Well, you guys, I have some big news… I signed a contract with a literary agent!
I’m not sure if I talked about it much here, but about one year ago I started writing children’s picture books. Reading so many of them with Gabby, I always had an itch to write some myself. Of course, me being me, I wanted to dive in head first and really push to see how far I could go with it. I signed up for a society of children’s books authors and illustrators, attended some events for picture books writers, and even started my own picture book critique group in Santa Barbara! I’ve written quite a few manuscripts by now (not all of them winners), took a lot of input from my critique group (we meet monthly), and slowly created 2 polished manuscripts that I felt could be sold to publishers.
Now, a few publishing houses accept unsolicited manuscripts, meaning that anyone with a written story can submit it for consideration. In that case, your manuscript ends up in what they lovingly call the “slush pile.” The other, more traditional option is to get a literary agent. Your agent has a deep knowledge of the industry, can often help you further polish your manuscript, and knows exactly which editor at which publishing house would like your story so your story doesn’t end up in a slush pile. They also help you negotiate the best possible contract, because that’s how they get paid. They take a percentage of the money the publisher pays you to buy the rights to the manuscript.
Unfortunately, finding an agent is just as hard as finding a publisher! Agents have their own slush piles too, and that’s exactly where I sent mine. Fortunately, I eventually received a reply from someone who was interested! She liked my stories but wanted to see some changes before offering to represent me. That’s called “revise & resubmit”. Some people call that the “slow no”, but it worked out in my case. I put in a little more work to apply the suggestions she made and got an offer from them to represent me!.
Slowing things down a bit, my agent gave me a contract that I felt wasn’t entirely as thorough as I wanted. There was some additional procedures I wanted to see included to fully protect myself. I even got an entertainment lawyer to review the contract and make the changes I wanted. Unfortunately, the agency rejected most of the changes. That left me one choice: accept the contract anyway, or step away.
I thought about it a lot. In the end, the agency is a well-established one with a long history of successful authors represented by them. I contacted a couple of them, who said they were very happy. I asked around in the children’s books writer & illustrator society message boards, and heard good things about this agency again. So I decided to take a leap of fate and trust that they wouldn’t ruin their 40-year business just to screw me over for a minimal amount of money. It’s not like I’m a super famous and super wealthy author anyway. So I sent the signed contract in the mail last week!
The agent does have a few more changes for me to do before she feels the manuscripts will be ready to start pitching to publishers. I get to look forward to a little extra work soon, but then we’ll have to wait and see if my agent can sell my manuscripts quickly. Or at all. Meanwhile I’ll work on more manuscripts, and continue to hope I will be able to read my kids a book with my name on it before they outgrow picture books!
Gabby has been so sweet about all of this. At first I wasn’t telling her about it at all, but then I started telling her about my journey trying to find an agent and how long it would take for us to have a physical book in our hands even if my agent would sold one of my manuscripts tomorrow. I still have to make changes, have my agent sell it, have a publisher assign it an editor, an illustrator, a book designer, a copy editor, etc, and for all of those people to do their jobs. But Gabby is SUPER excited anyway at the idea of getting a book with mom’s name on it. She just lights up at the idea with such amazement, as if having a picture book with my name of it made me some kind of superstar. I like the way she thinks!