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!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Agent John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Talks Picture Books

Not too long ago I featured John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Agency on the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. He's an agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency representing Young Adult, Middle Grade, and of course, picture books. 

Unfortunately, finding picture book specific information when trying to make an informed decision whether or not your work might be right for an agent can be tough. While I was putting together John's post, I had picture book-centric questions that I wondered about. I asked John if he might answer them. Fortunately for us, John was happy to. 

So, my lucky people on the agent hunt, read on to find out what John is looking for when it comes to picture books, learn about his agenting style, and more. If he sounds like he might be a good match for you and your work, give him a try. John is a super nice person, and that's the best kind to work with!

Why do you choose to represent picture book authors?

I love picture books. They’re deceptively simple and deeply sophisticated. Part prose, part poetry, they distill story and character down to their essential elements. And they’re fun! My first week in publishing I saw an editor and an agent leave a party to gush over galleys for a new picture book they’d both worked on. They were so excited, like little kids. And I thought “yep, this is what I want to do.”
What do you look for in a client?
I’m looking for someone who loves to write and create, who is eager to work on many projects, and many different kinds of projects. An author with a single book-of-their-heart who will never write another story probably isn’t the best fit for me. I’m looking for career-clients interested in growing and developing over time.
How would you describe your agenting style?
I’m a very editorial agent. I like working creatively with my clients, from the idea stage to line-level tweaks. I’m also very communicative. I like chatting with my folks by phone, email, text, whatever. I also hope to pair authors with the perfect editor. When an editor and a client totally hit it off, creatively and personally, I know I’ve done my job. Finally, when I say I want career-clients, that’s another way of saying I like to manage and develop the trajectory of an author’s career, to help build their audience and hone their craft from book to book.
If you take on a client because of their mass market appeal picture books, would you also represent other things they wrote if they had merit?
Absolutely. If a client writes or illustrates in multiple mediums or markets, all the better! Some of my clients illustrate as well as maintaining careers in character design and commercial artwork. I have clients that write picture books as well as middle-grade and y.a. Versatility is never a bad thing.
What types of stories do you see a place for in today’s picture book market?
Stories with a universal theme told in a fresh way. A picture book with a clever concept will (usually) only go so far without a deeper conflict, some pain or tension that the reader can relate to and has experienced. At the same time, a familiar story, for example, “a child’s first day of school,” might be relatable, but will likely feel too generic to stand out in our competitive marketplace. It has to be both familiar yet fresh.
In general, how much revision do you do with clients to get their picture books submission ready?
It varies, but often a client and I will go through several revisions before I send a project to editors. Those revisions might include story level changes, the arrangement of spreads (if the client is an illustrator or author/illustrator) and line edits.
What are some of the elements you think a picture book needs to be successful?
I think stringent prose is essential. Picture book texts are so short— typically fewer than 800 words— that every syllable counts. Humor goes a long way as well. Not every picture book must be funny, but I’m personally drawn to clever and quirky styles, and I think many editors are as well. Finally, to me, picture books need tension— a conflict our protagonist solves for himself or herself (without Mom and Dad sweeping in to save the day).
What types of picture books are you not looking to represent?
I’m very picky about rhyming picture books, which I think are difficult to do well. When I see a rhyming text, my first question is, “What is the rhyme adding to the story?” Are the rhymes interesting? Is the meter engaging? If not, I may ask the author whether the story might be stronger if told in straight prose. I don’t represent spiritual or denominational projects. I’m all for a positive message, but story and character come first. I typically don’t represent what I call “lovey-dovey” picture books, where focus is how much or in what way a mother loves a child or vise-versa. There are some beautiful examples of these already on bookshelves, but these aren’t what I’m looking for, personally.
What do you like to see in a query letter? Do you have any submission pet peeves?
When I read a query, I’m looking for a brief description of your project: who is the main character, what is the conflict? I’m also looking for a bit about you, your background, and publishing history (if any).
A query is a brief, professional letter between you and a potential future business partner. So avoid gimmicks or whacky styles in the hopes of standing out. Never write your query in the voice of your protagonist. Let your creativity and originality shine through in your writing; let your query be simple and to-the-point.
Are there common mistakes you see in picture book submissions in particular?
Texts that are too long (over 800 words), poorly done rhyme and meter, overly-familiar stories without fresh twists (monsters under the bed, first day of school), and unprofessional illustrations are the most common reasons I reject picture books.
The Greenhouse Literary website says to allow up to 6 weeks for a response and if you haven’t got back by then, email the agent again. Do you send out many personal rejections? What does a form rejection letter mean to you?
I send out very few personal rejection letters. If I’d like to see a revision, I’ll ask for one specifically. However, I’m usually open to future projects. If you get a no the first time, please do query again. That’s a good way to develop a relationship with an agent. We like to see authors and illustrators developing with each new project. Sometimes the second or third try is the one that wins me over.
What picture book authors do you represent? Have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
I represent several authors, illustrators, and author illustrators, including Julie Bayless, and Lisa Marnell. Vin Vogel’s debut picture book THE THING ABOUT YETIS will be published by Dial early next year; Vin is also illustrating Brooklyn kiddie-rocker David Weinstone’s debut picture book, MUSIC CLASS TODAY, coming from Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

A huge THANK YOU to John for the wonderful interview! To learn more about John, be sure to check out his listing on the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. You'll find lots of great links for further research.