Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Notes: First Pages with Emily S. Keyes, agent from Fuse Literary Agency

First Pages with Emily S. Keyes, an agent from Fuse Literary Agency. Notes were taken by Joan Flamino

This eve,nt took place at the Huntington Library on December 8, 2019. Emily gave feedback, suggestions, and critiqued first pages submitted by attendees. Annina volunteered to read the first pages.

Bio: Emily S. Keyes joined Fuse Literary in 2013. Emily previously worked at the L Perkins Agency as a contract manager and associate agent. Before entering the world of agenting, she worked in the contracts department of Simon & Schuster, Inc., where she handled copyright, revision of rights, and assisted with author contracts. In 2008 she graduated from New York University’s Center for Publishing. She uses her knowledge of contracts, copyright, and the publishing business to benefit her clients and the Fuse team.

Emily explained that picture books were contained in 1,000 words. However, today it is preferred to be 500 words or under.

Emily stressed the importance of being consistent and not to “shift tones” while writing. Humor is great if well-done, and carried all the way through.

She emphasized that the prologue should illuminate something in your story.

Once again, we heard that editors do not like rhyme and often times when trying to rhyme, words are used just for the sake of rhyming and as a result, most of the time the wrong word is chosen.

It is important NOT to make your story predictable.

She also discussed the importance that the narrator has a “clear voice” and when writing you really want to inspire the illustrator. She told us to try to visualize the book, as far as technical help goes, and art notes should be used only when necessary, the fewer the better.

It is always a good idea to reference other books in your query—how is yours similar, and how is it different? Do research on your topics and see what is out there before you start writing. How will yours be unique and stand out?

Fuse Literary Agency’s website,

Follow Emily on Twitter @esc_key