Many children's writers seek representation. What were your initial steps to acquiring an agent?
I took a picture book writing class as part of my coursework at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and one of our assignments was to research an editor or agent for whom our manuscripts were well suited. While I was researching editors at small publishers (because I had only written one story at the time), I had no idea who or what Andrea Brown Literary Agency (ABLA) was when one of my classmates mentioned them. Out of curiosity, I researched ABLA and the agents who caught my interest; read about the book titles they sold; read as many of those titles as I could find at my local library; read any interviews given by the agents that were posted on kidlit blogs; and revised my writing over and over and over and over….
Describe the process and how long it took?
It took about two and a half years, on and off, to sign with my agent.
It started with the ABLA Big Sur Writing Workshop, where I met Lara Perkins in a critique group. I showed her a book dummy for the first story I had ever written and illustrated. Showing a book dummy that wasn’t ready for prime time was a bad idea that turned out to be accidentally fabulous. Lara liked the idea and requested a submission.
I submitted revisions to Lara seven months later, then received the loveliest rejection letter.
After only one rejection, I didn’t feel like collecting drawers full of rejection letters. Even though Lara’s was the best kind of rejection letter a writer could hope for (with an invitation to resubmit again), I couldn’t imagine writing endless query letters to other agents.
And then I received my first illustration contract for a wonderful book called HYPNOSIS HARRY. Once Harry was officially finished in fall of 2015, I started working on my own stories again and gathering courage to start researching agents. Then Lara emailed and reopened the conversation about submissions. I revised my best ideas, sent Lara five manuscripts, and this time, she offered representation.
Do you feel that being an illustrator helped?
In my case, yes. After I met Lara, I took my book dummy to my local SCBWI conference and had a manuscript critique with an agent who also requested a submission. The book dummy was much more persuasive with the sketches. The manuscript alone would not have made the same impression because I relied so much on the pictures to tell half the story. Being an illustrator helped in other ways too. After I finished HYPNOSIS HARRY, Sky Pony offered a second contract to illustrate for another author, and shortly after that another agent who had seen my website requested manuscript submissions based on what she saw in my portfolio.
Do you have any tips for other writer's seeking representation?
Probably nothing you haven’t heard before! Unlike other writers, I didn’t search in well-trafficked territory like the Verla Kay Blue Boards or Twitter pitch contests, neither did I query many agents. I went to a writer’s retreat and luckily, the agent who offered representation a few years later happened to be there. I signed with a little bit of luck and lots of persistence. Everyone knows that persistence is the key to finding an agent, plus being brave enough to get your work out there, again and again.
Learn more about Sarita Rich and her Children's books at http://www.saritarich.com.