When I sold my first two manuscripts, I did it on my own. Joke. So my first editor, Liz, at Candlewick, told me to get in touch with a new gal who was just venturing into agenting. Rosemary had been many things, including the owner of an independent bookstore.
She and I have now been together for 15 years. We've sold books, watched each other's children grow up, held hands through deaths and rebirths.
"Finding Rosemary" should be the title of a book about the beauty and importance of an agent. An agent is your cheerleader, your proofreader (who always tells you when your manuscript is terrible in a nice way), your negotiator, your money-lady, your friend as you celebrate and mourn, books and family. Someone who has a nickname for you. She is my "Flor" and I am her "Platano." After moving to Mexico, she became "Flower" and I became "Banana." (Dianna/Banana/Platano).
Sure, 15% goes to the agent. It's so much more than you can negotiate by yourself. For example, "Finding Rosemary" for Suzanne Collins resulted in "The Hunger Games."
Bottom line. Get an agent.
If you can sell your work to an agent, she or he will take it on and sell it to a publisher. And this person knows how to negotiate and you don't.
Another bottom line: Have a body of work. No one will take you on these days based on a single manuscript. The children's publishing industry is cut-throat.. Don't even think about submitting a single manuscript unless you have three equally as brilliant.
So this beautiful Rosemary Stimola took me on in 2001. She will always tell me what she thinks, in her New York accent that even a Texan one can't buck. She will fight for what's best in the most diplomatic way, one even the most seasoned of editors have a hard time challenging. She will send you a treasure of beach glass on your 40th birthday. (Now that 50 is here, I wonder if she can top 40.)
Find an agent first. Love your agent. It's just a word that means "friend," someone who is looking out for your best interests, not just her own.
How did I get so lucky? I teamed up with an agent who makes money for both of us, and also genuinely cares about me, my family, my future. She knows I feel the same about hers.
"A Seed Is Sleepy" is dedicated to her. My little flower, my Flor. Without her, I would be nowhere.
My wish is that all of you find your flowers, your Rosemary-ies.
Forever bless the flowers.