This week's Agent Spotlight features Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency, LLC.
About: "Sara has been with the Nelson Literary Agency since early 2006. Her first responsibilities included reading the query letters, sample pages and full manuscripts that were submitted for representation. In early 2009, she was promoted to Associate Literary Agent and is now actively accepting submissions of her own. From sexy romance to epic fantasy, Sara has loved reading since picking up her first copy of The Hobbit. Sara has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a B.A. in American History from Northwestern University. She lives in sunny Boulder with her beat-boxing husband, adorable son and two fuzzy cats." (Link)
Status: Open to submissions and actively building her client list.
What She's Looking For:
General fiction, Romance, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women's Fiction, Chick-Lit, Literary Fiction. (Link)
From Publisher’s Marketplace:
“I seem to be drawn to contemporary YA and MG novels - stories set in the real world, preferably with a multicultural or historical aspect. Still, I am the first to admit that paranormals (vampires, werewolves, shapeshifting-mermaid-demon-witches) are popular. I love fantastical stories - especially when they are unique and beautifully written. My favorite young adult reads in 2010 were ASH by Malinda Lo and THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger.
“Personally, I would love to work on more science fiction and fantasy books. I love complex world building that is tightly woven with intense characters and an exciting story. I loved John Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR and N.K. Jemisin's THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS as well as everything by Robin McKinley, Carol Berg, Scott Lynch and Naomi Novik. If you want to submit an sf/f novel, I'm your woman! Be aware that the number one reason I end up passing on these books is that writers tend to put too much datadump in the first 30 pages. So, do a thorough reread for this common mistake before submitting.
“In terms of romance, I love super sexy and intelligent books. Pamela Clare and Sherry Thomas are two of my all-time favorite authors (Sherry was, in fact, my first slush pile find when I started working for Kristin!) I am an avid romance fan - paranormal, historical, contemporary - I read it all! My favorite books recently have been WHAT HAPPENS IN LONDON by Julia Quinn, THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook and NAKED by Megan Hart.
“Finally, there is that somewhat nebulous genre called ‘commercial fiction’ which includes women's fiction, etc. All I can say is - a unique story and superior writing will always catch my attention, so don't be overly concerned about the label. GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen and SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH by Alicia Bessette are two books that really captured my heart.” (Link)
From Facebook (03/2011):
“What am I looking for from young adult novels in the slush pile?...dorky heroes, Vikings, pirates, ocean adventures, space ships, terraforming, first contact (that's geek sf talk for ‘aliens’), romance, spring vacations gone awry, travel, multiculturalism and global settings, elves, dragons, magic, monsters, haunted houses...and, of course, a great story that's well told. :)” (Link)
From a Guest Post (11/2010):
“As I am an ‘actively acquiring’ agent, people like to ask "what are you looking for?" and the answer is a bit of a cop out - superior writing and a unique concept. But, that's just so true. I don't really care what you write, if you do it well I am interested. Paranormals are still hot and still selling. Retold fairy tales seem to be everywhere right now and that's really interesting to me (especially as a fan of Malinda's ASH and BEAUTY by Robin McKinley). I'm seeing mermaids and unicorns - perchance there are some minotaurs out there too? Dystopian novels are still fresh enough to be unique although I think the peak of buying was last year. And for me, I simply love contemporary or multicultural YA (think Simone Elkeles). Finally, I think if there were an historical YA author out there a la Philippa Gregory for kids, there would be a market for that too. That covers just about everything.” (Link)
From an Interview (2010):
“I love all fantasy and science fiction - adult, YA, MG, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk, hard science fiction, space opera - you name it, I love it. I shy away from the true horror, but other than that I love everything. I have one urban fantasy client and I think he is a genius: ( www.stevewvera.com ). And I have one MG science fiction client who I also think is a genius: (anitalaydonmiller.blogspot.com).
“I am particularly interested in books in which world building is effortlessly integrated with the story. Great characters are important too - I've seen sample pages with a really complex world but by page 30 I still don't know the main character's name (that's a mistake on the writer's part). John Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR is one of my favorite books of all time, as is Transformation by Carol Berg. On the young adult side, I am a huge fan of ASH by Malinda Lo and GIRL PARTS by John M Cusick.
“I'll take anything well written and with a unique concept. That being said, I *tend* to lean toward contemporary, multicultural and/or historical. In terms of paranormal and fantasy, I also love it all (although the story really has to stand out in this very competitive market). I like sexy YA or sweet YA, I like light or literary and I like any subgenre imaginable. Basically.bring it on! If it's well written I will love it!” (Link)
From an Interview (03/2009):
“What makes my heart go pitter-patter? I love seeing multicultural fiction in which people of various nationalities, religions, backgrounds, experiences, etc are portrayed in a positive, powerful light. I am looking forward to reading THE PRAYER ROOM by Shanthi Sekaran for this exact reason. I also love seeing fantasy and science fiction that has a unique world and a well-developed story.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
"We do not look at submissions for screenplays, short story collections, poetry, horror, mystery (unless chick lit), thriller, children’s picture books, any nonfiction except as listed above, or material for the Christian/Inspirational market." (Link)
About the Agency:
“Nelson Literary Agency was founded in 2002 and is based in the chic/hip urban setting of lower Downtown Denver—otherwise known as Lodo. Embodying a modern philosophy that technology is meant to be used, the Nelson Agency is a living example that a powerhouse agency does not have to be located in New York.
“In such a short time, the Nelson Agency has sold more than 100 books, landed several film deals, and has contracted foreign rights on behalf of our clients in all the major territories, including Germany, France, Holland, Japan, and even Russia and Indonesia. Nelson Agency authors have become national bestsellers, RITA-award winners, and have appeared on bestseller lists such as The New York Times, USA Today, Barnes & Noble, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Denver Post.
“We are a hands-on agency that strongly believes in taking on clients for their whole career. We provide editorial and marketing guidance as well as aggressive expertise in contract negotiation.” (Link)
“The number one mistake by far is querying an agent for a work in a genre that we don't represent. […] Other than genre mistakes, the main mistake I see in queries is datadump or some other form of being too wordy. If the query letter is too wordy, the manuscript is typically too wordy. If the writer uses datadump to ‘explain’ their world, their story, or their characters, then typically they've made the same mistake in the manuscript.” (Link)
You can read some other “don’ts” in this interview at Anita Laydon Miller’s blog.
“Fundamentally, I believe that a client's book is THEIR art. So, in terms of philosophy - I encourage my clients to write the books of their heart. Likewise, I choose clients to work with whose books I absolutely love, love, love.
“From there, my ‘agent philosophy’ is all about communication. Once a book is finished (and yes I do editorial work with my clients before we call it ‘finished’), I put together a submission list based on editors I think will love the work - my clients know to whom I submit, when and what the response is. My clients usually hear from me every week - with updates on submissions, offers, releases, sales numbers and ideas for marketing, publicity or promotions. Aside from talking about submissions, the two top things I encourage my clients to do is to get a professional author website together and to keep writing.” (Link)
“Nelson Literary Agency tends to rely on the team approach in terms of covering all these bases. For example, we have a marketing director on staff here at NLA (Lindsay Mergens out of our NY office), so I rely on her expertise for book promotions. We definitely do work on editing manuscripts before submitting them to editors, but I find that I tend to leave a lot of space for the writers to have their own feedback in this process. Overall, my personal philosophy tends to be "pick projects that I REALLY, REALLY love" and that way I feel great about fighting for them on everything from finding a great editor to negotiating a great contract.” (Link)
Yes. See the quotable quotes above.
Ms. Megibow’s clients include: Allison Rushby, Ashley March, Elysia Whisler, Jane Kindred, Jason Hough, Jennifer Shaw Wolf, Miranda Kenneally, Natalie Bahm, Roni Loren, Sarah Skilton, Steve Vera, and Tiffany Reisz.
As of 3/2011, Ms. Megibow is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 6 deals in the last 12 months and 6 overall. Recent deals include 3 women’s/romance and 3 young adult.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
One page query by e-mail. Put QUERY and the title of your project in the subject line. No attachments.
"If we are interested, we will send you a reply email with explicit directions on how to upload sample pages to our electronic submission database. We are an environmentally-friendly, paper-free office."
See the Nelson Literary website for complete up-to-date submission guidelines.
“I'm not overly picky in a query letter. Basically, any well-written query letter for a project in a genre that we represent will get a fair read. I don't prefer sample pages or synopses in the query. Also, I don't click through on weblinks and don't open attachments, so those can be left off. Personally, I don't need quotes (‘my aunt Martha is a published author and she says this is a great book’) and I don't need market statistics (‘romance is a huge genre and I know women are clamoring for more vampire romance’). Other than that, I DO look for a query letter to be short and to sound like the back cover of a novel.” (Link)
"...when I ask for a full manuscript, I do generally expect to see that manuscript within about a week. So, it's a good idea to have your work done, ready, checked, edited before starting the submission process." (Link)
Very fast. The agency's stated response time is 5-10 days with occasional longer instances. Stats on the web show Ms. Megibow responding to queries within minutes to a few days. Her response time on requested material appears to be days to a couple weeks.
What's the Buzz?
Great! Sara Megibow has been an associate agent since February 2009. She is known to be very nice, professional, and enthusiastic. The agency is highly respected and her clients seem quite happy with her representation.
Worth Your Time:
Interviews & Chats:
Interview with an Agent: Sara Megibow at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (02/2011).
Live Chat transcript with Agent Sara Megibow at WriteOnCon (10/2010).
Interview with Literary Agent Sara Megibow at YA Fantasy Guide (2010).
Interview with Sara Megibow at Anita Laydon Miller's blog (03/2009).
Interview with Sara Megibow by Janet Lane (2008).
AgentQuery chat transcript with Sara Megibow (08/2009).
Podcast interview with Sara Megibow at SandDollar Publishing (2007).
Being a Feminist Romance Reader, guest post by Sara Megibow at Reader, I Created Him (3/2011).
Sara Megibow Visits the YA 5 (11/2010).
Tips From the Slush Pile by Sara Megibow at LDS Publishers (05/2010).
Guest post by Sara Megibow on Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants (02/2009).
Around the Web:
Nelson Literary Agency's FAQ (fabulous for anyone wanting to submit!).
Consider subscribing to the (free) Nelson Literary newsletter for more inside scoop.
Agent Appreciation Day post on Sara Megibow by client Natalie Bahm (12/2009).
Client Natalie Bahm's agent success story (09/2009).
Advice highlights from Sara's AQ chat at JeanOran.com (08/2009).
Last updated: 3/29/11
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
Last Reviewed by Agent: 3/31/11
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.