FINDING a G.R.E.A.T. AGENT MATCH with Hannah Holt

Oh felicitous rapture—a literary agent has offered representation. A long journey has come to a happy ending.
lydia

Or has it? Take a deep breath. Before you accept, ask for a fortnight to think it over.

Obviously, you have some relaxing to do because you just used the word fortnight. Okay, maybe that was me.

Anyway, aside from nudging outstanding queries and talking with existing clients, what should you be thinking about while you wait?

mr-darcy

Some agents have a questionable character. These should be avoided like the plague. There are also business aspects to consider. These are also important. Unfortunately, too many authors rush into an agent relationship thinking, Any agent will lead to a happy and prosperous career, right?

mr-collins-waveNo. Just no. An agent is an important business partner for (hopefully) years to come. When things aren’t going well—when the first (or fourth) manuscript doesn’t sell—this is a person with whom you still need to feel comfortable.

Agent break-ups happen. They aren’t the end of the world, but they suck time and energy from your career. In this already slow business, an agent who isn’t a great fit can cost you years (and a bad contract could follow you for your entire career). A few agents have listed things that they think make for a good client fit. From a client’s perspective, here are a few things I think help make for a G.R.E.A.T. agent fit.

The agent should…

Get you. If you want an agent to represent your career (rather than just a project), the agent should understand your core values as a writer/artist. You need to be on the same page about what “best work” means.

Respect you and your time. Are agents busy people? You betcha! But when you have a pressing need, can you count on your agent to be there? Talk to existing clients. How responsive is she?

Edits your work (or not) in style that suits you. Some agents are editorial. Some are not. The agent’s editing philosophy should match yours.

Always follows through. This is another area to ask existing clients about. Does the agent manage time well? Does she stick to her own deadlines? Is she a tough negotiator? In this very unpredictable business, is the agent dependable about the things inside her control?

is someone you Trust. This is the most important characteristic of the healthy agent/client relationship. An agent steers your creative career. Don’t let the pressure of wanting an agent, convince you to take on a partner you don’t feel good about—just to see how it works out. Trust your gut.

No agent is better than the wrong agent!

Also, don’t stress out about asking EVERY QUESTION listed on every blog (including here). Ask the ones that are important to you and be reasonable. Remember you are building a business relationship.

Finally, all of these agent characteristics are also great client characteristics! Hopefully, you “get” your agent’s methods, “respect” her time, respond well to suggested “edits”, “always” follow through with your commitments, and are “trustworthy,” too.

May your querying be successful and all your endings be happy.

eb-running

 

HOLT

Hannah Holt is a picture book author. Her debut picture book Diamond Man is forthcoming from Balzer+ Bray. Her agent, Laura Biagi of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, is a G.R.E.A.T fit. You can find Hannah chatting on Twitter and occasionally posting on her ill kept blog.

Posted in Agents | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

December 2016 Contest Roundup

SIC Contest RoundupIt’s the last Contest Roundup of 2016! If there’s one thing that the Contest Roundup does for me, it’s give me a sense of how quickly time passes. It seems like I get one Roundup done and BOOM! it’s time for the next one. I think that’s a lesson we can all use when waiting to hear back on our work. Yup, 4-6 months can seem long for a response on a submission (even a couple of weeks can!) but if you are hard at work on more submissions, other writing, and life in general, BOOM! you will hear back “all of a sudden”. I know, hard to believe when you’re chomping at the bit waiting for a reply, but it’s true. Time passes us by, let’s not waste it waiting to hear back. Let’s keep moving forward with what’s best for our career, which is writing and/or illustrating and submitting! To that end, you know that contests are a fun and sometimes quick way to jump ahead of the line. Here’s what’s coming up:

December:

12/1: #Pitmad – Open to all genres. Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #Pitmad hashtag betweet 8am and 8pm EDT. Three pitches per project. (Don’t forget, you can post your pitch in the Sub It Club Submission Support Group for feedback to help you perfect that pitch before putting it out there on Twitter!)

12/1: Tomie dePaola Award Open to illustrators who are SCBWI members. Enter an image of your autobiographical character in a scene. Convey emotion. “The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly. No words or captions are allowed in the image.” Winner will receive a trip to the SCBWI New York Winter conference, with tuition, travel and hotel included. The winning piece will also be displayed during the New York VIP Party and Portfolio Showcase.

12/1: SCBWI Art Contest – Open to SCBWI members only. Submit your kite-themed children’s illustration for a chance to be featured on an SCBWI promotional postcard, exposure on SCBWI social media, and a $50 art supply certificate. Enter via email.

12/8: #SFFPitOpen to works of fantasy or science fiction. All age categories (PB, MG, YA, NA, and adult). Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #SFFPit hashtag between 8am and 6pm EST. Pitch up to 10 times in total. Need pitch tips? Check out #SFFPit creator Dan Kobalt’s tips!

12/12: Pitchmas – Send your 35 word pitch via email. Top 50 pitches will be put on the Pitchmas blog on 12/15 for agents and editors to comment on. Participating agents and editors can be found here.

12/12: Susanna Hill’s 6th Annual Holiday ContestEnter your children’s holiday story using the basic format/concept of The Twelve Days Of Christmas based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate. Story not to exceed 300 words. Entry via blog. Prizes include:

12/16: #PitchMAS – Twitter pitch party. Pitch your work via Twitter using the #PitchMAS hashtag between 6am and 6pm EST. No more than two pitches per hour.

12/18: Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition – Open to “full length children’s novels”. There is a L15 fee for this contest. Enter a cover letter, synopsis, and full manuscript. First prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000, plus representation from a top children’s literary agent.

12/31: Dear Lucky Agent ContestOpen to Historical Fiction. Submit the title, logline, and first 150-300 words of your completed manuscript. Three winners receive a critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of their work by your agent judge Elise Erickson of Harold Ober Associates.

12/31: Society of Classical Poets Poetry Competition – Enter 3-5 poems of no more than 50 lines that fit the contest themes along with a short bio. Top prize of $500.

January 2017:

1/1: L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest – Open to unpublished writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Enter your prose, up to 17,000 words. This is a quarterly contest with 3 cash prizes in each quarter: a 1st of $1,000, a 2nd of $750, and a 3rd of $500. At the end of the year a Grand Prize winner shall be determined and receive an additional $5,000.

1/15: Little Brown Emerging Artist Award Open to illustrators. Contest mission is “to encourage the development of high-quality children’s picture books that resonate with readers of diverse backgrounds and experiences, that in some manner draw from the rich cultural experiences of this country—whether they manifest in character, theme, setting, plot, or are derived simply from the artist’s own experience of identity. Diversity includes literal or metaphorical inclusion of characters of underrepresented ethnicity, religious background, gender identity, class, mental or physical disability, or any other nondominant populations.” See official contest rules. Winner to receive $2500 inAmerican Express® gift cards, round-trip travel to New York City, aday at LBYR’s offices including lunch with an editor, an art director, and the Artist Mentor, an in-person portfolio review by the Artist Mentor and the LBYR publishing staff, and a tour of the office, and the opportunity for the winning submission to be reviewed by LBYR’s editorial team.

1/18: #Pit2PubThe last one was open to all categories and age groups. Pitch your manuscript on Twitter using the #Pit2Pub hashtag. More info to come.

Upcoming 2017:

2/24: Pitch Madness – Submit a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of your completed manuscript. A team of readers choose the top 60 entries to move onto coaching and an agent round.

3/23: #Pitmad Open to all genres. Pitch your manuscript via Twitter using the #Pitmad hashtag between 8am & 8pm EDT. Only pitch 3 times per project.

4/1: Scholastic Graphix ContestOpen to Graphic Novels for kids. U.S. Residents only. Up to 5 winners will receive an offer to publish their work with Scholastic and a $15,000 advance.

6/8: #Pitmad Open to all genres. Pitch your manuscript via Twitter using the #Pitmad hashtag between 8am & 8pm EDT. Only pitch 3 times per project.

Know of a great, no fee contest that I missed? Please link us up in the comments!

Posted in Contests | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Postcard Post: Jessixa Bagley

Meet award-winning author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley. Not only does she have a fun postcard to share, but great tips, too!

Jessixa Bagley is a Seattle based artist and children’s book author/illustrator. She has been a professionally practicing fine artist, comics creator, and illustrator since 2002. She has a BFA in painting and printmaking. Jessixa loves drawing anthropomorphic woodland critters- something that is inspired by her growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Her first picture book, BOATS FOR PAPA (June 2015) has won numerous awards and accolades including the 2016 SCBWI Golden Kite Award for best picture book text and the 2016 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award. Jessixa has several other picture books out or soon to be published: BEFORE I LEAVE (February 2016), LAUNDRY DAY (February 2017), and VINCENT COMES HOME (Winter 2018). VINCENT COMES HOME is collaboration with her husband, Aaron Bagley. All of her books are Neal Porter Books published by Roaring Brook Press.

How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard? 

It depends. I like to pick a fun image of characters from my Woodland world that can really tell a simple story in one image or can tell a story between the front and the back. Lately I’ve been creating images with characters from my most recent books.

Postcard front. Fun character and tells a story.

Do you prefer text on the front of the postcard with the image or do you prefer all text on the back of the postcard?
I’ve tried both options in the past, but now I prefer to keep all of my text on the back of the card and let the image on the front be the focal point. I try to imagine what each postcard would look like tacked on someone’s bulletin board. If it were me, I think I’d just like a fun or sweet image up on my board.*
*This hedgehog qualifies as both fun and sweet!

Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Yes. Especially because I am now relating them back to my books, I want them to feel special and unique.

Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I typically do a stand-alone image, but have it relate to a small image on the back in some way. Like a page turn in a picture book.

How often do you send out postcards? 

I wish I had more time to create a series of images and send them out seasonally, but what I’ve been focusing on in the last few years is sending out a postcard in early January for New Year’s.*
*Great idea! Everyone could use a snailmail pick-me-up in January.

Postcard back. A New Year's card is a great idea.

Postcard back.  A New Year’s card is a great idea.

Who do you target with your mailings?

I have a pared down list of editors and art directors from various publishing houses that I send my annual postcard. It used to be a much longer list (including agents)*, but now that I am published and have an agent, I try to focus it on people that I either “know” (have met in in real life or within social media) or people I know of and would love to work with and want to stay on their radar.
*Not everyone thinks to send to agents but it’s a good idea. Take note illustrators!

How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I used to just keep it all in a notebook, but that got very hard to find and change info (and sometimes hard to find the actual notebook).* Now I keep everything in a spreadsheet to update things easily. Often, I take that info and I put it into an address label template in Word so I can just print off labels and place them on the cards. But sometimes I run out of label paper and just have to hand write it- that takes a bit longer…
*Ha!

Do you have any tips on the production process?
I use Photoshop for making my postcards. I start off by scanning all of my images at 300 dpi. If I were doing something larger in size, I’d do the layout and text in Illustrator (so the text didn’t appear pixel-ly), but for sake of time, since I am already in Photoshop for the image, I just do it all in there. I guess I’m a lazy postcard maker.* I like using two fonts: One with more character for my name like a softer serif font (so it stands out) then a simpler font for the rest of the information. You can also use two colors- one for your name, and one for other info- just as a way to break things up!** Because now I use the postcards to alert them of upcoming books, I tend to take the emphasis off of the text by using grey and black fonts so it doesn’t feel too promotional.
*You aren’t the only one!
**These are great tips for fonts. So easy to go too far or not far enough.

Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed? 

I use Overnight Prints because the quality is good (most of the time) for the price, but I’ve been looking into using MOO* in the future because the quality is much higher. Since I don’t make postcards very often, I’d like to make them even more special when I do send them out. I’d like my postcards to be something that people want to keep on their bulletin board or desk for a while.**
*I love MOO. They have sales periodically so, if you can stand the promotional emails, best to get on their mailing list or follow them on twitter.
** I have a feeling they do!

Thanks so much for all the info and the fun postcard, Jessixa!
Where can we check out more of your work online?

Here’s my website:  www.jessixa.com
Here’s my blog, that I don’t update NEARLY as often as I should: http://jessixabagley.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @JessixaBagley
Instagram: jessixabagley

If you’re joining us for the first time at The Postcard Post, you can catch up with a general article on postcard mailings for illustrators and previous featured illustrators in the archive (there’s a tab above too). And you can see recent posts by clicking on The Postcard Post under CATEGORIES on the right sidebar of this blog.
See you next month.

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Posted in Illustration, Postcards, The Postcard Post | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Babies, the Beach, and Submission Amnesia

Sometimes, when I really stop to think about it, I am convinced that we writers are certifiable. We put ourselves out there; our hearts and souls and words sliced open and served up to the entire world. We optimistically send our work out over and over again, only to be hit in the face with the cold reality of the publishing world. Sometimes, when it gets to be too much, we quit, vowing to never set foot in the hallways of submission-land again. But soon enough, the submission amnesia kicks in and we are back at it, somehow forgetting the pain and frustration, and throwing ourselves into the process once again. How does this work? Why do we do it? Let me attempt to explain…

I am fully aware that as a California girl, I am supposed to love the beach. I know that I should be wooed by the warm grandeur of The Pacific Ocean, as it beckons to me with its siren’s song of relaxation, fun, and infinite beauty. And there was a time in my college years, where I lived a short 10 minutes from Pismo Beach that I felt those things. My roommates and I could grab a towel and be on our way in the blink of an eye. Sometimes we would even bring a textbook or two, with the ridiculous notion that we might squeeze in some studying as we lounged on the sand. Whether for BBQs and bonfires, or just to nestle down in the toasty sand for an afternoon nap, the beach was a place where we would arrive in high spirits, and reluctantly leave, counting the moments until we could return once again.

And then I had kids.

Let’s discuss babies and the beach for a moment, shall we? We arrive with our car bursting full of floaties and sand buckets and multi-colored bouncy balls, all of which I pile onto my husband with the enthusiastic exclamation, “We’re at the beach! It’s FUN!” None of these items will ever get used, of course, since…you know…we brought a BABY to the beach. But we don’t know this, not yet, because we still believe that we have brought our child here to EXPERIENCE the beach, and are certain she will take to the water like Ariel herself. But what we forgot to factor in is that our infant is terrified of loud noises and sudden movements, both of which are pretty much the definition of waves. So after fleeing from the water to stop the incessant screaming of our child, we decide, “So what? So we won’t go in the water. There are plenty of other things to do at the beach!”

Except that the rest of the beach is sand. And when we put our baby down in the sand, she arches her back and thrashes around, looking much more like Flounder than Ariel. She doesn’t like the way it feels, how it moves when she tries to stand on it, the way it seeps into every crack and crevice. And it really is shocking that sand is able to penetrate the Fort-Knox-like barriers we created when we wrestled our squirmy infant into that long-sleeved rash guard and wide brimmed hat, in an effort to shield her from the evils of the sun. Perhaps we even try to lather her in sunscreen while on the sand, which results in more pathetic whimpers as the person next to us decides to shake out their towel, and the flying grains stick to her legs like sand art.

After we are finally able to get her situated in a makeshift tower crafted out of beach towels, we realize that she needs a diaper change. We lay her down and somehow, despite her refusal to even touch the sand, her diaper is full of it. Pampers doesn’t make a wipe strong enough. There is some patting and some dabbing, and we call it good enough and wrap her back up. In the meantime, darling child has decided maybe the sand isn’t so bad after all, and maybe it just might make a delicious snack.

So, let’s recap. Screams of fear, sand in back, tasty snack. You getting the picture?

Fast-forward a few years.  Kids are older, yes, but now there are four of them. We live in the Central Valley of California now, so trips to the beach are less frequent. But when we do go, it requires a fairly large-scale logistical plan. The issue of sand is a huge one. There will always be one child who complains of the way the sand feels, and will cry when it finds its way into the wrong places. And the clean-up process that takes place before getting back into the car resembles that of a bio-weapon decontamination chamber. Children protest as you strip them down in the beach parking lot, reassuring them that yes, everyone gets naked here, while husband yells, “Brush it off! Hose them down! Shake it out! “

So why, then, you may be asking, do you put yourselves through this voluntary torture?

beach

JOY.

There is a joy that radiates from our children as they play chase with the waves, dare the surf to catch them, roar back at the breakwater, and giggle as it nibbles their toes.

In the midst of JOY, it is possible to forget every annoying thing that built up to that moment. In the midst of JOY, we are willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to get there again. In the midst of JOY, we find ourselves connected to something bigger than ourselves.

JOY makes everything worth it. It is the pursuit of this JOY that fuels submission amnesia.

The JOY of hearing back from an editor or agent.
The JOY of seeing your words in print…of holding a book, your dream, in your hands.
The JOY of an actual person reading your heart, your soul, your words, and feeling connected to something bigger than themselves.

So, we hose ourselves off and head out into the trenches once again.
We snuggle up with our submission amnesia, its warm embrace persuading us to not give up. Because no amount of sand in our shorts will stop us from chasing that JOY.

Posted in Inspiration, Rejection, Submissions | 4 Comments

Nilah Magruder Shows Us How to Find A Book Deal – Part 2

howtofindafox_coverSub It Club member Nilah Magruder’s debut picture book HOW TO FIND A FOX has just released!

Nilah is sharing her process and journey to publication with us. She told us about The Story, The Dummy, and The Query in our last post. If you didn’t read it yet then go catch up on her inspiring tale, see how Nilah worked to make her idea salable, and how she braved querying.

At the end of the last post we left Nilah hyperventilating. She has queried an agent that favorited her pitch!* You know the feeling you get after pushing that send button! But we don’t have to wait any longer to see what happens. Be prepared to be inspired! Onto The Call, The Submission, and The Deal:

The Call

michelle witte

Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary

The agent was Michelle Witte, and the morning after #pitmad, she sent me an e-mail.

Would you have a moment to chat either today or sometime next week? 

What happened next? You guessed it.

More hyperventilating.

But afterward I set up a time for Michelle to call, we chatted about my submission, and she offered representation! After a grueling two weeks, deciding between this and another wonderful offer, I e-mailed Michelle and accepted her offer.

The Submission

Once the new year started, Michelle and I got to work getting my book ready for editor submission. She suggested a few edits to the art and the text. Then we put together a proposal. For the first time, I got to see what agents send to editors to persuade them to purchase projects. It was also my first time seeing the comp title at work. A comp title is a book that’s similar to yours (be it in theme, tone, or visual style), and it’s an excellent tool to help an editor envision a marketing plan and where a book might fit in their list. Michelle compiled the document and sent it to me to fill in my bio and other details. Then it was off!

 

foxdummy1v3bleed-1

I consider myself lucky throughout this entire process. I’d begun working on this story about a year ago, and in a matter of weeks I had an agent and it was on submission. I had not found an agent through the traditional querying process, but I managed to find the right representation on my first #pitmad. And just two weeks after going on submission, my agent e-mailed me with amazing news: a publisher was making an offer on my book!

I’d gotten the hyperventilating under control by then, but I was still elated.

The Deal

We accepted the offer from Feiwel & Friends in a pre-empt; essentially, a publisher offers a bigger deal to prevent the book from going to auction with other publishers. My first call with my editor, Anna Roberto, was amazing. I joined her on a conference call with Michelle. Anna had fantastic ideas for the book and we hit it off right away. By now I felt I was getting a full picture of what it takes to sell a book, and I was starting to appreciate the roles of agents and editors in a way I never had before. It can be a letdown to get excited about querying an agent you like, hoping to be represented by them, only for them to turn down your project. “It’s not for me,” they might say. The business is very subjective. Agents don’t just want to like a book, they want to LOVE it—and now I know why. Once you sign with an agent, they must take your book and pitch it to editors. And then, once an editor falls in love with your book, they must then pitch it to their company’s acquisitions team. The role of the querying writer is transferred to the agent and the editor in turn. To convince others to buy into your book, they must love it just as much as you do, if not more so.

determined

So, if you have not yet found the right agent or publisher, don’t despair. It’s a subjective business, and there are many agents and editors, all with different tastes. Hold out for that agent that falls in love with your book, who can’t get it out of their head, who understands and believes in your vision. Find an editor who will champion your book just as hard as you have.

Wherever you are in your submission journey, don’t give up. What you’re looking for might be closer than you think!

Nilah MagruderNilah Magruder is not only a picture book author-illustrator. She’s an award-winning comic creator and a storyboard and concept artist at Disney. You can find her book, HOW TO FIND A FOX, on AmazonIndiebound, and other great places where books are sold. Add HOW TO FIND A FOX to your Goodreads. Order it in at your local library. And don’t forget, you can find Nilah at nilahmagruder.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @nilaffle.

*Bonus – Want to read about Nilah’s pitch for HOW TO FIND A FOX? Check out this post from Nilah and Michelle: Have Yourself a Merry Little #Pitmad.

A huge THANK YOU to Nilah Magruder for sharing her journey with us!

Posted in Subbing Success! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nilah Magruder Shows Us How to Find a Book Deal

Nilah MagruderThis week we’re celebrating author-illustrator and Sub It Club member Nilah Magruder. Her debut picture book HOW TO FIND A FOX hits shelves today! *cue wild applause*

Nilah is sharing her journey to publication right here on the blog. It’s a long one (as most publishing journeys are.) Today we have part one: The Story, The Dummy, and The Query. Here’s Nilah:

In 2014, I wrote a small story about a girl and a fox. Today—right this very minute—that small story is on bookstore shelves all across the United States. HOW TO FIND A FOX was the first book I made a dummy for and queried, and as luck would have it, it landed me my first agent. It’s about determination, patience, and what surprises can unfold when you least expect them. In very many ways, the story of HOW TO FIND A FOX reflects the journey of writing and submitting it!

Some of you, like me, might be working on your first picture book or your first submission, and every step is new, exciting, and scary. I’d like to share with you my journey in bringing HOW TO FIND A FOX to life.

howtofindafox_cover

The Story

Before HOW TO FIND A FOX became a book, it was just an idea. An idea I was pulling my hair out over because it just. Wasn’t. Working. I had the mental image of a story about a girl in the forest, exploring nature with her camera, and a playful fox that follows without her ever noticing. But something about it was just… very boring. I got some critique from fellow writers and they suggested changing the perspective to second person; a bold choice, since second person is an uncommon storytelling format. But I went with it, hoping the change would get me out of my own head.

It didn’t. So I shelved the story. I couldn’t make it work.

But it was still in the back of my mind, months later. I’d moved on to other manuscripts, but one day I was reading a blog interview with an agent. He was talking about what he looked for in picture books, and one of the points he made was to have conflict.

firstsketch

It suddenly hit me. That’s what my manuscript had been missing. I’d gotten so caught up in the exploration part of the narrative, of the girl learning about nature, that I’d left out the conflict. So I went back to basics. What was the main thread of the story?

It was all about the girl and the fox. She wants to take a photo, and he wants to play. There was the story.

I took another crack at it, and this time I struck gold. The story was much more entertaining. I was already getting ideas for the imagery. And with the international SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles coming up, I was excited by the prospect of having a picture book dummy for the portfolio showcase.

The Dummy

foxdummy4-5

Once I was satisfied with the text, I moved on to thinking about the art. Using the text as a guide, I drew thumbnails of the main beats of the story. Sometimes I came up with ideas that took the story in a new direction, so I tweaked the text a bit to match. It was an organic process, working on the words and the images simultaneously to find the right balance.

foxdummy4-5d

I kept the process of designing the characters and the world organic as well. To tell you the truth, I had no idea what look I wanted to go for! Some artists work in one dominant style. My background is in animation, and over the years I’ve become adept at copying styles. I like to develop a style that’s appropriate for each project. I knew for this book that I wanted something playful, but simple.

Characterization is my favorite part of drawing. The fox has no mouth, and his expression remains relatively flat, but his eyes and ears are big. Meanwhile, the girl has small eyes and a small mouth. For both, their personalities and moods are expressed with their entire bodies.

The Query

Showing the dummy in the portfolio showcase at the SCBWI Summer Conference was my goal, and I had not thought too far past that. It was a great chance to see how people reacted to a story they’d never read before and get feedback. I hadn’t expected the excitement of my friends upon reading the dummy. They suggested some clever tweaks to the art, and after that, I realized: this is ready to submit.

Well, that was a scary thought.

I’d jotted down a few agents I was interested in submitting to, but I hadn’t really made a long query list. I had long ago decided that I would pursue finding an agent before approaching editors. I buckled down and started researching. All the while I was thinking, “Am I really ready? Is there anything I’ve missed? Maybe I should wait…”

But I decided to bite the bullet. That August, I began sending out queries.

foxcover1v1

Responses were slow. I got a few rejections, but mostly radio silence. Strangely, I was glad. Silence meant I didn’t have to do anything. It was kind of like I hadn’t submitted anything at all! I could let the book fade to the back of my mind and worry about more pressing things; work, life, other projects. But each new rejection brought me back to the query. It was still early, I told myself. It takes MONTHS for some agents to reply, and my few meager rejections were a good sign, in a way.

And then in October, I got a reply from an agent that was more than just a couple canned lines. She liked the story! She liked the interactive element! She wondered if I had any more manuscripts I could send! Why, indeed I did, and I sent them along.

…More silence.

By November I was getting stir-crazy. My inbox was void of new agent e-mails. It wasn’t a very long book, only 300 words, what was taking so long?? Granted, I hadn’t submitted very widely… but in truth, my list was fairly short. I hadn’t yet found other agents that appeared to represent author-illustrators that might be interested in my book. So I took to the streets.

By streets, I mean Twitter. #pitmad, a Twitter pitch party was coming up in December. I’d never done it before; I’d never had a book to pitch before! But I had a book now and I thought, why not? I was already on submission, so I might as well. I crafted a pitch, picked a page from the dummy to attach, and on the day of the party, I tweeted my pitches. I tweeted all day, through the eight hour-long event. I signal boosted other authors’ tweets and feverishly checked the faves on mine. They were mostly shows of appreciation from friends and strangers. No agents. The day wore on, and I kept tweeting.

In the last hour of the party, I got yet another fave, yet another show of appreciation. But this time, when I checked the profile, I saw the word I’d been waiting for: Agent. This was a literary agent. And she’d faved my pitch! She wanted me to query her!

And I did, once I stopped hyperventilating.

*****

What a cliffhanger! You want to know more, right?! Be sure to check back in on Thursday (or you can subscribe to the blog in the righthand sidebar). We’ll have part 2 with The Call, The Submission, and The Deal.

In the meantime add HOW TO FIND A FOX to your Goodreads. See some of the inside full color pages at the Macmillan Publisher’s website where you can also order the book. Of course, it’s also available on Amazon and Indiebound.

Find Nilah at nilahmagruder.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @nilaffle.

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November 2016 Contest Roundup

SIC Contest Roundup

Oh my gosh I can’t believe it’s November all of a sudden and another NaNoWriMo is upon us! Maybe you aren’t participating or maybe you’ll want to take a break from your writing frenzy to enter some contests. Either way, cruise through this list and you’ll find some great opportunities. There are contests with agent judges, a couple of contests for illustrators, and a contest or two with publishers involved. There’s a lot of variety in this month’s Contest Roundup. Seems like there might be something for just about everyone.

As always, contests are listed in order of closing date. If you need help with your query or pitch join our Sub It Club Writer’s and Illustrator’s Support Group where you can post in our private group for help and opinions before you submit. 

October:

10/31: Tu Books New Visions AwardOpen to Middle Grade and Young Adult manuscripts by writers of color. “Manuscripts should address the needs of children and teens of color by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another.” Submit a cover letter, synopsis, plus the first 10,000 words. Graphic novels, include the equivalent of 24-30 scripted pages.Please note: “Manuscripts may not be submitted to other publishers, mentorship contests, writing contests, or to TU BOOKS general submissions while under consideration for this award.” Winner receives $1,000 and a standard publication contract. Honor Award winner to receive $500.

November:

11/1: My Real-Life Story Essay Contest – Enter your essay of 2,500 – 3,500 words. Every woman has a moment in life that changes everything. What’s that moment for you? We’d love to find out. Winner to receive $5,000, possible publication in Glamour magazine, and the opportunity to speak with a top New York literary agent. Do be sure to read the contest rules, especially #7.

11/9: Pass or Pages – Open to complete and polished Middle Grade Contemporary. Enter via form which will be posted on 11/7 with your query including title and word count (no bio or personalization) and the first 250 words of your manuscript. Five entries will be randomly selected to be given to agents Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management and Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency for feedback to be posted on the blog.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome. If you aren’t comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don’t enter Pass or Pages!

11/9: #KidPitOpen to Children’s manuscripts: Board Books, Picture Books, Easy Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction. Pitch your children’s manuscript via twitter using the #KidPit hashtag between 9am and 3pm CST. Pitch up to six times during the course of the event.

11/9: Kidlit 411 Golden Query PassOpen to picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, graphic novels for kids and teens, crime fiction, women’s fiction, and coming-of-age literary fiction. Enter via Rafflecopter for a change to win a get to the head of the line query pass from agent Brent Taylor of Triada US.

11/10: Dear Lucky Agent ContestOpen to Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels. Submit the first 150-250 words of your completed manuscript. Chosen winner to receive a critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work by agent Mike Hooglgand of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourett, a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com and choice of the Guide to Literary Agents 2017 or the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2017.

11/15: Iconic Holiday Hen Contest – Open to Illustrators. Submit your Iconic Holiday Hen illustration to Hen & Ink Literary Studio. Winning illustration will be used as the Hen & Ink Holiday Mascot. Illustrator will be invited to submit a portfolio or project to Hen & Ink Literary Studio for consideration.

11/15: Sparkhouse Family Children’s Picture Book ContestOpen to picture book manuscripts of 1,000 words or less that support the Christian faith. The winning author will get a prize of $5,000 and a chance to have their book published by Sparkhouse Family. To enter, submit a brief synopsis of your book, your author bio, your contact information, and complete manuscript via Submittable.

11/16: #AdPitOpen to Adult and New Adult Fiction and Nonfiction. Pitch your Adult manuscript via Twitter using the #Adpit hashtag between 9am and 3pm CST. Pitch up to six times during the course of the event.

11/30: 7th Annual YA Discovery Contest – Open to Young Adult. There is a $15 entry fee. I don’t usually post contests with fees but this one has a lot of editor prizes. The Grand Prize Winner will have the opportunity to submit an entire manuscript to YA literary agent Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary. Top Five Entrants (including the Grand Prize Winner) will receive a 15-minute, one-on-one pitch session with Regina Brooks.  They will also receive commentary on their submissions from editors at Scholastic, HarperCollins, Little, Brown, Macmillan, Skyhorse, Chronicle, Sourcebooks, Simon and Schuster, Abrams Books, Penguin Random House, Disney, and James Patterson’s new imprint, JIMMY Patterson. Enter your title and first 250 words of your manuscript.

December:

12/1: #Pitmad – Open to all genres. Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #Pitmad hashtag betweet 8am and 8pm EDT. Three pitches per project.

12/1: Tomie dePaola Award Open to illustrators who are SCBWI members. Enter an image of your autobiographical character in a scene. Convey emotion. “The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly. No words or captions are allowed in the image.” Winner will receive a trip to the SCBWI New York Winter conference, with tuition, travel and hotel included. The winning piece will also be displayed during the New York VIP Party and Portfolio Showcase.

12/1: SCBWI Art Contest – Open to SCBWI members only. Submit your kite-themed children’s illustration for a chance to be featured on an SCBWI promotional postcard, exposure on SCBWI social media, and a $50 art supply certificate. Enter via email.

12/8: #SFFPitOpen to works of fantasy or science fiction. All age categories (PB, MG, YA, NA, and adult). Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #SFFPit hashtag between 8am and 6pm EST. Pitch up to 10 times in total. Need pitch tips? Check out #SFFPit creator Dan Kobalt’s tips!

12/12: Pitchmas – Send your 35 word pitch via email. Top 50 pitches will be put on the Pitchmas blog on 12/15 for agents and editors to comment on. Participating agents and editors to be announced in November.

12/16: #PitchMAS – Twitter pitch party. Pitch your work via Twitter using the #PitchMAS hashtag between 6am and 6pm EST. No more than two pitches per hour.

12/18: Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition – Open to “full length children’s novels”. There is a L15 fee for this contest. Enter a cover letter, synopsis, and full manuscript. First prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000, plus representation from a top children’s literary agent.

12/31: Society of Classical Poets Poetry Competition – Enter 3-5 poems of no more than 50 lines that fit the contest themes along with a short bio. Top prize of $500.

2017:

1/1: L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest – Open to unpublished writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Enter your prose, up to 17,000 words. This is a quarterly contest with 3 cash prizes in each quarter: a 1st of $1,000, a 2nd of $750, and a 3rd of $500. At the end of the year a Grand Prize winner shall be determined and receive an additional $5,000.

1/15: Little Brown Emerging Artist Award Open to illustrators. Contest mission is “to encourage the development of high-quality children’s picture books that resonate with readers of diverse backgrounds and experiences, that in some manner draw from the rich cultural experiences of this country—whether they manifest in character, theme, setting, plot, or are derived simply from the artist’s own experience of identity. Diversity includes literal or metaphorical inclusion of characters of underrepresented ethnicity, religious background, gender identity, class, mental or physical disability, or any other nondominant populations.” See official contest rules. Winner to receive $2500 inAmerican Express® gift cards, round-trip travel to New York City, aday at LBYR’s offices including lunch with an editor, an art director, and the Artist Mentor, an in-person portfolio review by the Artist Mentor and the LBYR publishing staff, and a tour of the office, and the opportunity for the winning submission to be reviewed by LBYR’s editorial team.

1/18: #Pit2PubThe last one was open to all categories and age groups. Pitch your manuscript on Twitter using the #Pit2Pub hashtag. More info to come.

4/1: Scholastic Graphix ContestOpen to Graphic Novels for kids. U.S. Residents only. Up to 5 winners will receive an offer to publish their work with Scholastic and a $15,000 advance.

Know of a great, no fee contest that I missed? Please link us up in the comments!

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