This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Barbara of InkWell Management.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: "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)
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), clichés, banalities, formulaic prose, lack of a striking voice, and tin-eared dialogue." (Link)
"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: 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.
E-mail: Yes (only)
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.
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:
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.
Last updated: 4/16/15.
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 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.