Annette Hashitate was born in Japan and moved to California as a child. She was trained in traditional oil painting from the age of ten. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego. Annette now creates pictures books and graphic novels that appeal to a diverse audience.
“From a young age, I was drawing funny pictures and writing quirky stories. I often got in trouble at school for scribbling in my notebook instead of paying attention in class. I am now back on the journey I started as a child, to tell stories through my art.”
We are 9 days away from pitch time, and Annette is offering some tips that helped her find an agent through our first #KidLitGN pitch event:
You pitched in our inaugural pitch event a year ago and landed your agent through it. What did you do to prepare such a stellar pitch?
I spent a year preparing! I got a decent response when I pitched Selfies by Sumie on #DVPIT in October of 2019. I sent off my queries and eagerly waited for the offers to roll in. But, when the rejections started to fill my inbox after requests for more material, I had to pause and reevaluate. I was devastated to get so far and believe that I had failed.
But the interest gave me hope. I committed to trying again in a year. I took every opportunity to learn and improve my craft which included entering contests. I was fortunate to be selected for a mentorship by middle-grade author and KidLit411 co-founder Sylvia Liu through Alexa Donne’s Author Mentor Match. Sylvia not only guided me through manuscript revisions but also coached me through the query process.
To prepare for #KidLitGN, we began by polishing the query package. Regardless of what happened with the pitch, I would query. I studied submission guidelines for different agencies and created multiple versions of the package. Every piece of the package: letter, synopsis, pitch to sample art went through many revisions after feedback from critique partners and friends.
Next, we researched agents. I wanted an editorial agent who focused on children’s literature, had experience with graphic novel sales and would support future projects across genres. I found this information on Manuscript Wish List, Query Tracker and Publisher’s Marketplace, KidLit411, and visiting individual agency websites. With Sylvia’s help, I compiled a list of solid agents; I would have been ecstatic to work with any one of them. But I was secretly longing for one agent in particular, one closed to queries.
On the day of the #KidLitGN pitch event, I was a bundle of nerves. I researched pitching strategies such as timing and boosting Twitter analytics, followed tips to optimize exposure… In the end, I don’t know what kind of impact it made. I got about the same number of likes as I did the previous year when I was utterly twit-illiterate. And yay, Elizabeth Bennett (my coveted agent) liked my pitch!
What has happened since then?
After vetting agents, I took a deep breath, sent out my first batch of queries. I was surprised but not shocked when requests to see more material came immediately. It had happened before, but this time I had put in the hard work and was thoroughly prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for–a request for a phone meeting from Elizabeth just days after sending the requested material! I was an emotional mess–shock, fear, disbelief…Irrational as it sounds, being close to having a dream come true is a scary thing.
Fortunately, talking to Elizabeth put all my fears at ease. She is everything I hoped for in an agent and more. We went on sub with Selfies by Sumie in November 2020, and we sold it to Liza Kaplan of Viking Children’s books in a preempt in February 2021. I finally got to announce the deal just this month!
What advice do you have for GN creators who are pitching in our upcoming pitch event?
Make sure your pitch covers the most critical information, who is the main character, and what obstacles or challenges must they overcome? If you can add a picture, pick your image wisely, make sure it conveys both narrative and mood. I’ve seen impressively skilled illustrators get overlooked because their images don’t tell a story. And most importantly, be proud! It takes a lot of courage just to put yourself out there. If you don’t get a like this time, don’t be discouraged. It was my tenacity and willingness to grow, not talent, that got me this far.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The support of the kidlit community is incredible! I wouldn’t have gotten this far with their generosity. If you don’t have a mentor or a personal query coach, don’t worry. Sylvia Liu compiled all the information in her newsletter. https://us2.campaign-archive.com/?u=c01461f241f84e67c0d8944e6&id=84a56c28b1
You will also find a wealth of information on Sylvia’s site http://www.kidlit411.com/
And Alexa Donne’s YouTube channel has a ton of information on query strategy. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfwTRhTSM2NyJImC8HeUd1Q
(I call those two the query whisperers.)
I also made lasting connections with other graphic novel creators on Janna Morishima’s https://www.kidscomicsunite.com/
And lastly, I’m grateful to all the hardworking volunteers at KidLit GN who created a much needed, fantastic platform!
Annette is giving away a query and synopsis critique to one lucky winner. Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway