My debut picture book, Chicken Wants a Nap, was published one year ago today! In celebration, I’m re-sharing this post that previously appeared on the BookEnds blog during Chicken‘s original publication date below!

I’ve talked about the book’s path to publication on other blogs (you can find links on my Twitter or Facebook page), but I wanted to talk a bit about three ways my work as an agent influences my writing, and hopefully pass on some useful advice!


Market research

It’s certainly an advantage to be constantly reading and thinking about what’s selling, what’s not, what editors are looking for, and similarly – what I’m looking for as an agent.

As an author, I don’t write for the market, but I also don’t write in a vacuum.


What you can do as an author… 

Follow the manuscript wish list requests (#mswl) of agents and editors, the deals being reported in Publisher’s Weekly, and the books that are being promoted (faced out or end-capped) in your local bookstores.

I’m not advocating that you write for the market – the market will shift and change, and more important – you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with this book. You want to write it because you’re excited by it.

But if you’re a picture book writer, you might have noticed that the picture book market has shifted to prefer shorter, sparser texts in commercial picture books. Or you might notice that the market is open to middle grades with heavier themes than one might have expected if they aren’t watching the shelves. When you’re looking at trends, pay attention to both content and form.

It’s also important not to look at any one agent or editor’s #mswl as gospel. I don’t represent YA horror, but that doesn’t mean it’s not marketable. In fact, I know at least one of my colleagues is specifically looking for YA horror. (It’s Moe!)



As an agent, I’m constantly editing manuscripts for my clients. But sometimes I realize while I’m editing a client work that one of my own manuscripts has the very same problem! So perhaps I note in a client’s editorial feedback that one character’s motivation is unclear, and then I make a note for my own project and start thinking about how to clarify my protagonist’s sense of logic as well.


What you can do as an author… 

Make sure that you give as many thoughtful critiques as you receive. The better you are as a critique partner, the more you’ll be able to see those same issues in your own manuscript as well.

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and actively work to fix those issues. For example, if you know pacing is a problem in most of your work, then read craft books on structure and pacing as you draft and revise.


Career planning

As an agent, I’m thinking about the best moves for my clients in terms of their long-term career. And while it can be difficult to see some of these things for yourself, when I think about what to write next I do think about how that might fit into my long-term goals. For example, I write for both children and teens, but right now I’m focusing on my picture book manuscripts because I’d like to continue to build that audience at this time.


What you can do as an author…

If you have an agent, then this is the perfect discussion to have with them. What do they see as your next best step? And if you want to change genres, how do they recommend you do that?

If you don’t have an agent, then perhaps that is your next best long-term career move. And if you’re looking and haven’t been successful, then besides the market research above, then maybe it’s time to do some brainstorming with yourself or a trusted, experienced fellow author.

Grab a piece of paper and ask yourself “What do I need to do to make my writing more attractive to an agent or editor?” and jot down everything that comes to mind. Maybe there’s a craft issue that you subconsciously know is a problem but that you haven’t been quite ready to face. Maybe you’ve been receiving the same feedback in rejections and it’s time to take another look at that project. Sometimes, we know what we have to do, and we just need that extra push to do it.

So make that list. Whether the question is “What do I need to do to make my writing more attractive to an agent?” or “What do I have to do to be happy with my web presence?” or “What do I have to do to take my work-in-progress to the next level?” I’ll bet you come up with some pretty great next steps.

Preorders now available for Princesses Can Fix It! on AmazonBarnes &, Indiebound, and you can add the book to your Goodreads.

For a personalized, autographed copy, you can pre-order from The Silver Unicorn

Chicken Wants a Nap by Tracy Marchini

"A surprising gem." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Chicken Wants a Nap is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your favorite independent bookstore!

Join the Quacktory

Sign up to receive a monthly update from the Quacktory, including exclusive information about my books and giveaways!

Join Now!

You have Successfully Subscribed!