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How I Got My Agent: Cori Doerrfeld

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. 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. Cori Doerrfeld is an author/illustrator. She has illustrated two books by actress Brooke Shields (Harper Collins), as well as two books by EliseBroach (Little, Brown). Cori is excited about the release of the first picture book she has written herself, Penny Loves Pink (Little Brown, Jan. 2011), which Library Journals called, “A sweet, satisfying story… The illustrations are bright and lively.”

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. 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.

Cori is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Dez won.)

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Cori Doerrfeld is an author/illustrator. She has
illustrated two books by actress Brooke Shields
(Harper Collins), as well as two books by Elise Broach
(Little, Brown). Cori is excited about the release of the first picture
book she has written herself,
Penny Loves Pink (Little Brown, Jan.
2011), which
Library Journals called, "A sweet,

satisfying story ... The illustrations are bright
and lively."
See her website here.

YES, LUCK PLAYS A BIG ROLE

When I think of how I met my agent, the one factor that truly stands out is luck. Now I’m not saying that the whim of fate is the only thing that creates or destroys success. A great deal of work and dedication is involved as well … but in a way, I honestly just got lucky. I hope that sharing an abbreviated version of my journey will help others understand, that so much of succeeding in the world of publishing all comes down to getting lucky.

After completing my Post Baccalaureate, I took a job to pay the bills as a toddler teacher at a nearby preschool. Being submerged in a mass of young children every day is luck in itself. It was a constant resource for ideas. There really is no logic more creative than that of a two-year-old. I was inspired to create a few little stories … one in particular after learning that one of the children would not potty train unless her toilet was pink. I created the stories with the toddlers in mind … short and simple, with simple art reminiscent of the old Golden Books I loved so much as a child.

As luck would have it, my husband’s job afforded him the knowledge and the ability to take my paintings and transform them into little paperbacks. He printed real little books that I could both read and give to the kids at my school. It was an instant way to see if they enjoyed the stories. Luckily, they did.

I'M SORRY, DID YOU SAY "BROOKE SHIELDS"?

My husband’s job was not the only lucky coincidence. His own ambition to get his worked published gave me a unique opportunity. We have traveled to numerous cities, in several states to promote his work. And just because I was there anyway, he started letting me put my little paper books and portfolio on the table as well. I have to admit it was his drive that put us in New York one year at an independent comic convention.

It was even luck that someone from a children’s book publisher would attend. It was actually my agent’s spouse who asked her to come to the convention (he was the one into comics). At the time, Rachel Orr was not even an agent. She was still working as an editor for a big name children’s book publisher, and so my work stood out to her. After chatting, and paging through my portfolio, she purchased copies of my paperbacks to bring back to the office.

About two years went by. In the meantime, I continued to work as a nanny and illustrate books for a Minnesota-based publisher. A friend put me in touch with an agent, who, after much debate, turned me down. The task of acquiring an agent or working with a big name publisher seemed more and more impossible. But then, out of the blue the same publisher who had received my little paper books contacted me. I was asked if I would like to create some sample art for a celebrity book. I will never forget finding out at a playground that I was being hired to illustrate a book with Brooke Shields.

RACHEL STARTS AGENTING

The news spread through personal and professional networks, and eventually, Rachel, the editor who had purchased my books, heard my news. As fate would have it, she had been let go by the publisher and was going to become an agent. Luckily, a friend of hers already had a literary agency, to which my agent would add a client list of illustrators. I could not believe my luck, that the very same person who exposed my work at all to publishers in New York, was now interested in becoming my agent.

Needless to say, we struck an agreement and together we have currently collaborated on five books, including a second book with Brooke Shields, and two that I have both authored and illustrated. The first of those two, Penny Loves Pink, was just released.

Looking back, it’s true that I possessed the willingness to create and the drive to actually sit down and put my ideas to paper, but the string of events which lead to signing with my agent were not intentional. Nor would they be easy to recreate. It really all came down to being the right person, with the right work, at the right time. As I said, in a way, I just got lucky, but now it is my job to make that luck last with appreciation, dedication, and work, work, work!

Cori is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Dez won.)

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The 2011 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market
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