Happy Tuesday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!
I don't know about you but these past several weeks have been a relentless surge of creative energy and productivity the likes of which I have never seen. I've written hundreds of new picture book manuscripts, finished three middle grade novels, and five and a half young adult novels. When that didn't satiate my muse's bottomless hunger, I wrote my autobiography and a new epic retelling of Odysseus as a rabbit. Cyclops is a wolf.
Then I built a house. Then I mastered underwater basket weaving. Then I took up baking.
False. I did none of those things. None.
It's generally been about the opposite. As if all of my creativity and desire are sealed in a dusty attic in a box marked COVID19.
And I don't like that. Do you? Nope. Probably not.
But what do I (we) have control over?
If I'm honest, I have to admit that I haven't been doing anything to foster creativity. I imagine things would begin to flow if I made the choice to flex those muscles. I'm a big believer in creative momentum. If you're anything like me and are struggling to find the motivation to create, and it feels all messy and bottled up inside, maybe we need to lower our expectations.
Maybe to start doing the dishes we just need to take a step toward the sink. Reach out. And turn on the faucet. Please do. For all of our sakes.
My heart knows the cathartic and healing power of losing myself in creative work. There's nothing like it. And something like that may be just what the doctor ordered...
Write on. Art on. Be well, kidlit fam. Figure out exactly what you have control over and do that to the best of your ability.
On an unrelated note, if you happened to miss the adorable reading of IT'S NOT ALL RAINBOWS by Jessika von Innerebner by my lovely wife, Katherine...you should totally check it out. It's the opposite of clam juice.
First and foremost: writers! And then coffee and a good internet connection…
What makes you most excited about being a literary agent?
It’s so special to be able to watch a project develop from its very early stages through to being a published book on shelves – I love that I get to help writers make their dreams of publishing come true, and I also love that I get to be part of the process of bringing books to hungry readers everywhere.
Describe your ideal client/agent dynamic or relationship.
Your relationship with your agent should be a true partnership – it’s ideally a very long-term pairing filled with open communication, brainstorming, and alignment of both editorial visions and publishing visions. From my end, every client works differently, and it’s my job to make sure I know what a client’s goals are, and how I can best help them in terms of deadlines and working styles, and in terms of publishing and media opportunities. But more than anything, you should be working with an agent who really gets your book(s) and what you’re trying to accomplish; you should sign with someone who you feel comfortable talking to, whose editorial contacts fall in line with your project(s), and whose passion for your work is clear.
How many queries do you generally receive a week and how many picture book clients do you usually sign per year?
It depends on the week, but maybe thirty or so queries per week? I’m actively building my list, so I do sign new clients each year, but I don’t have a minimum or maximum of clients per year – I sign someone if I love their work, and if I feel that I have the right vision for helping them publish it in a meaningful way. I also work with authors of chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult fiction, so the clients I sign range from picture books to these genres.
I’m pretty open! It really depends on the specific project. I will say, though, that I’m especially particular about rhyme – when it works seamlessly, I love it. But I do also see manuscripts that use rhyme, that might be better served by traditional prose – you want to use rhyme if it really adds to the story, but if the rhyme is trying too hard, it often takes away from the story an author is trying to tell.
What types of queries do you appreciate the most?
It’s great to see a query letter that pitches the book itself much like a book jacket would, and that also include an author bio that tells me about the author’s writing background and involvement in the writing community. It also always stands out when someone personalizes their query letter, noting specifically why they decided to reach out to me or why they think I’d be a good fit for their work.
Would you rather take on more of a sure thing, safe choice or take a chance on something more unconventional, innovative and risky?
I love books that are unconventional, innovative, and risky; I just need to have the right vision for how a project could be successfully edited and published. Sometimes a “sure thing” means a project that brings to mind a past book or series that was well-loved – that young readers, educators and caregivers gravitate towards, and would like to see more of in their classrooms or homes – that’s important, too (when I say this, I’m particularly thinking about concept books for toddlers and preschoolers, character-driven early readers, and so on, that are appealing to and helpful for certain age groups). Whether more unconventional in terms of style and format or more traditionally constructed, I just need to feel like I know how to help the creator develop and pitch the book and/or series.
If we had “Andrea Morrison goggles” to look critically at our work, what is ONE THING that you always look for that we can too?
Passion. You can tell when someone is very passionate about a book they’ve written; when the project is something they’ve cared for and cultivated with so much thought and energy, versus when it feels like they’re writing a story that they think agents or editors or readers want, but that they don’t really have as much personal investment in. Trends come and go; I want to see the book you’re truly excited about.
Is this ready for agents’ eyes? If you feel like you do know how a project could be edited further, then it’s best to take those next editorial steps before reaching out to agents. It’s time to reach out to an agent when a manuscript is complete, and when you can’t see what else needs to be done editorially, and you’re ready for someone else to help you take next steps.
Please complete the following sentence: "Andrea is an agent who…"
couldn’t imagine a more perfect career path – I get to read incredible stories and help to usher them into the world, and to work with thoughtful, hard-working and talented authors and illustrators. I’m so grateful for that.
Thank you so much for sharing all about your agenting life, Andrea!
And thank YOU for reading, subscribing, and sharing posts like this, kidlit fam! Andrea is offering to do a query critique for one lucky winner! See details below on how to enter the raffle.
Query Critique by Andrea Morrison
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The deadline for this contest is Tuesday, April 21st at 9AM CST
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About Andrea Morrison
Writers House is a full service literary agency that was founded in 1974. I started in our California office in 2009 as an intern to Steven Malk, and I have been in love with publishing and this company ever since. In NYC, I first learned under Brianne Johnson, and then went on to assist Rebecca Sherman and Geri Thoma. I've had the opportunity to work closely with a variety of bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators, in genres ranging from picture books to middle grade and YA, to adult literary fiction and nonfiction. I'm actively building my own list of clients.
I studied Literature & Writing at University of California, San Diego and earned my MFA in Fiction from Columbia University—not only do I understand the revision process from an agent’s point of view, I also understand it from a writer’s perspective. I truly love editorial work, and am hands-on when it comes to helping authors revise and build projects.
Below you’ll find detailed information about the types of projects I’m looking for:
FICTION: I'm excited about literary and upmarket commercial fiction that blends gorgeous sentence-level writing with stories featuring younger protagonists, eg. Janet Fitch's WHITE OLEANDER—one of my favorite books ever, Celeste Ng's EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and Elissa Schappell's BLUEPRINTS FOR BUILDING BETTER GIRLS. I'm a total sucker for vivid descriptions of California, and appreciate true-to-life fiction, but am also intrigued by fiction with magical elements or books that take place in worlds slightly different than our own. For example, I fell in love with Leslie Parry's CHURCH OF MARVELS. I'm game for beautifully constructed short story collections, literary thrillers and mysteries, novels told in stories, books that take place in a variety of locales (aside from vivid descriptions of California, I really just love when setting serves as a character of sorts). I also especially love books that explore the intricacies of friendship, and novels that tackle the complexities of mother/daughter relationships. A few books I loved: THE GIRLS FROM CORONA DEL MAR by Rufi Thorpe, THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri, and THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin. Next on my reading list: SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid.
NONFICTION: I'm especially selective when it comes to nonfiction - I tend to focus more on fiction - but I'm interested in narrative work: memoirs, essay collections, etc. I'm a fan of Leslie Jamison, Meghan Daum and Alex Mar. I'm curious about stories that take place close to home and in other countries, that explore little known ways of life as well as work that illuminates experiences we all have. In this category, I gravitate toward work that makes me laugh or cry or b