How I Got My Agent: Lisa Katzenberger

I’m a big fan of social media and online writing contests. I’ve entered every KidLit-related pitch contest I’ve come across in the past two years, but it was PBParty where I found my agent. Here’s the scoop:

PBParty is an online contest that provides agents a chance to review your query and the first 50 words of your picture book. The submission window is open for a short amount time, and accepts the first 250 entries—which sometimes fills up in a matter of hours. Then they select about 20-25 entries to post online for agents to review. In 2016, I entered two picture books and neither made it to the agent round, although one title was listed as a runner-up.


This guest post is by Lisa Katzenberger. Katzenberger is a picture book writer, Fiction Editor for Literary Mama, and the Social Media Coordinator for SCBWI Illinois. She is also the author of “Pitch Agents Through Twitter” in the 2017 Guide to Literary Agents. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children. Connect with her on twitter at @FictionCity or Instagram at @lisakatz17.


When the contest began in 2017, I was still actively querying those same two picture books, but had significantly revised them. This time, I took a hard look at the first 50 words—a really brief amount of space to grab an agent’s attention. I had to admit that neither of the 50-word excerpts were all that special.

So I chose one picture book to revise and wrote a new opening, focusing on pizzazz and giving it some punch that would make an agent want to read more. My pitch for this story had previously garnered a lot of likes through various twitter parties, but it never resulted in an offer. So I took the language of the pitch—a sassy series of questions—and revamped my opening scene in that style.

I was thrilled to find out I made it as a finalist this time around! Then I had to wait for my pitch (along with the query letter) to be posted on the blog. It was real! It was there! (It’s still there, if you want to take a look.)

I knew that some pitches don’t get any requests, and I set my expectations for that to happen. But, after the hundredth time of refreshing my browser that day, I saw a request to see the full manuscript! In the end, I received requests from five different agents.

I sent out the requested manuscript, and one agent from PBParty responded about a week later asking to see more of my work. Two weeks later, she emailed talking about offering representation. I prepared for “The Call” and she made an offer. I freaked out accordingly, but then got my ducks in a row and contacted every other agent who had requested to see the manuscript through PBParty and also those who I had queried but never heard back. I used a great template for this letter, which included advice to (politely) give the agent a deadline to respond.

A few kind passes rolled in over the next couple of days. Then it was nothing but a whole bunch of crickets—most agents never responded to this message. But then I got one more email—another request for a phone call from a second agent who liked my PBParty submission.

I ended up with two offers, and took my time to consider both. I talked to clients of each agent. I talked to friends who had already been down this path. I thought and thought, asked some follow-up questions, took my kids to McDonald’s for chocolate shakes, then went with my gut. I accepted an offer of representation from Natascha Morris of BookEnds. I loved her energy and enthusiasm, background as an editor, and down-to-earth personality.

I told a few close friends, but had to keep things quiet until the contract was signed and fully executed. On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, Natascha announced via Twitter that I had signed with her, and my social media blew up! I received so many lovely notes of encouragement and support. I posted thank yous on the groups that have supported me (12 x 12, KidLit411, StoryStorm). I let myself decompress for a day.

Then the very next morning, Natascha sent me my first editorial letter. The revision process was nowhere—I mean not even kind of, sort of, maybe a little—close to over. We went through four more significant rounds of revisions on the story before it was ready for submission to editors. It was a whirlwind, but six weeks after the contract was signed, the picture book was out the door and in the inboxes of a dozen editors.

Being a very goal-oriented, and deadline-driven person, I got right back on the writing horse and asked Natascha what was next. She gave me a deadline to have three more manuscripts ready for her to edit in a couple months so we could determine which would be the next book we send out to publishers. So more writing, writing, writing. And revising, revising, revising.

Some people have asked how long I’ve been writing, and I say ever since I can remember (or specifically, third grade when I wrote a story about a haunted house). But what they are a little less reluctant to ask, but I think more interested to know, is how long I had been querying. Well, I kept a massive spreadsheet of my submission process and have much more specific answers to that.

I joined the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators in December of 2014 and started researching children’s literature. (Side note: if you are a kidlit writer, please check out the wonderful programming, events, and support that SCBWI offers at the local level and online: www.scbwi.org.) I had been writing adult fiction for years before that, had some short stories published, and wrote three (unpublished) novels. So I jumped back into the querying trenches pretty quickly in March of 2015. Turns out it was way too quickly, but not something I realized for probably another year. I sent out 113 queries in all for 8 different picture books. I sent out 49 queries in total for the picture book that got Natascha’s attention.

For those who are in the querying trenches, I think there are a few essentials you need to secure an agent: a really good story, strong writing, a clear & concise query letter, a thick skin, and tons of patience. Hang in there, and keep going!

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post How I Got My Agent: Lisa Katzenberger appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/got-agent-lisa-katzenberger

Five Secrets to Writing a Fascinating Memoir

Writing a memoir is difficult and extremely time consuming. Like many things in life, if it were easy, everyone would do it. It is so difficult in fact, that there are in all likelihood more memoir drafts on paper, computer hard drives, and various memory devices than memoirs published.

The rewards of writing a published work, however, can be beyond imagination. No words can adequately describe the feeling of seeing one’s book on the shelves of a bookstore for the first time. It is like Christmas morning and your birthday all rolled into one.


This guest post is by Dan Emmett. After a stint in the Marine Corps, Emmett joined the United States Secret Service, serving on the elite Counter Assault Team before being selected for the most coveted of all assignments in the Secret Service, the Presidential Protective Division. After twenty-one years as an agent, Emmett retired from the Secret Service and joined the CIA for six more years.

Today the author is an adjunct professor as well as a security consultant for both private industry and the United States government. His memoir, I AM A SECRET SERVICE AGENT, was released in June 2017.


While the writing of a memoir is difficult, it is obviously not impossible given the number published. To assist the aspiring new author, I have distilled the problem down to five basic areas for anyone bold or insane enough to venture into these waters:

1. Was Your Life Interesting to Anyone Other than You?

Before any would-be author writes the first word of a memoir, they must decide whether the details of their lives have been so interesting that if put to paper, people would wish to read the work.

By the time most of us have reached middle age, we possess an abundance of experience in a specific subject or simply life in general. However, are those experiences interesting to anyone else other than ourselves? While each of us may feel our lives have been utterly fascinating, others may not find our experiences as enthralling. The best way to determine whether your life is worthy of a formal memoir is to speak with people other than family or friends about the issue. They are best suited to give you an honest opinion on whether your proposed memoir would be of interest. While almost everyone has at least one book in them, and there is an audience for almost every book, be rational in your decision whether to move forward with a memoir.

2. Time and Place

Once a person decides to write a memoir, they must resign themselves to the fact that time is perhaps the most important element in any significant writing adventure. Someone once said, “The most difficult part of writing was putting backside to seat.” No truer words were ever spoken. Writing a memoir piecemeal, a few minutes each day, is almost impossible. Rather, it should be attacked with an aggressiveness and sense of purpose, which can include writing for hours and days at a time. It is helpful to set aside a specific time each day to write, but impromptu sessions based upon sudden ideas are fine too. Never let a spontaneous memory or idea go unwritten or it will surely be lost. In addition, while devoting a great deal of time to the work is essential, take a day or two off from writing when you develop a case of writer’s block. It is not uncommon to simply lose focus from time to time. A little time off will generally put you back on track.

Equally important as time is a proper environment to write in. While Hemingway frequently wrote standing up from any place he could set a typewriter, most of us do not work that way. To write effectively, it is best to segregate one’s self in a quiet room away from family, TV, pets, and all other distractions. Let everyone in the house know that you are not to be disturbed for anything other than a true emergency during writing hours. Along these lines, be aware that the writing bug can cause family rifts. Children sometimes do not understand why mom or dad disappear each evening into the study with orders not to be disturbed rather than spending time with them. Also, spouses and significant others may find it difficult sharing you with your new lover known as the memoir.

3. Make an Outline and Begin at the Beginning

Before beginning to write your masterpiece, it is best to begin by writing the table of contents, as this will serve as the all-important outline. I discovered that my writing moved in a logical, easy flowing sequence by deciding at what point in life the memoir was to begin from, then chronologically writing about each phase. For example, do you want to begin your story from the cradle, or perhaps merely mention those years briefly and move right into the main story? Once the outline or table of contents has been completed, you may then fill in each section as you wish. In other words, while the table of contents must be in order, you do not have to write your memoir in order from beginning to end. Simply fill in each chapter as you outlined them and it will all fall into place. The writer should always attempt, however, to keep the information flowing chronologically and in a logical fashion.

4. Learn From Others

While plagiarism is a major sin in any sort of writing, there is nothing wrong with examining the memoirs of others to help with your own ideas. Decide what memoirs are similar to what you are trying to write. If you are a pilot for example, study the memoirs of Chuck Yeager or John Glenn. If you are an actor, read memoirs of actors for ideas. In the end, your writings must be your own but there is no reason to re-invent the memoir wheel.

5. Consider a Ghost Writer

Perhaps you have an idea for a great memoir, but you are not much of a writer. Do not let your amazing, exciting life go unwritten simply because you cannot put a sentence together. If that is your situation, find someone who can write to help you polish and structure the work. Perhaps you know a former English major who can help, or simply a well-read person willing to review your work and help correct the draft. While a draft may be as ugly as you wish, the final product must be clean, grammatically correct, and readable. There is also the option of merely sitting down with a writer and speaking your memoir to them, then let that person do all the work. Writers can be contracted for a price, or if you are fortunate enough to sell a publishing house on your work, they will provide the ghostwriter at no charge.

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

The post Five Secrets to Writing a Fascinating Memoir appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-genre/memoir-by-writing-genre/five-secrets-writing-fascinating-memoir

The Best Agent Advice from the 2017 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

Couldn’t make it to the 2017 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City this past weekend? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, with some of the best tips on queries, pitching, and general agent advice below.

Also, be sure to check out #WDC17 on Twitter for more great writing tips and advice from the conference. From all of us at Writer’s Digest, we hope to see you there next year!

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The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

The post The Best Agent Advice from the 2017 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/agent-advice-2017-writers-digest-conference