How I Met My Agent: Jen Rofé

Photo: Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Have I told you yet that I have an agent? No?? You guys, I have an agent! She’s Jen Rofé. And, she’s awesome. Here’s the story:

Getting into the business of illustrating and writing for children, I knew early on that I would benefit from a literary agent. Some people are comfortable negotiating their own projects, but I wasn’t born with fast-talking, business-savvy genes. Aside from contract negotiations, many agents also help with career building, as well as editing your work and promoting that work to editors – many of which only accept submissions through a literary agent.

I spent about 6 months researching agents, compiling lists of viable options starting with about 50, narrowing that down to 20, then 10, and then 5 agencies that I was interested in querying. I chose agents to query based on online interviews, looking at their clients’ work, and talking to illustrators that they represent. When I had five submission emails typed up (and one already sent), something in my gut told me to wait. Wait? Wait for what? I don’t know, just wait. So I did.

That was in early November 2011. A week later I spent 3 days at an illustrators’ retreat held by David Diaz at his house, and Jen came to our Sunday night party. We put out our portfolios, which she perused, and she conducted an impromptu Q&A on agents and book deals. We exchanged info and discovered we’re both in Los Angeles, so we set up a coffee date for the following week.

Fast forward to the coffee date – I had no idea what to expect, whether she was really interested in my work or just being nice (side note: no agent or editor gives you the time of day “just to be nice”, it always means they see something worth their time). In my memory, she showed up at the counter yelling, “Chai Latte! Steaming hot! So burning hot that my face will melt off!” (Okay, not an exact quote). I have to admit, she kind of terrified me. Jen’s just what I’m not – a fierce, confident, no BS kind of gal; everything an agent should be. But as we talked easily for the next 3 hours that afternoon, her passion for children’s literature and enthusiasm for my work was evident. We gelled, and I was left without a doubt that she was the right fit for me. I’m glad that I waited, mysteriously, for that meeting – a face-to-face encounter with your prospective agent goes a long way.

Photo: Debbie Ridpath Ohi – http://DebbieOhi.com

The rest is history folks! I’ve been working with Jen since December 2011, and she’s been so invaluable already. Aside from managing contracts for me (thank you thank you thank you!), she’s an objective eye for my work, and she doles out tough criticism, which I love. Her feedback helps to elevate my stories, and asks the all-important questions “Why?” and “So what?”

It also turned out that one of her clients is Mike Boldt, who I worked with on the ABC’s of Northern Ghana project (who had mentioned how much he loved his agent), as well as SCBWI pals Ken Min and Mary Peterson.

I’m so grateful to have Jen in my corner, and I look forward to a fruitful partnership for many years to come. To learn more about Jen, check out these great interviews online:

– Literary Rambles: Agent Spotlight
– Middle Grade Ninja: 7 Questions for Literary Agent Jen Rofé
– The Brown Bookshelf: Expert Scoop with Jennifer Rofe

– Author: Agent Query

 Next up: Jen visits my studio (apartment), where I give her a drawing lesson!

14 Comments:

  1. Awesome story! Sometimes you just need to listen to that little voice inside…it’s usually right! I’m starting my research/search for an agent, but I’m not going to rush it! Any other advice about your search is welcomed :) Great seeing you at the Conference last week! Maybe I’ll see you again at Illustrator’s Day?!

    • Awesome Lauren – thanks so much for the feedback! I agree, it’s super important to be patient. I’ll write another post soon with more advice on just the agent searching part, since I learned a lot going through that process. Definitely hope to make it to Illustrator’s Day this year. Will see you there!

  2. This was great! Thanks for posting! Really a big help. I, too, and starting a search for an agent, so this is extremely timely. :)

  3. Great post Eliza.

    I’m in Canada where agents for children’s literature is still unnecessary. I recently signed a book deal with a publishing company in the states and when I told people at the SCBWI LA conference I hadn’t an agent, they looked at me like I’d grown a third eye. lol. I guess success through the slush pile is becoming less and less plausible.

    I suppose my next step will be to research agents for the next book. :)

    • Hi Jodi! Some people prefer not to have an agent, especially if they’re good at negotiating book deals themselves and have established relationships with publishers, and I know plenty in the states that don’t have one. But they’re also great assets in so many ways. Good luck figuring out the best choice for you!

  4. Excellent, Eliza! You deserve the best working for you. Can’t wait to hear more

  5. Thank you Eliza, for your inspiring e-mail – your post just addressed a huge need, as I am starting my research for the perfect agent fit. Congratulations on your journey – I have been following your career with great interest. Keep up the wonderful work :) and see you soon, -Laura Hoffman

  6. Thanks for another great post, Eliza. I always appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and your knowledge!

  7. Great post! I just signed with Jen this summer to represent my YA novel. Your coffee date details cracked me up because I was much the same way on our first phone conversations: like, whoa! She’s fierce, confident, fabulous. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thank you for your post, I am researching an agent for a children’s book and Jen caught my interest, which lead me here.

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