Friday, February 20, 2015

Agent Jodell Sadler Talks Picture Books

Have you heard? It's Kidlit Week over at Sub It Club! So far we have picture book critique giveaways from authors Amy Dixon and Katy S. Duffield, as well as a proofread from Dori Kleber. We have feedback opportunities and great posts for picture book writers and illustrators alike from Mark Fearing and Sarah Frances Hardy. Plus you can enter to win an autographed picture book from Corey Rosen Schwartz. And now I'm going to give you a scoop: Tomorrow on the Sub It Club blog we'll be giving away a free participation in agent Jodell Sadler's online course, Pacing Picture Books To Wow!

Jodell's agency, Sadler Children's Literary, represents authors as well as and author-illustrators. Jodell is open to picture book submissions and is here to talk about what she looks for when it comes to picture books in part 1 of my interview with her. You'll be able to find part 2 tomorrow on the Sub It Club blog. For now, read on to learn what Jodell looks for in picture book submissions and more:

Why do you choose to represent picture book authors?

I love picture books! Picture books remain that toy that spans from 1 to 101 and has staying power. I love the power of words and their magic and it feeds into my study on Pacing Picture Books to Wow. I have a picture book that I have kept a long time. It was one that was held by the many generations in my family, and I love it. It made it through my childhood, managed to escape a dog incident, and escorted me into my college years at Mount Mary University.

What types of stories do you see a place for in today’s picture book market?

Many. Whatever is in a writer’s heart-- if they can carry it onto the page in an original way. I know, not fair, but really, the minute we think a book cannot be done, one is birthed into the world. Picture book are just a visual and aural treat for kids. What would the world be like without them?

What types of picture books do you represent (or not represent) specifically?

I’m not a fan of message-driven, but love any type of picture book, fiction and nonfiction. I also enjoy graphic novel manuscripts that fit into that little older genre. 

How do you feel about picture books written in rhyme?

I love a rhyming picture book if it is done well. It has to be visual and concrete and so well done that it sings. When I see one that works, it will work. But it’s a tough write. A writer has to be 100% committed to do what it takes to make it move forward with a strong story arc.

On your website you say, “I’m really interested in working with you to get your story all sparkly and ‘just right’ and right into the hands of the right publisher.” In general, how much revision do you do with clients to get their picture books submission ready?

I love working with clients on picture book revision. It’s fun to work to really polish a piece of writing. I just recently worked on a picture book that was so honed, but only had a few words here and there that needed to be considered and challenged. The writer and I went back and forth until it we both felt like each word was ‘just right.’

If you take on a client because of their mass market appeal picture books, would you also represent other things they wrote, such as educational or board books, if they had merit?

Yes. I do work with clients from fiction board books to young adult (and new adult), but I also enjoy nonfiction picture books to nonfiction proposals. I would go outside my scope for titles my writers were working on like an adult memoir, for example.

What are some of the elements you think a picture book needs to be successful?

I completely believe in Pacing a Picture Book to Wow and really look for all the tools I talk about in my online 4-week course: words, rhythm, repetition, etc. because the musicality of language, the ability to get on the page of your writing, and really slow and speed the unfolding of a story to enhance reader experience is a must in today’s competitive marketplace. If you’d like to see more about this, please visit my website:  

Are there common mistakes you see in picture book submissions in particular?

Yes. I see cover pages that are far too long, poetry that is very abstract, and concepts that have been done so often they would be hard to sell like seasonal books. I also see books that have not been honed down to some 500 words. Writers really need to take the time to pull their words back and make their picture books an infectious experience. We should want to hear it again and again. In my recent Pacing Picture Books to Wow class for January, we had a few books like this. It’s a lot of fun to find that manuscript that is ready for editorial eyes.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you'd like to share with us?

We have a few upcoming projects: a MG nonfiction story about strong women, a great author-illustrator picture book about a feisty witch and even feistier cat, a picture book about a very small creature that one man works to save, and an illustrated MG series—and so much more in the works. We’ve done a game project and covers this past season as well, and I hope we will do a whole lot more in 2015, including one really exciting project that hugs my heart. 

Thank you so much, Jodell, for talking picture books here with us! Everyone, please come over to the Sub It Club blog tomorrow to read part 2 of my interview with Jodell's where she talks submissions and is giving away a chance to win her Pacing Picture Books To Wow! course to one lucky winner. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cheers to 2014!

You know what? I had an amazing number of wonderful clients this year! I want thank each and every one of you for sharing your work with me. It is so fantastic to see so many people taking on their dreams and working to create children's literature. I feel really honored to be a part of that.

And so many of you who have sent me kind notes about what helped you in a post or my blog in general. Thank you so much! You keep me going!

Here's to all of you! I wish we could get together for a New Years Party. One with a rejection pinata, great food and drinks, and lots of writing chit chat!

For me, 2014 has been a wonderfully buys year. I signed with agent Sean McCarthy. My family's garlic business more than doubled. And Sub It Club grew like wildfire. Yay yay and yay! It is really amazing for me to look back and see that I've actually accomplished some great things this year.

I resigned myself to the fact that success doesn't come quickly for me a long time ago. I've been working hard on my writing for so long that I can't even count how long it's been. My family has been growing garlic for quite a few years to build up our seed stock so we are just now beginning to find out if we can sell all that we grow. (Scary!) And well, Sub It Club, that's something I wanted to do for a long time but finally got the guts to do just about two years ago now and am amazed to see it take off like it has in 2014.

But if you want to hear the truth, I want to do more. I guess that's what keeps me going. I want write great stories and make Sean proud. I want to grow our family garlic business even more so we can hire employees and help give a few of the wonderful people in our community jobs. I want every writer and illustrator out there to find the support they need. So yup, there's more to do! But how am I going to do it? I'm just going to keep on keeping on!

As far as writing goes, I'm going to keep writing the best stories that I can. I'm going to keep learning from agent and editor notes, critique partners and books. I am going to work on learning to listen to myself better when I know something is working...and when it's not.

The garlic? Well, we planted twice as much garlic this year as we did last year so we should be harvesting twice as much come summer. (The weather has been a little wacky so I worry but there's nothing to do but wait!) I'm afraid I may get lost in the garlic abyss around August when there is harvesting, drying, cleaning, shipping, and planting to do, so I'm trying to get lots of writing things done this winter. I guess I'll see what happens!

And then there's Sub It Club. I love Sub It Club. Such a great group with so many amazing people. We just celebrated members' successes of 2014 and I couldn't be happier for each and every person! I hope we can keep bringing helpful information to writers and illustrators who need it, and keep fostering those helpful connections in our support and critique partner groups.

Cheers! To a wonderful 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Janine Le, Sheldon Fogelman Agency

Janine Le has been an Assistant Agent at the well established Sheldon Fogelman Agency in New York since 2010. She started there as an intern in 2009. Janine is an agent building her list which is a good opportunity for those of you looking to connect with an agent.

Janine's bio says, "Janine is building her list of clients and is open to picture books through YA. She is most drawn to stories with a strong emotional core that influence the way readers view the world, themselves, and the people around them. She is also fond of complex characters and relationships, unique cultural perspectives, and stories with a touch of humor, romance, or both."

There isn't much extra online information on Janine, but Sheldon Fogelman Agency is a top notch agency that has some amazing clients. Agents such as Marcia Wernick and Linda Pratt established themselves as agents there as well as my great agent Sean McCarthy.

Some of Janine's information is posted as Janine Hauber or Janine Hauber Le.

You can find Janine on Twitter @LoveableLines.

Read first page critiques that Janine did on Kathy Teaman's blog. There's a picture book critique in there!

YA author Karen Denise posted about signing with Janine and talks a little bit about how the agency works.

You can read about Janine Le's background experience on Linkedin.

Janine is listed on the Sheldon Fogelman Agency website. Please see their submission guidelines. If you are submitting picture books you may include two manuscripts.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Get the Scoop!

When you're working towards your goal of publication it is good to keep up on the industry. That means news. You don't have to go searching all over for it. Lisha Cauthen puts together a great newsletter called the KidLit Scoop. I read it every week. As soon as I see it in my inbox I stop everything and open it. I'm not kidding.

Here's what Lisha says about the Scoop:

It's free, my darlings. a weekly newsletter about the children's publishing industry: personnel moves, mergers, new imprints, market trends, grants, interviews and such. Whatever is happening in the kidlit community this week is delivered in digested form to your inbox. IT IS FREE. Did I mention that? Be a sport, subscribe below.

What she fails to mention is that she strings a fun story throughout every issue. Nothing long. Just a sentence or two of funny asides at the beginning of each section. Okay I am going to admit it right now. Sometimes I read it just for the asides. They crack me up. Then I come back later for the news. True story.

Lisha has been putting out the Kidlit Scoop for a long time now. She's almost reached 100 issues! And the woman puts this thing together all by herself. She is a wonder. Help her celebrate and get the scoop on the news. Go subscribe! Then enter to win her fun giveaway. There are autographed books for goodness sake!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Critique Partner Matchup!

I have an announcement to make that I am really excited about! As the moderator of Sub It Club as well as a blogger with a Monster List of Picture Book Agents, I get a lot of people asking me where they can find critique partners. There was getting to be so many that I decided we'd better spinoff from our Sub It Club Submission Support Group and create a group dedicated to finding critique partners. So, I'm excited to say that we have just created a Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup Group! The group is open to writers of all genres as well as illustrators. Exciting, huh?!

Yes, I know this could perhaps seem counterintuitive as I do provide critique & consultation services right here on my blog. That could probably be said about Sub It Club's Submission Support Group as well, but I don't think so. Being able to pay to get your work critiqued can be great in many circumstances. Sometimes time is limited which can always make money a small issue. Having your work critiqued from someone experienced in the industry can be eye opening. The thing is, not only do you learn a lot from getting critiques, you also learn a lot from giving them. So, if you're writing in any genre, or illustrating, or both and want to connect with others to share your work with head on over and read my post about the new Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup. I hope you'll join us, and tell your friends! The more members the more chances we have of making great critique partner matchups.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I just looked at my blog. (Finally!) And saw that it has been exactly two months to the day since I posted last. Two whole months! Now, I know I'm no regular blogger but SHEESH! At least I have been keeping up my blogging duties at the Sub It Club blog. Over the past two months I've blogged about how important it is to follow submission guidelines as well as Second Guessing Your Email Submission which led me to a follow-up post; the Submission Double Check Checklist. And, of course, I rounded up the latest writing contests in the monthly Contest Roundup.

Imagine hundreds of pounds of this!
Honestly, now that I look at it I feel pretty amazed that I got that much blogging done. The past few months have been full of garlic for me. Garlic harvest. Garlic cleaning. Garlic shipping. Garlic planting. I won't bore you with the seemingly endless details of what must be done. Just suffice it to say that it all happens at around the same time. And incase you didn't know, my husband and I grow a lot of garlic. A LOT. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds. 16 varieties and counting. And we do most all of the work ourselves. It's good though. This year has been great! We planted twice as much garlic this fall in preparation for next year. I'm just trying to not worry about the weeding next spring. (It's all done by hand.) 

I just like this picture. It's Siberian Hardneck garlic, incase you're wondering.

And hey, we got our new office finished just in time for garlic shipping. I'm thinking I'll set up a cozy corner and make a sweet writing spot this winter.

I've always wanted an office. *happy sigh*
Even though there’s been a lot of work to do and kids’ stuff to take care of (Oh sports how I did not miss thee over the summer!) I still, of course, managed to squeak in some writing here and there. Revisions. Check. New manuscripts started. Check. No matter how busy or tired I am, I always make time for at least a bit of writing! Not every day, but most days. And I always make the time for Sub it Club and consulting and with writers and doing critiques because it’s something I love to do! Here’s hoping that I’ll get back to posting at least a few blog posts a month on this blog again soon. I’m itching to add to the Monster List of Picture Book Agents, that’s for sure. And if you have any picture book or submission questions, send them my way and I’ll try to answer them in a post. I’m happy to help when I can.

Here’s to relaxing, writing-filled days! But for now, I've got garlic that I need to go out and fertilize and mulch.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing a Picture Book? Don’t Do These Things

A while back I posted Querying a Picture Book? Don't Do These Things because I get a lot of picture books submissions from people who *gasp* apparently don't do their research. (As most of you reading know, I am not an agent or a publisher.) Many times these people submitting their work to me send their manuscripts as well. I see a lot of common mistakes in those too. 

You have got to have a strong manuscript to compete in today's market! And good format? It's a must in my opinion. Here are some things to think about along with some big no no's when it comes to picture book manuscripts:
  • Don’t write in rhyme--unless you have worked extremely hard at it and are very good at it. No, I don’t mean that you just think you are good at it. You have studied the rules of rhyme. You have gotten critiques. You are all Corey Rosen Schwartz and YOU KNOW RHYME like a boss! (Check out The Meter Maids for some great rhyming advice.)
  • Do not over describe things. You need to leave room for the illustrations. Pictures are at least half of the story in picture books.
  • Don't overuse adverbs and adjectives. 
  • Do not number what you see as the pages of your book within your manuscript.That's great while you're figuring out your page turns. (You can dummy like this. Or like this.) Editors and agents who work in picture books can see where the page turns will be if you have done a good job. Use standard manuscript format.
  • Do not use colored ink! No, not even to show where there are different speakers. Again, if you have done your job well, those you are querying will be able to follow the story perfectly fine in black and white.
  • Don’t be didactic. If you don’t know what that word means, no, you are not ready to query.
  • Do not write “to be continued” and list other manuscripts at the bottom of your manuscript. That’s just silly. You want the reader to focus on the manuscript they have right there, right now in front of them. You sell that one and you’ll have the opportunity to talk about more.
  • Don't write THE END at the end of the story. It is obviously the end as the story has, um, ended.
  • Don’t put a copyright on the manuscript. Once you write something down it is automatically copyrighted. Doing so just makes you look like an amateur.
And for heaven’s sake, proofread your manuscript. Revise. Edit. It makes your writing better. Really. It does.

Any questions? Or other things you've seen in manuscripts that are no no's? I'm sure there are more things we could add to the list!