Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Importance Of An Agent ~ By Dianna Aston

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.
 
 
 
After I wrote, "An Egg Is Quiet," she suggested a book about seeds.
 
 
 
 
"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.

40 comments:

  1. This is a great summary of a really healthy, beautiful agent/author relationship. I saw this in action last weekend when my friend's agent attended the memorial service for my friend's little baby. I just love that kind of commitment and concern for a client!

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    1. Joanna, healthy relationships are important. I am sorry to hear about your friend. But as you shared your thoughts, it confirms what Dianna was saying about an agent/author are always there for each other through thick and thin. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Great post! You made wonderful points. I can tell you and your agent are a great team

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    1. When I first met Dianna, she said to me, "If you are going to make it in this business, you need an agent." And we both can see the importance of that. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. I have a great agent who was an editor in a former life so he offers great feedback/advice. Now to sell! BTW, love your egg and seed books.

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    1. Thanks AnimalAuthor :D I will forward your comment to Dianna :D

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  4. Thank you for the post. Hoping to find a gem such as your own one day!

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    1. Tracey, you will find the right agent. Go about your search as if you are looking for a mate - carefully and diligently. Thanks for commenting.

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    2. The world's a treasure chest!

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  5. Great feedback! Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading this post. The GROG appreciates your support.

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  6. I have enjoyed reading a variety of posts on this blog site. Thanks, Jan, for the heads up on this site.

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  7. Hi Debra Katz - So cool to find you here.
    Hi Diana Aston - I'm so tickled to read this post. The "Quiet" & "Sleepy" nature picture books are ones I've enjoyed reading through the BookPALS program of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. The peek into your process & enduring relationship with your agent is enlightening. Thank you for sharing with GROG. And, what's your next book, if you can give a peep about it?

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    1. Thanks, Debra. Our next book, Spring 15, is "A Nest Is Noisy." All kinds of nests. Then we have one coming out on beetles. We're brainstorming titles. I haven't heard of the BookPALS program. Interesting. An entertainment attorney is LA wanted to make "The Moon Over Star" into a movie. He dropped the ball but it would make a good one. It's about following your dreams, not matter what people say to discourage you, no matter what your circumstances. People said we were crazy for thinking we could go to the moon. The sky is not the limit. We've gone beyond. No limits on dreams. Same with the favorite of my books, "Dream Something Big." So cool to find YOU here. :-)

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    2. Dianna,
      Back here again to thank you for the new titles & to add some more value, perhaps, to your visit here.
      You/Rosemary may want to connect with BookPALS; they turn picture books into online video projects, with lively, high-profile star readers doing the honors. The online reading/page-turning is free for anyone.
      The article on our June 4th Group Blog, "What is Book Pals?" mentions
      this & should be at the URL
      http://groggorg.blogspot.com/2014/06/what-is-bookpals-by-jan-godown-annino.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GroupBlog+%28Group+Blog%29
      My email is JGAoffice@gmail.com & I'm happy to share BookPals national contact info as your p.b. titles are a mighty fine fit. Glad to know about "Nest" & the in-progress one on beetles. How about this for a title - Beetles are Bumpy? (We have a lot of 'em here in FLA.)
      Best to you Nest-fans.
      Jan

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  8. Very touching! And informative. I agree, you need to write a book entitled "Finding Rosemary". Thanks for sharing

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  9. What a beautiful account and exhortation to get an agent! Someday my flower will bloom! :)

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    1. You're already blooming. Never doubt it, sweetie.

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  10. Sounds like you found a perfect match. Wishing there was an agentmatch.com for the process.

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    1. Wouldn't that be great, Wendy? We could talk online for awhile, then exchange phone numbers. Then the meeting at a restaurant for our first real date (manuscripts in hand, of course). I like your thinking!

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  11. Thanks Diana! It is always nice to hear the story behind the "real" people in this industry.

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  12. Diana, hope i can find that perfect match one day! Love your NF.

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  13. Thank you, Jackie, for introducing us to Dianna, and to Dianna for telling us about her terrific relationship with Rosemary Stimola. Rosemary came to an SCBWI-Illinois conference awhile back and I found her to be genuine, smart, encouraging yet realistic -- things you would definitely want in a agent.

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    1. She also spoke at the San Miguel de Allende Writer's Conference when I lived there. She was quite a hit. She's exactly how you described her, plus just fun!

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  14. I've heard that there's been some movement lately for agents to sign authors on a book-by-book basis. Anyone out there have any experience with this?

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  15. Question - Had you contacted any other agents before the editor at Candlewick suggested you contact Rosemary? (love that the editor did that btw)

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  16. Thank you for this very informative post about agents. The more I read about what agents do, the more I realize how important they are.

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    1. Believe me, you want an agent first!

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  17. Thanks for a peek into the future title "Noisy Nests" and the good agent info!

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  18. I only hope that I am as lucky in love with my agent, whoever she may be.

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  19. Thank you, Jackie for inviting Dianna to be a guest blogger on our GROG. Writer + Agent = Friend = A Published Book "A Seed is Quiet," is such a sweet book with beautiful illustrations. Such a thoughtful dedication. ~Suzy Leopold

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  20. I was sure I had responded to this post; must be the pixellators again, they are an offshoot of pixies and piskies but peskier. I was excited about the post because I recently approached an agent for the first time ever and am so nervous.

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  21. someday, I hope to find an agent. It would help if I actually start submitting my books ot agents though, as I have only submitted on picture book manuscript, unsuccessfully, within the past two years. *sigh* I will do better! :)

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  22. Thanks for sharing the way it ought to be! I love Wendy's idea of a Match.com for agents. Well, like Match,com but without the wierdos.

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  23. It's so nice to read a 'dream' agent story with staying power. It certainly seems like a relationship any writer would treasure. Your books are beautiful, Dianna, and I'm looking forward to meeting you at the WOW retreat this summer. :0) - Donna L Sadd

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