Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

One Size Does NOT Fit All

picture courtesy of Creative Commons License taken by Alisdair
almost fitsRecently, someone asked me, “How do I submit to agents?” As I told them, each agency has their own submission guidelines. Not only do the guidelines say how they want you to submit, but what they want you to submit. And, of course, some agencies or agents are closed to submissions.
The only ways to know for sure what a particular agent wants are to visit the agency website, visit Publisher’s Marketplace and search for a specific agent, or hear the agent speak at a conference or other writing event.
I personally am interested in contacting agents whom I’ve heard speak, met in some way, have read their tweets, have read their blogs or have read interviews with them. I like knowing a bit more about an agent, than what is said on the agency website or on Publisher’s Marketplace.
The basic three “how to”s of agency submissions:

  • Via a form on their website
  • Via email, either with attachments, or pasted into the body of the email
  • Via postal mail

What agents want is more complex, but these are common variations:

  • Query only
  • Query with a certain number of pages or chapters for a novel
  • Query with synopsis and a certain number of pages or chapters for a novel
  • Full manuscript for picture book
  • Full manuscript for middle grade or YA novel


  • A full manuscript probably needs a cover letter
  • A few agents may want “exclusive submissions,” but most do not

Samples of how and what:
Currently, EMLA’s (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) website says: “EMLA is closed to unsolicited queries or submissions. We consider queries that come to us by referral from industry professionals we know, and individual agents are open to queries from attendees of conferences where they speak, except that Erin Murphy is entirely closed to queries and submissions in the first half of 2014. If you have met us at a conference or have a referral, please paste your query into the contact form on our contact page. Please note that we are no longer responding to queries or submissions from those who do not have a referral or have met us at a conference. Those sent in hard copy form via post or other means will receive no response, and those sent via email will receive a form rejection.” So, the how is use the form on their website, the what is query and the extra important information is “by referral from industry professionals” and if you heard a specific agent speak at a conference.
Nancy Gallt Literary Agent accepts submissions via a form, in a step-by-step process. Or by postal mail.
The Bent Agency ONLY accepts email queries. If you send your query by postal mail, it will be recycled and not returned to you.”
Some guidelines will tell you what to put in the Subject line of your email.
Email Query Resources
How to Format an Email Query – Nathan Bransford
How to Format an Email Query for Literary Agents – Seven Tips from
BookStop Literary accepts via postal mail and has specific instructions by genre. Here’s what they say for the younger readers:

Mail submissions: Please send the entire manuscript (but no more than 15 pages), a cover letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to BookStop Literary Agency at the address on the left. In your cover letter, include your phone number, e-mail address, a short paragraph about your background, and a brief synopsis of your manuscript. Please do not submit more than two manuscripts at a time.
Please DO NOT send art, dummies, binders, or mock-ups unless you are a professional illustrator.

They also accept email submissions.
What Agents Are Looking For
What we haven’t covered so far is the interests of the agents. Some agents look at the whole gamut from picture books to new adults. Others are boutique agencies who may focus on a specific audience or age range. Some agents tell you what they specifically want.
Here’s a portion from Bree Ogden’s want list (D4EO Literary):

*NOTE: I am actively seeking children’s/YA nonfiction. NO memoir unless you have a gigantic platform (i.e., The Pregnancy Project). I would love something in the vein of The Letter Q, Dare to Dream!: 25 Extraordinary Lives, The Forbidden Schoolhouse, or a Starvation Heights type historical fiction.
~Highly artistic picture books (high brow art, think Varmints)
~Middle grade (generally horror)
~Young Adult
~New Adult (no erotica, please)
~Adult (very specific genres, see below)
~Graphic Novels (preferably artist/illustrator OGNs)
~Nonfiction (no heavy academic, rather pop culture and journalism or essays, think Kelley Williams Brown, David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman. MUST have platform, no memoirs)
~Pop Culture
~Art books
~Unapologetically bizarre books
~Macabre literature for children

Response Times
How long an agent takes to get back to you varies by agency and by agent. I remember one writer friend getting a response from an agent the same day. Other writers told me one agent takes 8-9 months to respond. You may be able to learn this information on the agency website or perhaps on Publisher’s Marketplace.
The Bent Agency: “It is our goal to respond to every query. If you don’t receive a response within a month, please resend your query and indicate that you’re sending it again.”
More and more agents are not responding unless they are interested in your submission.
Wernick and Pratt Agency: “We receive hundreds of submissions each month, and while we would like to respond to every submission received, we unfortunately cannot reply to each one. Submissions will only be responded to if we are interested in them. If you do not hear from us within six (6) weeks of your submission, it should be considered declined. If you would like to request confirmation of receipt, please use the request-receipt function when e-mailing your initial submission to receive an automatically generated response confirming receipt. We will not confirm receipt of submissions unless we have requested additional material.”
Can I Submit to More Than One Agent at an Agency?
Most agencies consider a submission to one agent at the agency as the only submission allowed. In other words, you can not submit to another agent at the same agency. This information will probably be in their submission guidelines. It never hurts to ask at a conference what the agency’s policy is on this.

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Posted in Business Side of Writing, Guest Post, Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

How to Start Querying an Agent

letterbox.jpgguest post by author Jan Fields
First, of course, you need to find an agent you feel good about and learn what the agent wants. My favorite place for this is by Casey McCormick. If you look on the left-side column on Casey’s site, you’ll see agents grouped by what they represent. She’s spotlighted many agents and looked at what each agent represents and how the agent wants to be contacted. It’s really a treasure trove of help.
Now, after you’ve picked an agent. Try a Google search with just that agent’s name. Sometimes you can pull up even more information to help you really know what the agent wants to see from you (and sometimes the agent even has a blog where she/he puts queries that really snagged his/her attention. These are really priceless examples because they show how to effectively pitch to that agent. If the specific agent you’ve chosen doesn’t have that…poke around in Casey’s list to find some who do. It’s invaluable to check out examples.
Now, in the query/pitch itself, you can find wonderful, wonderful help on Nathan Bransford‘s site. Nathan isn’t agenting anymore but he has spent a massive amount of time helping writers to do this stuff right.
Here’s his query formula.
His good examples.
Even help with formating an email query.
Really, you’ll find a ton of help on Nathan’s site.
Former agent who has given tons and tons of help is Mary Kole who has a site called There she has: help with queries and more.
Agent Jennifer Laughran has a great bit about your author bio that goes in your query.
So, that’s a good bit of reading but it should really get you going on your agent hunt. Good luck!

Jan’s Brief Bio

“Since my first magazine publication in the 1980s, I have been steadily writing for money in some form. Today I have over twenty books in print and still more in the pipeline – books for children and adults. I’ve also written for magazines, educational publishers and even a toy company! Writing is the only thing I’ve ever done really well that didn’t eventually become more like work than fun.”
To read more go to Jan’s site.
Jan is also the editor of the Children’s Writers eNews. If you aren’t getting it, you’re missing out!

Thanks to Clarita on for the above image.

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Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Agents Telling What They Want

SI ExifIt’s not a secret. Agents tell what they are interested in. They tell at conferences, on sites such as querytracker and publishers marketplace, their agency websites, on blogs, and even on twitter chats such as #askagent. Here’s a collection of recent “what agents want” for you.
Amanda Luedeke with MacGregor Literary was interviewed by Janet Fogg on the Chiseled in Rock blog on April 9th.
Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Agency was interviewed by Authoress on her Miss Snark’s First Victim blog on April 12th. Did you know she’s an author, too?
During an #askagent on March 20, 2012 Bree Ogden at D4EO Literary Agency (@breeogden) replied to a question with this: “I rep children’s, YA, graphic novels & art books. I prefer dark and realistic NO paranormal.”
Erzsi Deàk of HEN & ink was interviewed here by Nicky Schmidt in midFebruary 2012.
Marie Lamba, an assistant agent at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency was interviewed in early February 2012 by Tori Bond.
Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency was interviewed in early February by Melissa Landers.
Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary does so with an early February 2012 post: The things I see (and don’t see) and it has some good book recommendations, too.
Agent Susan Hawk Talks Picture Books – this is an interview done by Heather Ayris Burnell’s blog on February 21, 2012.  AND on her blog Susan shares her novel wish list. Susan is with The Bent Agency.
Do you have any agent sightings to share? Feel free to use the comment box.

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Posted in It's Not Just Books, Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Do You Remember?

girl w pic of boyDo you remember? The agony of that boy or girl not “liking” you? Arguments with your parents about homework, or who you were going with, or curfew? Zits and feeling awkward? The joy of getting your driver’s license? If you answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps you should consider writing short stories for teens.

Teenagers still have the same basic problems: wanting acceptance, striving for independence, peer pressure, etc. The trappings may have changed, but it doesn’t take much to get up-to-date.

The first important thing to do is: hang around with some teens. teen coupleIf you have teenagers living in your home, this should be easy. But if you don’t, there are many places you can observe and listen to teenagers:
– Organizations such as clubs, associations and church youth groups
– A local middle school or high school
– The mall or a local fast food restaurant
– Sporting events
Making friends with teenagers, will get you an even closer look at the problems in their lives. In addition, talk to adults who have teens in their lives: your neighbor, a school counselor, a youth pastor, etc.
Next step, check out the magazines written for teens. There are high paying ones such as “Seventeen” and “Boys’ Life” and ones like “International Gymnast” and “Thrasher” aimed at a specific audience. Religious publications for teens vary from glossy magazines to skinny church take-home papers. Read the magazines, get their guidelines and, for some, request theme lists.
When you look at these magazines, notice the following:
– The audience.
Is this magazine for younger teens or older teens? For boys only? Or girls? Is it for sports enthusiasts?
– Does it do fiction? If so, how might you need to tailor a story for this market?
A teen magazine may want an inner city setting. Another wants no reference to dating. Let sample copies, the market book and guidelines be your guides.
– Morals.
Is this magazine avant-garde or conservative? In the religious market, be aware of how much “Godly living” or “religion” each magazine shows. In any case, don’t preach.
– Rights each one buys.
Some magazines purchase “all rights,” but many buy “first” or “reprint rights” and others buy “one-time rights” or “simultaneous rights.” A story written for one place may be salable to another and another depending on rights purchased.
– Themes and deadlines.
Some theme lists are very specific; others are more general. Either way they can kick off story ideas for you. Just remember, stories to fit an entry on a theme list must make the magazine’s deadline to be considered.
After you’ve finished your research, your mind will probably be brimming with story ideas. Choose one and get down to writing.
Keep focused on one problem per story. I have to ask myself, “what is the major issue I want to deal with in this story?” And then not let myself get side-tracked.
boy on tracksAs you write, think teenagers! Is this a problem a teen would have? Is this a place a teenager would be? Is this how they would say this? If you get stuck, ask a teen for help. Ask them what they would say or do. If you want to use slang, either use what’s current–and know what it means–or use something that sounds slangy but doesn’t come from any specific generation.
Also, as you write, think which youth magazines might like this story. Make yourself a list of the potential markets for each individual story.
A lot of work writing short stories for teens? Yes. But there are opportunities for sales and satisfaction in doing the job well. The ultimate reward though is teenagers reading your stories.

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Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

Mind Your Cs and Qs – part one

Today I’m talking about Query and Cover letters–including requests for guidelines and catalogs.
(This information is aimed at those submitting directly to a book publisher or magazine themselves. If you’re using an agent, what’s in the query or cover letter is the same, but you will be researching the agent, not the houses or magazines. Note: agents generally do not handle magazine submissions.)
Have the most recent market lists (SCBWI puts one out annually for members) and market books (Writer’s Digest Book’s Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s, Institute of Children’s Literature’s Book Markets for Children’s Writers and Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers and make notes when you hear of editorial or submission policy changes.
See if submission or writer’s guidelines are available on the internet. You may want to save them on your computer, print them out and/or bookmark the site. If not available on line, write a letter to the publisher requesting guidelines. Keep it simple: Please send me your writer’s guidelines for AAA BOOKS. I have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience. You can often pick up guidelines at conferences, too.

  • Write the date you received/downloaded on the guidelines themselves so you’ll
  • know how current they are.
  • File guidelines so you can locate them when needed.
  • Perhaps, mark in your market book that you have this publisher’s guidelines.

Know what kinds of books or magazine pieces are appropriate for this publisher.

  • Editors really hate getting picture book submissions when they only publish novels, etc. More than that, you need to know the flavor of a publishing house. i.e. If they only do edgy material and yours is not, you’re wasting your time and theirs.
  • Go to the library and/or bookstore and look at what a specific publisher has published recently, which leads to the next point . . .
  • Catalogs! Check websites to see if a publisher has an online catalog. Pick paper catalogs up at conferences. Ask bookstores for any extra copies they have–last spring’s is better than nothing! Write a letter requesting a catalog, again keep it simple, but abide by what the market book says on what you send with it. i.e. Please send me your most recent catalog for BB BOOKS. I have enclosed $3.00 and a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience.
  • You may want to indicate in your market book that you have a publisher’s catalog.

Know something about the editor of the publishing house. Have you heard him or her speak? Read interviews written by them or their blog or followed them on twitter? Each of these will give you some insight. Is she into paranormal or sick of it? Does he like humor or serious fiction? At the very least researching an editor will help you get title and name correct.
Have your story written, critiqued, rewritten until ready to go. Never send something the moment you hit the end. If you belong to a critique group, great. If not, consider doing so. At the very least, let your material sit a while (weeks, months) so you can come back to it fresh. Read it aloud. Consider reading self-editing tips (in books or online). Rewrite. Let it sit again. Repeat as necessary.
Q: What’s the difference between a query letter and a cover letter?
A query is sent without the full manuscript. It’s a letter sent to the editor asking her if she would like to request a partial or full manuscript (or rest of manuscript) to read. What you send depends on the house’s or magazine’s writer’s guidelines.
A cover letter is an introduction letter sent on top of a manuscript, similar to a letter that goes with a résumé. The full manuscript is right there for the editor to read.
Why you’d choose one over the other . . .
The former is an easier way to reach more markets at once. Many novel publishers want a query with 1 or 3 chapters, or 5 -10 page – always send first chapter(s) or page(s). Nonfiction often requires a book proposal.
Picture books are usually sent with a cover letter. Many magazines do not want to be queried either. Some editors want to see the complete manuscript for a novel. In any of these cases, you’ll use a cover letter.
The wrinkle of electronic submissions . . . Queries and cover letters can be sent electronically, at least if that is something the magazine or house wants. Some guidelines will say “no attachments” and want all text pasted into the email. Others will accept attachments, but will tell you they must be in Word.
You must read the guidelines to see what an editor, house or magazine wants in their submissions.
Q: Okay, I’ve decided not to query. Should I always send a cover letter with my submission?
I don’t. The reasons I do are:
1. The magazine requests manuscripts with a cover letter.
2. I have more information I want them to know (i.e. why I wrote the piece, or my submission fits a theme).
3. It might be pertinent for them to know my other writing experience and I don’t think a full résumé is needed.
What one editor says:
“As an editor, I did find submissions that lacked a cover letter a bit rude, like a phone caller who doesn’t bother saying hello or identifying themselves before launching into the conversation.” – Jacqueline K. Ogburn former children’s book editor
Next entry, I’ll go into more details on the specifics of a query letter.

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