I met Kelly Sonnack years ago at a BEA children's authors' breakfast. She and a colleague were sitting at my table of authors and librarians. I got to know her better last year when we were both on the faculty of the SCBWI summer conference. A top selling agent, Kelly is kind, funny and very accessible. I am so pleased that Kelly to agreed to give me an interview for the blog.
When and why did you start representing children’s book authors and illustrators?
Just over 5 years ago now, when I got an entry level position at another agency in San Diego. There, I learned agenting was exactly what I wanted to be doing, and children’s literature was what I wanted to focus on, but the agency wasn’t the right fit. Luckily there was a position available at ABLA, an agency I considered to be a leader in the industry. Now, I’m in just the right spot!
What advice can you give published and unpublished authors/illustrators in these tough economic times, with publishing houses so in flux?
Be flexible and listen to the advice professionals offer you. And keep writing what you love. Trends come and go, and so do tough economic times.
What can authors/illustrators do to help their agents and houses promote their books?
Maintain a professional reputation, be positive with your fans, customers, and fellow writers/creators. Learn what your strengths are (School visits? Skype chats? Blog tours?). And have realistic expectations of what publishers will and won’t do for a debut writer.
What are you looking for in a manuscript or portfolio?
Something that sweeps me off my feet. I’m at a very comfortable place with my list right now and don’t NEED to take anything new on. But sometimes I’ll see something and that changes that feeling entirely. I NEED it. I MUST HAVE it.
Name some of your favorite children’s books.
From when I was a child: WRINKLE IN TIME, PAT THE BUNNY, THE BOXCAR CHILDREN, THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. As an “adult” (and these are non-client books, since those are ALL my favorites): THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, NOT A BOX, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK, WHEN YOU REACH ME. And I recently just read and loved THE PATHFINDER.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
Crème brulee. Because it’s amazing.
Kelly Sonnack is a Literary Agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and represents all types of children's literature. In picture books, Kelly looks for a good sense of humor, stories that stretch a young reader's imagination, and an authentic voice. In YA and MG fiction, she appreciates literary voices and character-driven stories with heart but is also drawn to light science fiction, well-crafted fantasy and thrillers. Kelly also represents nonfiction and character-driven juvenile graphic novels. Some of the titles Kelly has represented include Steve Watkins' 2009 SCBWI Golden Kite Winner DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN and his most recent YA novel WHAT COMES AFTER (both with Candlewick); Candace Ryan's picture book RIBBIT RABBIT (Walker); Carolyn Marsden’s upcoming MG novel STARFIELDS (Candlewick); James Burks' graphic novel GABBY AND GATOR (Hachette/Yen Press); and Bridget Heos' nonfiction picture book series starting with WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING LARVAE (Millbrook/Lerner).