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The 2015 SCBWI Summer conference had an impressive line-up of agents including Alexandra Penfold, Barry Goldblatt and Brenda Bowen. There is a good amount of information out there answering questions about how to get an agent and how to write a fabulous (the ever elusive and tricky) query letter, but much less talked about is what happens once an agent’s interest is piqued. We wanted insider information on how these top of the line agents work with potential clients. They were kind enough to take time out of their busy conference schedules to talk with us.

Alexandra Penfold

Agent at Upstart Crow Literary

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Alexandra was an editor with Paula Wiseman at Simon and Schuster for nearly a decade and a publicist for two years. She has been an agent at Upstart Crow for two and a half years and is open to submissions to those who attended the Summer Conference.

You read a manuscript and love it. What next?

There is nothing better than getting that email that makes your heart beat a little faster. If I’m interested I will find out what I can about them from their query and/or website. Then I will set up a phone call. With that, we get to know each other and discuss publishing goals. Questions such as: What do you hope will happen with the manuscript? What do you want to say with this? I also ask to see other work at this time as well. Before a contract is offered, this open dialogue helps clarify our mutual goals.

 You connect with the manuscript but it still needs work. What are your next steps?

We do go through an editorial process before signing. There really isn’t a typical amount of time. It depends on the level of work needed to get it into shape. It takes as long as it takes. I need to know they can carry a revision across the threshold. I do ask, if they are revising with my notes, to have it exclusively for an amount of time.

 You’ve sent the manuscript out on submission. You’re excited. Maybe a little nervous. If you’re not getting a lot of positive response, how do you proceed?

I work with my client to select a group of dream editors first. Ones the client might already have a relationship with. If it keeps getting passes, I look for a pattern and we revise. If we continue to get passes, we can think about moving to not actively submitting this particular manuscript and focus on another book.

Likes?

Young, quirky picture books

Dry sense of humor

A writer who respects how smart kids are

Voice driven stories

Middle grade stories about friendship and/or heartbreak over friendship

Young adult – coming of age

Strong narrative voice, character shows vulnerability

Dislikes?

Picture books that are didactic and written more for adults

High fantasy- anything with a lot of world building

If you attended #la15scbwi and would like to submit to Alexandra, go to the Upstart Crow website for more information:

http://www.upstartcrowliterary.com

 Barry Goldblatt

Agent at Barry Goldblatt Literary LLC

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Photo by Sonya Sones

Barry has owned his own agency for fifteen years and is open to submissions. His background is in business.

You read a manuscript and love it. What next?

I call the author and get a feel for them. It’s that awkward first date. “What’s the plan?”

 You connect with the manuscript but it still needs work. What are your next steps?

Revision process determines the offer of representation. If they nail the revision then great. Revision tells a lot about the author. I will have a recommended submission list, but you (the author) are the boss. I work for you. You may have connections to agents from conferences etc. that we might want to target first.

 You’ve sent the manuscript out on submission. You’re excited. Maybe a little nervous. If you’re not getting a lot of positive response, how do you proceed?

I look at the comments. Are they consistent? If they aren’t, that won’t help us, but if they are consistent, we must address it. Never have I given up on a book. Never.

Likes?

A good story.

 Dislikes?

Unprofessionalism

The manuscript is not anything new.

Writers who don’t read. You gotta read to be a writer.

Interesting Fact: I’m not the agent for a first time writer who’s never been in a critique group who’s just starting out.

To submit to Barry, go to: http://www.bgliterary.com/submission-guidelines/

Brenda Bowen

Agent at Greenburger Associates

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Brenda has been in children’s publishing for 30 years in a variety of positions, including editor. She became a literary agent in 2009. She is also an author in her own right having authored over 40 picture books as well as chapter books.

You’ve received a manuscript/illustrations and love it. What next?

I read the submission a couple times. Then I will ask to see the whole thing.

 You connect with the manuscript/art but it still needs work. What are your next steps?

I commit right off. I’m all in or all out. I don’t wait for a revision. When it’s ready enough to sell, we know when to send it. I will target at this point which editors to send this to. We also know not to send on a Friday afternoon or a Monday! I’ll call editors on the phone. “I know it needs tightening. She’s willing to work. She has ideas.”

 You’ve sent the manuscript out on submission. You’re excited. Maybe a little nervous. If you’re not getting a lot of positive response, how do you proceed?

When I send it out, it’s ‘ready enough.’ I’ve already envisioned on whose desk it will be, so I do not get a lot of bad responses. If I do get a pass, we rework before we send again. If we keep hearing the same message, we listen.

We are looking for the right person (editor) and the right amount of money (not necessarily the most amount of money). I want the author to be set up for success. I never over push upfront for money. I would rather have the terms.

Likes?

Strong voiced middle grade

Dislikes?

Picture book texts

Non-fiction

Epic young adult

Edgy fantasy/Sci-fi

 If you’ve attended #la15scbwi, look at her website for submission guidelines: http://greenburger.com/submission-guidelines/

What was exciting about meeting with these agents was learning how much they love great stories. Period. They are there to be your advocate and keep your best interests at heart. We really do have the best in the biz. Thank you to Alexandra Penfold, Barry Goldblatt and Brenda Bowen for letting us in on your process.

 

Clare Di Liscia Baird is an author represented by Eden Street Literary and you can find out more about her at www.clarediliscia.org.

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Beth Navarro is the co-editor of Kite Tales and author of Grambo, published by Be There Bedtime Stories. To find out more about Beth go to www.bethnavarro.com

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