How I Got My Agent: Natasha Yim

“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. 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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“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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