About: "Brenda represents many wonderful children’s book authors and artists, among them national bestsellers Rosemary Wells and Hilary Knight; National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt; award-winning novelist Donna Jo Napoli; New York Times Best Illustrated winners Carin Berger, G. Brian Karas, and Stephen Savage; poet and novelist George Ella Lyon; and newcomers Michelle Cuevas, Annette Simon, and Naoko Stoop. She has recently taken on a handful of adult trade fiction and non-fiction writers, too, though children’s books are her specialty.
“Before joining Greenburger in the summer of 2009, Brenda held a variety of positions during her twenty five-plus years in children’s publishing. She has been editorial director of Scholastic Press; Henry Holt & Company; Disney Book Group/Hyperion; and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. Brenda has edited books that have been #1 New York Times bestsellers, and have won the National Book Award, the Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Caldecott Honor, the Printz Honor, and the Eisner Award. She is a former member of the board of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and a past chair of the Children’s Book Council. As an agent, Brenda continues to nurture creative careers and to work closely with clients on the editorial direction of their projects.
Status: Open to submissions.
What She's Looking For:
“Books for children and teens, as well as some fiction for adult trade.” (Link)
From the Website:
“What I like: a strong voice, wit, verve; room for illustrations (if it’s a picture book). I’ve always loved middle-grade fiction.” (Link)
From SCBWI Conference Notes (06/2010):
“I am very catholic in my tastes, but I can like anything from the trashy to the literary. I am not a fan of paranormal books, and in general I am not hugely into young adult novels. I really like to focus on Picture Books through Middle Grade (including chap books and the educational market). What I like is hard to define. I also fear the ‘conference polish’ as Mary Kole mentioned earlier. So I always ask for the first three chapters in a submission. I want to work with people I love to be around! I want to be happy to see their name in my in-box. I would like to do more fiction, I already have a lot of picture books on my plate. I represent both picture book authors alone, as well as author/illustrators. I like boy oriented books that are funny. I want a story that I have never read before.” (Link)
From SCBWI Conference Notes (08/2009):
"A strong voice, assured confident writing, and creative use of language." (Link)
"She does like 'literary books' but she also has a fondness for funny books and asks that if you plan to submit a funny book, please indicate so!" (Link)
About the Agency:
“SJGA was founded in 1932 by Sanford J. Greenburger, who specialized in representing European writers and publishers in the U.S., as well as internationally. He pioneered the editorial scouting business, advising European publishers which American writers to translate and publish.
“The current era for SJGA began with the vision of Francis Greenburger, Sanford's son, when he assumed management of the agency after his father's death in 1971. The agency was converted into an agents' collaborative, which included SJGA agents and affiliated agents such as The Nicholas Ellison Agency, and the late Diane Cleaver.
“Large enough to be a full service agency, including international rights, but small enough to manage and service clients personally, SJGA works closely with authors to edit and fine-tune proposals, refine concepts and ensure that the best work reaches editors. The agents freely share information and expertise, creating a collaborative partnership unique to the industry. The combined result is reflected in the numerous successes of the agency's authors.” (Link)
"It's not good for us to make one sale and never sell your work again. You have to imagine a partnership, to trust that we're going to give our best to each other and that we'll be there for the long haul." (Link)
Referring to when she was an editor: "I was aware that some agents' names in the inbox meant that what was attached, although maybe not perfect for me, was going to be really good for someone in the house, and that it was ready to go. I'd like to be one of those agents..." (Link)
Yes. SJGA prides itself on being a very hands on, developmental agency, and Ms. Bowen's bio states: "As an agent, Brenda continues to nurture creative careers and to work closely with clients on the editorial direction of their projects.."
There is a list of clients available on Ms. Bowen’s website. Clients include:
Carin Berger, Marisa Calin, Michelle Cuevas, Jessie Hartland, G. Brian Karas, Hilary Knight, Caroline Lawrence, Martine Leavitt, George Ella Lyon, Donna Jo Napoli, Vladimir Radunsky, Chris Raschka, Stephen Savage, Marilyn Singer, Naoko Stoop, Rosemary Wells, among many others.
As of 03/2011, Ms. Bowen is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 25 deals in the last 12 months, 3 six-figure+ deals, and 46 overall. She’s a Top Dealmaker in the Children’s category for overall sales. Recent deals include 14 picture books, 5 middle grade, 4 young adult, 1 paranormal, and 1 non-fic.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (strongly preferred).
Snail-Mail: Yes (but she’d rather you didn’t).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“Manuscript queries: Email a cover letter and attach (as a Word doc) three sample chapters of a novel; or a cover letter and the entire text of a picture book (as a Word doc).
“Art queries: Email a cover letter and sample illustrations as pdf’s or jpeg’s or a link to a site.
“SUBJECT LINE: Please include the title of your work in the subject line.”
See Ms. Bowen’s website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
“A catchy title can be reason alone for me to request a manuscript. For example: The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant. This shows me that the author is confident enough to name his/her book this. It shows me the book is not a trend, and the title has a lyrical sound to it.
“Please query me as Ms. Bowen and not Mrs. Bowen.
“I like non-classical queries that are whimsical and share a confident story.
“Have a query that shows your voice.” (Link)
Per the website, Ms. Bowen’s stated response time is minutes to 6-8 weeks. If you haven’t heard back in this time, she is passing on your work. Her reponse time on requested material seems to range days to six weeks or so.
What's the Buzz?
Ms. Bowen has nearly 30 years of experience in the publishing industry and has worked with some truly amazing companies and talents. Her transition to agenting was met with great approval. She’s quickly become a top dealmaker for children’s book authors and illustrators.
According to PW, Ms. Bowen has plans to start a "children's packaging venture" with SJGA and to help, "...provide publishers material they might not have the time or resources to develop in-house." She's also interested in helping her authors band together to develop their promotional ideas, which is a great asset in an agent.
Worth Your Time:
Brenda Bowen interviews her new agenting self at Bunny Eat Bunny (05/2009).
Around the Web:
Her blog, Bunny Eat Bunny.
Sanford J. Greenburger Associates thread on AbsoluteWrite.
Agent Day: Insight from Brenda Bowen, detailed conference notes at Ingrid’s Notes (06/2010).
Last updated: 3/24/11
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
Last Reviewed by Agent: 3/28/11
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.