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Ooh, tantalizing title for a blog post!
Picture book writers eager to be represented scour the web for info about the tastes and preferences of kidlit agents. Well, stop searching and look no further.
I asked the picture book agents participating in PiBoIdMo as grand prizes to talk about a client’s new or upcoming release that they’re excited about.
And if you’re wondering about PiBoIdMo GRAND PRIZES, they will be announced on Monday, December 14th!
Lori Kilkelly, Rodeen Literary Management
I began representing my own clients 2.5 years ago and, as publishing has a long cycle from sale to publication, have only had two (EARLY BIRD and NIGHT OWL by Toni Yuly!) publish to date. Next calendar year will see 14 of “my” books publish. It’s hard to pick just one but HANNAH AND SUGAR (Abrams, 3/16) is author/illustrator Kate Berube’s debut, sold in a 2-book deal, at auction. I first read about Kate on the blog “7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.” She and husband Mark live in Portland with their beloved one-eyed wonder-dog, Sugar, the book character’s namesake.
Every day after school, Hannah’s school bus is greeted by her classmate’s dog, Sugar. All the other kids love Sugar but Hannah just can’t conquer her fear of dogs. Then, one day, Sugar goes missing, so Hannah joins the search with her classmates. Will Hannah find a way to be brave, and make a new friend in the process?
Kate worked at Portland’s famous Indie bookstore Powell’s—please consider pre-ordering from your favorite Indie!
Deborah Warren, East/West Literary Agency
Some of East/West Literary’s clients have excelled in all three PB creator roles, as an illustrator, as an author, and as an author/illustrator. To that end—and in honor of PiBoIdMo—we are proud to highlight award-winning Jim Averbeck and his latest book ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA (Atheneum/S & S), a Kirkus Best Book of 2015, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail.
Averbeck’s 2015 “must read” IndyNext Top 10 ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA, is about a girl who uses very creative means to ask for a pet giraffe–from her mother (a judge), father (a businessman), Uncle Conrad (a politician) and Grand-mama (who is very strict!). Yasmine’s illustrations brilliantly add another layer to the story. And Jim created a text that engages the audience with well-placed page turns, pacing and performance possibilities, creating a book that has been embraced for its celebration of words.
And it’s been embraced in more than one way! We’re more than thrilled that SOPHIA has just been extended to a 3-book series by his publisher (Margaret K. McElderry/S & S). Look for TWO PROBLEMS FOR SOPHIA and the third SOPHIA sequel, soon! Oh; and how incredibly cool is it that the Northern California Children’s Booksellers Alliance selected ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA as one of two titles to be included in their national, inaugural #Diversity, hand-selling initiative, #MirrorsAndWindows. [Thank you, indies—diverse books DO sell!]
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
How do you pick just one of your authors’ projects to spotlight? I’m going to circumvent that decision by going with the book that’s been most recently released, Nancy Tupper Ling’s THE STORY I’LL TELL, which is exquisitely illustrated by Jessica Lanan. This book is really a love letter from parent to child, a poetic telling of how that child came to be part of their family.
Words and art alike are unforgettable, and mark my words—this is a book that’s going to be around a long, long time. Don’t miss it!
Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
I’m really looking forward to seeing Jess Keating’s PINK IS FOR BLOBLISH hit shelves this February 2nd, 2016 from Knopf Book for Young Readers. Jess’s voice and vision for this project had me excited about it from day one.
In this debut nonfiction picture book, Jess highlights all manner of unusual pink creatures that readers never knew existed. It’s fascinating and funny, but what also makes it so special is that it goes deep. Yes, PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH is full of incredible animal facts, but it also carries a subtle sociological message that pink is not just for girls—it’s for everyone and anyone.
Pink is often associated with princesses, and Jess’s book lets readers know that pink is also the color of monster slugs and poisonous insects. I don’t know about you, but I love that expanded world view!
I admire how Jess manages to engage readers with her humor and fresh voice, provide little-known animal facts, AND deconstruct outdated gender stereotypes—with a clear passion for the material and a wit all her own. And with the talented David DeGrand adding his dynamic, hilarious illustrations, what’s not to love?
Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
I’m very excited about an upcoming project BABY LOVES SCIENCE by Ruth Spiro, with illustrations by Irene Chan. In the first two books of this picture book series, Ruth explains some complex ideas—Quarks and Aerospace Engineering—in terms so clear that even the very youngest listener can understand.
This is the first project that I sold for Ruth, and the one that she sent me with her initial query. I was very taken with the books, of course, but also with the savvy way Ruth approaches the picture book business; she’s continued to wow me ever since! These books are sweet, gentle and smart, and I can’t wait for them to be out in bookstores and libraries.
The first two are coming in fall 2016—keep your eyes out for them.
Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Well, I have to go with Penny Parker Klostermann’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT which just won The 2015 Best in Rhyme Award in NYC at the RPB Revolution Conference.
Why I think DRAGON is so special? It’s been a long road to publication for Penny. She’s been working tirelessly the past few years to really learn the picture book craft and to hone her skill. Adding to that, DRAGON is in rhyme, so Penny’s not only had to figure out picture book plot, she’s had to learn poetry and rhyme (not easy) and I think there’s been more days of no big success than there have been days with success.
DRAGON exists because Penny didn’t give up. And now DRAGON has a life of his own. I’m still a bit terrified of him, so here’s hoping he steers clear of me. 😉
Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties
One of our new-ish releases is Jennifer K. Mann’s TWO SPECKLED EGGS, winner of the Washington State Book Award this year; it’s the story of an unlikely friendship that’s sparked when two girls find they have more in common than they thought at first.
Jennifer K. Mann came to Pippin through the slush pile (it really happens!) and this is her second picture book. When her query came in, her artwork immediately caught our attention, and then her letter was so exquisitely written and charming and she had clearly done her research . . . it was a no brainer. Here’s to more well crafted slush-pile treasures!
Lisa Fleissig & Ginger Harris, Liza Royce Agency
We are both mothers of 1st graders; so, as much as they are moving onto chapter books, picture books are still alive and kicking in our homes. One particular recent publication that stands out is ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, 2015). It’s a biography of the world’s first computer programmer—and she’s a GIRL!
Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. Especially now with schools incorporating “STEM” in the classroom and empowering girls to develop into strong women, this book hits all the right notes. It is written by Laurie Wallmark and stunningly illustrated by April Chu. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is not only a remarkable story of triumph, but marks a turning point in our agency—it is our first book to receive THREE STARRED REVIEWS (Kirkus, PW & Booklist) along with NYT praise.
Jodell Sadler, Sadler Children’s Literary
A recent picture book publication would have to be a newer contract, a two-book deal, for Phil Gosier as an author-illustrator package: SNOW BEAST (Roaring Brook Press, 2017).
Phil marked the quickest pull from my submission bin so far. He’s a huge talent and his cover letter sported part unreliable narrator (sending only to you and will not send out until polished more) and part personality punch (I cry at most Tom Hank movies). But what really called me to his project and what is true of every submission: it’s all about the work, and in this case, his work stood on its own merits: breathtaking, amazing, and professional. SNOW BEAST will be published by Roaring Brook Press in 2017.
Remember, come back on Monday for the GRAND PRIZE announcements. There will be 13 PiBoIdMo Winners to be paired with one PB literary agent each for an email consult about their five best story ideas.
Good luck, everyone!
If you’re an un-agented writer, you might be thinking—do I even NEED a blog? What content should it contain? How often should I post? What SHOULDN’T I blog about?
Well, relax. Deep, cleansing breaths. I asked a few agents what they thought of writerly blogs. Their responses may surprise you.
Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency:
“I don’t have any strict rules or do’s and don’ts. I find blogs are perhaps less useful than they used to be, with the exception of those with large followings. Mostly I go to them, when considering signing someone new, to get a sense of their personality and how they present themselves (whether to fellow kidlit folks, gatekeepers or kids).”
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency:
“A writer’s blog wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me unless it was wildly unprofessional. First and foremost, when I’m looking at a potential client, it’s all about the writing. But beyond that, a blog or website gives a sense of who that person is, how our tastes and interests might mesh, etc. So make sure your web presence reflects who you are, and that it looks clean and tight and polished. I don’t think they’re essential, but it is nice to put a face and background to the voice I’m reading on the screen.”
Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency:
“I don’t care if an author has a blog or not. But if they DO have a blog, I hope it is lively, interesting, informative, fun to read, and gives a sense of their “voice” and a glimpse into their lives.
Turnoffs: Lots of word-count posts. Constant self-promotion. Complaining about blogging, complaining about the publishing industry, complaining about specific people (your agent or editor, for example)—or “Humblebragging.” Overly political or “sexy” posts (unless you are a political or sexy writer).
If an author HATES blogging and is struggling to find the time or energy…if it is taking away from their work or making them miserable…then they should absolutely not do it. An unused blog, or a blog that is just complaints or self-PR, is so much worse than no blog at all.”
Teresa Kietlinski, Prospect Agency:
“Blogs are absolutely important in my decision making. When submissions come in, I tend to visit blogs first because they give me a taste of the writer’s (and illustrator’s) personality, voice and interests. It also lets me see how dedicated they are to the craft of writing or illustrating. Do they post frequently? Do they talk about topics of interest in the children’s book world? Are they honing his/her skills? What books is he/she reading? Would I like to join him/her for lunch or tea? (the last question for me is the most important). If I do not instantly connect with a blog, chances are I will not connect with the blog’s writer.
My goal as an agent is to work with clients who I like working with. Clients who are funny, interesting, and interpret the mundane stuff in a surprising way. Blogs can give me insight on these qualities. And while websites are important, especially for seasoned authors, they are not always personal.
I would suggest not limiting your blog to “kids stuff only.” Talk about what interests you—but keep it professional in tone. Readers are looking to connect with your personality. Who are you?
Do remember that anyone can read your posts so keep them professional in tone. Do update your blog regularly.”
So it’s clear: if an agent is interested in your work, they WILL Google you. So avoid posting:
- Samples of works in progress (they might be considered “published”)
- A tally of submissions/rejections
- Complaints about rejections, the industry or specific professionals
- Long, rambling posts
- Overly political, religious or controversial topics (unless that is the focus of your professional writing)
Before you start a blog, realize there’s millions of them out there already. What are you bringing to the table? Do you have a unique perspective? Just like thinking of the hook before you write the book, you might want to think of the hook for your blog before you launch into it. (Relatively-newish blogs with compelling hooks: Literary Friendships by Audrey Vernick and Design of the Picture Book by Carter Higgins.)
Or, you can just go for it and post whatever you like. After a few dozen posts, you might discover your niche. Check your blog stats and determine which posts bring in the most visitors. Work in that direction.
And remember, the story’s the thing. No blog will snag you a book deal if your submission is sub-par. So get the manuscript right first, then worry about blogging later…
Or, maybe, not at all.