This post is based on old-fashioned research: I emailed 19 new literary agents seeking to build their client list, and got the inside dish from each of them.
- The type of books they’re looking for
- The type of books they read when they’re not working
- Personal information — their history, hobbies, etc.
Many agents responded promptly to my question regarding what type of work they were seeking, and I was impressed and encouraged by the warmth and directness of their replies. By and large, agents are really looking for emerging writers.
6 crucial steps to remember:
- Before you leap to drafting 19 new queries be certain you’ve done your homework: Is the manuscript up to professionally edited standards? Do you know what category your book falls into? Do you know the sort of agency you would want to represent your work? And are your goals for your manuscript realistic?
- When you submit your query to an agent, be a professional first, and a personality second. No matter what your brain tells you in moments of doubt or frustration, agents aren’t looking for seers, and they won’t be won over by efforts to prove you really, truly, deeply know them. Presenting an agent with biographical details that you dug up on her by googling her name won’t charm her. She wants a concise, professional query that displays your book, its qualities and potential, and a general sense that you submitted to her with care.
- Keep the query brief.
- A touch of personality is professional. You should aim to highlight those qualities that make you interesting, but such qualities can be limited to your publication history, education, or professional qualifications that relate to your manuscript.
- Know that a “No” is in your best interests just as much as a “Yes.” This can be tough. When you’ve finished your manuscript and it’s time to sell it, you can’t imagine one reason why anyone would reject it. That’s a good sign. It means you have faith in the outcome. But don’t confuse confidence with good business. You wouldn’t want an overbooked agent to take on your project any more than an agent would want to represent an author who never plans to write another book.
- Agents offer career representation. If the agent doesn’t take to your work, she’s saved you valuable time by rejecting you. Taste is a powerful thing, and you want the agent author relationship that will foster your talents and encourage you to persevere. After all, securing literary representation is only the first gate toward publication. Editors offer a whole new round of rejection, and for that, you want someone in your corner to champion your voice.
The below list of 19 New Literary Agents aims to facilitate a conversation between agents and potential clients. Whether the writer writes literary fiction, young adult, MG, upmarket, genre fiction or some blend of each, whether the author is seeking an agent for fiction or nonfiction, for novels or memoirs, short stories, essays, biographies, even graphic novels, the below list provides options for everyone.
1. Lesley Sabga
Lesley Sabga has worked for The Seymour Agency since 2014, but only in the fall of 2017 stepped into an associate agent position. She’s got a soft spot for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Seeking middle grade, young adult, science fiction and fantasy as well as how-to and coffee table nonfiction, Leslie tends to champion ambitious plots with memorable characters set in unforgettable worlds.
How to Submit: Lesley prefers email queries and asks that you paste the first five pages of your manuscript into the bottom of your email. Direct your queries to Lesley AT TheSeymourAgency DOT com.
A Couple Reads that Excite Lesley:
- Game of Thrones
- The Handmaid’s Tale
2. Natalie Grazian
Natalie Grazian, an Associate Literary Agent at Martin Literary Management, is seeking adult fiction clients. She’s partial to cuttingly perceptive contemporary, soft sci fi, and fantasy—particularly historical fantasy at the moment. She likes her protagonists hapless and ill-equipped. The lone-wolf, savvy, cool types don’t tend to catch her eye, though she enjoys strong character transformations.
Authors who stage their novels in fantastic locations, and build big worlds will catch Natalie’s attention, though she enjoys claustrophobic settings as well, such as boarding schools located in the middle of nowhere.
Plotless action is the quickest way to sink a query when submitting to Natalie, while authors who give a sneaky history lesson; develop subtle, magical undertones; write truly vile villains; portray complicated families; and craft contemplative, omniscient narrators will keep her reading. She’s sure to turn pages if she finds a non-stereotypical character who is marked, but not defined, by difference.
How to Submit: Please include a query letter in the body of your email and attach the first ten pages of your manuscript, preferably as a Word doc. Please send your queries to Natalie AT MartinLit DOT com.
A Couple Reads that Excite Natalie:
- Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love
- Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
- Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
- Porochista Khakpour’s Sons and Other Flammable Objects
- David Benioff’s City of Thieves
3. Whitney Ross
Whitney Ross of Irene Goodman Literary Agency seeks YA, contemporary, and adult fiction across all genres. She is also interested in nonfiction about cooking, design, and fashion. She loves novels set in unusual time periods and locations, both fantastical and ordinary.
She rarely rejects the trickster king motif, and has a weakness for read-between-the-lines subtle romances. Books not on her “wish list” consistently surprise her, and she is always open to stories with compelling characters and emotionally involving plotlines.
How to Submit: Email a query letter and the first ten pages, along with a synopsis (3-5 paragraphs) and bio in the body of an email to whitney.queries AT irenegoodman DOT com. Whitney does not accept snail mail queries.
A Couple Reads that Excite Whitney:
- Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden
- Amy Harmon’s The Bird and the Sword
4. Lindsay Davis Auld
Lindsay Davis Auld is a junior agent with Writer’s House. She specifically seeks YA and children’s literature. Mysteries, fantasy, and humor spark her interest faster than anything. She’d love to find a great middle-grade puzzle mystery in the vein of “The Westing Game” or “When You Reach Me.”
How to Submit: Submissions can be emailed to: lauld AT writershouse DOT com. Please send a query, along with the first 10-15 pages of your manuscript. For picture books, please send the full manuscript. She does read each query carefully, and aims to respond within one week.
A Couple Reads that Excite Lindsay:
- The Westing Game
- When You Reach Me
5. Alex Field
Alex Field opened The Bindery in 2017. His agency reflects industry knowledge he developed and honed over eighteen years in publishing and journalism. He seeks Christian spirituality, literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, memoir, biography, business, diet and health, pop culture, theology, and more.
How to Submit: To query Alex about literary representation email your book proposal to info AT thebinderyagency DOT com along with a cover letter. Please include a clear summary of your book concept, table of contents, author biography, at least one sample chapter, relevant contact information, and your publishing history.
A Couple Reads that Excite Alex:
- Chase the Lion
- Shaken by Tim Tebow with A.J. Gregory
6. Meg Davis
Meg Davis joined Fletcher & Company in 2017. She’s passionate about social justice, and women’s rights. One book she couldn’t put down was Ta-Nehesi Coates’s “Between the World and Me.” She seeks adult literary fiction and is drawn to flawed characters with complicated family histories.
How to Submit: To query, please send a letter, brief synopsis, and the first 5-10 pages of the manuscript/proposal pasted into the body of the email to info AT fletcherandco DOT com. Do not include email attachments with your initial query, as they will be deleted. Only query one agent at Fletcher & Company at a time.
A Couple Reads that Excite Meg:
- Between the World and Me
- The Age of Innocence
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7. Erin McFadden
Erin McFadden is also new to Fletcher & Company and actively building her client list. She’s not scared of Infinite Jest and welcomes manuscripts of absurd length (as long as they show true marks of genius). She may regret mentioning David Foster Wallace’s tome on her agent bio as she’ll likely be overrun by writers who believe they’ve picked up the torch Wallace dropped, so Erin McFadden might welcome some shorter, subtly-layered-with-dramatic-nuance type queries as well.
Bookfox readers, I hope you appreciate an agent with a sense of humor.
How to Submit: To query, please send a letter, brief synopsis and the first 5-10 pages of the manuscript/proposal pasted into the body of the email to info AT fletcherandco DOT com. Do not include email attachments with your initial query, as they will be deleted. Only query one agent at Fletcher & Company at a time.
A Few Reads that Excite Erin
- Infinite Jest
- Only Revolutions
- Evicted by Matthew Desmond
- Rules for Werewolves by Kirk Lynn
- No Logo by Naomi Klein
8. Julia Livshin
Julia Livshin spent time as an intern at The Atlantic where she worked with writers like John Updike and Roxana Robinson. She’s refined her practice as a freelance book editor, copy editor, and fiction reviewer extraordinaire.
As a native of Chicago she understands the brutal cold of a Midwestern winter, and her studies have taken her to North Carolina and Massachusetts. Duke and Harvard aren’t bad schools to have on one’s resume. She’s in search of literary and upmarket fiction as well as children’s literature.
In addition to fiction, she enjoys narrative nonfiction. Her hope is to cultivate new writers.
How to Submit: Please send queries to jlivshin AT gmail DOT com. Queries should include the first fifty pages of your manuscript, as well as a brief synopsis and a bio.
A Few Reads Julia Enjoys:
- All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Stoner by John Williams
- Anything by Aimee Bender or Alice Munro
9. Nicki Richesin
Nicki Richesin may be new to Wendy Sherman Associates, Inc. Literary Management, but she’s an industry vet with years of experience as a freelance editor and book editor.
While chatting recently with another agent at the San Francisco Writers Conference Nicki mentioned how much she loved Zadie Smith’s collection of essays Feel Free and would like to find a client like her. The other agent said, “Zadie Smith is a unicorn!” So in Nicki’s eternally optimistic way, she’s hunting for unicorns.
She’s especially interested in upmarket fiction from wry observers with a different slant on life and how to live it. She’s drawn to stories that teach her something new about the world. Books that make her weep (like she did when she read “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker) or laugh until she cries (such as “Standard Deviation” by Katherine Heiny).
She loves historical novels like Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” and strangely ingenious fiction like “Pond” by Claire Louise Bennett. The unicorns, of course, impossibly well-written, story-driven novels like “The Animators” by Karla Rae Whitaker, “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews, and anything (novels, essays, letters, doodles, etc.) by Zadie Smith. Unicorns may be difficult to find, but Nicki is still searching.
How to Submit: Email submissions to submissions AT wsherman DOT com. Include your last name, title, and Nicki’s name in the subject line. For fiction, please include a query letter and your first 10 pages copied and pasted in the body of the email. They will not open attachments unless they have been requested. For non-fiction, please include your query letter and author bio.
Other Books Nicki has enjoyed:
- Andrew Sean Greer’s The Story of a Marriage
- Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
- Anything by Karen Russell
10. Eva Scalzo
Eva Scalzo, pronounced “Eh-vuh”, of Speilburg Literary Agency, trains her eyes on Romance and YA fiction. Since the fifth grade when she discovered Sweet Valley High, she’s bonded with YA literature.
Her sensibilities were further shaped when she inherited a vast collection of vintage Harlequin romances from her grandmother. She’s always on the hunt for good romance novels, but prefers not to represent inspirational romance. There is such a thing as too sweet!
How to Submit: Send all unsolicited submissions via e-mail to speilburgliterary AT gmail DOT com. In the subject line of your query email, please include “Query Eva” followed by the title of your project. Include a query letter and the first three chapters of the novel in the body of the email.
A Few Reads that Excite Eva
- Pride and Prejudice
- Replica by Lauren Oliver
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- Keeper Amy Dawes
11. Deborah Hofmann
Deborah Hofmann joined the David Black Literary Agency in December 2017, but her adventures in publishing date back to the New York Times where she edited the NYT Best Seller lists. Discovering new authors brings Deborah great joy. She enjoys representing literary and commercial fiction as well as narrative nonfiction, autobiography and memoirs, culture and the arts, humor, practical how-to skills and artisanal arts and crafts.
How to Submit: Query Deborah at dhofmann AT dblackagency DOT com. Summarize your book idea and include in the body of your email your proposal and, if appropriate, the first 50 pages. Do not attach any documents as attachments will not be opened.
12. Cynthia Ruchti
Cynthia Ruchti joined Books & Such Literary Agency in 2016 after a brief stint as the board president of American Christian Fiction Writers.
As an author of numerous books, and as someone who spent 33 years writing a radio show that blended quasi-devotional spiritual insights with gripping elements of fiction, Cynthia brings empathy and insight to her clients, offering representation to authors at all stages of their careers.
Cynthia is currently focused on finding captivating nonfiction projects, and would be especially interested in acquiring exquisitely written nonfiction with the emotional depth and intricate storytelling of “This Is Us” coupled with the soul-healing beauty of God’s grace. Cheesy need not apply!
How to Submit: When submitting a query, follow these guidelines: Limit your query to one page; include the genre and subject of your manuscript, its unique elements, and target audience; highlight your vision for marketing your book, your writing experience, the name of the person (if any) who referred you to Books & Such, and whether you’re currently submitting your query to other agents. Visit http://www.booksandsuch.com/submissions/ for specific requirements regarding fiction and nonfiction manuscripts.
13. Jordan Hamessley
Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary & Media focuses exclusively on children’s and YA literature.
She came to her career as an agent after nearly a decade working the editorial side of publishing at Penguin Young Readers (Grosset & Dunlap), Egmont USA, and Adaptive Studios. Winning queries possess a sense of fun and humor. She has a keen eye out for work that brings the queer experience to children’s literature, and always holds her breath when she opens a YA sci-fi or middle grade horror query.
Her interests in nonfiction focus on picture books with a STEM focus.
How to Submit: Send your query to query AT newleafliterary DOT com. Do not query via phone. The word “Query” must be in the subject line, as well as Jordan Hamessley’s name. Also include the category (i.e., PB, chapter book, MG, YA, adult fiction, adult nonfiction, etc.) You may include up to 5 double-spaced sample pages within the body of the email. Attachments will not be opened unless specifically requested. Include all necessary contact information.
A Few Books on Jordan’s Wishlist:
- YA version of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
- YA take on ballet book from male dancer’s perspective
- YA take on Chopped or Master Chef (after the filming concludes…)
14. Kieryn Ziegler
Kieryn Ziegler joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2017 as the assistant to Michael Bourret in the West Coast office. She grew up in central Pennsylvania and moved to LA to study at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she graduated with a BFA in Writing for Screen & Television. She loves books about exciting new worlds, found families, fantastic female characters, and stories with diverse POVs — especially YA & MG. Aside from good books and good TV, she’s a big fan of dogs, road trips, and coffee shops with lots of outlets.
How to Submit: send queries to kziegler AT dystel DOT com, along with the first 25 pages (or nearest chapter break) of your manuscript. See these submission guidelines for more query guidelines and information on nonfiction proposals.
A Few Reads that Excite Kieryn:
- Harry Potter Series
- Percy Jackson Series
15. Rachel Horowitz
Rachel Horowitz of The Bent Agency specializes in commercial adult fiction, children’s, YA, and middle grade fiction.
She’s a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and twice attended Breadloaf Writing Conference as a writing fellow. Because everyone needs a good binge watch from time to time, Rachel’s bookshelves might house a stray DVD television series or two, but mostly she’s collected works by Mary Karr, Alice Munro, Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher and others. She’s ready to champion a great YA series or a strong stand-alone thriller with universal appeal.
How to Submit: Email Rachel at horowitzqueries AT thebentagency DOT com and tell her briefly who you are, about your book, and why you’re the one to write it. Include the title of your project in the subject line of your email. Then paste the first ten pages of your book in the body of your email. Attachments will not be opened or read. Visit http://www.thebentagency.com/submission.php for more details on submissions that include illustrations.
A Few Books that Excite Rachel:
- The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
- The Age of Miracles by Karen Thomas Walker
16. Kaitlyn Johnson
Kaitlyn Johnson of Corvisiero Literary Agency is the fantasy novelist’s answer to representation. An Emerson College graduate, Kaitlyn has developed her skills as an agent working as a freelance editor and copyeditor. She’s seeking clients in upper YA, middle grade, and adult fiction, general romance and contemporary romance, LGBTQ+, and historical fiction (though she expresses a distinct aversion to Henry VIII).
Authors who have written a compelling story from the point of view of a character who often lives in the margin may find a sympathetic reader in Kaitlyn. She’d be especially excited to encounter “a dark retelling about one of the Lost Boys after his return to London with Wendy (think end of Mary Martin movie, not cartoon). It would be wonderful to see a character of color in this role as he’s adapting to life away from Neverland.”
She would also love historical fiction based off rarely known famous or influential women in history: Madam de Pompadour; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Neerja Bhanot; Sybil Ludington would also spark her interest.
How to Submit: Follow the submission guidelines on the “Submissions” page of Corvisiero Literary Agency and send to query AT corvisieroagency DOT com with the subject title: “Query: Kaitlyn Johnson, [name of manuscript]”.
A Few Books on Kaitlyn’s wishlist
- Something in the vein of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series. She loves the dark, creative, and thought-provoking world with such an involved, rule-based magic system.
- Something dystopian where the main characters live in a now-abandoned Disney World/Universal theme park. It would be spooky and hit so close to home for readers to see the shells of this worldwide landmark incorporated into a dystopian storyline.
- For more, check out her MSWL or Pinterest MSWL.
17. Caroline Eisenmann
Caroline Eisenmann joined the Frances Goldin Literary Agency in 2017. She’s building her client list with authors who write upmarket and literary fiction, reported narratives, cultural criticism, essay collections, and history and biography with a surprising point of view.
A Boston native, Caroline graduated from Wesleyan University with an interdisciplinary degree in literature, history and philosophy, which means she attends closely to her authors’ bios, how well those bios and the authors’ writings are written, and what the intention is behind the author submitting work.
How to Submit: Send a query letter and the first ten pages of your project (or a completed proposal, if the project is nonfiction) to ce AT goldinlit DOT com.
Authors Caroline Enjoys Reading
- Barbara Kingsolver
- Brandon Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking)
18. Sarah Bolling
Sarah Bolling of The Gernert Company seeks blended fiction projects: the best that literary writers have, combined with the sensibilities of genre’s best works.
Diverse characters, far-flung locales, and inventive narrative structures all excite Sarah. She also enjoys representing memoir, pop culture, psychology, sociology and style in nonfiction categories.
As a native of Washington D.C., she knows lacking representation is a major challenge. A former Brown University student in East Asian Studies, Sarah continued her education at Goldsmiths University of London, earning an MA in Comparative Literature.
How to Submit: Queries by e-mail should be directed to: info AT thegernertco DOT com. Please include Sarah’s name in the subject line, as well as your Query type, name, and project title.
A Few Authors Sarah Enjoys Reading:
- Haruki Murakami
- Carmen Maria Machado
- Helen Oyeyemi
- Brian K. Vaughan
- Caitlin Doughty
- Katherine Faw
Jody J. Sperling lives in Omaha with Ashley, Silas, Edmund and Tobias. His work has been featured in Red Rock Review, Litro, The Moth Magazine, and elsewhere.
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