Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Accidental Children’s Agent

STATUS: Got the cover for Helen Stringer’s middle grade novel SPELLBINDER today and it rocks! Flat out I can’t wait to share when it’s ready, ready. I just love it when the cover works completely. The concept, the art, the font. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s my very first middle grade novel sold. Squee!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STRANGE by Patsy Cline

When I first started my agency back in 2002, I repped adult fiction and nonfiction. Within two years, I knew that my heart wasn’t in the nonfiction projects. I enjoyed reading it; I didn’t enjoy repping it. But all my agent mentors told me that you couldn’t have a successful agency without nonfiction. I was told again and again that it was so much easier to sell then fiction.

Obviously I didn’t get that memo because for me, my experience was the exact opposite. Take on a novel, sell. Take on a self help project, a root canal would be better then that submission. It just wasn’t my talent.

And I didn’t represent anything in the children’s realm. I hadn’t read any titles in years; I mistakenly assumed I wouldn’t be any good at it.

Then a client of mine had written a YA novel and asked if I would rep it. This was at the beginning of 2004. Not having any experience in this realm, even at my previous agency, I had to learn. I analyzed all the deals and tidbits I could find on Publishers Marketplace. I called up several agent friends who specialized in children’s and said, “tell me who do I need to know.” They did and off to New York I went to meet with those editors.

The minute I walked into an editor’s office, which had a life size cut-out of Glinda The Good Witch, I knew I was in the right place. It was just a moment of powerful realization.

I ended up selling my first young adult project at auction in under two weeks. Then I was hooked. Because all I had on board at the time were writers writing for the adult market, I sent out an email to all my clients to see if anyone else was interested in writing for the young adult market.

You guessed it. The only client who emailed back with interest was Ally Carter—and I don’t think I need to retell that story! The accidental children’s agent.

I remember talking to my husband right after my first YA sale and I mentioned just how much I was enjoying this whole other aspect of publishing. My hubby replied, “Duh, it’s a no brainer that you would like it.”

“Why is that I asked?” genuinely puzzled.

He said, “look at our DVD shelf. What do you see?” I went over to peruse the titles and sure enough, there was an impressive amount of high school-set titles.

I was rather sheepish. I hadn’t even realized but he was so right. It was an obvious and natural fit that now I can’t figure out what took me so long to get a clue.

But I’m here now, accident or no, and how sweet it is. I can’t wait for my first two MG projects to publish this fall.