Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SCBWI Orange County Agent's Day

At the SCBWI Orange County Agents Day held on Saturday there were four agents looking for writers and illustrators with manuscripts ranging from picture book to young adult.

The first speaker was Mary Kole, from Andrea Brown Literary Agency.  Picture books and middle grade fiction are her specialties.  She believes that the children’s book market has done quite well throughout the economic downturn.  Adult book sales are down, but kids' book sales are up, especially in the young adult market.  The market is cyclical and the picture book market is beginning to pick up.  (Yes!)  Editors are asking for more and more picture books.  About the manuscripts she is sent, she said we should avoid conference polish syndrome.  This refers to writers putting a great deal of work into perfecting those first ten pages sent to agents or editors only to have ‘everything fall apart’ on page eleven.  Writers need to put the same care into the entire manuscript as they put in those first ten pages.

Kevan Lyon’s agency is Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  She represents both young adult and adult women’s fiction and wants happy endings only!  Her message was to avoid clichés.  And when you’re writing queries it’s a good idea to study back cover copy or jacket flaps to learn how to grab attention in a small amount of space.  Look for agents who represent books comparable to your own work.  Both new and experienced agents are good to query when you’re looking for an agent.  New ones, because they’re eager and motivated to find clients and experienced ones for obvious reasons – their knowledge and past success.

The agents agreed it’s OK now to do multiple queries.  Rebecca Sherman, of Writers House, stressed the need to be told when you choose another agent, however.  Or even to be told you’ve been made an offer so they can decide if they would like to also offer you representation.  She asked that writers not base their decisions on who gets the manuscript first.  She’s looking for picture books by writer-illustrators, middle grade and young adult.

Brenda Bowen, who is with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, is interested mostly in middle grade and picture books – no paranormal romances and not hugely YA.  She and Rebecca Sherman presented a mock contract negotiation for us.  Brenda, as a former editor, took the editor’s role and Rebecca the agent’s. They jockeyed back and forth till they had settled on a compromise for the details of the contract.

Brenda wound up the day with a brief synopsis of points the four agents had made.  Some of them were:
      1. show, don’t tell
      2. we want to be swept away (by a romance manuscript)
      3. be just-weird-enough when writing paranormal
      4. don’t take rejection personally
      5. books do change the lives of kids, and can make life-long readers out of them!
Agents are actively seeking author-illustrators, and though young adult manuscripts are the most desired at the moment, picture books are still being bought.  A few agents are even taking on artists who don’t write, although they encourage them to write and even work with them to develop manuscripts.  As a writer, there was also encouraging news about children’s publishing in general, and apparently many agents are seeking new clients.


  1. Thank you for this summary, Diane - very helpful and informative - and I love your portraits.

  2. Thanks for this, Diane. LOVE your portraits, too...!

  3. Thanks so much for this wrap-up! I missed Agent's Day and was thoroughly disappointed--this helps appease that a little bit!

    (and your portraits are so fun!)

  4. Just stumbled across this post . . . I attended this, too, and wow, your portraits are amazing!! Thanks for sharing and for the recap, Diane!

    Cheers, :)