How I Got My Agent: Kristen Fulton, Nonfiction Picture Book Maven

How does an aspiring picture book writer land her dream agent?

Kristen Fulton is a member of my fabulous online critique group who just signed with her dream agent, Kendra Marcus at Book Stop Literary Agency.

I have been so impressed by how Kristen has given it her all in her quest to become a picture book author. In the first half of the year alone, she has attended 4 SCBWI conferences, taken 8 courses in children’s writing, and drafted over 16 picture book manuscripts, keeping our critique group extremely busy.

She answers some questions about her journey so far.

Q. How did you decide to write picture books? 

Truthfully, I always dreamed of being a writer, but life got in the way. I graduated from veterinary school, started a company, and traveled the world teaching about animal science. For two years, I had battled breast cancer. In December 2012, I learned that I probably would not get to return to normal physical activities. I am left handed and had so many lymph nodes removed that my arm constantly aches and swells. My husband looked at me over Christmas and said, “Well, what next?” My reply, Writing!

Q. Your niche is the non-fiction picture book. How did you land on this genre? 

Like every new picture book author, we dream of twirling and winding the most elaborate story, the next Fancy Nancy meets Harry Potter. But, I struggled. During one of my classes, Mira Reisberg was talking to me about my background and my husband’s career (he is a rocket scientist, no joke). She said that she would love me to write a nonfiction story about a rocket and I did. It flowed naturally. I realized that my analytical mind and lifestyle was perfect for nonfiction.

Q. One of the great things I have learned from you is the importance of putting yourself out there, networking and meeting people in the industry. Where did you learn how to market yourself? What was your background before writing children’s books? 

Although my background is in veterinary science, I didn’t actually practice. Instead, I worked in the pet grooming industry, educating groomers about products, animal first aid/CPR and the value of professionalism. I would teach classes in rooms from 25 to 25,000 in attendance.

Q. How did you research and query agents, and what was the response to your queries? 

Once I switched to nonfiction, the responses I got were much more positive. I looked at books that I loved and started researching the authors and who their agents were. If they loved what I loved, then that was the first place to start. Next, I researched the agent and found every interview, article, and an array of their clients. My third step was to talk with the authors and hear what they thought about their agents. When I narrowed down my top choice to two or three agents, I started submitting. Over the last few weeks, the positive response has been fabulous, and I was stuck between two different agents. I submitted both of them the exact same story and had them look at it and respond to its potential as though I was a client. Kendra’s responses were intuitive and resonated with me- I saw what she saw.
Kristen signing her contract.

Q.  How did you land Kendra Marcus and your first picture book contract? 

Backwards, LOL. At my June SCBWI Florida conference, I was fortunate to take a class with one of Kendra’s long time clients, Frank Remkiewicz (of Froggy book fame) and an editor at a publishing house. They both loved my story that was read. At lunch, the editor asked me about my story and informed me that she wanted it and another one that was critiqued. Afterwards, Frank Remkiewicz approached me and said that he also had critiqued and loved my other story. He wanted to illustrate it. He gave me Kendra’s phone number and told me to call her. I didn’t, because who calls an agent? Then last week, Frank sent me an email informing me that she had heard all about me from him and was waiting for my phone call. I called. The rest, as they say, is history.  It was all from going to SCBWI conferences!

Q. What other projects do you have in the works? 

Currently many, since I am running and preparing for WOWnonficpic (Week of Writing, Nonfiction Picture Books), a week long challenge beginning on July 1 to write a non-fiction picture book story each day. There will be a number of great daily drawings for prizes, including the chance to submit to a publisher normally closed to unagented submissions, picture book classes, and picture book critiques.

Q. So I have to ask you. So many aspiring writers toil away for years before they get to the point where they obtain an agent or a contract. How did you do it in such a short time? 

My friend and critique group partner Victoria Warneck actually put it in perspective. Most writers attend one or two conference per year, I have attended four. Most writers may take one or two classes per year, I have taken eight. In other words, I have done about five years of work in half a year. I haven’t done any less than anyone else; I just entered the express lane.

Q. What advice can you give to others who are looking for their dream agent and their first publishing contract? 

Know your strengths. I am always in need of editing; I suck at editing. I needed an agent whose strengths lie in editing. I didn’t waste my time or hopes submitting to agents who focus on building an author’s name. I also focused only on agents that have several nonfiction clients or who have made a point of stating that they had a weakness for nonfiction.

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So there you have it, Kristen’s words of advice and the story of her meteoric rise in the picture book world. The great part about having her in our critique group is that she ups the game for the rest of us. I am inspired to write more and work harder.

Someone once told me that if you are successful in one area of your life, you are likely going to be successful in other new ventures, because you will have the skills like drive, determination, professionalism, and organization that are critical to success. Obviously this applies to Kristen Fulton, who is off to a great start.

You can learn more about Kristen at her website, The Fine Line, or follow her on Twitter (@KristenFulton) or her Facebook page.

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