How I Got My Agent - Jaimie's Story
Well my story is a bit of a tale of timidity. I’ve always rocked the self-improvement part of art, but never the actual get-your-butt-out-there-and-get-seen part.
The problem was that sending queries was always a sure-fire way of forcing self-insights for me. With my cursor hovering over the send button, all the weak spots in my portfolio would go flashing before my eyes – and I’d be back at the drawing board, often with those ill-fated query letters still sitting in my drafts folder.
It took quite a few years and a lot of false starts for me to feel like my illustrations were ready to show the world, but around 2014 I finally felt like I’d got there. I’d put together a strong portfolio, I’d worked on my platform - I could finally hit send on those queries with confidence!
Those pesky insights.
See, all that time I’d been telling people that I wanted to be an illustrator - but oh, by the way, I’d like to write someday, too. Yet I’d never given my writing the same rigorous treatment as my art. I was only pursuing half my goal, and as I went to send out that round of queries I felt like I was sending an incomplete picture.
So I circled back again – this time to the writing board - and started to develop some of those long neglected manuscripts. And, lo, many drafts and critiques later I was (again) ready to present myself to the world.
Well, I am a consummate foot dragger.
I just wanted to be sure that I was putting my best foot forward. I had a lot of ideas! I was excited about all of them. I’d finish a dummy and then immediately start on the next one, convinced it was going to be even better.
Was it? Who knows? Not me! I might have found an agent on the strength of those early dummies, but I just kept chugging.
In 2017 I submitted one of my dummies for the Don Freeman Grant through SCBWI – and it won! When I got the news I felt like it was a sign that I was finally, definitely, super-dee-duper ready. For real this time. I had something to put in my bio line that sounded semi-impressive, I had a strong manuscript and a strong dummy to go with it. I had a body of other work tucked away, in case I got a nibble.
So I made a plan to start sending queries…riiight after our chapter’s fall conference. I know - foot dragger. But I knew that Jamie was going to be there representing the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and I’d had my eye on them for a while - and she’d be talking about the agent-client relationship, no less! I figured it would be worth the wait.
I’d like to say I marched straight up to Jamie after her talk and dazzled her with my amazing social graces and a perfectly planned elevator pitch. What I actually did was gaze longingly from across the room as someone else from my critique group chatted with her. Social dazzling has never been my strong point. I was hoping my work would speak for itself. I sent her a query just a few days after the conference.
Turns out I heard back so quickly from Jamie I barely had time to send any other queries. She requested more of my work, we had a chat on the phone - she seemed to have the same vision for my career as I did. She loved the dummy and felt it was ready to send out and she thought there was potential in my other manuscripts, and sent me some wonderful critiques.
She also liked my dragon illustrations – in my experience people who like dragons are excellent people.
It seemed like we would be a great team - so when she sent me an offer of representation, I was delighted to accept! No foot dragging necessary!
Jaimie Whitbred is a writer and illustrator living in Texas. She is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She is also the winner of our Illustration Portfolio Contest at the 2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference and creator of their website banner. Visit her website or check out her Instagram account to enjoy more of her amazing illustrations! She enjoys painting animals, dragon, unicorns and beautiful views in the great outdoors.