Agent-Author Interview: Jacqueline Lipton – New Agent at Storm Literary Agency & Author of an Upcoming Legal Handbook for Writers

By Robin Galbraith

I’m excited to share Jacqueline Lipton‘s journey from lawyer to children’s writer to lliterary agent.

How and why did you become an agent?

I’ve been interested in agenting for a long time, after someone suggested it to me many years ago as a way to merge my interests in law and business with my interests in writing and publishing.

At the time I first considered it, I felt like I had two separate careers: law professor, on the one hand, and writer/editor on the other.

Agenting seemed like a wonderful marriage between the parts of each of these things that I love best. I started out as a reader for the wonderful and most amazing mentor I could have had, Susan Hawk at Upstart Crow Literary Agency.

I also did a number of informational interviews with other agents about how they got into agenting and how they work with clients or editors. I’ve found agents in the kidlit area to be incredibly generous with their time and support. It’s a wonderful, welcoming, and professional community.

You’re a writer and an agent. How did you come to literature for young readers?

It was kind of a happy accident. After I had my first child, I decided there was more to life than my day job, and wanted to return to one of my first loves: writing. I looked into some online novel writing classes and the one I wanted to enroll in was full, but there were spaces in a new YA writing workshop, so I enrolled in that one instead.

That was around the time The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008) was pretty big, which also played into my love of sci-fi, and probably explains why more writing schools were considering offering YA classes. After taking the class, I was hooked.

When I saw the explosion of wonderful YA books in the marketplace, I couldn’t stop reading them, and then, of course, I wanted to write more too.

After taking a bunch of online classes, I decided to enroll in an MFA program, and ultimately chose the VCFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It gave me a wonderful grounding and a terrific supportive network. By the time I graduated, my own children were reading, and now we love to share books and book recommendations with each other.

Let’s talk about writer Jacqueline. Tell us about the book you have coming out.

Weirdly, even though my writing training is largely in YA and middle grade fiction, I’m currently writing adult nonfiction. The book I have coming out is: Law & Authors: A Legal Handbook For Writers. (Warning: title is subject to change!)

Again, this book marries my interests in law and business with my interest in writing and the publishing industry. I became aware early on in delving into the business side of publishing that there isn’t a lot of accurate and user-friendly information available to writers, illustrators, agents, and others about how things like copyright and fair use really work; when you should be worried about liability for, say, defamation; what a standard publishing contract looks like, etc.

In recent years, I’ve blogged a lot about these topics and write some regular columns on these issues, notably the “Legally Bookish” column in The SCBWI Bulletin and the On The Books column for Luna Station Quarterly. I also teach some classes and workshops on these issues, but really wanted to provide a physical (or digital, if you prefer!) handbook that people could have on hand to understand legal matters that may worry them.

My main message: most legal issues can be dealt with at some point in the publication process; don’t let fear of the law be another reason for not getting your butt in the chair and getting your writing done! Hopefully, my book will help demystify the law and help get writers focused on writing with confidence that most legal issues can be dealt with.

Could you tell us about Storm Literary Agency? How has your role there changed over time?

I’m very enthusiastic about Storm Literary Agency—otherwise, I wouldn’t have joined as an associate agent! I started out as a contract consultant for the agency, but always hoped I’d become an agent either at Storm or somewhere else.

I still bring my contracts knowledge to the agency and, especially, to my clients, but now I also get to represent clients, too, develop their individual projects and their careers, and grow the agency in new and exciting directions along with the other agents.

One great thing about Storm is that because it’s relatively young and relatively small, but now growing, all of the agents are very close. The partners, Victoria Selvaggio and Essie White, are always available to help with new issues and, along with the other new associate agent, Heather Cashman, we’re in constant contact with each other looking for new opportunities for our clients and to develop the agency in new directions. Victoria and Essie formally welcome all new clients and take an interest in what all the clients are writing and doing with their careers.

It’s a very creative, welcoming family.

What types of clients do you represent—in terms of body of work, age levels, genres and more? Are you looking for a certain kind of book that says “Storm Literary” or for a widely diversified body of work from your client base?

While Storm represents all kinds of children’s literature, including illustrators, my own client list, for now at least, revolves around middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction. However, within that group, I’m pretty eclectic.

I like contemporary, sci-fi, some fantasy, some historical, romance, retellings of classic stories. You name it, I like it! If it’s well written with engaging characters and a strong narrative voice, I’ll read it.

Because Storm takes the view that we work to develop our artists’ careers over time, I’ll look at other projects that my clients write, including picture books and work for older readers. However, writers who mainly work in picture books might be more interested in submitting directly to Victoria or Essie.

We’re not all open to submissions all of the time, but that’s only to make sure we have time to clear our inboxes and give due consideration to all submissions.

We try to respond personally to every submission, which is sometimes why it takes us a while even to send a rejection, but all authors definitely hear from us. So, if we’re (or I’m) not open to submissions at a time when you want to submit, please check back.

We do (and I do) want to hear from you; it can just take a while sometimes!

Cynsational Notes

Jacqueline Lipton and fellow writer Andrew Thomas at the Texas Teen Book Festival

Jacqueline Lipton, L.L.B., M.F.A., Ph.D. is an author of books for young adults, nonfiction, and academic work relating to law and the publishing industry. She holds a Ph.D. in intellectual property law from Cambridge University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

She practiced as a banking and finance attorney in Australia. She also worked as a law professor in Australia, the U.K. and the United States. Her teaching and writing has focused on law relating to the publishing industry, digital technology law, copyright, trademark, privacy, and defamation.

She is currently an associate literary agent at Storm Literary Agency. Prior to that, she was a reader for literary agent, Susan Hawk for several years and a reader and member of the social media team for The YA Review Network (Y.A.R.N.)

Jacqueline is currently seeking submissions for middle grade and young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. While she’ll consider all genres, she has a particular interest in science fiction, a good contemporary romance, retellings of classic stories, and mysteries of all kinds.

Robin Galbraith holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s been working with Cynthia Leitich Smith as a Cynsations intern since October 2017. Halloween is Robin’s favorite holiday because she gets to dress up like a witch and give out books for her Halloween Book Project.