Name: Carrie Tillotson
What you Write: Fiction and nonfiction picture books
Agent: Tracy Marchini
Why BookEnds? I’m not sure where I first heard of BookEnds, but it had become one of the agencies high on my radar because of its good reputation and because it has several agents representing children’s authors. I was particularly interested in working with Tracy because she represents authors who write both fiction and nonfiction picture books, and because she had an interesting Science #MSWL on her blog in February. As a scientist in my day job and someone who’s working on writing more nonfiction, this was very appealing.
Describe your experience with “The Call.” What do you write? When did the agent catch you? What was it like to get the call of your agent offering on your book/work? How long had you been querying/submitting, etc? Share as much as you’d like!
I was sitting in my home office, probably procrastinating on writing by checking emails, when a reply from Tracy beamed at me. She wanted to schedule a phone call to talk more about my work! I raced downstairs to tell my husband and son, beaming at them in excitement. A call with an agent—my first!
I could say I began querying agents with my picture books six years ago, but that would be a little misleading. Yes, I sent my first query ever to an agent with my first story ever, after my first SCBWI conference in 2014. But should I have sent that query? No! That story was garbage.
For years, I had stalked the SCBWI website thinking how amazing children’s writers and illustrators were. How could I be like them? In 2014, it finally it hit me that the only thing holding me back was myself. That summer, I dove into writing my first manuscript, joined the SCBWI, and signed up for my first conference. I had no idea what I was doing, but after that conference—I knew. I had found my people.
I joined a couple of local critique groups, attended several more conferences and workshops, and began honing my craft by writing and revising many more manuscripts. In 2019, I finally felt confident that it was time to really seek out representation. Although I sent a total of 40 agent queries over the years, 32 of them were between 2019 and 2020. One of those queries was actually to Tracy in April 2019, but got rejected. I did receive bits of positive feedback here and there, but no bites. Most of the rejections rolled off my back. But in October 2019, after getting one particular rejection in less than 24 hours (from another BookEnds agent, no less!), I had my first “I’m-no-good-at-this-what’s-even-the-point?” rejection cry fest.
In April 2020, I sent Tracy a new query with a different manuscript. She promptly responded asking to see more work! In June, after hearing that she wanted to talk on the phone, I hoped she wanted to offer representation. But I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Maybe she wanted to talk about revisions or something else first. I began researching about “The Call”—what kind of questions to ask, what the agent might ask me. One of the best pieces of advice came from a fellow member of the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge group. She said if the agent wanted to talk, they were already interested, and to just relax! Instead, I promptly continued my research.
The phone call with Tracy was a easy-going. She wanted to know about my writing journey and career goals. She provided helpful feedback on the manuscripts I had submitted so far, talked about some initial submission ideas, and explained how she and BookEnds worked. She was personable and patient in answering all of my very well-researched questions. Most of the things I was curious about were things she brought up anyway. At the end of my questions, I started to say something about needing to contact other agents who still had my work to let them know I had an offer.
But something didn’t seem right. “Oh! I think I’m getting ahead of myself!” I said. “You haven’t even offered me representation. . . Are you offering to represent me? Oh, this is so embarrassing . . .”
Luckily, Tracy chuckled and said, “Yes!”
I am delighted to now have Tracy as my agent, and am looking forward to a lot of great work with her and with BookEnds. And hopefully not getting ahead of myself too much.