Day 2 of our countdown! Reminder: The website pitches must be loaded before 11:59 on Oct. 4. You have one more day to get those pitches in. Good luck.
It’s Day 9 of our 10-day countdown (one more day left until pitch day!) and we have the good fortune of having the amazing agent Elizabeth Bennett to share her insights. Plus, she’s offered an amazing give-away of one lucky winner the chance to get to the top of her slush pile. See details below to enter.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a senior literary agent, focused on the children’s book industry at the Transatlantic Literary Agency. I live just outside of Boston with my partner Andrew and our dog Marvin. Between us, we have 6 kids who are scattered across the country living their best lives. When I’m not working, I can be found either doing something active outdoors like hiking, biking or paddle boarding, or curled up on the couch with a book or a crochet hook.
You’ve had a prolific career in the children’s publishing industry. How has that shaped you as an agent?
As a former editor and product developer, I bring a lot of tools to the table as an agent. I think I have a good feel for the market and enjoy helping my clients figure out what to work on next. I’m happy to weigh in early on projects and work with writers and illustrators on shaping their work from pitch to final product.
You represent quite a few graphic novel creators. What draws you to the genre, what parts do you enjoy, and what are some challenges?
There’s something magical about the way a graphic novel can open up the world of reading to children who may be intimidated by a page full of text. The combination of illustrations and text engages readers in a way that traditional novels may not. Graphic novels are approachable and unintimidating, but they are packed with language and sophisticated storytelling. Readers don’t even realize they are decoding, making inferences, and exercising their comprehension muscles as they pour through the pages.
The biggest challenge is that they are so time-consuming. It can take years from concept to deal and then several years more before we see the book come to market. Creators must have patience (and another good source of income!) while creating their graphic novels.
Has the GN market tightened in recent years? Where do you still see growth or need?
The market has certainly exploded in the last five or so years. I don’t see it reaching a saturation point yet. As the book world becomes more accepting of the genre, I expect we will see more and more editors adding them to their lists. While middle grade continues to be the strongest category, I see growth opportunities in young adult and early readers. I expect to see graphic novels continuing to be strong across the board.
How is submitting a GN proposal to a publisher different from a traditional manuscript or picture book?
With a traditional book, I will only submit a manuscript when it is finished and polished. With graphic novels, we submit proposals. In many cases, editors want to have a more active hand in shaping the final product. We submit a proposal that includes enough materials so an editor can envision the final book, but there is still room for development.
For authors only, do editors prefer to choose their own illustrators, and are there advantages in pairing with an illustrator prior to submission?
For the most part, I’d say, yes, editors prefer to choose their own illustrators in the same way they do for picture books. At the same time, I’ve seen collaborations work. The risk is that an editor is going to respond to either the writing or the illustration and either reject to avoid conflict or make an offer that leaves out one of the creators. Feelings can be hurt. Relationships can be impacted. I’d advise authors to only collaborate with an illustrator prior to submission if there is a very strong reason to do so. That being said, I’d be remiss not to add here that I much prefer clients who both write and illustrate (as do editors).
For more information about Elizabeth, see here: https://www.transatlanticagency.com/about-us/agents/bennett-elizabeth/
To enter to win a skip-the-slush-pile pass, please comment below with your name. To enter more than once, share this post on social media, then reply to your original comment with the link to where you shared the post. You can enter as many times as you share. This contest will close by the end of the day on Oct. 7, and the winner will be selected shortly after. Thank you, Elizabeth! THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED, AND THE WINNER IS SUSAN UHLIG. CONGRATS, SUSAN.