I had the pleasure of meeting Jamie Weiss Chilton at SCBWI Ventura / Santa Barbara Writers' Day last fall. She gave an entertaining and insightful talk about being an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I asked Jamie to give us her insights on being an agent.
When and why did you start representing children’s book authors?
I joined the Andrea Brown Literary Agency as an Associate Agent in January 2008, but my career in children's books started ten years earlier. In 1998, I became Christy Ottaviano's intern at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. On my first day, I knew I wanted a career in children's books.
Working with Christy was amazing, and she continues to be a wonderful mentor to this day. After two years interning, I worked as an editorial assistant, then assistant editor at Random House Children's books (BDD and Knopf) before I moved to Los Angeles and became the SCBWI's conference manager. I loved seeing that side of the business, but missed working one-on-one with authors and illustrators. Then I met with Andrea and you know the rest!
What is the most valuable advice you can give to a newly published writer?
Keep focused on your craft, and don't worry too much about hype, reviews, or amazon numbers. Great success in our business doesn't usually come overnight. You know that story about the turtle and the bunny....
What is one of your favorite children’s books that you'd like to recommend?
Tough question! Can I give more than one? My childhood favorite from when I was very young is THE SNUGGLE BUNNY by Nancy Jewell, illustrated by Mary Chalmers. I have a pet bunny (yep, a real live one!) and I think my love of bunnies is due to the number of picture books published about them in the 1970s. : ) Recent favorites range from thoughtful, moving stories like YA IF I STAY by Gayle Foreman to reality-based fantasy like THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins to science fiction like UNWIND by Neil Shusterman to picture books by Jon Muth and David Ezra Stein.
How much are the houses buying these days and is it better to wait to submit?
Take time to polish your manuscript to the best of your ability -- take advantage of conferences and critique groups. When your manuscript is the very best it can be, submit! I don't recommend holding on to a manuscript that's ready to go. Houses are more selective than ever, so taking the time to polish your work is extremely important.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
A chocolate souffle with whipped cream. Hot and cold, creamy and crunchy, chocolate and vanilla, it satisfies every craving. Mmm, I want one now.