Thursday, July 11, 2024

Establishing a Strong Author-Agent Relationship

The milestone of signing with an agent is an important one in a writer’s career and should be celebrated! But after some champagne and ice cream, the time comes to get to work. And it’s not just working on your manuscript but working on your relationship with your agent. 

I’ve been represented by my agent, Wendi Gu of Greenburger Kids, for six years now and we have established a strong relationship. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that can help an author maintain a relationship that is beneficial for both parties.

Respect Each Other

Wendi says, “Mutual respect for time and energy is key to me personally,” and I agree.

Agent Wendi Gu

Author Gabi Snyder has a great example of showing respect to her agent, Natalie Lakosil. “When there's a story I really want/need to write, even if she's not excited about it, I go ahead and write it and try to get it as polished as possible before sending it to her.” 

This approach ensures that Gabi is giving her story the best shot but is also respectful of Natalie’s time by showing her a polished project.  

Author Gabi Snyder

Communication is Key

When I asked Wendi for her thoughts on communication she said, “Everyone is a different kind of communicator, and I think it’s important to find a publishing partner whose communication style suits yours.” 

These are good things to talk about when you receive an offer of representation. Does the agent like to discuss editorial feedback on the phone or comments in Google Doc? Knowing what works best for you will help you make sure you partner with an agent who has a similar communication method.

I asked Gabi about her communication style with her agent Natalie. “We communicate primarily through email, and I think that suits us both fine. However, once in a while when we’ve gone back and forth regarding a manuscript and we’re either not quite seeing eye-to-eye or it’s just not where we want it to be despite multiple revisions, we’ll hop on a zoom call to talk through ideas and do some on-the-spot spit balling. It’s nice to occasionally see and hear this person who’s such an important part of my professional life!” 

Establish Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, even business relationships. When I send Wendi a manuscript, I trust she will read it when her schedule allows. I also trust that she will give me her honest feedback. If a manuscript isn’t working just yet, or we’ve come to the end of the road on revision options, I know she will tell me—and do so kindly.

Take Feedback

We all know it took a look of revising to get a manuscript into submission-ready state to query an agent. And once you have an agent representing you, you have someone on your side who knows the market. They may see things in a manuscript that critique partners are not privy to, so be open to a new round of feedback once you share a story with your agent.

Gabi said Natalie is an editorial agent and she appreciates her notes. “I think her feedback always helps me strengthen a manuscript.”

Feedback does not only come in the form of editorial notes, but during discussions on contract negotiations. When Wendi was negotiating one of my contracts, she told me the counter-offer she was going to make on the advance. I asked if something higher could be achieved, and she gave me the honest feedback that I was shooting for something out of range. Circling back to trust, I believed in her that she was making the right decisions on my behalf.

With a foundation of trust, then layers of respect, communication, and feedback circles, you can ensure you and your agent have a solid relationship.

About Lisa

Lisa Katzenberger is the author of several books for children, including It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship, A Love Letter to My Library, Croc & Gator: Swamp Ranger School, I Can Do It Even If I'm Scared: Finding The Brave You, and It Belongs to the World: Frederick Banting and the Discovery of Insulin. 

Lisa is on the faculty of The Writing Barn where she teaches picture book writing courses including Perfecting the Picture Book, Writing Social Emotional Learning Picture Books, and Write. Submit. Support. She lives in La Grange, Illinois with her husband and two children. She has been a member of SCBWI since 2015. Visit Lisa online at

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Considering Crowdfunding? 12 Tips to Know and Consider

Me (Lee Wind) in my makeshift podcast recording corner. I'm not crowdfunding to publish the book -- it was traditionally published -- the crowdfunding is to raise money to buy and donate hundreds of paperback copies of my YA novel to empower LGBTQIA2+ and Allied Teens.

You can listen to the full podcast episode (32 min) here:

I'm in the middle of my second crowdfunding campaign, and I've learned some things that I hope can help other authors (and it should work for illustrators and translators, too.)

My first crowdfunding campaign was in 2018 for Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, a book that I author published, meaning when the campaign was successful I hired a team of people to help me put out the best quality YA novel possible. It was my debut, it worked, and the book went on to win some awards, had thousands of readers who loved it, got on a couple of banned and challenged lists, and overall launched my author career. 

My second YA novel, A Different Kind of Brave, was traditionally published (in paperback and as an ebook) in March of 2024, by Duet Books/Interlude Press, an imprint of Chicago Review Press. And I pitched the publisher on the idea of crowdfunding to raise enough funds to donate 350 (or more) paperback copies of the novel to LGBTQIA2+ teens while offering backers a special collector's edition hardcover of the novel. They said yes, so I launched my second crowdfunding campaign on June 20, 2024 and it will end 30 days later on July 20, 2024 at 6:50am Pacific: ⁠

The podcast shares 12 tips, and I'll share the first here:

Tip #1: Don't make it about you. 

By making my campaign about the community coming together to empower LGBTQIA2+ teens, talking about the project is easy for me, because the focus is not about helping me as much as it is helping them. So I don't have that uncomfortable self-promotion feeling when I'm talking about the kickstarter campaign, because the goal is to empower the teens I wrote the book for, and the way that happens is the crowdfunding to raise money to buy copies of the book to donate.

There are 11 more tips in the podcast...  I hope you'll find it both helpful and empowering!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

P.S. If you'd rather listen via YouTube, here's that link.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Picture Books as Conversation Starters

There are so many different kinds of picture books, you can find something for every reader. Laugh-out-loud funny books. Quiet, contemplative books. Non-fiction books. Concept books. Character-driven books. 

In my picture book career, I have been drawn toward writing books with a Social Emotional Learning bent. What I love about writing books with an SEL angle is looking at a book as a conversation starter. Because picture books are most often read by an adult to a child, it is a perfect opportunity to initiate a conversation. They can each share their response to the story in this moment of togetherness. 

In an article for BookTrust, children’s author Rashmi Sirdeshpande says, “Engaging picture books . . . ignite minds, send questions tumbling forth and lead you all – adults included – on a delightful journey of discovery and wonder.” 

The engagement with a picture book may vary by age, but the discussions are often rooted in questions. A toddler might point to an illustration of an animal they’ve never seen a picture of and ask, “What’s that?” A kindergarten student might listen to a story and ask their teacher “why is that girl so sad?” Both are opportunities to keep talking, as the child is really saying, “I want to know more.” 

This idea of books as conversation starters was discussed at this week’s American Library Association’s Annual Conference. Actor and children’s book author Max Greenfield said, “Children’s books in general are wonderful because the good ones will initiate a conversation. The book shouldn't necessarily have an answer but should open up a conversation.” 

If this type of story-telling appeals to you, then as you are writing your story, think about what you would like the adult reader and child listener to discuss after they finish your book. Think about what emotional takeaway they want the reader to experience. Hopeful? Comforted? Happy? Understood? 

Another way to encourage discussion about a story is to include an author’s note in your manuscript. This can give the reader a broader picture of the author’s emotional experience and what called on them to write this particular story.
I include an author’s note in my picture books IT WILL BE OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship and I CAN DO IT EVEN IF I’M SCARED: Finding the Brave You. Both notes touch on mental health, a topic important to me that has inspired many of my stories. I believe that by sharing with kids that even as an adult I get worried or scared they will feel more comfortable talking about the times that they get worried or scared too. 

Some additional examples of picture books with strong author’s notes to spark conversation include Watercress, Love in the Library, and Dreamers.
Scholastic Parents suggests incorporating discussion of a book at any time, not just in the moment of reading. “Like any conversation, talking about books can happen anywhere and at any time — in the car, at the bus stop, or over dinner. Books can elicit strong feelings that need to be shared. A great way to start is to bring up what you have read recently and how it made you feel. Then, invite your child to do the same.” 

While a story begins when you open a book, it doesn’t have to end when you close it.

Lisa Katzenberger is the author of several books for children, including It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship, A Love Letter to My Library, Croc & Gator: Swamp Ranger School, I Can Do It Even If I'm Scared: Finding The Brave You, and It Belongs to the World: Frederick Banting and the Discovery of Insulin. Lisa is on the faculty of The Writing Barn where she teaches picture book writing courses including Perfecting the Picture Book, Writing Social Emotional Learning Picture Books, and Write. Submit. Support. She lives in La Grange, Illinois with her husband and two children. She has been a member of SCBWI since 2015. Visit Lisa online at 

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

My Signing Strategy: Ask a Question. What's Your Signing Strategy?

I'm just back from a wonderful four days at the American Library Association conference in San Diego #alaac24 and I had the amazing opportunity of signing all three of my 2024 titles, my YA novel A Different Kind of Brave (Duet Books/Interlude/Chicago Review Press), my nonfiction for grades 6-12 The Gender Binary Is a Big Lie (Zest/Lerner), and my picture book Love of the Half-Eaten Peach (Reycraft).

It was a thrill to meet and personalize/sign about 200 books for the librarians attending across the three signings, knowing they would help get my books into the hands of the very readers I wrote them for, but I had a challenge: It's pretty hard for me to talk thoughtfully and at the same time:
1) spell the person's name correctly even when I'm copying it from a post-it note or their name badge
2) write my message, and
3) sign my name!

Me (Lee Wind) signing copies of A Different Kind of Brave at the IPG booth but as you can see I'm so into my conversation with this librarian and their teen I'm not actually writing/signing in their copy of the book... I'm talking with them!

The strategy I've come up with (from paying attention when I've waited in line to get a signed copy of a book from more established children's book creators at events like SCBWI conferences, festivals, and bookstores) is asking the person I'm signing for a question. 

Turns out I can listen carefully and simultaneously focus enough on my signing to actually get the job done accurately. It's embarrassing to inscribe the message "The light in me celebrates the light in me" because I'm so focused on sharing from my heart in response to what they just said. Yes, this actually happened during this signing. Sigh. So because I didn't want to cross out the mistake, I wrote after it:

oops! I mean the light in YOU!

and I showed the librarian my flub and said that perhaps we could think about it like the postage stamp where the plane was printed upside-down, and that it might be worth something someday--we both had a good laugh about it!

The person I'm signing a book for thinking about and answering my question gives me time to sign their book the way I want to, with care and heart. Because what I want to say is The light in me celebrates the light in you!

With librarians I generally ask: "Where are you a librarian?"

If the answer is too brief (and I need more time) I follow up with: "What do you like most about being a librarian there?"

When it's a signing after I've spoken, I generally ask if there's something that surprised them about what I shared, or if there's something still resonating for them from the talk/session.

The bonus of asking a question is that I get to learn about them, and the whole experience of my signing their book becomes even more personalized, and hopefully, special.

What signing strategies do you use? (See how I asked a question there? Let me know in comments!)

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!

PS - You can learn more about my 2024 books here. Thanks!