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Agent Spotlight: Stephen Fraser

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Fraser of Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.   

Status: Open to submissions. 

stephenfraserAbout: “Stephen Fraser joined the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency as an agent in January 2005. He worked most recently at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where he edited such creative talents as Mary Engelbreit, Gregory Maguire, Michael Hague, Ann Rinaldi, Kathryn Lasky, Brent Hartinger, Stephen Mitchell, and Dan Gutman. He began his career at Highlights for Children and later worked at Scholastic and Simon & Schuster. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, he has a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College in Boston. He represents both children’s and adult books in a wide range of genres. “ (Link)

About the Agency:

“The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency is a New York City-based full-service literary agency founded in 2001 and named one of the top 25 literary agencies in the country by Writer’s Digest.

“The agency represents children’s literature for all ages – picture books and middle-grade and young adult novels – but also represents high-quality adult fiction and non-fiction in a wide range of genres. The categories we are most enthusiastic about agenting are literary and commercial fiction; mysteries, thrillers, celebrity biographies; humor; psychology and self-help; parenting; health and fitness; women’s issues; men’s issues; pop culture; film and television; social issues and contemporary affairs.

“JDLA is proud to be one of the few literary agencies to represent illustrators, as well as screenwriters for both television and film, including Emmy-winning writers and a Peabody Award-winning illustrator.” (Link)

Web Presence:

JD Lit Website.

Agency Twitter.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What He's Looking For:

Interests: Children’s picture books through young adult and select adult fiction and non-fiction.

Per the Agency Website:

“Currently we are looking for children’s books for every age – picture books, middle-grade, and young adult – and adult fiction and non-fiction in a wide range of genres. If in doubt, just query us." (Link)

From an Interview (04/2012):

“Everything. I do board books, picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, nonfiction.  I want to be dazzled.  I guess if a vampire book comes along, or a werewolf novel, I’d probably not be impressed. But if it is great, then I’d be interested in that, too.” (Link)

“What [am I] looking for right now? Not a high-concept, commercial novel. There is too much of that. Everyone is basically looking for the same thing. I am looking for a lyrical middle grade novel that will win the Newbery Medal. I think that if you make literature with a capital L your priority, you can change the publishing environment. It’s like a huge monster. If you feed it only commercial fiction, that’s all it wants. How about giving it more fruits and vegetables, that is, good writing that has balance, grace, and style. Soon, that’s what will be selling. How’s that!” (Link)

From an Interview (04/11):

“I adore picture books, even though they are having a hard time now, so I’ll never say no to a great picture book text. I have to say that I especially love middle grade. What I would like to see more of is chapter books (series).” (Link)

From an Interview (02/11):

“I’d like to see more mysteries and ghost stories (really scary ghost stories). Love stories are always fun. Nonfiction that is one of a kind and fresh is always welcome. I adore poetry – though it can be hard to sell (I’ll try!) And funny books, truly funny books.” (Link)

From an Interview (05/10):

“Always good writing. A good concept or story is valuable, but the writing needs to be good to carry it off. In terms of specific genres, I’m looking for a solid mystery and for humorous books right now. Both gaps in the current market, I think.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/10):

“I’d like to see some good mysteries for kids. I’d like to see a good gay novel. I’d like to see a novel where a teen grapples with religious concepts, but that isn’t preachy in any way. I’d like to see a genuinely funny novel. Humor is hard to do but it is a great way to write for kids.” (Link)

From an Interview (01/10):

“I am never looking for anything specific, but I am looking to be dazzled. Good use of language always gets my attention. I have to say, I don’t like books that are too dark. I like imagination, a sense of fun, real drama. And most of all, a fresh voice. Even Cinderella, of which there are more than seven hundred versions worldwide, can be told again in a writer’s fresh voice. I mostly look for children’s books but sometimes I represent an adult novel. I agented a book of photographs this past fall which I was quite taken with.” (Link)

From an Interview (2009):

“I like a story that is dramatic, but I don’t want to get stuck in dark, depressing material. A good novel might in fact have a dramatic, even dark storyline, but there needs to be a reason for it. And I’d like to see a glimmer of hope at least. What gets my attention is good writing, a love of language and a facility to craft a good story. A great concept is not enough; good writing must back it up. What’s important is what is called “voice,” an authentic originality that is the writer’s own.” (Link)

What He Isn't Looking For:

Romance, sci-fi, westerns, poetry.  (Link)

“I really am tired of vampires. I’m also getting tired of dystopian novels (and movies). I think it is too easy to be pessimistic these days.” (Link)

His Advice for Writers:

“Never be apologetic or falsely humble. Respect your talent. Think of yourself as a professional writer already. Make sure you always act professionally, when you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or an editor, when you are working on a revision. If you act professionally, you will find yourself becoming a true professional writer.” (Link)

“My advice is to read widely and notice trends. Learn who is publishing what. And most of all, hone your own sense of what is good writing.” (Link)

Dislikes (Don'ts):

“Being overly intrusive is a no-no. For instance, sending a whole manuscript without any kind of query letter is annoying. Or sending along a manuscript by special delivery when I haven’t even heard of the person before is also bad. Simple courtesy is always best. And if an agent politely says no, they usually mean no.” (Link)

“The worst thing you can say is ‘I am unpublished and this manuscript isn’t very good.’ If you don’t think it is good or publishable, then don’t waste anyone’s time mentioning it or sending it along. The writer becomes a professional writer the moment they act professionally and being apologetic isn’t being professional. Have confidence and poise.” (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes.  He works with his clients to improve their manuscripts before submission as needed. 

Clients:

The agency represents over 100 clients. A select list of clients can be found on the website; authors here, illustrators here.

Mr. Fraser's clients include: Christine Brodien-Jones, Ally Cowee, James Dashner, Mary Cronk Farrell, Thea Guidone, Brent Hartinger, Amber Keyser, Bev Katz Rosenbaum, Judith L. Roth, Rosanne Parry, Matthew Kirby, Carol Lynch Williams, Cat Woods, among many others.

Sales:

As 7/12, Mr. Fraser is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 6 deals in the last 12 months and 37 overall.  Recent deals include 1 general, 3 middle grade, 2 young adult.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Send a query in the body of an e-mail.  No attachments.  Put “query” in the subject line.  If you don't hear back within two weeks, e-mail again.  Only query one agent at the agency at a time.  (Link)

See the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.  He suggests including a sample page in this interview.

Query Tips: 

“A simple query (with a sample of writing attached) is best. It’s really all about the writing.  I do like to know if someone has been published before, because it does give me a sense of where they are in their career. I don’t like when someone apologizes that they haven’t been published before and then says that their manuscript probably isn’t any good. That isn’t humility, it’s humiliation! I always answer right away. If I don’t, it’s always good to contact me again. Sometimes things go astray in cyberspace. Always follow up.  In fact, keep following up until you have answer. Sometimes someone pitches a book to me in person at a conference and that is fine, too.  I usually know right away if I am interested or not.” (Link)

“…make it polite and short, give only salient information, and attach a page of writing.” (Link)

“The query should include a succinct plot description and pitch.The pitch (positioning a book in the market) can be useful. I encourage every writer to create an ‘elevator pitch.’ This means comparing the manuscript with already-published and even classic books. This comparison helps sales forces know how to position a book on a publisher’s list. Learning to create a query and pitch also helps writers focus their ideas.” (Link)

Response Times:

His response time on queries is super fast, usually within hours to a week with occasional instances beyond.  His response time on requested material appears to be days to a month or so.

What's the Buzz? 

There is a growing amount of praise regarding Mr. Fraser on the net (including some great feedback from client Cat Woods in the comments). His clients have praised him as being communicative, efficient, honest, and fun.  A couple clients have mentioned their appreciation of his editorial skills.  

He has a healthy client list but is always looking for brilliant, new talent.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Interview with Literary Agent Stephen Fraser at client Judith L. Roth’s site (04/2012).

An Interview with Stephen Fraser at Humor Me (04/2011).

NESCBWI 2011 Agent Quick Query Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Stephen Fraser at Joyce Shor Johnson’s site (02/2011).

Interview with an Agent: Stephen Fraser at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (05/2010).

Agent Interview: Stephen Fraser at First Novels Club (03/2010).

Interview with Agent Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency at Throwing Up Words (01/2010).

2K9 Agent Interview with Stephen Fraser and Catherine Drayton at The Class of 2K9 (07/09).

Interview with Stephen Fraser at The Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop website (2009).

Around the Web:

Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency on P&E ($ Recommended).

Stephen Fraser on P&E.

Stephen Fraser–Project Writeway Agent! client feedback at Throwing Up Words (01/2012).

How I Got My Agent: J.H. Trumble at Guide to Literary Agents (12/2011).

Successful Queries: Agent Stephen Fraser and ‘I Was a Teenage Popsicle' at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (05/2010).

Stephen Fraser answers a symposium question at Agent Query: Publishing Changes (fourth down).

Read about client Matthew Kirby's experience with Mr. Fraser here and here.

Contact:

Please see the Jennifer DeChiara website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 7/11/12 – (added interview, updated sales)

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent? No response.

***

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.

13 comments:

  1. Oh, hurray. Looks like he takes PBs! I'm giving him a try.

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  2. I thought of you when I saw that the agency represents PBs.

    Good luck, Corey!

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  3. What a great feature - agent spotlights. :)

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  4. I've met Stephen at two conferences and thought we has professional, kind, and smart. My dream agent.

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  5. I received the kindest, most helpful rejection from him on a partial. Instead of feeling crushed as I usually do with rejections, I felt energized to improve my book and go back to the query game. Not only that, but he responded within a couple weeks. If this is how I was treated as a non-client, I can only imagine that his actual clients are very happy with him.

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  6. Hi Guys, I received this neat story from one of Mr. Fraser's clients and she's given me permission to post it here.

    ***

    "I'm one of Steve's clients.

    "I subbed a picture book manuscript to him first--query only. He requested the manuscript, then kindly rejected it. In the rejection he talked about the things he loved and the things that didn't work for him. Awesome feedback in this day and age of instant e-form rejections. I thanked him for his time and commentary.

    "Roughly six months later, I queried a chapter book (I guess I figured since he was a top contender on my agent list, I wasn't going to give up so easily). I heard nothing. A month went by and I took the 'resub if you haven't heard back in two weeks' policy seriously. I resubbed my query letter. Within the week he responded with a request for a snail full. One week later, he emailed me with great enthusiasm and some commentary on what he didn't like.

    "I responded with a carefully drafted letter to address his concerns. Five days later, he sent me a quick, did you get my email, I really liked your manuscript would you revise? email. Apparently, my careful letter was my second email he hadn't gotten due to spam filters, the cyber monster or what have you. Heck yes, I emailed back with the revision. A month of nail-biting later, I received an offer.

    "So, the moral of my tale is that he stands behind his word on the two week resub policy. A no response may simply be a non-receipt like I experienced with him. He is a true gentleman in the business and treats his writers (those simply querying, as well as those he goes on to sign) with respect and compassion. He's hands-on with feedback and his editorial direction is amazing.

    "Also, I enjoy the fact that Steve signs an author. Since I write for a variety of age groups and genres within the juvenile arena, I get the benefit of working with one agent on all my projects rather than searching for individual agents per individual project--if he likes them, of course!

    "I know how quiet the net is regarding Stephen and think he's an amazing agent who deserves to be given some recognition. Many writers put a lot of stock into the visibility of their potential agents. I personally feel better knowing my agent is spending his time on his clients rather than tweeting about what he ate for lunch."

    -Cat Woods
    http://catwoods.wordpress.com/

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  7. Just wanted to drop in and corroborate the extremely fast response time--I queried him at 3:23 and got a request for a partial at 3:25.

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  8. Casey, thank you for your tireless efforts to inform! You're truly a godsend. :)

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  9. I've queried Stephen, and haven't heard back. So I followed up, and haven't heard back. I guess I'll try a third time, based on the comments above.

    It's frustrating to know what to do, especially since Stephen and Jennifer both use email services that are often unreliable.

    I think they should switch to Gmail.

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  10. Richard, I'm surprised. I've always heard back within two weeks via snail mail. Today, I heard back within hours via e-mail.

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  11. Stephen's response time is still super fast. I queried him on July 1 and received a full manuscript request on July 2!

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