Tuesday, March 22, 2011

If You Give a Writer a Cookie....

...add sweet tea, the company of fellow writers and illustrators, and incorporate great advice from Adams Literary, then you have the recipe for a great schmooze. Which was exactly what happened last Saturday at the Fort Mill Library in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Josh Adams, Quinlan Lee, Tracey Adams

Hosted by the Charlotte and Rock Hill SCBWI critique groups, forty-five participants first peppered Quinlan Lee, Josh Adams, and Tracey Adams with questions about the agent/author relationship.

In response to the #1 question on everyone's mind, "How do you get an agent?"  Tracey Adams responded in the same manner in which she answered it a month ago at the YA Novel Literature panel in Charlotte: "We look for good writing." Specifically, Quinlan Lee said that she looks for writing that is "interesting, grabbing, and doesn't let my mind wander." Tracey added that indicating that a writer or illustrator is a member of SCBWI demonstrates that he or she takes the craft seriously.

Josh Adams said that he is looking for potential, not perfection. His first criteria is not, "Can we sell it?" but rather, "Do we love it?" Tracey added that their agency wants to represent an author, not just necessarily one manuscript. All three agents emphasized the need to work hard at the craft, not to submit a piece too soon, and to be prepared to spend years at honing a manuscript. "Put your manuscript in a drawer for a week. Let it marinade before you press send."

Here is some other advice:

  • Adams Literary is looking for timeless works that are not tied into a specific trend. (Vampires might actually not be hot in 2-3 years--the length of time it takes for a book to be published!)
  • Be ready to answer the question, "What other books are you working on?"
  • Don't submit more than one manuscript at a time.
  • Be focused! Find out who you are as an author.
  • Send in your best work. Editors want top-notch material.Wait until your critique group says that your book or illustration is ready for submission.
  • Research an agency that fits your book. Look at the types of books they represent.
  • You can look for an agent by looking at books in your genre. Often the agent is mentioned in the acknowledgments.
  • In the current industry, literary agents are the gatekeepers for editors and publishers. You probably need one--unless you connect with an editor at a conference.
  • Don't ever pay up front for agenting services and make sure the agent is a member of the Association of Author's Representatives.
  • The picture book market is hard to break into. Make sure you have a fantastic hook into your book.
  • Picture books are getting shorter and shorter. Parents are spending less time reading to their children. Think about how much text you would include on each of the 28 pages in a 32-page picturebook.
  • Picture books should be beautifully written and target the the 3-5 year-old market. Older children don't want to be seem carrying picture books around and kids graduate to easy readers which they can read themselves.
  • Well-written prose must be visual. The reader must "see" the story.
Fellow writers and illustrators, cookies, tea, and literary advice. What more could a writer want? Oh yes, time to write!


Becky Levine said...

Great wrap-up, Carol. Thanks!

Jean said...

Wow! Sounds like a good investment of your time, Carol.

I've printed out the list.


BonnieA said...

Excellent, Carol--thank you!

Carol Baldwin said...

Becky, Jean, and Bonnie- thanks for your comments. It's always nice to hear back from readers! And to be honest, writing about an even like this helps me to process it myself.

Joan Y. Edwards said...

I love your hook. Your summary was excellent. It was a fun and informative Schmooze.

Do something good for yourself.

CL said...

Thanks for posting this, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

Constance and Joan- glad you liked the wrap up and the hook!"

Anonymous said...

Great recap, Carol...what a schmooze indeed! Wonderful folks and fabulous info. We couldn't have done it without your input!
Roxie :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Glad to help, Roxanne.But you guys did all the work!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Carol. I wish I could have been there. I had a house full of girls (all under the age of 14) that day. But it sounds like you all had a great time!

Janelle said...

Looks like this was a great event, Carol! Thanks for sharing it!

UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC- Part I by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta

Please welcome back Elliott Kurta with his evaluation of an 8-book series by Sarah Mlynoski, Lauren Myracle , and Emily Jenkins.          R...