Category Archives: Agents

don’t go minding my heart

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’ve had them. Those dreams of days that exist solely in your mind’s eye. You imagine how you’ll feel, what you’ll say or do as soon as the thing you’ve longed for a long time flips from fantasy to reality.

Then, that magical day arrives, and in a blink, you realize your mind’s eye was playing tricks on you.

It was like that for me earlier this month when my dream agent Erin Murphy offered to represent me. I was near tears, but then a surreal calm covered me. Not at all what I expected.  I always assumed I’d hang up the phone and do a squeal/jump/cry combo. (Just picture it!) But I didn’t. I sat alone in my office in stunned silence.  I’ve heard from friends who’ve had a similar experience.

Why? Well, I’ve pondered on that.

My best guess is that when your brain has been standing guard over your dream-holding heart for many years, it takes a bit before it can stand down and let your heart be happy. Your mind cares so much about your safety, it goes deaf to the cries of your heart that’s saying, “This is great news! Let’s celebrate!”

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Thankfully, it only took about 24 hours before my mind unlocked my heart and I was free to be both grateful and giddy (yes, I even skipped down the hall with happiness).

Now, I know there’s still lots of work ahead, no guarantees and more opportunities for rejection, trial and error, and failure. My mind will still be busy watching over my heart, but for now, I’m delighted to enjoy this milestone.

Let me encourage you to celebrate your milestones too–sending out a submission you’ve spent many months (maybe years) preparing, making the shift from beer to champagne rejections (that is a big deal!), selling an article to a magazine you admire, getting that beloved book contract or whatever achievement makes your heart smile and your dear, overworked mind nod in agreement.

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead. ~ Nelson Mandela



the one right way to find an agent

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

To date, there are 487 wrong ways to hunt for an agent. There is but one right way. And that, my friends, is the way that

is best for you. If you’re still finding your way to your way, and you don’t mind me meddling a bit, I’d like to pass along a few fibrous tips to help your process go more smoothly. Do not mistake me for an expert. I myself am a hunter, but I have learned a thing or three so far and I’m happy to share. M’kay, here we go . . .

Track yourself. Do identify a way to log your queries. Otherwise, you’ll be asking yourself who you asked. Such silliness that would be.

Me? Well, I have a simple three list system–but you do what works for you.

List 1: I keep a list of agents who are currently considering my query. You may want to compile more detail, but I just include the agent and agency, when I queried and when I can anticipate a response (many agents will indicate this in their submission policies). I don’t just say six weeks; I actually indicate an expiration date. No word by then? NEXT!

List 2: This is comprised of agents who are ready to move up to the first list as soon as I receive a no from an agent (or the query expires). I add to this second list of names as I discover a new possibility via FB or a friend (but only after I have run the agent through the good-fit test). Don’t just make a list of names. Do your homework first.

List 3: Sure, as you’d expect, I have a list of agents who have declined. With this, I indicate if the agent actually declined or was simply a “no response.”

Go public. Hunting for an agent and expecting not to be rejected is like walking onto a used car lot and expecting not to be hounded. Because of this, it’s scary to tell people you’re looking. I know. Trust me, I know. But here’s what I’ve learned–the more people I tell about my search, the more friends I have hunting for me. It’s rare for a week to pass without getting a tip–“Just heard Agent X is looking,” “Saw this on Twitter and thought of you,” “Have you queried Agent XYZ yet? He’d be a great fit for you.” So, don’t keep your hunt hush-hush. You don’t have to blab to the world. Simply sharing your agent pursuit with a circle of trusted comrades will more than double your search party. G’head. Do it. (And be sure to reciprocate!)

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Keep moving. Can’t lie. So far, there have been a couple of rejections that have bruised a bit. But truly, and maybe I’ve developed a kind of literary immunity, but I don’t fuss much over a decline any more. It’s just part of the process. If it does hurt, I give myself a day to feel schlumpy and then I jump back on the hunt. Having that second list of pre-approved agents is the trick. To insure I have about five queries out at all times, I prepare a new query as soon as a rejection arrives. It keeps my momentum humming and prevents me from poor-me-stinating. (Poor-me-stinating is similar to procrastinating, but more pathetic looking–think Sarah McLachlan rescue animal commercial pathetic–I know. So bad.)

Now, what about you? You got any ideas you’d like to share? Please do. And happy hunting!

Beware of adviceeven this. ~ Carl Sandburg

a gentle suggestion for literary agents

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Painting  by Sir James Jebusa Shannon, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo by Vicky Lorencen
Painting by Sir James Jebusa Shannon, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’d like to ever-so-gently suggest a best practice for agents to consider. Writer friends, see what you think of this.

In case you’re not familiar, a best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown superior results. This method can then be used to create a standard way of doing things. Best practices are identified in manufacturing, health care, agriculture and laboratory science, so why not literary representation? I mean, really, why the heck not?

I’m in the midst of my first full-on agent search and I’m experiencing a fairly new practice agents have adopted regarding query responses. In lieu a personal email or even a form rejection, agents specify the number of weeks a query will be under consideration. If no response is received in that time, the author should consider the query declined. I can understand this practice. Really, I can. Like editors, agents are incredibly busy people who need to make the most efficient use of their time. Devoting fewer hours to follow-up on queries that hold no interest equates to more time to devote to clients, networking, considering queries (and hopefully dining, showering and sleeping).

But here’s where I think this no reply practice can be refined into a best practice–I would love to see it become an industry standard to provide an automated confirmation of receipt to all email queries. Receiving this kind of response would let someone like me know, okay, the meter’s running now. She really got my query. I’ll wait six weeks per her guidelines. If there’s no reply, I’ll move on. Without such a receipt, it leaves room for nagging, festering, niggling doubt–what if she never got my email and that’s why she’s not responding. Should I check in even though she says not to? Of course, some authors do, and that just adds to the agent’s Mt. Everest of emails.

To their credit, a number of the agents I’ve queried have provided an automated response. I offer my wholehearted thanks to those agents for practicing what I hope will become a best practice.

To be fair, we writers must do our part to uphold our best practices too, such as:

  • Following an agent’s submission guidelines like we were assembling a nuclear warhead. No fudging on the details.
  • Always, always, always being polite, kind and respectful at all points of contact with an agent. Just like proper spelling and punctuation, professionalism matters.
  • Abiding by the agent’s follow-up rules—if he says to check in after 8 weeks, then do it. If he says no word from me in 6 weeks equals a pass, then it’s a pass. Don’t stand there fogging up the glass. Git along little dogie.

So, that’s it. That’s what I want to suggest–oh so gently–to agents. Thank you again to the best practice practitioners. You are appreciated.

And as for my writer friends, just because you’re cute as a button on a ladybug’s vest, I want to give you this. Go ahead. Open it. It’s helpful.

You’re welcome.

I wish to be cremated. One-tenth of my ashes shall be given to my agent, as written in our contract. ~ Groucho Marx


got the right shoe? what’s left?

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Agent shopping can be daunting. But recently, and who knows how, I connected agent-shopping with shoe-shopping, and the process is taking on new meaning (and making me want a new pair of pumps).

Here’s how I pair my shoe and agent preferences . . .

Must match. Having one fabulous flat isn’t so fab, is it? Sure, it looks pretty and fits like a dream, but unless I’m leaving a ball in a hurry, going half shoeless is no way to go. And just like shoes, I want to be paired with an agent whose genre preferences and approach match my own.

Must be the right fit. This is a biggie, isn’t it? I may have written the most charming picture book or witty MG novel, but if it  doesn’t “click” with an agent, it just doesn’t. Agents are people with tastes and personalities just like anyone else. An agent needs to be flipped over my work in order to be its best champion. Much as I’d like to, I can’t cram my size 10 dogs into a pair of six 6 mules. I can’t, and wouldn’t want to, force an agent-client relationship either.

Must compliment what’s already in my wardrobe. I wouldn’t pick a pair of chartreuse polka dot flats that only go with one outfit. Ideally, I want an agent who can embrace all of my ambitions and not just one part of my writerly “wardrobe.” (It absolutely can work on a one-genre basis, but it’s not the best option.)

Must be supportive. Oui. Oui. I know. It makes me sound like I’ve become what the French call a woman of a “certain age,” but I want shoes that not only look stylish, but feel comfy too. And while I don’t think an agent has to be my best ever friend, I do want someone who can support not only my project in progress, but encourage me as an author as well.

Must receive good reviews. This is a deal breaker category for me. I sometimes buy shoes online, but I never, ever click “Complete Order” until I’ve read customer reviews. I work in marketing and I know that while the description may be beguiling–and hopefully accurate–it doesn’t tell the whole story. I want to hear from those who have walked in those shoes. It’s no different with agents. Whenever possible, I talk with current clients of the agent–politely and discreetly of course–about their experience before I click “Send” on that shiny query letter.

Must be able to go the distance. Nothing’s worse than trudging half-way across a mall or reaching the half-mile on a hike and realizing I wore the wrong shoes. I want shoes that offer the right fit and support so that I can feel comfortable and confident. As far as agents go, I want someone who would be there for me for the long haul too.

Here’s wishing all of us in search of an agent a perfect pairing soon (and yes, maybe some new sling-backs too).

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. ~ Marilyn Monroe

the importance of living dangerously


Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

I am not a risk-taker, generally speaking. I wear my seat belt, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Brush twice a day. Eat my burgers fully cooked and avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks.

Yes, I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle (once). I floated in the gondola of a hot air balloon, sat in the front seat of a whirling helicopter, cuddled with a Burmese python, sang an original song to hundreds while wearing a helmet with horns and even walked the streets of Chicago’s north side, but those were exceptions to my usual play-it-safe life. Oh, and once, I even used a public restroom without putting one of those paper doilies on the seat first. So, yep, I guess you could say I’ve sauntered on the wild side a time or two. (I saw you roll your eyes, by the way!)

But here’s what I know: you get what you risk for (or at the very least, you up your chances exponentially).

This spring, comedian Jim Carrey addressed the graduating class of Maharishi School of Management in Iowa. In a rare moment of transparency, Carrey shared how his father had the potential to be professional comedian, but opted to become an accountant because he thought it was the safer choice. It was not. He lost his job.

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality,” Carrey said. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Is there a polished manuscript that’s “circling the airport” because you’re afraid of rejection? Submit it.
Is there an agent you want to query? Do it.

Feel the fear, but do what you want to do anyway. You can do this. (And I will join you.)

A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for. ~ Albert Einstein

take the “am I ready for an agent?” quiz


Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’ve seen those wedding dress shows, right? A bride-to-be goes on a chiffon frenzied quest for the perfect gown while a group of her BFFs sit semi-circled in the salon, waiting to boo-hoo or just boo over her selection. Once in a while, though, the hunter is simply a bride-wanna-be who is willing to throw gobs of moola at a dress, despite her groomlessness. To me, that seems sad, desperate, and at the very least, poorly timed.

When it comes to writers in search of an agent, sometimes it’s really not that different. There’s a time to focus solely on craft, to learning about the industry, reading and networking. But, if this has not yet resulted in a solid, polished product to sell, why would you spend time looking for an agent to represent you?

Let’s say, however, maybe you’re like me, and you’ve been polishing, learning and preparing for quite a spell and you’re wondering if seeking an agent would be a wise next step.Take this quiz to help you decide if you’re agent-ready:

True or False?

____I have at least two thoroughly polished, market-ready manuscripts and more in progress.

____I am an active member of a professional organization for writers, such as SCBWI, and follow industry-related blogs, tweets and newsletters to stay current.

____I have a good understanding of the inner-workings of the children’s publishing industry (e.g., the role of publishers, editors, agents, reviewers and authors, the editorial and submission process, how a manuscript becomes a published book, etc.).

____I have sold articles or stories to respected children’s magazines, such as Highlights for Children, and/or perhaps even come close to selling a book to a traditional publisher on my own.

____I am actively building a platform via my own web site or blog, as well as social media.

____I am a member of a critique group and/or have a critique partner and/or have received professional critiques from agents or editors.

____I have gone from receiving unsigned form rejection letters to more of the “champagne” variety (personalized notes or letters offering a specific explanation as to why the editor chose to pass on my submission or perhaps offering constructive feedback or an invitation to submit more in the future).

____I understand the role and benefits of an agent, as well as my role as a client.

____I have compiled a list of the qualities and qualifications I am seeking in an agent.

____I have done marketing research to determine where my book fits in the current market and what makes it stand out from similar works. I can explain this in my “elevator pitch” (and I know what an elevator pitch is!)

____I am prepared and enthusiastic to shift from solo writer mode into the role of a professional with a business partner (an agent) so that I can pursue all aspects of a writing career.

____I understand agents, while amazing, do not possess supernatural powers and cannot be expected to read minds, make me stinking rich or fulfill every literary success fantasy I can conjure.

How’d you do?

If you answered with 10 or more “True” responses, consider seeking a literary agent to represent you.

If you answered with 6 to 9 “True” responses, you’re getting closer!

If you answered with 5 or fewer “True” responses, that’s okay. Keep writing, seeking feedback, and using this list as a guide to help prepare yourself to become agent material.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

All things are ready, if our mind be so. ~ William Shakespeare, Henry V