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Agent Spotlight: Stephen Barbara

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Barbara of InkWell Management.  

Status: Open to submissions.

stephenLAbout: "Stephen Barbara has been a literary agent since 2006, representing authors of books for young readers as well as select adult fiction and nonfiction. His list of critically acclaimed and bestselling authors includes Lauren Oliver, Laura Amy Schlitz, Lisa Graff, Leila Sales, Sam Munson, Paul Tremblay, Lynne Jonell, Todd Strasser, and Jack D. Ferraiolo, as well as the companies Paper Lantern Lit and The Story Pirates. Prior to joining InkWell in 2015, Stephen spent six years as an agent with Foundry Literary + Media, and before that was Contracts Director of the Donald Maass Agency for three years, both in New York City. He is originally from New Haven, CT, graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002, and now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife and son.” (Link

About the Agency:

"InkWell is one of the world’s leading literary agencies, proudly representing major literary prize winners as well as many of the world’s bestselling and best-loved authors. We enjoy a considerable international reputation as a significant and innovative player in the industry.
“In addition to its full-time agents and their assistants, the InkWell team includes a tireless foreign rights department, a dedicated social media, marketing and publicity expert, and a meticulous contracts manager. We also join forces with leading literary agencies in every foreign market and have agents based in Australia, Boston, and Dallas. We continue to be excited by—and on the lookout for—original ideas, riveting stories and great writing.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Mr. Barbara’s Twitter.

Publisher’s Marketplace page.

InkWell Management website.

InkWell Management Facebook.

InkWell Management Twitter.

InkWell Management Tumblr

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 haven’t inherited any clients but have been open to taking on clients mid-career.” (via e-mail)


"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), clichés, 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 clients on the InkWell website.

Mr. Barbara's clients include: Atia Abawi, Robert L. Anderson, Lenore Appelhans, Betsy Bird, Ricardo Cortés, Julie Danielson, Monica Edinger, Jack D. Ferraiolo, Lisa Graff, Anne Heltzel, Lexa Hillyer, Lynne Jonell, Travis Jonker, Minh Le, Lauren Morrill, Sam Munson, Philip Nel, Lauren Oliver, Paper Lantern Lit, Marlene Perez, Chelsey Philpot, Jess Rothenberg, Leila Sales, Laura Amy Schlitz, Laura Shovan, Tammar Stein, The Story PiratesTodd Strasser, J.E. Thompson, Paul Tremblay, 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.
Please see the Inkwell Management website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines and terms of agreement.

Response Times:

The agency has a stated response time of up to two months (link). 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.

I recommend following him on Twitter @Stephen_Barbara.

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:

InkWell Management thread at AbsoluteWrite

InkWell Management at P&E

Literary Agent Stephen Barbara joins InkWell Management (12/2014).

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 InkWell Management website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 5/27/15.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 6/1/15.


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 focus on agents who accept children's and/or young adult 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.

  8. Thank you, Anthony! I've updated to reflect the move.