Elizabeth Bennett is an agent at Jill Corcoran Literary Agency. She represents fiction and non-fiction children’s books and has experience in nearly every facet of the publishing industry. She also represents graphic novels. She is currently closed to submissions, but has kindly agreed to accept submissions from readers of this post for a limited time. [Submissions are now closed.]
Thank you, Elizabeth!
You’ve worn several hats in the publishing world, editorial, marketing, product development, author, and now agent. How have all these roles informed your work as an agent?
Ah yes, at this point in my career I feel a bit like the man in Caps for Sale, balancing a tall stack of hats on my head. Each of the hats I’ve worn has made me that much more capable as an agent. As an author, I know what if feels like to feel passionate about your work and determined to find the right home for it. As an editor, I know how to negotiate the acquisition process with compassion for both the publishing house and the writer. I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that while trends and technology change, there is always a path for true quality and innovative thought to find a way to the market.
You dealt with franchise development at HMH, and wrote books for the DocMcStuffins, Hello Kitty, and Clifford franchises, among others. Are you primarily focused on representing books that have series potential?
No, I’m open to stand-alone titles as well as books with series potential. My years at Scholastic and HMH have given me a good sense of the market for series, and I have a sweet spot for a book that that can pull a reluctant reader over the hump and leave him/her looking for the next title in the series. But I’m also interested in good stand-alone manuscripts.
When you read a manuscript from a potential client, what are you looking for? Continue reading
You’ve probably seen Mark Swan’s name a dozen times, but didn’t know it. As an animator for over 30 years, he’s worked for Walt Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. and MGM, among others. Some of his credits include An American Tail, Land Before Time I, II, III, IV, Space Jam, A Goofy Movie, All Dogs Go To Heaven, Rock-A-Doodle, Thumbelina, A Troll In Central Park, Cats Don’t Dance, The Princess and the Pea, and for t.v., Thundarr the Barbarian, The Incredible Hulk, and The Smurfs. His work has taken him from L.A. to Dublin to Budapest and Barcelona. And the most amazing part of all of this is that he’s my big brother. I grew up watching his artwork on Saturday morning cartoons looking for the secret pictures he’d drawn for me to find. I’m thrilled to interview him about his career and his upcoming Kickstarter campaign for a comic book series all his own.
You’ve worked in animation for a long time. As such, you are quite familiar with storyboarding. Can you talk about the role storyboarding plays in creating an animated movie?
For people unfamiliar with storyboards I’ll often define it as making the comic book version of the movie. You’re drawing out the story shot by shot. It’s a lot like being the director because the storyboard artist reads the scripts and starts breaking things down into different shots and you’re making decisions like, should this be a long shot, medium shot or a close up, a pan shot, a dolly shot. You’re concerned about the composition, the acting and the transitions from shot to shot. You have various story points that you have to keep in mind, and in storyboarding, the artists think up much of the visual humor, and visual interest.
When you get a script, how do you go about creating the pictures to go along with it?
As I read a script, I get images in my mind and I’ll make a little thumbnail sketch or write a little note in the margins. I’d probably read through it a few different times and then start sketching things out. After getting the first sketches done then you have to review and edit things. In the old days we used to pin up sketches on a cork board so you could move things around, add new drawings or pull some down. You are looking for the flow of the story, the entertainment value and checking to see if you hit all the important story points for that scene.
Natascha is a former editor turned agent for BookEnds Literary. I first interviewed Natascha just over a year ago when she was getting started in her new career. With a year-plus behind her, I’ve been dying for an update. Luckily, she agreed to a second interview.
Thank you, Natascha!
You recently hit your year-mark as an agent. What has been the biggest surprise for you from the agenting side of the industry?
There have been two really big surprises. The first is the amazing talent I have found, and the connections I have made. I had some idea when going in, but it is just amazing how far I have come. The second was how much grit it takes to be on this side of the desk. Agents take those punches alongside their clients, and we do it for everyone. Being an agent teaches you about yourself.
I imagine you’ve built up a solid client list by now. Are you still seeking clients?
Always seeking new clients, but out of necessity, I am getting pickier. When I first started, I had loads of time to pour into a client. Now, I have to weigh that against the time for 24 other talented people. It’s not just one book per author, it’s multiple books per author.
What would you say is the split between the categories you represent? How many are PB writers, MG, illustrators, etc.? Continue reading
Adria Goetz is an agent at Martin Literary Management. Adria is seeking board books, picture books, graphic novels, MG, YA, and Christian themed works. She earned her B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from the University of Washington.
Thank you, Adria!
Your education was in publishing and writing, and you even worked at a library for a while, did that influence your decision to become a literary agent? How did that all come about?
In high school and part of college I thought I wanted to be an editor, but as I learned more and more about the publishing industry and the publishing process, I quickly changed my mind. I first learned that there are very few opportunities for editor jobs in Seattle, and I’ve never had a desire to leave the Pacific Northwest. The PNW is the land of coffee and Sasquatches, and rich true crime history. AKA my personal heaven. During college, I applied to every publishing internship I heard about because I wanted to observe the publishing beast from every angle. When I started my internship with Martin Literary Management, I knew I’d found the right avenue for me. Agents get to work from home. Agents get to edit stories. And agents get to make dreams come true. The internship was only supposed to last for a few quarters, but it ended up lasting for two years because it was such a good fit. I wanted to start agenting right after graduation, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it work financially. It takes so long as a new agent to get things going to the point where you’re making a livable salary. And I needed a job! I was a fresh college graduate with my wedding around the corner, and I needed something that would pay the bills. So I got a job in the Communications department of Pierce County Library. After working for the library for a while, I thought maybe a job as a children’s librarian would be a more practical job for me, so I applied for library school, and got in! It was right when I opened my acceptance letter that I knew it wasn’t the right decision for me, and I realized if I didn’t at least try my hand at agenting, I’d regret it. So I attended a publishing program at Columbia University in New York, then when I returned, I knocked back on Martin Literary’s door and asked them if they’d be willing to train me as an agent. And they said yes! So my husband and I decided that we needed to make a few financial sacrifices in order to make a career as an agent happen. We moved out of our condo and moved into a used camper on some family property. We cut out as many fixed expenses and splurge purchases as we could. And then I began my career as a literary agent. Living in a camper might seem like an extreme lifestyle change just to break into a tough industry, but the first few years of agenting are a lot like the first few years of starting a business—you typically don’t make much of a profit off of the time you invest in your projects. We also realized that we were young and poor, and had expensive dreams—traveling and adoption and buying a home being the biggest ones. After a year of living in the camper, we saved up enough to buy our first home—a Victorian home which I am still hoping is secretly haunted. I now have my own little office, or as I call it: my “writing studio.” It is a much more spacious place to work!
You’re accepting picture book submissions. What are you specifically looking for in a picture book? Continue reading