This week's Agent Spotlight features Dan Lazar of Writers House.
About: “Daniel Lazar is a senior agent at Writers House, one of the industry's largest and oldest literary agencies. His list includes a variety of commercial and literary fiction for children and adults. For children's books, he represents primarily middle grade and YA. Recent and upcoming titles include Newbery Honor-winner Savvy by Ingrid Law (Dial/Walden); The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman (Atheneum); Billy Bones by Chris Lincoln (Little Brown); Mike Steller: Nerves of Steel by KA Holt (Random House); and The Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell (Aladdin).” (Link)
Status: Open to submissions, actively seeking new clients.
What He's Looking For:
From Publisher’s Marketplace:
“I'm always on the lookout for distinct fiction and great, lively non-fiction. I represent adult and children's books (and for children's books, I focus mainly on middle grade and YA). For fiction, I love stories that introduce me to new worlds -- or even better, recreate the ones I may already know. I also especially love historical fiction of all kinds. For non-fiction, I enjoy memoirs, narrative non-fiction, all stripes and studies of pop-culture, and even small gifty books that strike my fancy and make me smile. I'm a huge fan of graphic novels and memoirs. And as the oldest child of six who has changed many, many diapers in his life, I'm equally intrigued by any book with unique views on parenting and family life.
“If you think your pages can make me hold my breath or miss my subway stop or even laugh out loud, please read my submission guidelines and check out some of my clients' books listed below. I'd love to hear from you.” (Link)
From an Interview (07/2010):
“In terms of kids books, I'm really open to anything so long as the writer is excited to be sending it. From the serious (see my client Ann Leal's ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER) to the very funny and out-there (see HOW TO GROW UP AND RULE THE WORLD by Vodak The Incomprensible or BRAINS FOR LUNCH by K.A. Holt), it's all welcome. I also love graphic novels, such as my books THE POPULARITY PAPERS, DORK DIARIES and MEANWHILE-- graphic books find a wider audience more easily with kids (no surprise, kids are smarter!) so I'd love to find more talent in that world.” (Link)
From an Interview (09/2009):
“I often describe my list as ‘books about weird kids in small towns.’ While that's not entirely true, it does point to a general theme. I'm interested in "outsiders" and visceral settings. My books LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY or SAVVY or DISMANTLED are terrific examples. I often find myself less interested in stories set in New York, maybe because I live here. But my book DUMBFOUNDED is an equally terrific example of a writer who cast New York City in a fabulous new light, and as a reader--and agent-- I just ate it up.” (Link)
What He Isn't Looking For:
Mr. Lazar does not rep picture books, cookbooks, romance and serious how-to titles. (Link)
About the Agency:
"Writers House was founded in 1973 with a vision for a new kind of literary agency, one that would combine a passion for managing a writer's career with an integrated understanding of how storytelling works. With this two-pronged philosophy, Writers House has played a critical role in developing the careers of hundreds of novelists and non-fiction authors. We believe in offering our clients not only our expertise in negotiating contracts, but in contributing to all phases of the editorial and publishing processes. Our goal is to maximize the value of our clients' work by providing hands-on editorial and marketing advice, as well as leading the way in branding, licensing, and selling film/TV, foreign, audio, dramatic and serial rights." (Link)
"The Writers House children's book department, started by Amy Berkower in 1978, has grown to include seven agents representing many of our industry's most lauded and successful authors. Our list includes popular series like THE TWILIGHT SAGA, SWEET VALLEY HIGH, CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and JUNIE B. JONES -- as well as eight Newbery and Newbery Honor award-winning clients: Sharon Creech, Cynthia Voigt, Cynthia Rylant, Robin McKinley, Susan Patron, Neil Gaiman, Ingrid Law and Grace Lin. Writers House is also proud to represent the first two American authors to win Britain's prestigious Carnegie Award - Creech and Jennifer Donnelly; Christopher Paolini, who, at 20, is one of the youngest authors to hit the New York Times bestseller list; and the late Joan Lowery Nixon, the only four-time Edgar Award Winner recipient." (Link)
"Characters that are moving around doing little things, but essentially nothing. Washing dishes & thinking, staring out the window & thinking, tying shoes, thinking ... Authors often do this to transmit information, but the result is action in a literal sense but no real energy in a narrative sense. The best rule of thumb is always to start the story where the story starts.” (Link)
"A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say 'Open with a hook!' to grab the reader. That's true, but there's a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that's just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue. Or opening with a hook that's just too convoluted to be truly interesting." (Link)
"Writers who will have a lawyer send you something ‘on their behalf.’ It's ridiculous, and you also can't get a sense of the author's voice, which is what the letter's all about." (Link)
His Advice to Writers:
“Resist the temptation to finish your manuscript, raise a glass of champagne, and hit ‘Send.’ Force yourself to close the document. File it away in your computer or put it in the back of your closet under the old jeans, and don't look at it for 2 weeks minimum. As the World's Most Impatient Guy, I know how very hard this can be, but I find that some time away from a project always sheds new light on what more can be improved. Don't send that manuscript out until you're so sick of looking at it, you'd rather give away one of your children than bear the prospect of changing even a comma.” (Link)
Yes. "I often do a lot of editorial work on my books before submitting them." (Link)
Tiffany Baker, Oscar Bennett, Doug Brown, Pat Carlin, Joel Chasnoff, Tish Cohen, Janine Driver, Anne Fortier, Anna Hays, K.A. Holt, Denise Joyce, Martin Kihn, Evan Kuhlman, Ingrid Law, Chris Lincoln, Betty Londergan, Matt Mason, Jennifer McMahon, Regina O'Melveny, Michelle Moran, Theo Pauline Nestor, Matt Rothschild, Kari Anne Roy, Rachel Renee Russell, Scott Seegert, Bob Sullivan, Candy Tan, Nancy Watkins, Sarah Wendell, among others.
As of 02/11, Mr. Lazar is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 12 deals in the last 12 months, 21 six-figure+ deals, and 113 overall. Recent deals include: 4 debut fiction, 2 general fiction, 2 narrative non-fiction, 1 advice/relationship non-fiction, 2 middle grade, 1 picture book.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (preferred & faster response).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail: Send a query letter and the first 5 pages of your manuscript in the body of the e-mail. No attachments.
Snail-mail: Send a query letter and the first 5 pages of your manuscript with a SASE. "…no need to send materials double sealed in bubble wrap. It's paper, not anthrax." (Link)
“It's all about specifics. Too many queries default to broad strokes or to the "What if, what if, what if" series of questions. A good query doesn't have to cover every point of a book's plot. But it needs to give a sense of atmosphere and sensibility, and the best way to do that is with specific details.” (Link)
There’s also a great post of Query Dos and Don’ts by Mr. Lazar at The Guide To Literary Agents blog.
“We respond to every query -- you'll hear from me or my assistant. And our response time is 1 minute to several weeks.” (Link)
Stats on the web suggest Mr. Lazar almost always responds to queries within mintes to a week but there are occasional instances where it takes longer. Response times on requested material range from days to weeks.
What's the Buzz?
Daniel Lazar is a highly respected, successful agent at one of the largest and most prominent literary agencies around. He has an amazing client list, impressive history of sales, and is popular among aspiring authors. You can follow him on Twitter to see what he and his clients are up to.
Worth Your Time:
7 Questions For: Literary Agent Dan Lazar at Middle Grade Ninja (07/2010).
Q&A with Literary Agent Dan Lazar at Examiner.com (09/2009).
Interview with Dan Lazar of Writers House at the Algonkian Writer Conferences site (pre mid-2009).
Interview with Daniel Lazar at Writer Unboxed (09/2007).
Around the Web:
Agent Dan Lazar On: Query Dos and Don’ts at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (11/2010).
Successful Queries: Agent Dan Lazar and “The Bells” at Guide to Literary Agents (09/2010).
Dan Lazar: How to Craft a Winning Query Letter at the SCBWI blog (08/2009).
One of Mr. Lazar’s client's, Chandler Craig, shares her experience getting THE CALL (09/2008).
Fabulous rant by Daniel Lazar on Kristen Nelson's blog, Pub Rants (04/2006).
Please see Mr. Lazar's Publisher's Marketplace page for contact and query information.
Last updated: 2/17/2011
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Reviewed By Agent? Yes - 2/17/2011
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.