There’s clearly something wrong with me, I’m enjoying querying (some) literary agents!
It’s the challenge of researching a literary agent to try to determine what they might like to see in a query/pitch and it’s so easy to get it wrong.
So, I’m happily checking Facebook (been posting some funny agent query tips) and Twitter to see who is following etc… (looking after that oh so important author platform) and on my Twitter notification page I see a literary agent has followed me: Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management.
Being followed by a literary agent per see isn’t a big deal, they are people and do follow back (not kept track, but guess I have at least a few dozen following), but Catherine Drayton had followed and I hadn’t followed her first: that’s unusual for my account*
* I work with my wife (I write, Marie writes and illustrates) on children’s picture books and as of August 2016 we are not represented by an agent and have nothing published: five finished picture book manuscripts, working on four more.
By the end of of last month we’d sent out precisely 12 literary agent queries (working my way through these agents who rep picture books, heard back from 7 with a no, waiting on 5). We’ve never queried publishers directly, went straight to agents as we want some of our children’s books to find their way onto the lists of the major publishing houses (we need an agent for that).
There aren’t dozens of literary scouts whispering in the ears of agents and publishers about one of our manuscripts, there’s no buzz about us:-)
I have a reasonable Twitter following of over 11,000 followers and at least a third of those are related to publishing in someway (authors, writers, illustrators, editors, agents…), but for the most part when connecting with the movers and shakers in publishing (any industry really) you follow them first and they might follow back (a lot won’t).
Checking who Catherine Drayton follows (at the time around 240 accounts, she is followed by around 2,600 accounts) indicates she doesn’t follow accounts randomly, nor is she trying to build a large Twitter following fast. Had I found Catherine following hundreds of unpublished writers etc… I wouldn’t have thought anything more about it, that would have suggested she’s actively building a Twitter following.
How To Build A Twitter Following
To build a large following on Twitter (without being followed for a viral reason), generally requires following a fair number of people and hoping they follow back. This is what I do, find accounts that are related to the publishing industry and follow them. Give them 6-8 weeks, if they haven’t followed back, unfollow them.
Rinse and repeat, overtime you’ll build up a following of accounts related to your industry: you follow them, they follow you.
Note: I don’t unfollow the main players in the publishing industry (and those I find interesting), even when they don’t follow back. It’s mainly authors, illustrators etc… who aren’t tech savvy enough to know how to work Twitter to build a large following long term: if someone in your industry follows you, follow them back unless there’s a good reason not to or you don’t care.
Unpublished Writer with Delusions of Grandeur
Anyway, it was interesting she had followed an unpublished writer with no publishing history etc… The mind wanders…
She’s stumbled on our website (this site) and is sending a subtle hint to query her. Have to admit if I were an agent and wanted someone to query I’d do that to see if the person was on the ball.
I’m connected with about 3,000 people on Facebook, at least half of those are related to publishing, some will be Catherine’s clients/colleagues etc… maybe she’s seen one of my recent funny Facebook posts about querying literary agents and thought she’d like to see a query from me.
My funny agent query tips #querytipsthatreallywork
These are awful agent query tips, the first one I tried to play it straight faced and it worked on a few people, they thought I was being serious :-)
- Just CC’d a query to 58 literary agents in one go, feeling smug about saving so much time.
- Well I’m an idiot! Yesterday I posted about CC’ing a book query to 58 literary agents in one go to save time…
- If I convince a literary agent that is only open to queries from people they have met at a conference into liking or commenting on a Facebook post…
- Good news, I’m on the verge of snagging an agent. My earlier querying tips wasn’t as good as I first thought…
I had no choice, I had to research Catherine Drayton with a view to querying her.
Catherine Drayton Literary Agent Research
Here’s the basic agent research, I do a lot more than this, read everything I can find on them and check out some of their clients. I’m trying to limit myself to under 4 hours research per agent (most agents will say no, so a lot of the research is a waste of time), but it’s so easy to get carried away.
- Agent Spotlight: Catherine Drayton
- Catherine Drayton Twitter Feed
- Catherine Drayton Facebook Personal Feed
- Catherine Drayton Agent Query
- Catherine Drayton Query Tracker
The research indicated Catherine certainly represented authors of children’s books including a small number of picture books: most of her clients create MG/YA novels and the odd picture book like author Katherine Battersby with Squish Rabbit and Brave Squish Rabbit. At first sight looked like a good victim, I mean agent I could send a query to.
So I did and I had a hook (being followed on Twitter) I could make something funny from :-)
Things you need to know.
She’s an Aussie.
Goon is a type of Australian wine that comes in a carton (cheap wine).
Query to Catherine Drayton
Email Subject- Query : PB- That Greedy Goat Just Cannot Stay!
Dear Ms. Catherine Drayton,
You might be interested to learn you are the first agent we are querying entirely due to Twitter. Following me https://twitter.com/DavidLaw yesterday resulted in hours of researching who you are, who you rep etc…
You’ll be relieved to discover all the important business boxes were ticked: reputable agency, experience, background in law (understands contracts), reps authors who create children’s books, has sold to the big publishing houses…
On the personal side you sound like a great person to work with, we like straight forward people who will tell us if something we’ve created is rubbish and like you enjoy those with a twisted sense of humor. What we’ve been writing to date is a toned down version of our humor, we’d love to be rep’d by an agent who is willing to take a risk on something edgy. The manuscript pitched below originally had a page with a goat “biting a gardeners ass”, but we chickened out, went safe and changed it to tache: would be funny to have an illustration of a goat biting an asses (donkey) ass.
My wife and I have been brainstorming why you followed me.
One of my many nemeses hacked your Twitter account to mess with me.
You were drinking too much Goon and fell asleep on the keyboard.
A kangaroo broke into your office and accidentally followed me.
Now that I’ve completely ignored all the ‘rules of querying’, keep it professional, keep it brief, here’s the query.
We are seeking representation for our 461 word picture book “That Greedy Goat Just Cannot Stay!” for ages 4-8yrs, full manuscript text is pasted below the pitch.
— That Greedy Goat Just Cannot Stay! Pitch —
The Addison family’s greedy goat has stolen a button from a coat, ruined Mom’s cherished wedding things and of course munched on Dad’s new toupee. The toupee was a disaster to begin with, Elvis is so last century, but Dad now looks like a funky punk and has had enough. Yes, the goat was useful for disposing of Great Aunt Matilda’s itchy knitted Christmas jumpers, but that greedy goat just cannot stay!
Follow the family’s hilarious adventure as they fail to re-home their greedy goat at a farm, petting zoo, old junk yard and a garden with a moat. After another hair munching incident, this time with the poor gardener’s prized mustache, they are on the verge of giving up! Fate intervenes (AKA: a lady runs out of a shop to inspect Dad’s amazing funky punk hair style) and the goat finally finds it’s place in the world as a hair stylist to royalty.
A simple storyline about a greedy goat, BUT the illustrations paint a different picture. Everybody knows goats love munching hair, however he is wrongly accused of taking the button, Mom’s wedding things and most of the ensuing chaos. The goat is a patsy, a dupe, a scapegoat if you will, the real culprit is the family’s cunning sheep!
A thought provoking story with a twist at the end that will appeal to parents and children who love read aloud rhyming picture books.
— The Manuscript —
Full manuscript was ere :-)
— end —
Authors: Marie and David Law
Illustrator: Marie Law
Sample illustrations and more details:
Examples of Marie’s Art:
This is a simultaneous submission to a small number of agents and is one of five complete PB manuscripts. We are currently working on three wordless picture books and one nearly wordless: all in very early development.
Although we are looking to build a long term career as an author/illustrator couple, we are flexible with how our manuscripts are published. We wouldn’t have a problem with other artists illustrating a project if a publisher is only interested in the manuscript text.
Whatever you decide we would like to thank you for being part of our life long goal to include a scapegoat pun in a literary agent query. Our next bucket list item is a bit more problematic, how to tell the Queen of England a knock, knock joke that makes her laugh out loud?
Marie and David Law
Marie Law and David Law
Our mailing address
… End of Query …
Below are Marie’s example rough illustrations (from the webpage for agents), they are in different styles, we like the middle style best.
I enjoyed writing this query, from various interviews it appeared Catherine Drayton has a sense of humor, so went with the “what the hell” approach, I’m going to be funny. I trod a fine line between funny and bunny boiler, but to be honest I was more bothered by it’s length, it got long!
You’ll read a lot of advice about keeping queries short (agents are busy, they get a lot of queries), BUT how do you present who you are, what you will be like to work with in a paragraph or two?
Creating children’s books is meant to be fun and creative, if your first gateway (your agent) to being published isn’t fun and relaxed it could impact the creative process. As I mentioned above we are toning down our humor, playing it safe because we don’t have an agent yet who will advise us when we cross the line (the books are for little kids after all). If we have an agent who doesn’t like funny, sarcastic, a little twisted they aren’t going to like what we create (not suggesting they’ll like EVERYTHING) and that could be a problem later. That doesn’t mean everything we’ve created to date is over the top twisted, far from it, but we want the option.
Add to that every manuscript an agent pitches to an editor will require a written pitch by the agent. As the authors of our books we should be able to write a pitch (the section in the query “That Greedy Goat Just Cannot Stay! Pitch”) that an agent can quickly modify to send to editors. Not sure what agents send to editors, but happy to learn and provide it when we send something to an agent to make their job easier.
Received a quick response from Catherine: “Thanks for your query. This is a cute story but I’m afraid I don’t do many picture books – mostly YA and adult. Best of luck!”
I got my research wrong on what she targets, but did get to make some jokes and learn to not read too much into someone following you on Twitter, Doh!