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Kristy Hunter & Author Loriel Ryon Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/20/20

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Agent Spotlight: Kelly Sonnack

This week's Agent Spotlight features Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc

ksonnackAbout: “Kelly Sonnack came to the Andrea Brown Literary Agency after nearly three years with the Sandra Dijkstra Agency. Prior to that, Kelly worked for the publishing giant Reed Elsevier, where she served as an Acquisitions Editor under the Academic Press imprint.

“As an agent, Kelly specializes in all types of children's literature (picture books, middle grade, young adult, and graphic novels). In picture books and middle grade fiction, Kelly looks for a good sense of humor, stories that stretch a young reader's imagination, and an authentic voice. In young adult, she appreciates literary voices and and character-driven stories with heart but is also drawn to dystopian, light science-fiction, and other well-crafted fantasy. In non-fiction for children, she enjoys projects that inspire and stimulate the minds of our younger generations. At this time, Kelly is not accepting submissions of adult fiction or adult non-fiction.

“Some of the titles Kelly has represented include Steve Watkins' Golden Kite Winner DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN and his next YA novel WHAT COMES AFTER (both with Candlewick); Anna Sheehan's debut YA novel A LONG, LONG SLEEP (Candlewick); Carolyn Marsden's next two middle-grade novels STARFIELDS (Candlewick) and THE WHITE ZONE (Carolrhoda/Lerner); James Burks' graphic novel GABBY AND GATOR (Yen Press/Hachette) and his picture book BEEP AND BAH (Carolrhoda/Lerner); Neil Johnson & Joel Chin's picture book THE FALLING RAINDROP (Tricycle/RH); Candace Ryan's picture books ANIMAL HOUSE and RIBBIT RABBIT (both with Walker); and Bridget Heos' upcoming nonfiction picture book series starting with WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING LARVAE (Millbrook/Lerner).

“Kelly is a frequent speaker at conferences, including the San Diego State Writer's Conference and SCBWI's national and chapter conferences.” (Link)

Status: Open to submissions.

What She's Looking For:

From Her Bio:

“Kelly specializes in all types of children's literature (picture books, middle grade, young adult, and graphic novels). In picture books and middle grade fiction, Kelly looks for a good sense of humor, stories that stretch a young reader's imagination, and an authentic voice. In young adult, she appreciates literary voices and and character-driven stories with heart but is also drawn to dystopian, light science-fiction, and other well-crafted fantasy. In non-fiction for children, she enjoys projects that inspire and stimulate the minds of our younger generations.” (Link)

From an Interview (09/2010):

“Right now, I’m really digging light science-fiction. Anything resembling a Twilight Zone episode gets me going.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2009):

"I really don’t confine myself to one area; I enjoy having a variety. I will admit a particular soft spot for picture books but there’s only so many of those I can take on at a time. I really love literary, coming-of-age YA, as well as quirky and smart MG. I’m also particularly loving graphic novels for kids these days. We’re living in a time that is ripe for them, and it’s exciting to help shape that." (Link)

"I’d love to see more well-written and clever middle grade fiction. There’s a need for it right now and I see a lot of potential in this market.  I’d also love to see more memoir for kids – especially cultural memoir about growing up in different countries, identity, and living across cultures. We are a colorful world, and I’m not sure that’s reflected adequately in children’s lit quite yet." (Link)

From an Interview (date unknown):

"In all realms of children’s literature (including YA), I’m looking for a narrative voice that authentically captures the feelings of the age group for whom it’s targeted. That is what made me fall in love with SAND MOUNTAIN. The author has an uncanny ability to get inside the mind of a pre-adolescent, capturing all the awkwardness, loneliness, and fears of a 7th grader. Beyond voice, I’m always looking for good stories, told in fresh and interesting new ways." (Link)

"I love manuscripts that have a clever, or witty sense of humor. With picture books, I tend to go for the silly and zany. With middle grade and YA, it’s important to be subtle and not force humor on the reader. I rarely am attracted to overly dramatic. I had a high school teacher who taught me that one tear was enough to convey sadness, happiness, or despair. Your character does not need to be slamming doors, screaming, or sobbing hysterically for the reader to be affected. If you have developed a character that the reader sympathizes with and cares about, little gestures will translate in a big way." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

At this time, Kelly is not accepting submissions for adult fiction or adult non-fiction. (Link)

About the Agency:

"We are a mid-size literary agency based in California celebrating over 2,000 titles sold. We bring the best of both worlds to the table—the personal client attention of a small agency and the clout of a larger one. We invest a great deal of care in each project and each client. We devise a strategy at every stage of the writing process, from conception, to editorial, to publication, that is tailored to the client and will enable us to find the best publisher for his or her books. We are seeking long-term relationships with writers and illustrators whose careers we can develop and whose talent we can foster." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes.  She reportedly does edits until a project is as good as can be before sending it out. (Link)

Dislikes (Don’ts):

"I hate to see a whiny character who’s in the middle of a fight with one of their parents, slamming doors, rolling eyes, and displaying all sorts of other stereotypical behavior. I hate seeing character ‘stats’ (‘Hi, I’m Brian, I’m 10 years and 35 days old with brown hair and green eyes’).  I also tend to have a hard time bonding with characters who talk to the reader (‘Let me tell you about the summer when I...’).” (Link)

Her Advice to Writers:

"Know who your competition is and read and study the books your intended readers will also be reading. During difficult economic times, support your fellow writers and buy books!"  (Link)

"Write something that I simply can’t ignore. Come up with an original idea that you know could work in the market. Understand what is working today, and read the books that you’ll be competing with. What about YOUR book is going to make a potential book buyer take it to the checkout counter? That is what we’re going to be asking ourselves when we evaluate your book." (Link)

Web Presence:

Andrea Brown Agency website.

Publisher's Marketplace page.





AgentQuery, QueryTracker, AuthorAdvance


Diane Adams, James Burks, Sharon Cameron, Carole Gerber, Bridget Heos, Heather Mary Knopf, Merrily Kutner, Neil Johnson & Joel Chin, B.B. Lanka, Jin Pyn Lee, Sandra Markle, Carolyn Marsden, Annika Nelson, Elizabeth Rusch, Candace Ryan, Anna Sheehan, Steve Watkins, among others.

There is also a select list of Andrea Brown Lit titles on the website.


As of 02/11, Ms. Sonnack is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 14 deals in the last 12 months, 2 six-figure+deals, and 32 overall.  Recent deals include 10 picture books, 2 middle grade, 1 young adult, 1 graphic novel.

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

Some highlighted deals can also be found here.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Query only ONE agent at the Andrea Brown Agency.

Send a brief query in the body of an e-mail.  Put QUERY and the title of the work in the subject line.  Include publisher submission history and previous publishing credits (if applicable). Note if it’s multiple submission.  No attachments.

PB: Include full text.  Fiction:  Include first ten pages.  NF: Proposal and sample chapter.  Illustrators:  Two to three jpegs of children and animals.  

See the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines, as well the agency's General Advice and Do's and Don'ts.

Query Tip:

"Professionalism is key in query letters. Remember that this is a business relationship and everything you do should tell us that you’d be a professional, courteous person to work with. We take on clients with the expectation that we will be with them throughout their careers, so we want to know we can work with you." (Link

Response Times:

If you have not heard back in 6-8 weeks assume rejection. (Link) Ms. Sonnack’s response time on requested material appears to range from days to a month or so.

What's the Buzz?

Kelly Sonnack is a highly respected agent at a top-notch agency.  Her clients seem quite happy with her representation.  Though she reps PB-YA, she has a soft spot for picture books and is listed as a top deal-maker on PM for them.

Worth Your Time:


Pre-Conference interview with Kelly Sonnack at SCBWI Midsouth (09/2010).

Interview with Kelly Sonnack by Brenda Sturgis at Suite 101 (09/2010).

Audio Interview with Kelly Sonnack and Elizabeth Gilbert at Pen on Fire (02/2010).

Voices on Writing: Kelly Sonnack Discusses Writing and Publishing for the Younger Set at ASJA (12/2009).

Agent Advice interview with Kelly Sonnack at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (03/2009).

SHALLA Chats with Kelly Sonnack. Note: She was still with the Dijkstra Agency, so disregard the submission information.

Around the Web:

Andrea Brown Literary Agency thread on AW.

Andrea Brown Literary on P&E (recommended). Kelly Sonnack on P&E.

Big Sur Writers Workshop the Andrea Brown Agency hosts.

SCBWI conference notes on Kelly Sonnack about revising at SCBWI Midsouth (09/2010).

2009 SCBWI Conference Recap featuring notes on Kelly Sonnack at Beverley BevenFlorez’s blog (08/2009).

Query Tips from Kelly Sonnack from a 2009 SCBWI conference at the Literally Human blog (05/2009).

The Dos and Don’ts of Submitting to a Literary Agent from a 2009 SCBWI at Ingrid’s Notes (04/2009).


Please see the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website or Ms. Sonnack's Publisher's Marketplace page for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 2/16/2011

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Reviewed By Agent? Yes – 2/17/2011

Comments: N/A


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.


  1. Interesting info. Again, what a great resource for authors looking for representation. :)

  2. this are awesome - i love reading them.

  3. Thank you Keri and Shelli! I'm glad you enjoy them.

  4. Great stuff as always. I've learned so much from your rambles

  5. You're welcome, Ron.

    Thanks Christina!

  6. I've corresponded with her some, and Kelly is supercool. Anyone would be lucky to work with her~ :o) <3

  7. Kelly Sonnack critiqued one of my manuscripts at the SCBWI Oakland Conference/Oct 2015 and her critique was amazing. She was clear, detailed, and very helpful. Not only did she point out strengths and problems, but she also provided strategies I could use to target the problem spots. By far, the best critique I've received and well worth the money.