Firstly, thanks to the publicist and awesome author for providing me an ARC of Santiago’s Dinosaurios. I’ve been super excited about this picture book, and guess what? I was not disappointed. It was such a heartwarming read with vibrant illustrations that taught lessons of hope and kindness.
Santiago newly immigrated to the US and has to attend school with no knowledge of English. This picture book brings to life his adventure of a first day at a school where everyone communicates easily around him while he struggles and fears he won’t fit in.
I love how the story shows that some things transcend language, like passion. And that there are many ways to communicate even though you don’t necessarily speak the same language. As a fan of Jurassic World/Park, I was also captivated by the introduction of dinosaurs. The children in this story were beautifully diverse and I think this story also encourages people (adult and kids) to be open-minded and more accepting of people from other cultures. That was one thing that really stuck with me from this book. Accept. Love. Be kind.
I 100% recommend this picture book, both to parents for their kids and adults. There’s a lesson in there for everyone. Make sure to pre-order!
L.O. Nobi is an avid writer, with numerous novels constantly blinking at her on her laptop. She’s a lover of words, reading, and Disney. You can find her tweeting here, or visit her personal blog here.
Welcome everyone to September on Path2pub themed around MUSIC! Please have your seats, the band will go live any second now.
Considering I’d come up with this theme, ‘Musically Written’ it was funny that I had found myself wondering what I could possibly write about music—that also concerned writing, as the two don’t exactly meld together in my head. I do love music and I love writing, but I can’t quite combine the two.
And thankfully, this idea came to me!
Alas, matters in the publishing industry seem to toughen by the week. The other day the DOJ vs PRH trial unfolded and ended up discouraging lots of writers from pursuing traditional publishing. But while these all happened, I still believe that if being traditionally published is a dream, then you have to find hope and keep going.
And one of the best places to find Hope is in music. Before I started pursuing publication I used to adore slow songs that hit deep. But since I started up this path, experiencing different bumps along the road, my tastes have momentarily shifted to more upbeat music. Those that lift my spirits and make me want to dance even at times when I feel discouraged.
And those are what I’ll be sharing with you today! (Note: the songs’ Youtube links are on their titles so click away to listen).
First of all I LOVE Imagine Dragons. They have so many awesome songs with catchy tunes and amazing messages. However, this song has a message I think is especially inspiring for writers who are starting to doubt themselves. Just look at this lyrics:
Cause I know what I’m meant to be I don’t need no one to believe When it’s all been said and done I’m still my number one ‘Cause I know what I’m meant to be These people might not see When it’s all been said and done I’m still my number one
It’s great to have a support system when pursuing a dream. But it’s also very important that you believe in yourself first. That you be your number one fan.
I’m admittedly not the biggest Keith Urban fan, although I’ve loved some of his songs (especially parallel lines, which Ed Sheeran co-wrote, but that’s beside the point!). Anyway, Wild Hearts is a bop with a strong ‘don’t give up’ message that can uplift you on tough days.
This goes out to the drifters And all of the dreamers ready to fly All those born to be rock stars Lifting their guitars and painting the sky Can you hear me? All of you lost ones who aren’t really lost ones Keep shining your light This goes out to the wild cards and all of the wild hearts
Even without listening to the song, doesn’t that sound motivating? It certainly does for me!
So Beyoncé album couldn’t have come out at a better time. I love Lemonade and all the heart wrenching emotions in the tunes. However, because of the publishing mode, I knew I couldn’t give her new album as much attention as I typically would if it made me want to bawl each time it played. And then lucky me, Bey read my mind and decided to release a dance album in 2022! Listen:
I’m lookin’ for motivation I’m lookin’ for a new foundation And I’m on that new vibration I’m buildin’ my own foundation Hold up, oh, baby, baby, You won’t break my soul
Periodt. Don’t let anyone or anything break your soul, friends!
This song and uplifting are more or less synonymous! Its one of my favorites of all time. It’s not exactly upbeat but it has a melody that won’t get you too in your head. I’m just going to merge my favorite lines together because they’re so inspiring:
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up; You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing You say I am strong when I think I am weak And you say I am held when I am falling short When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
The lines aren’t just one of the most heartening things there are out there. The music is also so lovely you fall in love with it at first listen!
If I get into how much I love this song (and all the songs in this musicale), I probably wouldn’t stop. So let’s get right to the lyrics that fits in this context:
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ’cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum… We are bursting through the barricades and Reaching for the sun
‘Sharpest words’ can come in form of passes and rejections to your stories, and they definitely bruise your confidence and perseverance. But, we’ll keep marching on and reaching for the sun.
I could go on with more inspiring, upbeat music on my recent playlists, but this should do for now! When you’re feeling down, seek messages of hope in melodies and shake your booty while at it. Trust me you’ll feel much better afterwards!
I hope you enjoy the rest of the month’s music theme. Share with me below, what are some of your favorite songs these days and why?
L.O. Nobi is an avid writer, with numerous novels constantly blinking at her on her laptop. She’s a lover of words, reading, and Disney. You can find her tweeting here, or visit her personal blog here.
Hello, Readers! Our Ask Us Pub Questions page is growing again so we want to say thank you for trusting us with your questions and we look forward to answering them! Also ICYMI, our website themes for this month and next are here. Come participate with us.
Today, Kemaya wants to know: How do you avoid panicking when you see the plot summary of a writer with a book deal, is similar to a book you’re querying?
This is a really good question Kemaya. I had a querying friend once tell me about an MS of hers that hadn’t gotten an agent, and how a popular author had a book coming out soon with the same premise and even same MCs name; she’d been so devastated about this. People told her No for her story last year, now next year a story just like hers was coming out and her chance to ever use the premise would be gone.
It really is a tough place to be as a writer without an agent/book deal. What I told her was that no two writers can possibly write the same story—unless they share the same brain, which they don’t—so that’s my advice here too. Sure the premise might be alike, and your MCs might even be namesakes, but there will always be concrete differences in how you tell these stories. Why? Because you’re different people with different experiences and different viewpoints on life. So the chances that your story will be verbatim with an author with a book deal is about 5%. And a bright side to consider is that when that book gets published, it can become a comp for your own upcoming book!
(Edit: Oh I also want to add that most might’ve noticed how public with my WIP/book ideas I’ve suddenly been on Twitter recently. But truth is, I didn’t even want to participate in DVPit at first because my story is super high concept hence the idea is also easily stealable. But it’s this belief that no matter what, no one can write my stories the way I do—especially not with the inspiration of life events that birthed them or with the pieces of my heart in those stories—that’s given me the bolster to be somewhat public with my ideas. So this is a sample of a viewpoint that can give you confidence against that panic of losing your story🙂.)
—Lucia, the YA Fantasy Writer!
Totally valid to panic over something like this, because I still do! I think Lucia’s right to say that no two writers can write the same story, even if the stories have the same premise/concept, because execution is a deeply personal thing. However, I’m also not going to sugarcoat things and say that it’s going to have zero effect on your own querying and sub journey, because like it or not it will have some impact depending on exactly how similar the entire plot is. Particularly for marginalised authors, I think we’ll feel the anxiety even more because the industry is known for limiting the shelf space available for our books and you often hear stories where agents/editors say things like “oh we already have something like that on our list so it’s a no”.
When something like that happens, my advice would be to focus on things that are within your control, instead of things that are not. The book deals that will show up tomorrow are out of our control. Our books are. If you are deeply passionate about your book and concept, keep trying! If there is space for a dozen chosen one toppling evil empires stories, then there’ll be someone out there who believes there’s space for your book, even if there’s already a similar one in the market. While doing that, also write that next book! As someone who got agented on Book 2 but went on sub with Book 1 first, I’d say that no books are permanently “dead”, so you can always come back to older books and still sell them one day, when the time is right 🙂
-Amber, YA/NA SFF!
This is honestly a great question and actually it happens more than people realize, especially in the film industry. Take the films No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits. Both films came out in 2011 months after each other and had very similar premises. But after watching both films, you see that they’re different. Sophie Gonzalez even mentioned that another book was coming out around the same time as Only Mostly Devastated and had the same comp (Grease) but was totally different.
The thing is, publishing takes time. It takes a really long time to go from draft to querying to agent to sub to publishing. And even if your book and the other book have a similar premise, there’s a high chance that agents and even readers will be wanting something similar in that style. I know that at first it feels like everything is crushing under you. All the hard work you did for your novel and someone else beat you to it? But try to remember that it is your story. At the end of the day it is your words that matter and it is what you are trying to tell others.
—Briana, Mystery Writer
Once upon a time a beta reader told me once that she was skeptical on reading my book because the plot was played out a lot in other novels. Which is a completely fair statement. One of the things that I always remember when I come across with these scenarios is 1. I have a new comp title 2. My voice is different. The other thing to remember is that every story is different because of the voice and writing style, but if we are going to be simplistic about this we need to remember that there are typically 7 basic plots (rebirth, rags to riches, etc) and as a writer and reader myself, I usually read and write something that compels to me.
Not to say I don’t panic! I really do, but as a romance writer and also fantasy writer, I remember that even the biggest authors we currently read, have similarities with other stories. (ACOTAR by Sarah J Maas with Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr). As Bri and Amber mentioned above focus on what you can control and your story is your words.
-Alex, Romance Writer!
This is actually a very interesting question, and by what I’ve read above, it’s common to feel anxious about this happening. I think it’s very natural to experience this panic, and I’m not sure you can really avoid it. The important thing is to decide what to do next. Will this be end of the road for your book? Will you push forward or make any changes? As Amber said, you will never have control over what others write or the timing in the market. It’s true that although the premise of two books can be the same, the execution and the voice of the writer will surely be different. Why? Because each one of us leaves a piece of ourselves in our stories; so even if they have similar elements to other books, in the end, it won’t be exactly the same. I totally agree with Lucia that our life experiences and points of view leave a distinctive print in our writing, which makes it unique in a special way.
Of course, having a book that is close to one that will be published soon or has just been published might be a bit harder to sell for the moment, but that doesn’t mean the book will never come to exist. It’s all about timing and finding the right people. If you believe in your story, keep querying. You already know that the premise is good because it got a book deal, and as Lucia and Alex mentioned, you have now another comp for your book. However, you also need to consider that you always have the option to revise your book and make some changes, if you decide that’s the best thing to do. In the end, the key is to not be discouraged, don’t let the panic stop you from following your dream, and focus on writing your next story.
A surefire way to determine an agent is the best fit for your manuscript/writing career is by learning everything you can about them. Such information is great when choosing who to query and deciding who you’d love to work long term with. As a site dedicated to guiding writers through the publication journey, we’ve put together awesome agent interviews for you!
Today we’re introducing Ann Rose at Prospect Literary Agency!
Path2pub: How did you become an agent?
AR: It’s a kind of a long story so I will try to keep it simple. Years ago, my niece was super upset that a MC of her favorite book (that we were reading together) died, and she called me bawling her eyes out. In that moment, I did what any good aunt would do and told her I would write her a book. Well, me being me thought, if I’m writing this, I should find out everything there is to know about publishing. So I got myself an internship and worked there learning as much as I could about the industry. When my full-time job was eliminated, I took the leap into agenting full-time and really haven’t looked back since. It’s been a round about road on getting here, but I finally fell like I found my place.
Path2pub: Wow, what an awesome path! What genres do you represent and why did you decide ‘these are what I want to help bring to the world’?
AR: I represent books of all genres in MG and YA, and select adult genres. I have a soft spot in my heart for kidlit and feel passionate about getting books that readers need into their hands. Which is why I don’t shy away from any topic. If it’s something a kid would deal with, it should be talked about.
As much as I love kidlit, I am still a sucker for a good romance novel or suspenseful thriller. There are areas in adult fiction that I also feel are underserved and love finding those special books that fill those gaps. My adult list (especially) leans very heavily feminist, and this is not by accident.
Path2pub: What instantly catches your eye in a query letter/manuscript?
AR: Aside from a well written letter, a strong concept (or hook) will always get me excited about a query. Sometimes its more about the intention behind the book than the actual book itself that will get my heart a thumping. I love hearing why authors are inspired to write what they do, or how they are connected to what is on the page.
I would also say if a query can make me laugh (which is NOT an easy feat) it will have me searching for the pages.
Path2pub: Thank you for sharing these!What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?
AR: I’ve said this many times before, and it probably seems a little silly to some, but a story that starts with a character waking up rarely has me reading any further than that action. The issue is that I see it so much that it doesn’t feel fresh or interesting. There is nothing unique about it. I can name at least a dozen books and a dozen movies that start with this action—so IMO it’s been done to death.
Although it might seem obvious, but any book that is overtly racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic etc. just isn’t my jam. Does this mean I won’t take books that deal with these topics? No, of course not. I’m very interested in stories that present these in nuanced ways, but if they are just racist, sexist, etc for the sake of it, then I’m not interested. And I’m not really interested in “terrible male character becomes a better person because he learns from an underprivileged group” troupe either.
I’m also not interested in stories that require a female character to be assaulted in order to propel the plot or character arc for a male character. Now again, this doesn’t mean I won’t consider books that deal with assault. It’s just in the way the assault is handled and the intention behind it that makes the difference.
Another thing I don’t enjoy is when there are power imbalances in romance—like boss, employee—kind of thing, or falling in love with one’s captor. Stockholm syndrome just isn’t sexy to me. Also in romance, I’m not really excited about stories that are just “woman wants to find man.” I like when characters have larger goals outside of the romance and the romance just happens to happen along the way.
Path2pub: How hands-on are you editorially?
AR: I consider myself to be pretty editorial. My clients and I will go through a few rounds of edits before anything goes out. We will often brainstorm together beforehand too on next projects to make sure they aren’t spinning their wheels on things that just won’t be marketable.
I do like manuscripts to be as clean and ready as possible before they reach editors’ hands.
Path2pub: Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?
AR: No. I have no set number or expectation. I just follow my heart when it comes to signing clients.
Path2pub: What is your favorite trope?
AR: Oh my. It might be easier to say what I don’t like. LOL. Something I’m super into right now are strong friendship groups, especially if they are girls supporting each other. We’ve done this “mean girl” thing for too long and it’s time we collectively understand that we would be so much stronger together than tearing each other down.
Otherwise, I enjoy:
Friends to lovers
Fish out of water
Enemies to lovers
Story within a story
Really I could go on and on. And even if it’s not on this list, if it’s done well, I’m likely in.
Path2pub: What are some books you think everyone should read?
AR: Well, who would I be if I didn’t recommend my client’s books?
Seton Girls (8/2022)
Curious League of Detective and Thieves: Egypt’s Fire
Jiu-Jitsu Girl (1/2023)
It Happened on Saturday (2/2023)
Some I can’t mention yet (wink)
Books that aren’t mine, but I think are awesome:
The Swag is in the Socks
The House on the Cerulean Sea
Forward Me Back to You
The Prince and the Dressmaker
The Poet X
Darius the Great is Not Okay
I know I’m forgetting a bunch, but there are SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS OUT THERE!
Path2pub: True! If a writer could write a book specifically for you, what would you want it to be about?
AR: Oh, this is a dangerous question. …
I think the perfect book for me right now would be a blend of women banding together and seeking revenge or teaming up for the greater good in some way. Like I mentioned, I’m really into stories of women supporting each other, however that may look.
Other than that, I have an extensive MSWL that I try to keep updated.
Path2pub: What advice do you have for querying writers?
AR: Be patient. I know it’s tough and publishing can be slower than a sloth crossing the road, but if this is what you want, take a breath and just try to ride the wave. Things are moving, even if it feels like they are taking forever.
Another thing I would say is find your people. Find other writers with similar goals to help get your work to the next level. Critique partners and accountability partners are critical. Join writing groups, book clubs, whatever you can to get connected to people who share your passion. You will need them when things are tough, and you will need people to celebrate with too. Like does a non-writing person understand what it means to get a partial or full request? Or getting a 10 page edit letter from your agent/editor? You need people who just get it and can commiserate.
Path2pub: Great advice! What are your non-publishing related hobbies?
AR: Wait. We are supposed to have time for non-publishing related hobbies?
Haha! Thank you for stopping by and a fun, insightful interview, Ann.
Ann Rose—Literary agent, wrangler of words, drinker of way too much coffee, and someone who’s always looking for the bright side. If the quote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” were a person, it would be Ann. She can be found at Prospect Agency.
Hello Readers! We’re diving into the Ember Months soon and on Path2pub, we’ll be posting around themes we are very excited about!
September On Path2pub is themed:
For this theme we Contributors will be regaling you with a variety of posts on our various interpretations of how writing connects with music for us!
There will also be an Agent Interview you don’t want to miss and more Book Reviews on new releases, so stay tuned.
We’re still working on our general October theme, but a sub-theme we’re even more excited about is:
Countries We Write In!
Path2pub is a super diverse website with Contributors/Writers from all parts of the globe! And the things that draw us together are our love for writing, books, and this crazy publishing ride we’re on.
With this theme we’ll be pulling our various countries/cities to one place: on Path2pub with captivating photos and blurbs. (Yes gals, I’m setting high expectations). This is going to be a Path2pub Special.
And no, we don’t get to have all the fun. The stage is open for you readers as well!
• Send us a brief post with 4-7 photos of your city (your writing desk, your best view, your favorite eatery where you curl up with books, your go-to coffee shop, your favorite library/bookshop etc.). Send here. Bonus point for cute aesthetics.
• Write blurbs of 1-3 sentences about those places for context 🙂.
• Don’t forget to include the name of your country/city, your writing genre, twitter handle, and any other detail you feel is important.
• (Edit) Please send your posts in by September 28th!
• For any questions on how-to (?) leave a comment below or email us on the Contact page above.
I fell out of love with reading somewhere in the pandemic, and my goal of 2022 is to find my love of reading again, to find as many varied books as I could and re-ignite that spark. I’d like to thank Chelsea Abdullah and The Stardust Thief for making that goal suddenly so easy. How could I not fall in love with the magic and beauty of this story? After seeing the book around Twitter before it came out and how excited people were for it, I knew I had to give it a go. I’m so happy this book came into my twitter feed and life!
The Stardust Thief is a desert fantasy full of magic, adventure, and heart. Chelsea Abdullah not only weaves the allure of the One Thousand and One Nights and the inspiration it supplies for her fantastical world, she also creates her own magnificent tales and mythology for this world, which breathes new life into the world she’s created. It makes this world of desert magic, Jinn, and thieves feel so alive. For a debut, I’m in awe of how beautifully and truthfully Abdullah captured what it is to experience and to tell stories. Readers who love fantasy and adventure will adore this story. Even more, anyone who has a love of writing and storytelling will learn so much from this example of creativity, character, heart and how to take a single inspired idea and create an entire world with amazing possibilities.
As someone who usually only picks up books with romance at the core of the story, and being dyslexic, some epic fantasies can be too dense or hard to break into for me. However, as Abdullah roots her tale in intricate and beautiful storytelling, I never lost my place in this world. It felt like a sanctuary, somewhere cosy and magical to retreat into and get lost within the tales along with the characters as they explore this world.
The writing was accessible, gorgeous and the pacing leaves you no permission to put the book down. The lack of a romance subplot didn’t even cross my mind while I was immersed in this world as the story has so much more to offer. Found-family, adventure, feisty female warriors, thrilling quests, bloodshed, love and loss.
Love and loss is a major theme in this story, almost guiding the characters through the chaos of the world. I could speak for hours on the characters in this book. Every single character demands attention, and every single one became a cherished favourite as they cemented their place. Each was relatable, in both the bad and good choices they made. The world doesn’t hold back and neither do these characters. Abdullah writes them so you never for a moment doubt they lived long before the story began. They’re alive and her love for them as a writer shines through on every page. They’ve survived in this world, and some are weathered by it, where others might be too naïve to it. But that mix only makes these characters connections to each other all
To finish, I believe we’ve not yet scratched the surface of this world and series, or Abdullah’s potential as an author. I’m so excited for wherever she wishes to take us next in any of her future work. Mostly, I can’t wait to see where she goes next with this story, and how the wonderful characters she’s created survive it.
Jennifer Delaney is a lover of fantasy, both writing and reading! She is represented by Nina Leon of the High Spot Literary. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, enjoying Lord of The Rings memes, or listening to music.You can find her tweeting here.
In this post I’ll give you an insight on how the authors and illustrators work “together” to create a picture book. I’ll be talking specifically about my experience with Santiago’s Dinosaurios. Please consider that the process might be different with other publishers.
When I signed up my contract with Albert Whitman & Co. in March 2021, I already knew that the illustrator the publisher was considering for the project was artist Udayana Lugo. My editor (Andrea Hall) had talked to me about it and shared Udayana’s portfolio wanting to know my thoughts. I was very excited with the possibility of having such a talented illustrator join the team. I fell in love with her work right away and I knew she was the perfect person to bring Santiago’s story to life, since she also connected with the manuscript and wanted to be part of the project.
During the summer, I spent several weeks working with my editors (Andrea Hall and Nivair Gabriel) on the manuscript. It was a very positive and rewarding learning experience for me. I truly believe that by working together, the story became stronger. I was lucky to have two amazing editors supporting me in bringing this book to little readers. I’m very grateful that both believed in the story. As the manuscript moved to copyediting, my editor asked me about any ideas I had for the cover or what I would like to see on it. I really appreciated that the art team wanted to know what I thought and wanted. It meant a lot to me that they included me in the process. I remember I told them I was picturing Santiago being worried and hinting he loved dinosaurs plus a school setting.
It’s important to note that just as an author has an editor to work with for the text; the illustrator has an art team in the publishing house. My editor and Udayana’s art designer were in contact. However, I was never in direct communication with the illustrator. At first I thought that was unusual; but actually it’s a common policy in other publishing houses as well (I’ve learned that by talking to other debut PB authors in Las Musas group). The reason for this is that the publisher wants the illustrator to have freedom to create; to come up with their own ideas to add to the story without being “directed” by the authors. It’s true that in my manuscript I added some illustration notes in some pages; for example that Santiago’s lunch nuggets had a Stegosaurus shape or that one specific boy in a scene had to be Cam (who’d later become Santiago’s BFF). The objective of the illustration notes is to make the scene clearer for the illustrator; however, the more you can avoid them the better, because that allows the illustrator’s creativity to flourish and that’s when magic happens and leads to unexpected surprises that make the story better in ways you hadn’t imagined before.
Back to the timeline, it was mid-September when I received a surprise in my email. My editor (Nivair Gabriel) shared with me three black and white sketches for the book’s cover wanting to know my thoughts. I was over the moon as I got to meet Santiago and his friends for the first time. I wrote an email back with my comments regarding each of the options. One of them had considered my ideas, the other two had a totally different approach. Still, each of them had something I liked.
At the beginning of November I received and email with what turned out to be the final colored book cover (which by the way, wasn’t an image of the black and white sketches that I’d seen before). I remember I was at the grocery store when I opened the email and looked at the attachment. My kids and I were so excited. The cover was adorable!
In it you can see Santiago and his two friends. You get to see the dinosaurs (even in the texture of the title) and you can spot the cards with words in English and Spanish, which are key elements of this bilingual story. I just love the storytelling that goes on in this image, and the layer of diversity that the illustrator added herself, making the book even more inclusive.
By the beginning of December the whole interior black and white sketches were finished, and they pretty much are the same images that appear in the book right now. I was amazed by how fast the illustrator came up with the whole book! Again, I was delighted and thankful to be included in this process, and once more I was invited to provide my comments about the images. Remember the the black and white sketch that I had received as a cover with my idea of worried Santiago? It became the interior cover for the book!
On February 1st, 2022 I received the final colored version for the complete story. There were minor adjustments to be made, like changing the dinosaur that appeared in Santiago’s dinosaur book (Velociraptor) for one that kids would easily recognize (Brachiosaurus).
By mid-February we were finished. The book was done and the jacket had also been designed. Afterwards I just waited for the cover reveal to be made, in order to share the news and the design. The reveal was made in February 25th and was hosted by “We Need Diverse Books” blog. Then at the beginning of April, I received my Advance Reader Copies (ARC), which made my dream of “holding my book in my hands” come true.
As you can see, creating a picture book is a lot of work and it really takes a village. From my talented editors and wonderful illustrator, to the incredible art and marketing teams, I’m forever grateful.
I feel blessed and very lucky for having such an amazing team behind Santiago’s Dinosaurios story. I can’t wait for the moment this book gets to little readers. I wish they’ll love it as much as I do. 🦖
Mariana Ríos Ramírez is a Mexican picture book author living in South Carolina. She was a high school teacher and co-owned an online business before becoming a writer. Her debut book, Santiago’s Dinosaurios, will be published by Albert Whitman in October 2022. Her second book, Abuelita’s Gift, will be published by Knopf in Fall 2024. Besides writing, Mariana enjoys photography, traveling, Chai Lattes, and k-dramas.
When you’re in the querying trenches, the goal is clear: Get that agent. But what happens after you have an agent? How are you supposed to work together for the next stage of your publishing career? Big thanks to Lucia for suggesting this topic, because I think it’s an important one and it’s useful to share my experience so that fellow authors have another data point to reference when trying to navigate their own agent-client relationship.
I recently saw a tweet that cautioned authors about how they viewed the agent-client relationship. The OP mentioned that many might view this the same way they would a romantic relationship, but it’s key to remember that ultimately it’s not that – it is a business relationship. Solid advice. Your agent’s job is to help you sell your books and get them on the shelves, and to negotiate the best possible terms for you so that your writing career gets to where you want it to be. Of course it’s a bonus if your agent can double up as your BFF, but that’s not necessary. I got lucky with my agent, because she was truly a good fit for my work and working style. Here are some green flags in my working relationship with my agent:
Being able to meet my expectations of what an agent should do in this partnership.
It can be pretty nebulous when you’re querying, but if you sit down and have a think, you can probably come up with some pointers about what you expect from an agent. For me, I knew that I wanted an editorial agent who would be able to give meaningful suggestions that aligned with my own vision of the book, and someone who would know where to place my books in the market. Every agent has a different working style, so it’s important to establish whether or not your agent’s style fits your own. Not every agent is editorial, and those who are can edit to different degrees. I’ve heard of agents who hang on to books for >6 months for heavy edits, and others who put books on sub almost immediately. You’ll never know for sure if an agent is a right fit based on one call, but you can lay out your expectations from the get-go and find out as much information as you need about the agent’s working style in order to help you make a decision.
When speaking to my agent on The Call, she said that she would do a quick round of line edits for my YA fantasy (because it had already undergone heavy structural edits through PitchWars), but subsequently she also gave me structural edit notes for my next book, a YA contemporary, so I was really happy that she was able to tailor her edits according to what the books required. One thing that worked really well for us was also that she took the initiative to set certain expectations. For example, when she was going to work on edits for my MS, she would tell me “hey I’ll get this back to you in two weeks”, and when two weeks rolled around there would be a prompt update in my inbox. Sometimes she needed more time and that’s okay, but she would always keep me updated on progress so I wouldn’t have to twiddle my thumbs wondering why there’s radio silence from her end. As a first-timer in this, I don’t know how long timelines are in the publishing world. How long should it take for your agent to give you an edit letter? How long should it take before editors respond on sub? How long should the publishing house take to draw up a contract? NO IDEA! So I loved it that my agent was open with volunteering all this information and proactive about keeping my anxious ass regularly updated.
Respecting my choices for my work and career.
I think mutual respect and trust is an important mark of a balanced relationship. I say “balanced” because when you’re a querying author, the power imbalance is so real. All the power be to agents, and as authors we just want someone to love us and our work so badly that sometimes we’re willing to overlook many red flags. It’s a mindset that I had to rework once I had an agent, because I realised that this should be a partnership, not a teacher-student or parent-child type of relationship. We are working together to get my book where it needs to be. When making editorial comments, my agent would always position them as suggestions, not directions. I never felt pressured into making any of the changes if I didn’t agree with them, which made the entire pre-sub process a lot more comfortable. When it came to sub, she also made sure to ask for my views with regards to the sub package and the sub list, even though I’m sure she’s far more experienced in this than I am. Of course, I respect her experience in the industry as well and trust her advice on what she thinks will be best for my books. Bottomline is, when working with my agent, it always felt like a two-way discussion, and I think that’s how it should be! Your agent should not be calling the shots on everything and you should never be made to feel like your views and opinions don’t matter, because ultimately it is your book and your writing career that you’re working on. Likewise, tap on your agent’s expertise to figure out what’s best for your book, instead of hanging too tightly to any assumptions and pre-conceptions you may have about the industry and how publishing works. Your agent is your champion, not your boss! You should never be afraid to engage with your agent. If you are, then perhaps that agent is not the right one for you.
Caring for my writing career and experience and not just the $$ and the sale!
This is so important and honestly not something that struck me until I went through the sub process and experienced it for myself. My agent was a former editor, so she knew what it was like working on the other side of the fence. During sub, it became quite clear to me that when she said “we’ll find a good home for your book”, this “good home” did not just mean a publisher who was willing to splash the most money on the advance – it meant finding an editor whose editorial vision and style aligned with mine, and a publishing house with the most comprehensive publication vision for my book. More money is always good, and it’s to your agent’s benefit to negotiate higher advances, but given that you’ll be working closely with your editor and their team for the rest of the publication process, the whole package is actually incredibly important!
I’ve been blessed with a smooth agent-client experience so far and I am so grateful for this. I know this isn’t going to be everyone’s experience, and is very particular to me and my POV, so make what you will out of it. Every agent-client relationship is different and there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all. That said, there are green flags and red flags to look out for when working with your agent, so know how to recognise them when you see them and don’t be afraid to seek opinions from fellow authors when you’re not sure!
Amber is a PitchWars ’20 alum and a Wattpad Creator. One of her Wattpad novels, The Cutting Edge, has recently been adapted for television and is streaming on meWATCH. She is represented by Anne Perry at The Ki Agency.