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I've always liked the idea of starting over fresh every January, and setting resolutions or goals for the coming year. Like many people, I don't always meet the goals I've set, but I do try to meet them, at least for awhile.
Last year two of my goals were a) to complete the middle grade fantasy novel I'd started and b) to write some new short stories and poems for kids. I'm happy to say that I did meet both of those in 2011! I still need to finish my latest revision of the novel, but at the time I set my goal, I just wanted to finally be done with the first draft! I did accomplish that, and also worked through 2 major re-writes -- now I'm on my third.
I have some similar goals this year:
- Write even more short stories and poems
- Submit some of my stories and poems to magazines
- Start... and hopefully finish!... another novel
- Continue to make daily blog posts
I'm also setting this big goal for 2012: Find myself an agent. (And then, hopefully, a publisher!)
When I first started writing stories many years ago, everything I read said that children's authors didn't need agents in order to get published. I accepted that as fact, and never paid much attention to information about agents after that. There have been many changes in the publishing industry since then, however, and now -- almost two decades later -- the majority of children's book publishers won't even look at a manuscript unless it was submitted by an agent.
I decided in the fall that I'd better learn about agents and how to go about getting one. I checked out several books from the library, and found the two following works particularly helpful:
78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published & 14 Reasons Why It Just Might, written by Pat Walsh, 2005... Walsh is a founding editor of the literary publisher MacAdam/Cage, and knows what he's talking about. He offers helpful advice on how to get published, using humor and insights based on his own experiences.
and the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, 2010... Not only does this book provide the contact information (and much more!) for over 550 agents, it also contains several articles about the specifics of finding an agent -- how to write a query letter, what agents look for in their writers, what agents do, etc.
While reading these books, I discovered that many of the things I thought I knew about literary agents were incorrect. For example, I always assumed that when a writer searched for an agent, his/her query letter would include a list of all of the things he/she had written that were available for publication. I couldn't have been more wrong! That kind of list actually makes a writer look unprofessional, and an agent is likely to throw that letter right in the trash. Instead, writers need to pick one work they wish to publish, and focus only on that in their query letters. (Good thing I found that out before sending any queries!)
I decided I will focus on my novel first, and set aside all of my picture book manuscripts for now. I went through the entire listing of agents in the 2011 Guide and wrote down the names and websites of all those interested in middle grade fantasy novels. Then I researched the agents online, and narrowed down my list to those who seemed most compatible with me. And then I put everything on hold for the holidays.
Now that it's January and life is a little less hectic, my plan is to finish my current revision of my book, then write a good query letter and send it to the agent at the top of my list. If that one doesn't work out, I'll try another agent. I'll keep on trying, and hopefully will find someone who wants to represent me before I get too discouraged. (I promise to keep you all updated!) Wish me luck, please! :)