This week's Agent Spotlight features Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.
About: “Sarah Davies is based in Washington DC and heads the North American side of the Greenhouse, so if you live in the States or Canada you should submit work to her (see submission guidelines for more information). Sarah has more than 25 years’ experience of children’s publishing, moving to the USA from London in 2007. She started her career at Collins (before it was HarperCollins), followed by a spell at Transworld/Random House. In 1994 she joined Macmillan Children’s Books in London as Fiction Editor, rising through the editorial ranks to Publishing Director (and member of the Management Board), a position she held until 2007 when she left to start Greenhouse.
“In her publisher incarnation, Sarah worked with and published many high-profile writers on both sides of the Atlantic. As an agent she has shepherded many debut (and several previously published) authors to success. She has considerable experience in contract negotiation, marketing and rights, as well as a strong understanding of digital developments. Excellent publishing contacts in both the USA and Britain, and homes in both countries, have given her an unusually transatlantic view of the children’s books industry, enabling her to represent authors directly to both markets. Sarah makes regular trips to New York and London, meeting publishers and keeping in touch with the book scene.
“A member of AAR and SCBWI, Sarah is an experienced speaker on issues connected with children’s books and creative writing and attends international bookfairs, American writers’ conferences, and industry events throughout the year. She loves talking to writers about their work and says, ‘Everything you need to know about Greenhouse is embodied in its name.’
“Married to an American, Sarah has twin sons who are more-or-less grown-up now, and who taught her much of what she knows about young people and reading.” (Link)
Extra information on Ms. Davies' track record and commission structure can be found here.
Status: Open to submissions.
What She's Looking For:
From the Website:
"We specialize in children’s fiction – from high-concept/character-led series aimed at the 5+ age group through middle grade to young-adult/crossover novels." (Link)
From an Interview (09/2010):
“Top of my list would be a dark, intriguing and chilling ‘what if?’ YA thriller. We’ve had so much paranormal and we’re in danger of overdosing on dystopia. I think we’re now in the zone of real-world stories with a riveting premise and a hook that makes you go ‘wow’ and read into the wee hours.
“I have a great fondness for middle grade, girl-oriented fiction – and I love luscious, lyrical writing. I would be thrilled to have something beautiful, with a pitch-perfect voice, drop into my inbox. Something that is fun and accessible to read, yet has an undertow of wisdom and thoughtfulness.” (Link)
From a Contest Post (01/2009):
"Smart, high-concept tween fiction with a strong voice and lots of commercial appeal. Strong middle-grade fiction, with adventurous storylines – perhaps with supernatural/spooky plots, if really original. Boy protagonists, international settings, historical/magical threads are all interesting. Strong characters that leap off the page. Teen novels that are arresting, dark, superbly well written and linger in the mind and heart. Other fiction I would love to find: A great story set in the Middle East with authentic characters (a KITE RUNNER for young people). A big and important novel with themes that engage and challenge the intellect; this could be futuristic or perhaps have political or racial issues woven into the storyline. A ‘novel for our times’!" (Link)
From an Interview (01/2009):
"I like authors who can make me laugh or cry, who can make me see the world in some new way--who make me want to leap to the phone to call them as soon as I've turned the last page. I also love authors who can do great action (very rare) and big stories that engage the intellect as well as the heart (also rare). Oh, and sharp, snappy commercial writing with a strong hook. But I also have a passion for beautiful, powerful language and therefore adore writers who can weave magic with their words (which means, yes, I will take on a literary novel if I have a strong enough belief in the author)." (Link)
From an Interview (10/2008):
"I’m definitely interested in seeing dark or paranormal fiction, so long as the story is really original, sharp, and arresting. There’s so much in this area out there, that anything new really does have to stand out. I’d love to see a great ghost story. Also, what I think of as a ‘big book’ – that is, a dark, epic story with intellectual insight, and layers and deeper themes underlying the action. But there’s got to be a great emotional heart to the story too." (Link)
From an Interview (02/2008):
"I like everything – from the mass market series to the literary novel, from girly fiction to dark thrillers. I just want to see something special in a project – a shining spark of originality, characters that leap off the page, a narrative voice that makes me keep reading. It’s funny, but when I read something out of the ordinary, I feel like the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck. It’s proved to be a very reliable gauge!" (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
“Our current policy on picturebooks is that we do not solicit either texts or illustrators, but do represent picturebooks when by authors whom we have already taken on for their older, longer work. Additionally, we are not looking for non-fiction, short stories, educational or religious/inspirational work, poetry, pre-school/novelty material, screenplays or writing aimed at adults.” (Link)
"Greenhouse aims to nurture and grow to full maturity the talent of exceptional writers. I have worked with many, many authors on both sides of the Atlantic, and know that starting out can be daunting. With an emphasis on working creatively with clients, Greenhouse can help writers develop their unique voice and focus their work – and then be their advocate, ambassador and long-term partner through the whole publishing process and beyond." (Link)
"It’s very important to me to have a strong, long-term relationship with clients. Having been 25 years in the publishing industry, I know the business from the inside and have excellent contacts in both the US and UK. I work hard to find every client the very best publisher and deal for their writing. My editorial background means I can work creatively with authors where necessary; I aim to submit high-quality manuscripts to publishers while respecting the role of the editor who will have their own publishing vision." (Link)
"If a client grows from children’s fiction into other areas, then the Greenhouse will continue to represent the author, whatever the age group or genre of work. The agency says they represent authors, not books." (Link)
Her Advice to Writers:
"Really take your writing seriously and do all you can to polish it before you submit it. Read voraciously, join a critique group, go on a writers’ conference and listen to published authors talk about their experience. There are lots of things you can do to learn about the craft of writing before you start looking for an agent. Also, get to know the market, spend time with kids and understand their world as it is today, not as it was when you were a child or teen." (Link)
"I am absolutely an ‘editorial agent,’ and that is a trademark of the Greenhouse. I came up with the name "Greenhouse" after a lot of cogitating because I wanted the agency to be all about nurturing, growing, flowering.
"Turn over my business card, and you'll read that Greenhouse is ‘Where writers grow.’ I have spent my whole career working editorially with authors, from concept stage to craft, and writing editorial notes, changing titles, supporting an author through revision (often several revisions), is deep in my bones."
Read this excerpt and more about Ms. Davies editorial approach here.
"I like writers who follow my submission guidelines. Or to be more honest, I get a bit cross with those who don't!" (Link)
A complete list of Greenhouse clients can be found on the website. Ms. Davies’s clients include:
Sarah Aronson, Tami Lewis Brown, Cindy Callaghan, Sarwat Chadda, Amanda Cockrell, Winifred Conkling, Sue Cowing, Sarah Crossan, Alexandra Diaz, Teresa Harris, Jill Hathaway, Elissa Hoole, Lindsey Leavitt, Megan Miranda, Valerie Patterson, Tricia Springstubb, Shawn Stout, Talia Vance, Brenna Yovanoff.
As 02/11, Ms. Davies is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 14 deals in the last 12 months, 7 six-figure+ deals, and 37 overall. Recent deals include 9 young adult, 3 middle grade, 1 general/other, 1 international rights.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Query with the first chapter or first five pages (whichever is shorter) pasted into the body of the e-mail. No attachments.
“Your query should be no more than the equivalent of one page in length and should include a short synopsis of your plot, a few lines about yourself and any writing ‘credentials’
“PLEASE NOTE: If you live in the USA or Canada, your query should be addressed to Sarah Davies and marked for her attention in the subject line. If you live anywhere else in the world, your query should be addressed to Julia Churchill and similarly marked for her attention.” (Link)
"Keep your query short and concise, giving us rapidly the key points we need to know: length, target market, one-paragraph plot outline, short bio of yourself." (Link)
Also, make sure to read this post.
The agency usually responds within days to a week but has a stated response time of up to 6 weeks on queries. Response times on requested material range from days to about a month but they ask for 6-8 weeks. If you have not heard back within the stated timeframes the agency invites follow-ups.
See the complete, up-to-date policy on the website.
What's the Buzz?
The buzz is very good. Ms. Davies has put a lot of time and energy into building a great reputation for The Greenhouse. The agency has a unique philosophy and mission statement, and I think Ms. Davies' thorough interviews, blog posts, and successes demonstrate her commitment to it. As I searched the web, I felt like others shared my feelings on this. The umbrella of writers who would like to call her their agent is large.
Worth Your Time:
7-Questions For: Literary Agent Sarah Davies at Middle Grade Ninja (09/2010).
Interview with Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary at YA Highway (08/2010).
Interview with Sarah Davies by Jenny Desmond Walters for SCBWI Bologna 2010.
SCBWI Bologna 2010 Interview: Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency at Cynsations (02/2010).
Marvelous Marketer Interview with Sarah Davies at Market My Words (03/2009).
Sarah Davies Interviews herself about Bologna (03/2009).
Agent Interview: Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency at Cynsations (01/2009).
Interview with Sarah Davies by client Tami Lewis Brown at Through The Tollbooth (10/2008).
Selected Blog Posts:
Welcome to the Adventure (01/2011).
A Kipling Moment (10/2010).
How to Make an Agent Happy (09/2010).
Just the Two of Us (08/2010).
A Peach of An Agent (07/2010).
The Christmas Interview (12/2009).
The Skinny (11/2009).
And the Word of the Week Is… Revision! (09/2008).
Waiting, Waiting, Waiting (07/2008).
Around the Web:
See the “What We Are Doing” page on the website for conferences and events.
Query Series: Michelle Shusterman and Sarah Davies at YA Highway (07/2010).
Agent Appreciation Day post on Sarah Davies at Brenna Yovanoff’s blog (12/2009).
You can read a few great blurbs from some SCBWI Undiscovered Voices authors that Ms. Davies signed after the competition (ctrl-f her name for quick search).
The Greenhouse Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.
Please see the Greenhouse Literary Agency website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 2/24/11
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
Reviewed By Agent? Yes – 2/24/11
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.