Children’s-YA Agents and Agent-Author Relationships

Agent Ginger Knowlton and author Cynthia Leitich Smith
Agent Ginger Knowlton and author Cynthia Leitich Smith

Curated articles touch on various aspects of the literary agent’s role in the publishing process. They may help in identifying candidates to query or to invite to a writing conference.

Keep in mind that sometimes agents retire or move to a different literary agency or start their own. Double check their job status before reaching out.

Agent Listings

Agent Query: agent research resource.

Agents on Twitter from Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Association of Artists’ Representatives: “a not-for-profit organization of independent literary and dramatic agents.” Looking for an agent.

Literary Agents of Color: “…a resource for any writer/illustrator who has struggled to find the agents of color in publishing. The number of POC agents is small, but growing steadily, and we hope to see that growth continue.”

Agents from Melanin in YA: Your Resource for All Things Black in YA. agent research and query management resource. SEE ALSO QueryTracker Blog.

Resources Listing Literary Agents and Arts Representatives by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon.

Queries and Submissions

6 1/2 Ways to Impress an Agent by Tina Wexler from Donna Gephart at Wild About Words. PEEK: “Demonstrate knowledge of their list. This doesn’t mean you have to read every book they’ve ever sold—I leave that job to my mom — but by showing them you know a bit about who they represent, you’re telling agents you’ve done your research on who to query.”

10 Tips for Querying an Agent by Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest. PEEK: “If you have an automatic spam filter, turn it off. If you’re lucky enough to garner a reply from an agent interested in your work, the last thing they want to deal with is a spam filter requiring them to prove their existence.”

Anatomy of a Synopsis by Cynthea Liu from The Purple Crayon. PEEK: “…a one-page, single-spaced, summary of your book (beginning, middle, end).”

Building Your Pitch by Elena Johnson from QueryTracker. Notes from a talk by Laura Rennert. PEEK: “She gave five steps for building your pitch. I think this pitch can transfer to the written query letter as well as be used for verbal pitching at conferences.”

Children’s Book Agents and Artist’s Representatives: A Guide by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon. CYN NOTE: includes Finding and Choosing Literary Agents; Resources Listing Literary Agents and Artists Representatives; and two case studies: Writers House and [Name Withheld].

Conference Etiquette from BookEnds, LLC. PEEK:  “One of the reasons I advise against getting in touch with agents or submitting just before a conference is that for a lot of agents this puts them in an uncomfortable position. They feel that you’re expecting something they don’t want to give—usually feedback or more personal, detailed critiques than they would normally give.”

Delaying an Agent Submission by Mary Kole from Kid Lit. PEEK: “Delaying an agent submission isn’t usually on a writer’s radar. Most writers very much want an agent to request their manuscript, so why would they delay? There is a really compelling reason to be strategic in capitalizing on an agent’s interest.”

The Difference Between Querying in 2019 and 2022 by Shannon A. Thompson. PEEK: “Lots of folks on Twitter today have been sharing that a 10% request rate is good right now.”

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Rush from Nathan Bransford. PEEK: “…twice in the past month authors have come back to me after an unsuccessful submission with the unrevised manuscript, wishing they had taken the time to revise. But at that point I can’t really help them — it’s already been seen at the major houses.” CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

Exclusives and Literary Agents from Nathan Bransford. PEEK: “I’m going to break down my thoughts on exclusives based on the different stages when they might arise and give you some dos and don’ts along the way…” See also Unagented Revisions. CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

How to Find Compelling Comps for Your Book by Star Wuerdemann from Jane Friedman. PEEK: “[C]oming up with comps is a daunting enterprise, but the important thing to remember is their key purpose: to show where your book would be shelved in a store or who your…likely readers are….On my quest to write the perfect query letter, I got stuck on what comps to use….Here’s what I learned….”

By Lisa Bullard

How to Query an Agent: Do Your Detective Work by Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas from Cynsations. PEEK: “Many writers (particularly in longer works where there is more space) include an acknowledgments page where they thank their editor and agent. Or maybe they talk about their editor and agent on their webpage and blog.”

Literary Rambles: “Spotlighting Children’s Book Authors, Agents, and Publishing.”

Looking at the Agent Search by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe’s Nest. PEEK: “I didn’t whine publicly about the rejections. You never know who might be reading, so it’s important to keep that frustration under control and always be professional. Have writer friends you can vent to, or set up a special locked LiveJournal account for friends to read only.”

More Story, Less You from Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. PEEK: “I know you’ll find all over the Internet that writing qualifications are important. They definitely are if you’re writing nonfiction. But for novels: not so much. Honestly.” CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

Mary Kole

Newer vs. Established Agents by Mary Kole from CYN NOTE: Mary is no longer a literary agent.

Publisher Interest Prior to Representation  from Bookends LCC — A Literary Agency. PEEK: “Most agents will jump on the opportunity to consider a proposal that is currently under consideration with a major house. Be wary though because…”

Publishers Marketplace: “Track Deals, Sales, Reviews, Agents, Editors, News — and Get Lunch Deluxe Every Day.” CYN NOTE: Valuable resource for identifying potential agents to query or researching before a conference pitch.

Querying an Agency, Not Just an Agent from Bookends LCC. PEEK: “…it continues to amaze me how many of you will query all three of us at once or query us one at a time as the rejections come in.”

Searching for an Agent from Pub Rants: A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants about Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry. PEEK: “Here a few tips on some things that will hinder your agent search.”

Seeking A New Agent While Still Represented By Another Agent by Mary Kole from PEEK: “It reflects poorly on you (even if we sign you, we will always wonder…are they querying others behind our backs?), and the agent you contact might, if they end up offering representation, get a reputation as a ‘poacher,’ someone who steals clients from other agents.” CYN NOTE: Mary is no longer a literary agent. She does freelance editing and hosts

Spaghetti Agents from Nathan Bransford. PEEK: “They sign up a bunch of writers even when they’re unsure about a project, they throw the manuscripts at publishers, and they see what sticks.” CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

Author Todd Strasser

Water Seeks Its Own Level: Finding the Right Agent by Todd Strasser from Cynsations. PEEK: “These days, being in the fifth decade of my writing career, I’m quite glad to have a young agent who’s very comfortable and familiar with what’s going on in the business. When we got together six years ago, he was less established than he is now, and hungry.”

Why You Should Only Query Six-to-Eight Agents at a Time by Chuck Sambuchino from Writer Unboxed. PEEK: “After all, though an agent will usually reply quickly (bless you, e-mail), they may take three whole months to get back to you, only to send you a form rejection. You can’t wait around for agents one by one like that.”

Writer Beware from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Offers alerts to writers on unscrupulous types and related information.

Consideration of Representation

The Mood I’m In” by Jessica from BookEnds, LCC-A Literary Agency. PEEK: “The truth is that you never know the mood of the agent you’re pitching to or what is happening in her personal life that might affect the choices she’s making. In fact, in a lot of ways you don’t know what’s happening in her professional life that affects the choices she’s making.”

How (and When) to Follow-Up with Agents and/or Editors by Tracy Marchini from My VerboCity. PEEK: “Sometimes, it seems that writers are over-anxious in their follow-up methods after submitting to an agent or editor. Here’s some basic guidelines to make sure your follow-up is professional and effective.”

Agents Requesting Work: The Happy Dilemma by Jane Lebak from PEEK: “If it appears you should have received a response, assume a technology fail. Send a status query to the agent from a different email address, just in case her reply went into your spam folder (You are checking that periodically, right?)”

Requesting Partials: You’ve Got 30 Pages, Pal! from Nathan Bransford. CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

Agent-Requested Revisions by Ammi-Joan Paquette from Mary Lindsey at Query Tracker. PEEK: “Don’t be afraid to take all the time you need to do a thorough revision; get some additional readers; let it sit a while and then come back to it with fresh eyes.”

Revision from the Agent’s Perspective by Sara Crowe from Crowe’s Nest. PEEK: “If the author is deciding between a few different ideas for a next book it can be helpful to have me look at drafts of chapters and synopses to try to help figure out what idea to develop first. I always tell my clients to send material to me when my feedback will be useful, and I think that point is different for each writer.”

Revise and Resubmit Requests by Tracy Gold from Adventures in YA Publishing. PEEK: “I’m not saying you have to be excited about the revision, at least not at first, because revision can be emotional and scary. But you should feel a sense of purpose in your revisions, and sense that the agent ‘gets’ your book.”

Re-submissions and Re-querying: Yes or No? by Stina Lindenblatt from QueryTracker. PEEK: “What should you do if you’ve queried an agent with sample pages, but by the time they’ve request the partial or full, you’ve made substantial changes to those pages?”

Author-illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi; photo by Jeff Ridpath

What Agents, Editors and Art Directors Look for Online from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. PEEK: “77% of respondents said that when they are considering taking on a new client, author and illustrator, they always research them online.”

Offer of Representation

10 Questions to Ask an Agent Before You Sign by Chuck Sambuchino from Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog. PEEK: “Your objective is to hire an agent you can trust with your money, your work, and your future. It’s all part of finding your perfect match.”

The Call! Um, Now What? by Jennifer Laughran from Jennifer Represents. PEEK: “Let the other agents who are considering your work know that you have an offer. Give them a few days or a week to read and respond.”

The Call from Kristina McBride. PEEK: “I had spent two years writing three novels, countless hours researching agents to query, double that in time spent on perfecting the query letters, and finally, after everything, I was going to speak to an actual, real-life literary agent sitting in one of those crazy tall buildings in NYC! After freaking out for a few hours, I decided that I needed a plan.”

The Call (or What to Ask a Literary Agent When Offered Representation) from Literary Rambles. PEEK: “Do you have a plan for submission in mind already? Which houses/editors do think will be a good fit for this project?”

Author Cynthea Liu

How Much to Tell a Prospective Agent from Bookends, LLC.

How to Handle An Offer of Representation from Nathan Bransford. PEEK: “Don’t immediately yell, ‘Yes, dear Lord, yes!‘ even if you really want to. Take your time to make sure it’s the right fit.”

Multiple Offers of Representation by Jennifer Jackson at Et in arcaedia, ego. PEEK: “…do keep in mind that the object here is not to play the agents off each other but to find the best match for yourself as author.”

Multiple Offers of Representation by Mary Kole from Kidlit.comPEEK: “A lot of writers, though, think this is an embarrassment of riches and a great problem to have. It’s not. It’s a really stressful situation where you have to make a major business decision under time pressure, all while being wooed by really nice, really encouraging, really savvy people.” CYN NOTE: Mary is no longer a literary agent. She does freelance editing and hosts

Author-Agent Agreements from BookEnds, LCC. PEEK: “Getting an agent should be about a lot more than submitting your book or negotiating a contract. It should be one step toward building a career, and hopefully that’s the way you’ll want to treat it.”

Before Accepting Agent Representation by Kathleen Temean from Writing and Illustrating: Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children. PEEK: “Don’t skip this crucial step because you’re worried that questions will scare him off, or that the offer won’t last. This isn’t a TV promo, it’s a potential business partnership. His offer is on the table, waiting patiently for your consideration and ultimate response.”

Roles in Representation

What Do Literary Agents Do? from Nathan Bransford. PEEK: “An agent will carefully select the best editors to consider a particular project, but at the end of the day an agent never quite knows who is going to respond the strongest to a particularly project.” CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

Literary Estate Representation from Nathan Bransford. CYN NOTE: Nathan has retired from agenting to write full time.

Marvelous Marketer – Sarah Davies from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators. PEEK: “On one hand, it is an agent’s job to fight for their author. Yet, on the other hand, I think there are times when an agent has to manage their author’s expectations. There will never be limitless funds available to promote every book in the way every author hopes (there is probably a finite overall budget for the whole list and whole year, laid down in advance, to be sliced up by the marketing director).

The Role of Agents in Self-Publishing by Chris Eboch from Write Like a Pro! A Free Online Writing Workshop.

Agent-Author Relationship

Working with An Agent by Sara Crowe at Crowe’s Nest. PEEK: “Once you have your dream agent, there are some basic rules for maintaining a healthy author-agent relationship.”

Upsetting the Author-Agent Relationship from Bookend LCC – A Literary Agency. PEEK: “If you enter a contest and an editor requests your work or if you are a nonfiction author who has been approached by an editor, go ahead and send the material. Otherwise, if you really want an agent, it might be wise to hold off.”

Is It Time to Ditch Your Literary Agent? by Chuck Wendig from Terrible Minds. PEEK: “…there is a calculus involved in determining whether or not to persist in the relationship, and that calculus is different for every author. But…if enough of these boxes are checked, maybe it’s time to consider moving on.”

What to Do If Your Agent Isn’t Feeling the Love by Jennifer Laughran from Jennifer Represents. PEEK: “The fact of the matter is, no matter how sympatico a client and agent might be in terms of taste and personality, there are bound to be some occasions where you don’t quite see eye-to-eye.”

Dissolution of Representation

Divorcing Your Agent from BookEnds, LLC–A Literary Agency. PEEK: “…while I know it’s incredibly stressful for an author to suddenly go agentless again, I think that you need to make the decision to fire your first agent before querying others.”

Leaving an Agent by Georgia McBride from Shelli at Market My Words. PEEK: “…if your agent is unresponsive, shows a complete lack of regard for or interest in your work, you should consider looking for alternate representation. Another indication is an agent who is condescending or disrespectful to you or writers in general. But don’t lose your cool.”

When To Cut Ties with Your Agent by Jessica at BookEnds, LCC. PEEK:“…in at least a couple of instances I felt like the client was really, truly, for the first time telling me what she wanted, when she fired me.”

Writing Advice

5 Rules for Writing YA by Regina Brooks from Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agent’s Editor’s Blog. PEEK: “The YA field welcomes innovators. What will your contribution be? Think fresh.”

Creating a Book Series by Stephanie Greene from Through the Tollbooth. PEEK from Marietta Zacker: “The development of a series is usually much more organic than people imagine. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think of the infinite possibilities that exist with the characters and worlds you create, but always write as if that is the last time anyone will hear from those characters.”

Page Turns in Picture Books by Tracy Marchini from Cynsations. PEEK: “I’ve been thinking a lot about page turns in picture books recently, and all of the amazing things they can do, including: show the passage of time; create humor; and dictate pacing.