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Agent Spotlight: Stephen Fraser

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Fraser, who is an Executive Literary Agent at 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.“ (From the agency website)
About the Agency:
“The Jennifer De Chiara 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. JDLA is proud to represent illustrators, as well as screenwriters for both television and film, including Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writers and illustrators. What sets JDLA apart from other agencies is our holistic approach to managing every aspect of an author’s career to make the most of their project's potential.” (From the agency website)
Web Presence:
JD Lit Website.
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:
"I am always looking for good, original writing: picture books with delicious words; middle grade stories that endure, that have strong characters and plots; young adult novels that have identifiable teens and hopeful, interesting stories for the soon-to-be adult. A good mystery perhaps, a ghost story, some poetry, something with a bit of theater. Something to dazzle me."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 (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. He is not interested in vampires, werewolves, or dystopian. (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)
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.
The agency represents over 100 clients. A select list of clients (authors and illustrators) can be found on the website.
Mr. Fraser's clients include: Matt Browning, Mary Cronk Farrell, Jackie Kramer, Kyra Leigh, Claudia Mills, Margi Preus, Susan Richmond, Carol Lynch Williams, among many others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (only).
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Send a query and 20 pages of your manuscript in the body of an email with a one-paragraph bio and synopsis.  No attachments. (Link)
See the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
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)
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 and Podcasts:
Podcast at Middle Grade Ninja (02/2023)
Interview at The Darling Axe (11/2020)
Agent Monday: Stephen Fraser at Marie Lamba (04/2019)
Literary Agent Stephen Fraser at BYU on YouTube (05/2016)
A Cafe Chat With Literary Agent Stephen Fraser at Eastern Penn Points (07/2014)
First Five Frenzy with Stephen Fraser at Amy Trueblood (03/2013)
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).
Please see the Jennifer De Chiara website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 1/30/2023
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent? 2/8/2023
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7(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.


Corey Schwartz said...

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

Casey Something said...

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

Good luck, Corey!

Keri Mikulski said...

What a great feature - agent spotlights. :)

Casey Something said...

Thanks, Keri!

Kate said...

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

RL said...

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.

Casey McCormick said...

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

Casey McCormick said...

Profile updated 12/22/10

Taryn said...

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.

Unknown said...

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

Richard Levangie said...

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.

Theresa Milstein said...

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

Ryan Dalton said...

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