This week's Agent Spotlight features Rebecca Sherman of Writers House.
About: "Rebecca Sherman is an agent for Writers House. For over 30 years, Writers House has played a critical role in developing novelists and non-fiction authors. They have one of the industry’s finest lists of juvenile and young adult authors. Rebecca continues to build her own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, she’s looking for books with something to say, books that make her laugh, and characters that truly remind her of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be. She is also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night” (Link)
Status: Open to submissions.
"While I have a client list that I am very happy with and keeps me busy, I always want potential clients to send material to me that could be a match. In other words, I never want to miss the opportunity to work with a client who writes or illustrates material that I fall in love with." (Link)
What She's Looking For:
From Her Bio:
“Rebecca continues to build her own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, she’s looking for books with something to say, books that make her laugh, and characters that truly remind her of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be. She is also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night” (Link)
From Publisher’s Marketplace:
“As I continue to build my own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, I'm looking for books with something to say, books that make me laugh, and characters that truly remind me of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be.
“I am also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night after night.
“In addition to books for the children's market, I'm a huge fan of all things pop-culture and looking for non-fiction books in this genre as well as lifestyle, humor and narrative non-fiction for the 18-35 audience.” (Link)
From a Blog Post (01/2011):
As it’s too large to paste over, see an extensive breakdown of what Ms. Sherman is and isn’t looking for HERE.
From an Interview (05/2008):
"I always point to books like PUNK FARM by Jarrett Krosoczka as wholly original work which is what I am looking for. I fall head over heels for projects that could only come from the mind of that creator. I definitely skew towards humor and originality over edgy or trendy." (Link)
From an Interview (05/2007):
"I'm always looking for manuscripts with a striking voice and unique point of view mixed with authenticity. Humor is a real plus for me. Although I represent many author/illustrators, I am looking for more novelists." (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
"I am not currently looking for authors of picture book texts who are not also illustrators." (Link)
"If I feel like I have read the manuscript before, but better, I am going to pass. I don't want to see a lesser than version of Harry Potter or Gossip Girl or another story of the author's dog." (Link)
She doesn't often connect to sub-genres within YA like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or historical, but there are exceptions such as LULU DARK CAN SEE THROUGH WALLS by Bennett Madison, which is a teen mystery novel she represents. (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)
"My advice is to be talented, open, patient, and persistent. Look for an agent with whom you will be compatible, not just someone who can sell your manuscript." (Link)
"Do your research and then submit to a select group of agents. Make informed decisions about who to submit to and how. Be patient as they review your work. If you don’t have any takers in the first round, be persistent. Be honest and open and show some personality. Agents aren’t looking for worker bees, we want to see originality. Talent is primary, but compatibility goes a long way. Make it clear to agents from the start that you are going to be cooperative and will work with an agent for the betterment of your career." (Link)
"I am absolutely an editorial agent. My editorial input is expressed mostly for the benefit of unpublished authors. If a client has already been published and plans to publish again with the same publisher, I might put my two cents in (if asked), but would leave the substantive part of the editorial process to the client and editor. However, for unpublished clients and prospective clients, I feel it is of the utmost important to send the most polished manuscript possible to editors." (Link with more!)
"In clients, I am looking for writers and illustrators who are collaborative. It’s important that clients respect that I offer editorial feedback with a knowledge of the market. Patience truly is a virtue in the slow business of publishing. Again, it’s my job to represent an author’s career, not just one book. That is a huge investment and I hope clients will recognize and appreciate that. I want authors who aren’t in this just to be published. I’m looking for writers who have commitment to craft and imagination. Writers who respect deadlines, feedback, the process of publishing a book, their editor and me." (Link)
Selina Alko, Anna Alter, Melissa Anelli, Lindsay Eland, Shane Evans, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Grace Lin, Julian Hector, Laura Ljungkvis, Scott Magoon, Leslie Patricelli, Matt Phelan, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, Tricia Rayburn, Daniel Salmieri, David Ezra Stein, Dan Yaccarino, among others.
As of 3/2011, Ms. Sherman is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 5 deals in the last 12 months, 2 six-figure+ deals, and 46 overall. Recent deals include 3 middle grade and 2 picture books.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales and this is true of Ms. Sherman’s deals.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“All submissions must include a query letter. MG and YA submissions should include a sample chapter (approx 10 pages) and a synopsis.
“Middle grade, YA, and adult non-fiction submissions should include a proposal.
“Please include one entire text for picture book submissions and sample illustrations or a link to an online portfolio or a dummy. I do not accept picture book texts by authors only. You must be an author/illustrator to submit picture book material.
“Email submissions should not include attachments--because viruses are scary. Snail mail submissions must include a SASE.
"Please tell me on the query if it is a multiple submission. Please keep me informed about other agents' interest or offers for representation via email. Do not accept representation until you have given me a fair chance to extend an offer as well." (Link)
Do NOT submit to more than one Writers House agent at a time.
Ms Sherman’s response time on queries fluctuates from minutes to a couple months with an average around two or three weeks. Requested material seems to range from days to a couple months as well. Her stated response time is as follows:
"I tend to tell people that it takes 6-8 weeks to reply to any phase of correspondence. After that time a nudge can be given via email..." (Link)
If it seems you've been waiting longer than others, here's something to take heart in:
"Writers who are waiting for a response should know that I see promise in their work. Either I'm on the fence or just can't find the time to write the thorough report I'd like to give..." (Link)
What's the Buzz?
Rebecca Sherman has a great reputation. She has an amazing list of clients who seem to adore her, and the sales to befit her nine years as an agent with Writers House. Aspiring authors who have met her and/or heard her speak at conferences have come away very impressed. I recommend following her on Twitter for updates and a glimpse at her personality.
Worth Your Time:
Interview podcast with Rebecca Sherman at Just One More Book (11/2008).
Interview with Rebecca Sherman at The Longstockings (05/2008)
Interview with Rebecca Sherman of Writers House at Cynsations (05/2007).
Workshop Q&A with Rebecca Sherman at Verla Kay's web site (09/2005).
What I Really Want to Do Is Direct at Blue Rose Girls (01/2011).
Caldecott Call (01/2011).
Tradition and 2011 (01/2011).
Catching You Up on My 2010… all in one post (01/2011).
What Not to Read On Your Caribbean Vacation (12/2010).
Tales of a Reluctant Blogger (12/2010).
Because a Dreidel Just Doesn’t Cut it (12/2010).
Around the Web:
Writers House on P&E ($ Highly Recommended).
Querying Dos and Don’ts from Rebecca Sherman at Ingrid’s Notes (05/2010).
Eight Myths About Literary Agents at Ingrid’s Notes (05/2010).
Agent Appreciation Day Post by client Lindsay Eland (12/2009).
Last updated: 3/9/2011
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Reviewed By Agent? 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.