When January provided me with an opportunity to begin my search for a new agent, I decided to streamline my querying process. The path to publication is challenging enough without my taking a hodge-podge attitude toward the journey itself. With that in mind, I have developed a system I hope increases my chances of winning the coveted agent representation and I'd like to share my five tips with you...
TIP ONE: ARRANGE YOUR STORIES
All of my stories go through a number of phases before I feel they are ready for submitting. Butterflies are part of my STORY CATCHER logo so of course when I came across these folders, I grabbed every one I could find. I write picture books, chapter books, and young adult novels. Each folder has a hard copy of my story, any critiques I might have received from helpful sources like RATE YOUR STORY (http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/), critique partners, and any other professional critiques I might have received. If I want to work on a particular story away from my computer, I just grab that folder and take it with me.
TIP TWO: CORRAL YOUR POLISHED MANUSCRIPTS
Once I have polished my manuscripts to the best of my ability, (and thanked all who have assisted in that buffing...;~), I print off a hard copy and store in paper protector sheets in this decorated folder. I also set up a folder on my computer desktop of finished manuscripts. That way, if I need to fax or email a story to someone, I have it right at my fingertips.
TIP THREE: GATHER MY WRITERLY RESOURCES
There are so many good resources for writers these days and I would encourage anyone serious about writing for children as a career to join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (www.scbwi.org) and other professional organizations. I keep my SCBWI catalogs handy and make copies of articles to which I need to pay special attention. Yes, I have another decorated folder I keep all of those articles in so I can refer back to them as necessary.
TIP FOUR: RESEARCH AGENTS & PUBLISHERS
Now comes the time to start my research on agents and publishers. I recently found out there are currently about 1100 agents in the US and probably just as many publishers. Does that mean every single one of them are right for my stories? Of course not. That is why I must do my due diligence and vet any agency or publishing house I decide to put on my short list. Nothing will scream AMATEUR faster than sending a manuscript to an agent or publisher who doesn't actually represent that type of story. My journal book lists agents and publishing houses along with contact info, website and email addresses. I code each one as to the round I will send my query letters to them so I can keep track of where my stories are going.
TIP FIVE: POST A PRETTY CORK BOARD
Now that I have polished manuscripts, a list of agents & publishers interested in my types of stories, and a plan on who to query first, I will send out my first round of query letters to 6-8 of my top choice agents. I will create a spreadsheet for my submissions and pin it up on my pretty little cork board so I be able to follow up (and hopefully eventually schedule the all important CALL).
Publishing is such a challenging, thrilling, sometimes frustratingly slow process. A writer has to have a fairly thick skin to survive in this industry. It helps me to keep my sanity to be as organized as possible where my writing is concerned. I might have to exercise a lot of patience during this process in finding a new agent, but I might as well enjoy it as much as I can by surrounding myself with all the pretty folders, journals, and cork boards I can find!