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How I Got My Agent - Lisa's Story

I connected with my agent, Natascha Morris of BookEnds Jr. through the #PBParty online contest. To enter, you had to submit a query letter and the first 50 words (just 50!) of your picture book. The top 20 out of 250 were selected to make it to the agent round. I received 5 requests for the full manuscript and ended up with 2 offers of representation. This all occurred over the course of three months. Sound like a fast process? Not so much.

Let's back up three years to when I decided to commit myself to writing for children. I joined SCBWI – which I encourage anyone interested in writing kidlit to do – and started learning about the industry. I also participated in the 12x12 picture book challenge, where the goal is to write one picture book each month. From 12x12 and SCBWI I joined several critique groups and got feedback on my manuscripts.

After about a year of writing, I started querying agents. In retrospect, my work wasn't ready.

But let's back up a few more years—about a decade. I was writing my third novel, adult fiction back then, and had decided to make writing my number one focus. I quit my well-paying corporate job and enrolled in an MFA program. I spent my days writing and reading and querying. I got some bites on my work, but no offer of representations.

But my other lifelong goal was to be a mother, and soon I was pregnant with twins. Guess what became my number one focus then? It wasn't until my kids were in preschool and I had some time and energy back that I switched to writing kidlit. I thought I had a leg up since I'd been writing for so long. Sure, there was less of a learning curve, as I understood the core elements of a story, but writing for kids was a whole different ball game. And in less than 500 words!

In my quest to find an agent, I sent out about 150 queries, wrote 3 novels, and about 40 picture books. Most of them were garbage! But Natascha and I found a few gems and polished them up to go out on submission. I am still writing some new garbage, but I firmly believe that you have to keep those writing muscles active and write through the junk to find the gems.

To everyone out there in the querying trenches: keep going and write, write, write!

Lisa Katzenberger is represented by Natascha Morris

with Book Ends Literary and the author of Triceratops Would Not make a Good Ninja. Lisa lives in a 100 year-old victorian house in La Grange, Illinois with her husband and twin son and daughter. Follow Lisa on Twitter @FictionCity, instagram lisakatz17, Facebook, on her website at

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