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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Agent Spotlight: Steven Malk

This week's Agent Spotlight features Steven Malk of Writers House, LLC.
Status: Open to submissions.
Steven MalkAbout: “Steven Malk is the third generation of his family to be involved in the children's book industry. The son and grandson of children's booksellers, he worked at his parents' bookstore all through high school and college and entered the world of agenting immediately after graduating from UCSD in 1995. He opened a west coast office for Writers House in 1998, where he represents a wide range of authors and illustrators, including Jon Klassen, Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith, Mac Barnett, Marla Frazee, Kadir Nelson, Ruta Sepetys, Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis, Jennifer Donnelly, Matt de la Pena, Cynthia Rylant, Adam Rex, Sara Pennypacker, Loren Long, Bob Shea, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Nikki McClure, Sonya Sones, and many others.” 
About the Agency:
"Al Zuckerman, a former novelist, TV writer, and teacher of playwriting at Yale, is the founder of Writers House. One of the largest literary agencies in the world, Writers House provides an extraordinary amount of individual client attention combined with the benefits of full service foreign rights, subsidiary rights, and contracts departments. We house an accounting department equipped to provide forensic royalty and financial analysis, as well as a digital department focusing on the ever-changing technological landscape of contemporary publishing. Home to more than a dozen senior agents and several rising junior agents, we work individually as well as collectively and take full advantage of the unparalleled depth of experience we embody. Some of our agents started here as assistants, while others have joined us from other parts of the business, bringing editorial, bookselling, writing, and legal experience. We also pride ourselves on the stability of our firm. Many of our agents have been here together for more than 20 years, as have many of our clients. Writers House is a name which reflects our vision for our authors and ourselves. Our goals are long term, and the environment we strive to create is one that invites authors and agents to stay with us for the duration of their careers." (Link)
Web Presence:
Writers House website.
Twitter @stevenmalk.
What He's Looking For: Genres / Specialties:
Children's authors and illustrators, picture book through young adult. 
From a Q & A (07/2019):
"I love coming across a voice I haven’t read before. I love books that open windows into a wide range of experiences. Not many people know it, but I’m a huge fan of mysteries and read them in my spare time whenever I can. I’d love to find a great mystery, especially a mystery with real emotional stakes and a setting we haven’t seen before. I’ve always been a big fan of flawed or unreliable narrators as protagonists. I love music, history, and sports, so I’m always receptive to books that touch on those subjects as well." (Link)From a Q&A (05/2010):
"My general philosophy is always that I don’t look for specific things, but rather strong, original voices that I haven’t read before, whatever genre they may fall under.  That said, one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m seeing quite a few submissions that seem derivative of books or genres that are popular at the moment, which isn’t as interesting to me.  If anything, I’d much rather find the next Munro Leaf, Ruth Krauss, Beverly Clearly, or Judy Blume; I’m always in search of people who have an appreciation for the classics and are able to identify what was so special about those books, and bring that same quality to their own work, but in a way that’s completely their own and feels unique to them." (Link)
"I do represent fantasy, but it’s hard to specify a certain kind of fantasy that I’m most interested in. As with other genres, I’m just looking for a strong voice and well-developed characters.  I will say that for fantasy, world-building can be crucial, so it’s something that I keep my eye on very closely." (Link)
What He Isn't Looking For:
"I tend to see too much stuff that's derivative of whatever's popular at the moment; stuff that's trying to capitalize on a trend. I want manuscripts that would succeed and stand out independent of any time or place. I have no interest in what's ‘hot’ at the moment." (Link defunct)
His Advice to Writers:
"I can't stress enough how important it is to find the right agent for you as opposed to just any agent. I understand the impulse to want to get your work out there as quickly as possible, but it's important for writers to take a step back and take their time in making the decision about where to submit their work. A writer needs to figure out what he/she wants in an agent, and spend as much time possible trying to figure out who that is, rather than just shooting blind. Ideally, once you find an agent who likes your work, you've already done your homework and know a lot about them...." (Link defunct)
"Be professional. It's amazing to me how many people don't send a SASE, or write their cover letters in pencil with things misspelled, or send me something, then three weeks later send a whole new draft saying, ‘I sent you the wrong story.’ I really like a good cover letter—it makes an impression on me. But your work's going to speak for itself no matter what." (Link defunct)
Editorial Agent?
"Yes, it's quite uncommon for me to send something out - especially by a first-time writer - and not ask for revisions first. The market is more competitive than ever, and it's worth it to me to take the time to make something as polished as possible. The goal isn't just to sell a manuscript; it's to put it in the best possible position to succeed. And the better shape a manuscript is in, the more likely this is to happen." (Link defunct)
Mac Barnett, Brian Biggs, Sheela Chari, Lena Coakley, Matt de la Pena, Peter de Seve, Kelly DiPucchio, Jennifer Donnelly, Carson Ellis, AG Ford, Marla Frazee, Gris Grimly, Brett Helquist, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Amanda Jenkins, Jon Klassen, Loren Long,  Colin Meloy, Nikki McClure, Kadir Nelson, Kenneth Oppel, Sara Pennypacker, Greg Pizzoli, Aaron Renier, Adam Rex, Chris Rylander, Cynthia Rylant, Ruta Sepetys, Paul Schmid, Jon Scieszka, Bob Shea, Lane Smith, Sonya Sones, Yoko Tanaka, Amy Timberlake, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Deborah Wiles, Karma Wilson, David Yoo, Michelle Zink, Justina Chen, Jillian Tamaki, Amanda Gorman, Tui Sutherland, David Barclay Moore, Kelly Barnhill, Christian Robinson, Magdalena Mora, Shawn Harris, Luke Pearson, among others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes.
Snail-Mail: Yes.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail: Query only.
Snail-mail: Query and SASE.
Query Tips:
"I just look for a query letter to be professional, concise, and to the point. It should include a good description of your work, and show that you have a good handle on your work as well as establish you as a professional..." (Link defunct)
"...it doesn't feel good as an agent to receive a submission where your name has been filled in at the top and it's obvious that every other agent in the business is receiving the same submission." (Link)
Response Times:
His policy is to respond within two weeks, though response times fluctuate between minutes and several weeks.
What's the Buzz?
Steven Malk has a large list of award-winning and best-selling clients and is consistently a top dealmaker. He is very passionate about children’s literature and a great advocate for authors. You can find him annually at the SCBWI-LA conference and on Twitter @stevenmalk.
Worth Your Time:
Q&A with Children's Book Agent Steven Malk at Writers Digest (07/2019).
What Agents Want at The Writer (07/2019).
Q&A with Children's Book Agent Steven Malk at Publishers Weekly (07/2019).
Steven Malk Podcast at All the Wonders (01/2017).
Steven Malk Podast at The Children's Book (01/2017).
Steven Malk Podcast at Let's Get Busy (06/2015).
Q&A with Steven Malk here at Literary Rambles (03/2014).
Q&A with Steven Malk here at Literary Rambles (05/2010).
Amazingly thorough interview with Steven Malk at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (01/2010).
How I Came to Work With the King of All Agents at Kathy MacMillan (11/2014).From Query to Book Deal in 72 Hours: Debut Author Elise Parsley at PW (12/2013).
How I Got My Agent: Melissa Guion at Guide to Literary Agents (12/2012).
A Query Dissected at client Lena Coakley’s site (10/2011).
Steven's client, Michelle Zink, shares her pub story on Reviewer X (04/2009).
Please see Steven Malk's AgentQuery page or the Writers House website for additional contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 5/15/2020.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/15/2020.
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.


Mame said...

Oh man! This was THOROUGH! I love it.

Casey Something said...

Thanks Aimee. There's certainly a lot out there on him!

Unknown said...


I don't comment often on them, because I don't really have anything to add, but I wanted to let you know that I've got nearly all of them starred in my Google Reader and am sacving them for when i start querying. Thanks so much for doing them--love them!

Casey Something said...

I'm glad, Beth! I hope they help you when the time comes to query.

Crystal said...

Casey, like Beth, I've been saving and printing out hard copies of all the Agent Spotlights I'm interested in querying, so when I do start querying, everything I need will be at my fingertips. Thanks so much for the research & for providing these links!

Casey Something said...

You're welcome, Crystal! I'm so glad they're useful to all of you.

Unknown said...

Thanks again for a wonderful agent profile - my list of potential agents to query keeps growing. :)

Anna said...

Thanks again! Wonderfully thorough!

Casey Something said...

You're welcome Kristi and Anna. Thanks so much for reading the Spotlights regularly!

Christina Farley said...

Lots of great stuff here. I heard him speak in LA last year and he did a manuscript critique for me. He is fabulous and really knows his stuff. He was so open and took the time to answer all my crazy questions.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

another great summary Casey :)

Casey Something said...

Thanks Christina and Shelli!

Mike Winchell said...

I have a full out with him right now. He requested it after barely 30 minutes of the click of "send." Needless to say, signing with him would be a dream, not because of his "house" but because of all of the info. that says he wants to help his clients become master storytellers. I want to be published, but I want to GROW as a storyteller and I think he's the man to help. Can God please shine on me now? I pray he likes my manuscript. If you have any faith, please put in a word for me.

And, hey, thanks Casey for such a great blog. I hope you know that you help so many of us out there. I visit every day and although I want to succeed as an author, I have an equal desire for you to as well. You are an angel and when I see the day that you let us know you are submitting, I will pray for you like I do for myself. Thanks, Casey.

Casey Something said...

Thank you for the exceedingly kind comment, Mr. Winch. I've done some corresponding with Mr. Malk and he's been very kind and gracious. I wish you the best on the full you have out with him!

Casey Something said...

Updated Mr. Malk's sales, photo, and added an AWESOME interview to the "Worth Your Time" section. 02/07/10

Anonymous said...

Thank you Casey for all you do. I am a avid googler, and because I am very leery of bad fake agents, I sometimes go overboard in research but when I find one through all the other main sources that I think I may want to query, I always reference back to your blog for more in depth information, and you never fail! Your a God send ;D I finally put my query into Mr. Malk and I am crossing my fingers!! (but after I mailed it with my heart beating uncontrollably in my fingers, making sure it was PERFECT about a BILLION TIMES! I came home and on my copy I found one word misspelle, I switched a e and l in desperately, in the title of one of my pages!!!!
:( sad. I hope I didn't ruin my chances with him. But either way FINGERS CROSSED and THANK YOU for EVERYTHING and GO WRITERS!!!

Casey McCormick said...

Anon, sorry for the late reply. I hope things worked out with your query. One typo isn't something to stress too much over!

I added a link to Mr. Malk's Twitter and updated a few things. I should be doing a full update within the next couple months.

Good luck to everyone querying!

Becky Mahoney said...

Thank you for all your hard work, Casey. I was just reading through this page again to remind myself who I'm aiming for.

I had a full out with Steven Malk last March, and he was without a doubt the kindest and most helpful agent I corresponded with. He told me to think of his rejection as a letter of encouragement, and I still read it when I need a pick-me-up. I am about 60% done with my new MS, and he is #1 on my list of agents to query. Kidlit authors should definitely give him a shot!

Anonymous said...

This is a great profile! It looks like several of these links aren't working, just FYI.

Anonymous said...

Casey, this info is so thorough and incredibly helpful. Thank you SO MUCH for the time and effort you put into this! :D