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Agent Spotlight: Stephen Barbara

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Barbara of Foundry Literary + Media.

Status: Open to submissions.

stephenLAbout: "Stephen represents books for young readers, and adult fiction and nonfiction. His clients include New York Times and international Bestseller Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall, Delirium), Newbery Medal winner and New York Times Bestseller Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!), Indie Bestseller Lynne Jonell (Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, The Secret of Zoom), Edgar Award nominees Jack D. Ferraiolo and Todd Strasser, as well as the literary development company Paper Lantern Lit and the multimedia arts organization The Story Pirates, among many others.

“Stephen Barbara grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and later attended the University of Chicago, where he studied English and literary criticism and was a co-founder of the college’s literary magazine. After a stint as a freelance book reviewer and sports writer for publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard, Stephen began his publishing career, working first as an editorial assistant at HarperCollins, then spending three years as Contracts Director of the Donald Maass Agency.” (Link)

About the Agency:

"Foundry is a full-service literary and media development agency. We are dedicated to providing the most positive and profitable publishing experience for our clients, from the American book market to foreign publishing, film, TV, merchandise, online media and beyond. Rooted in the tradition of representing writers and other talent in the book trade, the Foundry team is relentless in finding new and diverse ways for our clients to reach wider audiences." (Link)

Web Presence:

Foundry website.

Foundry Facebook.

Foundry Twitter.

Mr. Barbara’s Twitter.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What He's Looking For:


Children’s books and select adult projects (commercial, literary; non-fiction).

What he Isn't Looking For:

Screenplays, Romance, Westerns.  


“I think the basic theme of my career so far has been discovering – and launching – debut authors, particularly first novelists. I have established clients, some of whom I took on mid-career, but I haven’t inherited any authors and generally speaking I’ve been less interested in writers coming to me after working with other agents and editors.” (Link – appears dead)


"Pages of exposition, lots of dry description, flat writing, lack of tension, lack of dramatic conflict, conventional scenes (particularly characters waking up in the morning and staring at themselves in the mirror or brushing their teeth), clich├ęs, banalities, formulaic prose, lack of a striking voice, and tin-eared dialogue." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

"I tend to spend a lot of time on story development with my clients. I've come to see that the work you put into a manuscript with your clients prior to submission is invaluable. There's nothing like a brilliantly executed piece of storytelling to set the editors' pulses racing." (Link – appears dead)


There is a page of agency titles on the Foundry website

Mr. Barbara's clients include: Heidi Ayarbe, Betsy Bird, P.J. Bracegirdle, Fleur Bradley, Cara Chow, Heather Davis, Julie Danielson, Monica Edinger, Richard Farr, Jack D. Ferraiolo, Lisa Graff, Lynne Jonell, Sam Munson, Shana Norris, Lauren Oliver, Paper Lantern Lit, Marlene Perez, Suzanne Morgan Williams, Jess Rothenberg, Leila Sales, Laura Schaefer, Katie Sciurba, Laura Amy Schlitz, Libby Schmais, Peter D. Sieruta, Michael Spooner, Tammar Stein, Todd Strasser, Paul Tremblay, Tom Venuto, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only)

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Send a brief query letter and the first five pages in the body of an e-mail.

See the Foundry Literary + Media website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines. 

Response Times:

Mr. Barbara tries to respond to all queries but does not guarantee a response due to the volume of submissions. (Link – appears dead)

Stats on the web show Mr. Barbara responding to most queries within hours to a week. Requested material usually gets a response within days to a couple weeks.

What's the Buzz?

Stephen Barbara is a favorite among aspiring authors, well-respected for his lightning fast response times and wit.  He has a strong list of clients and sales and his clients seem very happy with his representation.  Conference goers report him as being rather funny and gracious.

One writer, who wished to encourage other writers to submit to Mr. Barbara, e-mailed me this bit of feedback: "I received a personal rejection from him with a compliment to my writing and encouragement to query him on future projects. His response was timely and appreciated."

Worth Your Time:


Level 2 Launch Week Interview Series: Agent Stephen Barbara at Presenting Lanore (01/2013).

WANTED Blog Tour: An Interview with Agent Stephen Barbara at Cindy Thomas’ site (05/2012).

Interview with an Agent: Stephen Barbara of Foundry at Smack Dab in the Middle (02/2012).

Live chat transcript with Stephen Barbara and Leila Sales at WriteOnCon (11/2010).

Brief video interview with Stephen Barbara by Kathi Appelt on YouTube (06/2010).

Around the Web:

Foundry Literary + Media at AbsoluteWrite.

Foundry Literary + Media at P&E. Stephen Barbara at P&E.

Article on Stephen Barbara and three of his clients at The University of Chicago Magazine (12/2009).

Soapbox: How Stephanie Meyer Cramps my Style, article at Publisher's Weekly by Stephen Barbara (12/2009).

The Great American Query Letter, article at Publisher's Weekly by Stephen Barbara (11/2008).


Please see the Foundry Literary + Media website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 3/11/13.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 10/14/11.


Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.


  1. What a great fountain of information, Casey!

  2. Wow. This is awesome! He's one of my fav agents! I have queried (and been rejected) by him but he's still a phenom!

    I'd give him 15%...maybe even 20% if it meant he'd take me on now. lol.

  3. I'd love to have an agent like him!

  4. Excellent lowdown here. He does seem like a catch. :)

  5. Thanks all!

    Mr. Barbara has reviewed and updated his profile.

  6. Thanks for the heads-up about the spotlight update, Casey.

  7. Stephen Barbara has actually now at the InkWell agency. Thought, I should let ya'll know.