(Que Squealing and Jumping around!!!!)

Author Jamie Bills in a blue and black polka dot shirt holding a sign that says "I HAVE AN AGENT"

My excited face here is REAL! I printed this sign and took the photo shortly after signing a contract agreement to be represented by Amy Nielsen with The Purcell Agency! Just thinking about this moment still fills me with happy flutters…

but let’s back up a year or two (or 13)…

My Agent Search 2010-2020

I sent my first agent queries in 2010 when I very first started writing. Looking back, I wasn’t ready AT ALL to be querying. My stories were rhyming manuscripts with meter and rhyming issues and without strong story arcs or characters. But back then, I thought they were great.

Sometimes as writers, the feedback and rejections are helpful to let us know we still need to learn more and write more.

In 2012, I was pregnant with our 3rd daughter when our family moved from Oklahoma to Colorado.

Bills Family with Ken, Jamie and three girls which is a man, woman, and three children.

I unboxed the house, the new baby came, and my writing went to the back burner (understatement). Raising three little ones is HARD work. Hahaha. During my break in writing, I never took a break from reading LOTS of picture books. My girls LOVE books.

Enter 2020– The BEST thing that came out of the pandemic was MORE TIME. Time to get back to WRITING.

2020 – Queries & Pitching

In October 2020, I started querying again. I sent out nine queries and pitched via Zoom to three agents.

If you get a chance to pitch agents, you should take it. Although I hear it doesn’t give you higher chances of receiving representation than the slush pile, you’ll learn agents are regular people, and that some agents aren’t as good of a fit as they appear online. Two agents who were especially kind and encouraging to me were Victoria Selvaggio & Kelly Dyksterhouse. I will always be grateful for their suggestions that helped improve my manuscripts and craft.

Map of the United States with marks where Writers Conferences with pitch events will be taking place in 2024.

2021 – More Work in the Trenches

In 2021 I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge and took advantage of more opportunities with SCBWI.

I sent off 16 more queries throughout the year. Three of the rejections came back with encouragement.

More writing and revising.

2022 – Discouragement Sets In

In 2022 only sent out nine queries, all before the end of April, and they all came back with form rejections or no response at all. I participated in two Zoom pitches and entered PBParty again. Nope and nope.

Rejections are HARD. Eventually, they can start to get you down if you are not intentional about how you process them. I started to wonder if I was chasing an unattainable dream. Should I continue writing or stop and spend my time doing other things?

I wrote a previous post about this slump and what pulled me out of it:

2023- Pushing Forward Until “The Call”

After rebuilding our investment property and my writing soul, I went forward with a new determination in 2023.

I sent out 34 queries! Although I only received a few personalized rejections with encouragement, I was determined to keep trying.

I was spending a lot of time on Manuscript Wishlist and searching agents’ websites, but I finally worked smarter and signed up for QueryTracker Weekly Updates. When the weekly email came through, I looked into any agent who mentioned “picture books.” Some said they were closed to picture books, some were looking for author/illustrator only, but some were just opening up and looking for new clients, like Amy Nielsen.

Signing with Amy Nielsen

Signing with Amy is a bit of a blur and a dream.

I read she was opening up for only 48 hours. And those 48 hours started in one hour. She was looking for “hyperbolic, zany storylines that teach a life lesson (even subtle) or ones with laugh-out-loud moments written simply to entertain.”

I thought I had just the manuscript.

I sent it off on Oct. 6th and received this response on October 17:

Hi Jamie,

Disgruntled Hedgehogs is absolutely adorable. I’d love to get on a call with you sometime later this week to discuss this book and any other manuscripts you have. What is your availability?

Best,
Amy Nielsen

I looked for the BUT or UNFORTUNATELY, and for the first time, they were not there.

We talked via Zoom, hit it off, signed the contract, and are now onto submissions and hopefully a long, successful working relationship and friendship together.

Shorter Version

Now that you have read through the WHOLE story with details, I guess I should have mentioned I was featured in 12×12’s How I Got My Agent. It is a much shorter version. Thanks to their team for doing this!

Photo of author Jamie Bills featured on 12x12 Challenge website series How I Got My Agent.

Best of luck with your agent search! I love this “How I Got My Agent” series with 12×12 because you learn that everyone’s journey is different.

As I mentioned in my 12×12 Interview- Keeping your writing time and budget in mind, put yourself in as many situations as possible where you might get lucky.” Because you often need talent and a little luck.

Jamie Bills

**If you are beginning your search for a picture book agent, look HERE.

Craft Resouces for Picture Book Authors

University graphic with the words "Picture Book University by Pam Calvert" and symbols from YouTube
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Plus other helpful podcasts for writers.