How I Got My Agent: Elaine Kiely Kearns

Signing with Linda!
I couldn't be more thrilled to present this installment of How I Got My Agent, with my Penguin critique partner and partner Elaine Kiely Kearns! She just signed with Linda P. Epstein of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency 

I could go on and on about how talented and hard working she is, but let's get on with the interview.

When did you start writing picture books and when did you start submitting to agents? 

I have always dreamed about becoming a picture book author but I didn’t start to seriously pursue the dream until about three years ago.

How did you end up with Linda Epstein? 
It was a two-part courtship, wasn't it? 

Yes, part of “seriously pursuing” my dream was finding the best agents out there. Linda Epstein was tops on my list! 

I attended the New York SCBWI Conference in February of 2014, and I had decided to sign up for the optional Writers Roundtable event. (If you have manuscripts ready to submit I would definitely attend one!) There are ten writers at a table and each table is randomly assigned an agent or an editor. I was lucky enough to have Linda at my table. We each read our manuscripts to her, and she gave us some “knee jerk” reactions. 

At the end of the event we were invited to submit to her. Although she did like my manuscript, ultimately she passed on the submission but offered me a chance to revise and resubmit. I took my time revising the manuscript. I passed it through my critique group, the Penguin Posse and some author friends (thanks Drew Daywalt!) for extra feedback. By the time I sent it off, it was really shining. 

A few months later (August of 2014), she responded with an email asking if it was still available and if I had additional manuscripts to send her. It was! I did! And I promptly sent them off. Then, she passed - AGAIN! WAHHH! She liked two of the five additional manuscripts that I sent, but for her it wasn’t enough. So, back to the drawing board I went! 

A few months later my critique group partner, Victoria Richardson Warneck asked me to attend the NESCBWI Conference with her in April. NESCBWI offered another critique opportunity with an agent or editor, and- you guessed it- I got Linda (THANK YOU UNIVERSE!). It was serendipity. Two weeks later, Linda was my agent.

How did you decide that Linda Epstein was the right agent for you?

I think this is the part a lot of people miss during the querying process. Not every agent is the right fit. I was looking for someone who was not only smart and knew the industry, but someone who was also editorial. Although on paper I knew she was right for me, it wasn’t until I met her in person that I KNEW. If I recall correctly, it went something like this:

We were at the NY SCBWI at the writers roundtable. The gentleman on my left had just finished reading an excerpt from his middle grade novel, “Where’s the Bacon?" Someone mentioned to him that he needed to add more bacon in a scene and when he asked why, Linda and I said in unison, “Because everything needs more bacon!” Then we laughed and laughed and the angels circled around us playing sweet music and heavenly lights shone down upon her. It was incredible. Right then, it was clear. She was THE one.

Tell us about the call. How did you celebrate? 

Oh, the CALL! I had been researching for so long I didn’t even know where I put my notes (then I remembered our KidLit411 agent submission page). She sent me an email and wanted to have a discussion. Less than an hour later we were on the phone.  We chatted in our easy breezy style (she’s so smart, so FUNNY, so EASY to talk to) and then she wished me a Happy Mother’s Day and said that she was interested in representing me!


I had been virtually “stalking” this agent for two years! (Not an endorsement) Of course the answer was YES! I couldn’t think of a more perfect match for me! My family and I went out to dinner to celebrate and we had lots of chocolate for dessert, because, CELEBRATING!

What are the 2-3 tips or words of advice you'd give to others on obtaining an agent? 

I would love nothing more than to give some new advice here but it’s the same thing. 

Write your heart out. 

Rejection is going to happen, DON’T let it stop you. Have a thick skin. 

Be professional in ALL of your dealings and take your emotions OUT of the equation.  

Listen to advice.

Join SCBWI. GO to the conferences. Attend the roundtable events, the pitch sessions, the meet and greets. The SCBWI is the heart of the industry. 

Read. Study your craft. Do the work.

Just do it. If I did it. You can too. 

Thank you, Elaine! If anyone wants to learn more, check out's recent interview with Linda Epstein.

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