle grade, not young adult.
Balance description and dialogue. Dialogue moves a story along fast. Description slows it down. Long stretches of each create a choppy storytelling rhythm.
Make descriptions specific, not generic. One story began with vague details that could be applied to almost any story setting. It wasn’t until further down on the page that the reader learned the unique time and place, something that attracted attention. The editors suggested moving that info higher up.
YA characters should be teenagers. College YA characters and those over the age of 19 can be a tricky sell. That moves the story into adult territory. YA readers need to relate to the characters, and 20+ seems like a lifetime away to a 15 year-old.
Finally, stories should be kid-friendly, not sprinkled with adult sensibilities. One of the editors warned, “this feels like it’s about kids rather than for them.” Don’t let a parental point of view creep into your writing–kids find that creepy.
I’ve pulled together some questions and answers from yesterday’s QueryDay on Twitter. I’ve edited this slightly to make it more readable (there’s more room than 140 characters here). The questions are in no particular order and may not include every response. In fact, I’ve removed answers by writing peers to concentrate on agent advice.
I hope this helps you with your query process. Thanks to all the agents and writers who participated!
Will an agent overlook a title she doesn’t like to request proposal/chapters for a query that otherwise caught her eye?
Rachelle Gardner: It’s all about the writing. The story. Yeah, a title can help or hurt your chances, but not make or break.
What are the rules for resubmitting after lots of revision? (We’re talking years since the original sub.)
Rachelle Gardner: Most important rule on resubmitting after revision: Be honest, say it up front.
Is it best to send a query to a few agents at once or just send them one by one?
Rachelle Gardner: I don’t know of any agents who expect or even want exclusivity on queries. On requested partials, yes.
Scenario: Big publisher has full manuscript. They offer contract. How can one query an agent to represent you in this situation? Is it proper?
Colleen Lindsay: It will depend on the offer. Agents are in it for $$$ too, so if the offer isn’t big enough, we won’t care. It takes as much time to work on a $2000 deal as a $20,000 deal. Not every deal created equally. But you should always have a publishing lawyer look over the contract even if an agent won’t rep you.
Greg Daniel: If I were a writer trying to find the right agent, I’d pay for access to Publishers Marketplace.com.
Regarding requested material: What is it that ultimately kills the YES when you read a partial or full that had potential?
Lauren MacLeod: Actually, it goes the other way. I start with probably no & you can move to yes with great voice & writing.
Rachelle Gardner: TOP reason I say “no” to queries is the story doesn’t sound unique, fresh, exciting. The problem isn’t the query, it’s the book. What kills the YES? That’s where it gets difficult and subjective. Does the story grab me and not let go, or not? What about being told “your writing is good” but still no? Remember–dozens of queries in the pile. Can only say yes to a few.
I’d think it’s better not to compare your book to other books and just let it stand on it’s own, meself.
Rachelle Gardner: Listing comparable books is important, it puts yours in context, shows you know your market, helps agent “get” your book.
Would this put you off – if someone spends years perfecting one novel? Would output be a concern?
Lauren MacLeod: No need to tell me in the first place (nothing to gain), but I expect first novels to have had more polish than 2nd.
Greg Daniel: No, wouldn’t concern me.
Why do publishers/agents even bother with email partials? Why not just take the whole manuscript and stop reading if it’s a dud?
Lauren MacLeod: I ask for email partials to manage expectations. I try and write longer & more involved rejections for fulls.
Having a hard time deciding what genre my novel is, should I leave that part out of query or can you suggest a way to help decide?
Rachelle Gardner: You must include the genre. Publisher, bookstore, consumer all need to know! Find books/websites that discuss genre.
How much of it is really who you know? How much of the process relies on you receiving recommendations?
Rachelle Gardner: Referrals definitely help. That’s why you go to conferences and network like crazy. I appreciate referrals from my current clients, editors I trust, and other friends in the industry.
Elana Roth: Connections help. Half my list is from referral, but the other half is from queries.
Greg Daniel: The only recommendations that make much difference to me are writers who are referred to me by my current clients.
Are most agents from NY or CA? Is it okay to query agents in other places? Are they for real?
Lauren MacLeod: With email and phones agents anywhere can get in contact with editors. First and foremost, pick someone you connect with.
Rachelle Gardner: It’s a good point about agent location. The Internet has made it easier for publishing folks to live anywhere.
Should a fiction writer ever mention their education or academic publications?
Lauren MacLeod: It should be mentioned in your bio, certainly, esp. if you are planning on doing more, but it should be a CV.
I’m worried about being relevant to the market…will the super hero novel I’m writing now still be relevant six months from now?
Lauren MacLeod: A great story with dynamic writing will always be relevant. Write good books, don’t worry about trends.
Do I need an agent to get a great book published?
Lauren MacLeod: Not necessarily, but probably to get it in the hands of the editors at the big houses & to negotiate a fair contract.
What are you looking for when it comes to voice?
Colleen Lindsay: Authenticity.
In my YA query, would you want to know if I’ve been mentored by famous YA author?
Kate Sullivan (editor): YES, I would LOVE to know if you were mentored by a famous, accomplished or great YA author in a query/pitch.
In early March, several literary agents, organized by Colleen Lindsay and Lauren E. MacLeod, participated in QueryFail on Twitter. They sat at their desks, inboxes open, a pile of envelopes at their side, and then read queries one-by-one, Tweeting examples from undesirable letters: “I know that I have attached a file, but please have a read even though it’s against your policy.”
Lesson #1: follow submission guidelines.
Lesson #2? Even though many writers felt QueryFail was interesting and helpful, there was a considerable backlash from those who felt it was unfair to share query letters meant only for the agents’ eyes. But listen, if you’re an aspiring author, that means you want your words to go into print someday. You have to be ready for the criticism. If you’re not confident about sharing your query letter, perhaps you should try writing another one.
QueryFail2 was all set for yesterday, but it didn’t happen. Instead, we got QueryDay. The guidelines were supposedly the same, but the tone was decidedly different. Agents opened the floor to questions from writers, making QueryDay an interactive event. And because writers became participators, I doubt that anyone who witnessed QueryDay had anything negative to say about it.
Several positive spins emerged. Elana Roth of Caren Johnson Literary Agency announced her first QueryWin of the day early on. She requested “a YA light sci-fi novel. Strong query. Good voice in sample pages.” She was also impressed with a “Smart cookie author/illustrator: did not attach art to email, but pointed me to link of her art online. Win.”
Later on Ms. Roth passed on “a 3,000 word picture book” and a “YA novel set in college. Still on the fence about that. And only 39,000 words.” Writers, you need to know the proper word counts for your genre.
Agents also provided tips. Rachelle Gardner offered, “This may be hard to hear, but I suggest you avoid being in a rush to get published. Take TIME to develop your craft.” Later she confessed, “A query that makes me laugh is a great thing! Whether or not the book is for me, it definitely gets my attention.”
Agent Lauren MacLeod shared information on her preferences: “For the record, I prefer not published to self-published. For me, self-published has to try harder. Others feel differently.” She then explained, “Why my self-pubbed position? 1) I assume it has already been widely rejected by agents, 2) might have already exhausted the market.”
Some themes and suggestions emerged repeatedly, like submitting polished work. Lauren MacLeod announced, “I assume you have edited your work, have a writers group and have shown this to someone who likes it.” Later on, Colleen Lindsay said, “A writer needs to get the manuscript into the best shape possible before querying. An agent’s job is not to handhold or coddle or boost a writer’s self-esteem. An agent’s job is to sell the manuscript.” Editor Kate Sullivan presented this caveat, “Remain open-minded and be ready to revise. You need to be open to changes every step of the way.” Even a polished manuscript can be improved.
The most important thing learned from QueryDay is really quite basic: write a sharp query and follow guidelines.
And just how much time does an agent devote to your query? Lauren MacLeod answered, “A query that is to our guidelines, within normal word count range and my genre? About 5 minutes. These are rare.”
She then summed it up: “More important than anything: WRITE A GOOD BOOK. Good writing, good plot & good voice trump all.” Rachel Gardner agreed, “Fiction writers…it’s ALL about the writing. Nothing’s as important as what’s on the page. If it rocks, nothing else matters.”
Got that? Now if only the word “good” weren’t so subjective…
I collected a number of questions and answers from QueryDay that other writers may find useful. I’ll post separately…coming very soon.