This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Fraser of Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: “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)
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)
“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)
Yes. He works with his clients to improve their manuscripts before submission as needed.
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.
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.
E-mail: Yes (only).
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)
“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)
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:
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–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).
Please see the Jennifer DeChiara website for contact and query information.
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.