Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How I Got Started

For the last few years, I've indulged my love of writing by sharing great products with everyone here, but this year I decided I wanted to do something more.  So with all of my free time in February, I decided to write a book.

At the beginning of March, I was finished!  My empty computer screen had turned into a humorous chapter book geared towards 6-10 year old Super Lovers (think Incredibles meets Sky High).  I enjoyed writing the book so much that the next day I wrote a picture book called Stinking Beauty, and started the 2nd book in my chapter book series.

But then came the much harder part, negotiating the world of agents and publishers.  I've never cared about getting published before now, but writing is addictive.  And as a writer you want others to fall in love with your work.  So I don't know how long it will take, or how many rejections I'll get, but it has become my new goal to get something published.

If there are any agents/publishers out there, looking for a dedicated children's author, that sees the humor in almost everything I would love to have you read my work.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Agent Feature: Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency

Agent Feature: Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency

I had the opportunity to attend the Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers (WIFYR) Conference a few weeks ago.  It was my first writers conference, and a great experience.

One of my favorite things about the conference, was the chance I had to interview Literary Agent Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.   I've done agent features before, but I loved hearing his responses first hand.   He was inspiring, approachable, funny, and a super nice guy.

Agent Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency

#1 - Are you open to Submissions: Yes, I'm open to Submissions.  I mean I have about 40 something  clients, but I would never say no if I found something that I was just entranced with.

#2 - What Book(s) made you fall in love with reading?: Let's see.  One of my favorite books of all time is Peter Pan.  Wen I was 10 that's really when I became a voracious reader, and I read everything.  I read Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare, probably not understanding it but I just loved the words.  I love The Secret Garden or anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I grew up with A. Milne and Beatrix Potter and all of the great British writers.  But I think Peter Pan was probably my favorite book.  And I also loved the Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.  Those are my two favorite favorite books.

#3 - What is your Favorite Book Now?: I read constantly so it's hard to say.  I love my clients books.  I would say the Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby is one of my favorite favorite books.  I also like Icefall by Matt Kirby that one the Edgar Award this year, anything Carol Williams has ever written, and Holes by Louis Sachar.  I like a lot of writers, but I suppose my favorite book is anything I'm reading at the moment.

#4 - What categories do you represent?: I do everything from board books, picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA.  I have a very eclectic list, but because we're a small agency I can do anything I want.  So I do a little bit of everything. 

#5 - Is there anything you wish would come through your inbox?: Dazzle me.  Send me something dazzling.  I love a great picture book text, it's all about the language.  I have a soft spot for middle grade, so a great middle grade story - it can be historical, it can be fantasy, or contemporary.  I think Middle Grade kids are the strongest and most loyal readers, so whatever is going to capture their attention. 

#6 - Do you have any Pet Peeves for Authors to Avoid?:  I don't like really smart-alecky language.  Because of video games, and TV, and movies, there's kind of a sophisticated smart-alecky lingo.  I don't really like that. When something is in print, you're kind of giving immortality to it, and I think the language should be more dignified.  That probably sounds old-fashioned, but written language is different than a movie script.  And I think when you're writing a book for kids I don't like things that are snarky and have bathroom humor.  I know that it is wildly popular, but I would not put my name to a book that I was embarrassed about the title.  That's something I don't like.

#7 - Is there anything specific you look for in a query letter?: In a query letter there needs to be a good elevator pitch.  I need to know the age level and the format, a sense of the story, and sort of a comparison.  I like to know who is someone the author connects with, or what's a classic or best selling book that gives a context for this book.  I need to know whether someone has been published, or where they are in their career.  I don't mind if someone has never been published, but I like to know who they are.  I don't need to know someones marital or dating status.  I don't need to know personal things about the author.  That's not necessary. 

#8 - How many Queries do you receive a week?: I get 50 queries literally every morning, and then it continues throughout the day. 

#9 - Is it okay for an author to do a follow-up?:  I insist on it.  I say don't wait any longer than a month, and then  keep following up till you get an answer, because I answer everybody.  But if you don't get an answer either its lost in cyber-space or just buried.  But I insist everyone follow up and keep following up,  not just once but multiple times till you get an answer.  It's not being intrusive or obnoxious, it's just part of being a professional writer.

#10 - Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?:  You become a professional writer the second you start behaving professionally.  Like with the query, follow up in a month.  Make a record of where you send things and when.  Be courteous to the agent or editor.  Be respectful.  I think publishing is all about image so it's how you present yourself.  Be conscious of how you present yourself to the world.

You can find him: 
At the jennifer DeChiara Litereary Website -

To Submit a manuscript to Stephen Fraser (taken from the website 6/30/2013): Email stephenafraser (at) verizon (dot) net and put "Query" in the subject line of your email.

For queries regarding children's and adult fiction, please send the first twenty pages in the body of your email, along with a one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis.

For queries regarding a non-fiction book, please attach the entire proposal as a Word document (the proposal should include a sample chapter), along with a one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis of your book in the body of your email

Monday, September 9, 2013

Agent Feature: Danielle M. Smith from Foreword Literary

Agent Feature: Danielle M. Smith from Foreword Literary

Finding an agent and trying to get a book published is a long and daunting process.  There is a lot of information out there about different agents, but it seems like a lot of it is dated.  And it's hard to know if your work is actually a good fit for each individual agent.  To help make the process a little easier on everyone, I'm starting a new Agent Feature on my site.  I thought of a million questions that I could ask different agents, but because I actually want the agents to respond to my email, I decided to limit it to 10 questions.

As today's agent was the first to ever request a full manuscript from me, I thought it was only fitting that she be my first feature.  Today I give you

Associate Agent Danielle M. Smith from Foreword Literary

#1 - Are you open to Submissions: Yes

#2 - What Book(s) made you fall in love with reading?: My favorite book when I was little was Socks by Beverly Cleary. It's the first book I remember a teacher reading aloud to me and also the first I re-read multiple times. I can't wait to read it to my own kiddos soon!

#3 -  What is your Favorite Book Now?: That's tough. In terms of picture books I'd have to say that my absolute favorite at the moment would be Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos. In the middle grade range I'd pick something by Adam Gidwitz or Juniper Berry by MP Kozlowsky. Young Adult, anything by Patrick Ness or Beth Kephart.

#4 - What categories do you represent?: I represent picture book, early reader, chapter book and middle grade writers.

#5 -  Is there anything you wish would come through your inbox?: I'm really hoping for a well written magical realism middle grade novel, think Bigger Than A Bread Box by Laurel Snyder.

#6 - Do you have any Pet Peeves for Authors to Avoid?: It really bothers me when I get a query that doesn't address me by name for some reason. Other than that I'm not overly picky.

#7 -  Is there anything specific you look for in a query letter?: A friendly and professional tone. Someone who I want to work with on a daily basis. As well as someone who is passionate about what they've written.

#8 - How many Queries do you receive a week?: Anywhere between 100-200

#9 - When is it okay for an author to do a follow-up, and how do you feel about resubmissions of revised works?: If I haven't responded after six weeks I feel it's okay to follow-up. Even I get bogged down and need a nudge from time to time. As for revisions and resubmissions I'd recommend not sending things again for at least two months or more unless we've talked about a specific time frame. When I request a revision of a book because the word count is too high or the book needs editing in general and then I hear back in two weeks with a new version I worry that an author hasn't worked on it enough.

#10 -  Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?: Write and read, a lot. But also get out and live life. Our writing comes from those life experiences and if you spend too much of your time behind your desk you may run out of experiences to share or draw from.

Also, do your research before querying. Picking an agent is important. This is your career and your agent is your business partner in that. You wouldn't send out business proposals to twenty random people off the street, no matter who recommended them, without first finding out who they were. Be sure you really know who you're sending your hard work off to and it will pay off in the end.

You can find her: 
on the Foreword Literary Blog
on her book review blog - There's A Book
and Twitter - @the1stdaughter

To Submit a manuscript to Danielle (as of 5/22/2013): Email your query pitch, followed by the first 10 pages of a completed manuscript to: querydanielle (AT) forewordliterary (DOT) com. All information must be in the body of the email, no attachments will be accepted. If you are submitting a picture book (no more than 1000 words): paste in the whole text. No illustrations are required at this stage, unless you are an author/illustrator.