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How I Got My Agent: Natasha Yim

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, Picture Book Agents, What's New.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Natasha Yim, author of pictures books, including SACAJAWEA OF THE SHOSHONE. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Natasha is excited to give away a free copy of her picture book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: burrowswrite won.)

 

natasha-yim-book Natasha Yim

Natasha Yim is a Northern California children’s book author,
playwright, and freelance writer. She is the author of two picture
books, Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000) and
Cixi, The Dragon Empress, a picture book biography of the last
empress of China (Goosebottom Books, Oct. 2011). Her latest
picture book, Sacajawea of the Shoshone (Goosebottom Books),
was released in Oct. 2012. Connect with Natasha on her website,
her blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

I HAVE A CONTRACT (NOT!)

An agent at a writer’s conference once said, “You wouldn’t buy a car without seeing it first, why would you pick an agent without meeting him or her?” It’s always made a lot of sense to me. After all, your agent is someone you’d like to have for the life of your writing career, so it should be someone you’d enjoy working with.

I flew solo through my first two published books, Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing) and Cixi, The Dragon Empress (Goosebottom Books). When Tricycle Press/Random House offered me a contract for my picture book Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, I thought this was a good time to get an agent’s help. After all, half the work was already done. I’d searched for the publisher, made the submission, and got the offer all on my own. All the agent had to do was negotiate the contract, and she’d still get the full agent fee. What agent wouldn’t want to take me on? Apparently … uh … at least two … or three.

I first queried an agent I had met at a writer’s workshop who had provided me with a one-on-one personal critique. Not only did she not represent me, she didn’t even reply. So, I negotiated that contract on my own with the help of the contract guidelines on the Author’s Guild website and agent Kristin Nelson’s fantastic blog, Pub Rants, in which she has a series of blog posts called Agenting 101 that takes writers through every point and all the terminology of a publishing contract. I highly recommend the latter if you find yourself in a position or are so inclined to negotiate your own contract.

(Just starting out as a writer? See a collection of great writing advice for beginners.)

Sadly, a week after I signed my contract, Random House announced it was closing the Tricycle Press imprint. I was back to square one. I submitted my manuscript to three other agents I had met at conferences, and also to my former editor at Charlesbridge Publishing.

One agent quickly declined to represent me, another I never heard from, but three weeks later, the third agent responded and said she liked my story and wanted to see more of my work. I was thrilled! I rushed off two projects in progress. (By the way, this is never a good idea. Agents are so busy with other projects and clients, they’re not sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for your manuscripts to come in, so take your time, review closely what that particular agent represents or is seeking before you send something in).

SERENDIPITY OR FATE? 

In the meantime, one of the Tricycle Press authors was hosting a “goodbye” bash at her house and all Tricycle Press’ staff and authors (or authors-to-be) were invited. It was a four-hour drive round-trip for me and I wondered if it would be worth it to go. In the end, I decided that I wanted to meet and thank the two editors who had helped mold and championed my story through acquisitions to the final contract. As it turned out, it was serendipity. Or Fate. Or just damn good luck.

That’s where I met Karen Grencik. At the time, she had just re-established her own agency, the Karen Grencik Literary Agency [now Red Fox Literary] after a several-year hiatus from agenting. I took a liking to her immediately. She was bubbly, warm, and just effused positive energy. I also got the sense that she truly stood behind her authors. I thought, “She would be really fun to work with.” I asked Karen if she was in the market for new clients. She was, but I was still waiting to hear back from the other agent. A month later, that agent politely declined to represent me.

(Pitch agents at a writers’ conference.)

AT LAST!

I then sent my manuscript to Karen. She emailed back within a day (for me, that was another big plus for an agent—someone who responded quickly to my correspondence) and said she loved the story and wanted to offer me representation! Within the same week, an editor from Charlesbridge Publishing emailed and said she wanted to take my story to acquisitions. In March 2011, I signed with Karen who later collaborated with former Tricycle Press editor Abigail Samoun to form Red Fox Literary Agency. She negotiated my contract with Charlesbridge Publishing and Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas will be released in January 2014.

I’m happy to say that all my initial instincts were right about Karen—she’s supportive, knowledgeable, and truly wonderful to work with. I would never have known that if I hadn’t attended that party and met her in person first. Serendipity? You betcha!

GIVEAWAY: Natasha is excited to give away a free copy of her picture book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: burrowswrite won.)

 

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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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18 Responses to How I Got My Agent: Natasha Yim

  1. NCpoet says:

    Thank you for the article Natasha, Best wishes as we writers endeavor to make our dreams a reality.

  2. Morgan Shamy says:

    I’m late to the party, but I loved this!

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey, Natasha. I also work with Karen and I’ve learned more in this last year than I have in all my writing years combined. She’s an amazing woman. As are YOU, Natasha. I love reading success stories. :)

    • Natasha Yim says:

      Thanks, Morgan. Sorry for MY late reply. I feel so lucky to have found Karen. Sometimes it’s just about writers putting themselves in the right place.

  3. Vicky says:

    Thanks for a great article on finding agents. I’m just starting out (just wrote my first book and am in the process of submitting) and I enjoy reading advice from experts like you.

    I have a few questions. How did you choose your first publishing company? How many did you submit to?

    Thanks a million!

    • Natasha Yim says:

      So sorry, Vicky, for the late reply. I thought I had selected to be notified of all new responses, but I guess I didn’t. I used the great resource Writer’s Market to find my first publisher. It has a ton of info. on publishers, magazine markets, and agents. I think I focused on smaller publishers rather than the Big Six because it seemed easier to get your foot in the door. With the first book, “Otto’s Rainy Day”, I only submitted to one. I can’t remember why. I think Charlesbridge Publishing wanted an exclusive submission but they were very good about letting me know when they were behind on the reading and it’d take a little longer. And as luck would have it, they offered my my first contract. With my newest book, “Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas”, I had submitted it to quite a few publishers pre-agent, and after I got an agent, she submitted to a few before Charlesbridge Publishing offered me a contract on that book. So, I went through a round of rejections on that one. If you want to know about this book’s long and arduous process, check out these two posts: http://thewritechris.blogspot.com/2014/02/to-abandon-or-not-to-abandon-your-book.html and http://thewritechris.blogspot.com/2013/11/persevering-beyond-rejections-guest.html. Rejections are part of the writing process, so the main thing is never giving up. It’s a subjective business and editors have different reading tastes, but It only takes ONE editor to take you from unpublished to published.

  4. burrowswrite says:

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Debbie says:

    As someone starting at square one — that is, interested in writing picture books — I am intrigued by your journey. It’s nice to know once I step off the starting line, there is light along the way. Thank you for sharing.

    • Natasha Yim says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Debbie. Yes, there is always light at the end of the tunnel even though sometimes, it feels like you’ve been stuck in the tunnel forever. Did I mention that by the time Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas comes out it would have been a nine year journey for this story? The three P’s: Patience, Perseverance and Persistence—that’s what it often takes but eventually, you’ll emerge from the tunnel and find your way to publication.

  6. Thomas says:

    That’s great. I hope to find someone like Karen when I’m ready to publish.

  7. juliemusil says:

    What a great story! I’m lucky enough to have Karen as my agent, and she is so sweet and supportive–just an amazing person in general. Congratulations on your books!

  8. Chuck Sambuchino says:

    Just wanted to pop on real quick and thank Natasha for her awesome column!

  9. KimmiePWrites says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey! I am just starting out on mine, and any and all information is helpful.
    I love that you have done both self publishing and formal publishing, that you also negotiated the terms of a few of your contracts, and were successful at doing so. You, Natasha now have seen the publishing business from all angles, and that is something that works in your favor.
    I wish you the very best with this book.

    • Natasha Yim says:

      Thank you, Kimmie! Actually, I’ve never gone the self-publishing route. All my books were traditionally published, although Goosebottom Books is a small independent press with quite a specific niche list but they’re in the traditional publishing category because they pay an advance and royalties. Good luck with finding an agent and publisher for your work. The journey to publication is a long, arduous one, but in any event, not quite as treacherous as Sacajawea’s!

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