This week's Agent Spotlight features Merrilee Heifetz of Writers House.
About: "Merrilee Heifetz has been at Writers House for over 20 years and was one of the first agents to handle comic books/graphic novels when asked
by a very young Neil Gaiman to represent his work with DC Comics (he did promise to write bestselling novels one day and she is very glad she took him at his word.) She is one of the few agents who is well known for representing both adult and children's books and she finds she has been very successful with authors who don't fall into categories and who can benefit from overall career management. Her New York Times Bestsellers include Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Melissa Marr and Beth Revis, whose 2011 debut novel ACROSS THE UNIVERSE she placed in a major deal. Her award winners include three Newbery Medals (Cynthia Voigt, Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman) a MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient (the late Octavia E Butler) and many best of the year awards such as the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award. For five years she chaired the Contracts Committee for the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR)." (via e-mail)
Status: Open to submissions.
What She's Looking For:
Fiction: Literary fiction, science fiction, commercial fiction, fantasy, young adult, multi-cultural, middle grade, graphic novels.
Per AgentQuery, Ms. Heifetz "specializes in science fiction and dark fantasy, and she also does books on rock music and pop culture."
What She’s Not Looking For:
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)
On agents: "Another way to view agents is that more of what new writers present is of interest to very few other folks. Our job is to find and develop the books that have the potential to reach a broad audience. Of course, everyone thinks their book is a potential bestseller... which is why publishers need us." (Link)
Unknown, though the quote above might suggest she does help "develop" her clients' projects if needed.
C.T. Adams, Sarah Ash, Octavia E. Butler, Cathy Clamp, Mark Crilley, Les Daniels, Ellen Datlow, J.M. Dillard, Kristine Grayson, Ellen Emerson White, Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Alethea Kontis, Melissa Marr, Robin McKinley, Perry Moore, An Na, Beth Revis, Jean Stone, Elizabeth Vaughan, Rachel Vincent, Cynthia Voigt, Terri Windling, among others.
As of 03/2011, Ms. Heifetz is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 3 deals in the last 12 months, 7 six-figure+ deals, and 19 overall. Recent deals include 3 young adult.
Note: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales and Ms. Heiftetz does not actively list.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Snail-mail: “Please send a query letter of no more than two pages, which includes your credentials, an explanation of what makes your book unique and special, and a synopsis. Also, please include a self-addressed-stamped-envelope for our reply.”
E-mail: She was accepting e-queries through her assistant, Jennifer Escott, but I believe she has a new assistant and am unaware if she’s still open to e-queries. Postal mail is probably the safest choice.
Do NOT query multiple agents at Writers House simultaneously.
See the Writers House website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
The agency’s stated response time is 6-8 weeks. Ms. Heifetz’s response time on queries seems to range from a week to a few months. Requested material usually receives a response within a couple months.
You can expect a response from her assistant initially.
What's the Buzz?
Ms. Heifetz is a highly respected agent with over 20 years at Writers House. Her amazing clients and sales speak toward her ability and success as an agent.
Neil Gaiman, who Ms. Heifetz has repped for over 20 years, considers her a great partner and friend, and another client described her as the type of agent that goes "beyond the call of duty." If you like the agent-author relationship / marriage analogy, she seems to have made some great "marriages."
Worth Your Time:
None that I could find online.
Around the Web:
If you have an AvantGuild membership with MediaBistro, you might be able to find more information on Ms. Heifetz in the Writers House "Pitching an Agent" article. Note, however, its from 2004.
Last updated: 3/21/11
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 3/21/11 (further updates to follow)
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.