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Agent Spotlight: Tracey Adams

This week's Agent Spotlight features Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

Tracey Adams About: "Tracey Adams co-founded Adams Literary in 2004, after nearly a decade with literary agencies Writers House and McIntosh & Otis, where she was the head of the children's department. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked in the marketing and editorial departments of Greenwillow Books and Margaret K. McElderry Books.

"A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Tracey speaks frequently about her profession and the children's book industry at conferences across the country. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), and a founding member of the Women's National Book Association (WNBA) chapter in Charlotte, NC.

"In her spare time, Tracey enjoys Taekwondo, kickboxing, and test-marketing children's books with her two daughters." (Link)

Status: Accepting submissions.

What She's Looking For:

Genres of interest: Every age and genre of children's books from picture books to older, edgy YA. They also represent illustrators.

From the web site:

"Our clients’ work spans every age and every genre—from picture books to middle-grade and young adult fiction, from historical novels and fantasy to books that tackle important contemporary issues.

"While we give every submission its due consideration, we must admit a fondness for middle-grade and young adult novels with memorable characters and a unique voice. In particular, we're looking for literary stories, high-concept speculative fiction, unique fantasy adventure, humor, and character driven picture books. We gravitate toward the timeless, not the trendy." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

"We don’t typically handle textbooks, novelty, craft, how-to or coloring books—and we don’t handle any adult works." (Link)


About the agency:

"Our philosophy is that we represent authors and artists, not books. As such, we don't work on a book-by-book or term basis, like some agencies do. Instead, we we work closely with our clients to intelligently manage the entirety of their children's publishing careers. We take a long-term view of the market, of our jobs—and of launching and building our clients' careers.

"Drawing upon our editorial expertise, knowledge of the industry, and extensive experience in contract negotiations, we provide editorial judgment and input, marketing consultation, rights management and long-term career planning and advice. In addition to placing and negotiating North American publishing rights, we actively market and negotiate film, UK, translation, audio, merchandising and other subsidiary rights on behalf of our clients." (Link)


"I throw away anything that says "Dear Sir" immediately." (Link)

"Of course a picture book should never be illustrated by someone who is not an artist, and a rhyming text needs to rhyme. In novels, I'm turned off by telling rather than showing, whiny main characters, too much directly addressing the reader, and violence and profanity when it's only there for shock value." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes. "Because there is a definite need for manuscripts to be more polished when submitting today, I am happy to work with an author editorially.  I feel confident in doing so because of my editorial background.  But I always tell an author only to revise to my suggestions when it rings true and she believes it is making the work stronger - because once you have an editor, you'll be starting from scratch with a new partner.  That said, I am very happy to have a manuscript which is strong enough to submit as is, so I can leave the editing where it really belongs - in the hands of the editor who will publish you." (via e-mail)

Web Presence:

Adams Literary website.


Twitter (the best way to receive news and updates on the agency).

QueryTracker, AgentQuery, & AuthorAdvance.


A complete list of Adams Literary clients is available on the website here. 

Clients include: Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jenny Nimmo, Geraldine McCaughrean, Cynthia Lord, Margery Cuyler, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Coleen Paratore, Jacqueline Wilson, among many others.


As of this posting, Ms. Adams is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 8 deals in the last 12 months, 45 overall, and 1 six-figure+ deal.  Recent deals include 4 picture books, 2 middle grade, and 2 young adult.

Note: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales, and it's been verified the agency reports only a fraction of their deals.

"For various reasons (from discretion to timing issues), we do not post all our deals to Publisher's Marketplace, so numbers there are not truly representative.  We average over 60 deals per year, and have done dozens of 6-figure deals."  (via e-mail)

Query Methods:

E-mail: No.

Snail-Mail: No.  

Online-Form: Yes (only).

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

"We accept submissions and queries only through the online form on the SUBMIT page of our website. We will not review—and will promptly recycle—any unsolicited submissions or queries we receive by post. Through the online form, please attach your complete manuscript as an RTF, DOC or PDF file; for artists in particular, please send a PDF of your illustrations and/or provide your web site so we may view your art samples." (Link)

Query tips: Let them know if your submission is exclusive or non-exclusive. Notify them of any offers of representation. If you need to follow up, use their online submission form and reference your submission. 

"It should be properly addressed, include a one paragraph summary (think flap copy) of the work, and list any professional credentials relevant to children's book publishing. The ideal cover letter shows that the writer has done research on my agency, and perhaps even mentions specific authors we represent." (Link)

Via e-mail (04/2010) Mr. Adams shared the following:

"We do give priority consideration to people who've attended and met us at conferences, not only because we support SCBWI, but because we feel it's important for people to get a good sense of who we are and what we're about, since our philosophy and approach is different than other agencies. (Tracey will be at the SCBWI in NJ in June, and I'll be at the national SCBWI in LA in July-August.)"

See the Adams Literary website for the complete, up-do-date submission guidelines.

Response Times:

The agency's stated response time is 3-4 months, but I'm finding a huge range of response times from under a month up to nearly a year.  I'd say 4-5 months seems average. 

What's the Buzz?

Good!  Adams Literary is a children's book, boutique agency with an impressive list of clients and sales.  They have a great team philosophy (explained further on Josh Adams's profile) and their clients seem really pleased with their representation.  Ms. Adams in particular has great industry experience. 

Their response times can be anywhere from a month up to a year (usually several months), so there's definitely some confusion and angst out there about response times and status queries.  Given this, I wouldn't advise going the exclusive route, though they do prefer them. 

Worth Your Time:

SCBWI Bologna Interview with Tracey Adams at Cynsations (2008). 

Keep up with Adam's Literary News, Events, and Upcoming Conferences engagements on the website or by newsletter.

There's a fabulous lineup of Adams Literary's recent titles on the website.

"How I Got My Agent: Kristen O'Donnell Tubb" client story featuring Tracey and Josh Adams at the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

You can also read Kristen O'Donnell Tubb's query that worked at her blog.

Two Agents, Two Views - panel notes including Tracey Adams on Alice's CWIM Blog (2007).

You can read client Kimberly Griffith Little's "The Great Agent Hunt" story.

Google Blog Search turns up a lot of other brief panel and conference mentions. 

You might also be interested in viewing Josh Adam's and Quinlan Lee's profiles here on Lit Rambles as well.


Please see the Adams Literary website for contact and query information.


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.


  1. Thanks, Casey! My list of agents to query keeps growing...and growing. :)

  2. Casey, you are an endless fountain. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for another informative post. I've sent my ms to the agency. From what I've gathered, any of of the agents: Tracey, Josh and Quinlan, would be great.

    To provide more data for your response-time: they've had my ms for almost 6 months now.

  4. Tracey Adams was the first agent I ever met at a SCBWI conference about 5-6 years ago. She was so approachable. I have her on my list to submit to.

  5. Another fantastic, thorough profile, Casey. You are so generous to us!

  6. Edgy YA! I'll definitely add her to my list!

  7. Thanks for always posting these great in-depth looks Casey, and please don't ever take them down. I don't need them so badly right now as I'm not querying, but one day they will come in VERY handy!

  8. BRILLIANT WORK as always Casey!

    THANK YOU for the in depth research!

  9. Thanks so much for all this great information!

  10. Yay, the agency's finally opening its door to all writers, not just the ones the agents meet at a conference. Thanks for the update!

  11. Thanks for always posting these great in-depth looks
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  12. Thank you for the comments, everyone! I really appreciate them.

    Ms. Adams has reviewed her profile. I've made some updates and added new quotes given over e-mail.