Here are my current Giveaway Contests

STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! through April 18th

THE SILENCE OF BONES through April 18th

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Kristy Hunter & Author Loriel Ryon Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/20/20

Lindsay Davis Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/27/20

Erin Clyburn Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/20

Agent Spotlight: Victoria Skurnick

This week's Agent Spotlight features Victoria Skurnick of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.

Victoria Skurnick About: "Victoria Skurnick came to Levine Greenberg after being at The Book-of-the Month Club for almost twenty years.  As Editor-in-Chief, she relished the opportunity to devour every kind of book, from the finest literary fiction to Yiddish for Dogs.  Anne Tyler, John LeCarre, Amy Tan, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, Lee Child, Roddy Doyle, Alice Sebold, Tracy Kidder, Julia Child and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are just a few of the authors that make her deaf and blind to anyone around her when she's reading.

"Victoria's other addiction besides reading is music. She has sung in many choirs in New York City and spent a few ostensibly happy years singing rock in groups like Big and the Evolution. No, you haven't heard of it-if you had, she wouldn't be an agent. She also is the co-author (with Cynthia Katz) of seven novels written by 'Cynthia Victor.'

"Raised in New Rochelle, NY, Victoria went to the University of Wisconsin where she studied political science with an emphasis on constitutional law, a subject that still fascinates her. Neither adventurous nor peripatetic, she has remained within a 20-mile radius of home since her day of birth." (Link)

Status: Accepting submissions.

What She's Looking For:

Genres of interest:  Literary fiction, historical fiction, women's literature, romance, comedy, humor, horror, mystery, narrative nonfiction, arts, cinema, photography, biography, memoir, cooking, food, wine, crafts, hobbies, DIY, health, diet, history, mind, body, spirit, parenting, family, politics, current affairs, pop culture, entertainment, relationships, family, religion, spirituality, inspiration, science, technology, self-help, sports, technical, how-to, true crime, YOUNG ADULT. (Link)

"She is looking for fiction—especially literary, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and politics. (Link)

"Thrillers, literary fiction, mysteries, narrative nonfiction, biography and memoir are among her favorites, but she has also sold books on everything from exercises for the soul to sumptuous recipes for the gastrointestinally challenged. She does not handle children's books, but will look at young adult." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Comics, graphic novels, science-fiction, fantasy, textbooks. (Link)


"I like finding talented new writers, with fascinating and original material.  This is similar to what I've liked best about all my jobs.  But, as an agent, I get to edit people and then excite publishers about them.  It's very satisfying to be in from the beginning, to unlock a world to a writer who has a load of talent, but might not otherwise have entry." (Link)

About the Agency:

"Founded in 1989 by author and academic entrepreneur James Levine, we have grown into a firm of thirteen people with offices in New York and San Francisco.  We work in every category of fiction and non-fiction.

"We represent people, not just individual projects; more than selling books, we work as our clients' creative and business partners throughout the entire publishing process. Our goal is to  develop and guide talent to its fullest expression across a variety of media-books, film and television, audio, and electronic formats.

"Most of our titles are published by imprints of the major houses-Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, etc-but we have also done business with almost fifty independent and/or university presses.

"Our strong foreign rights department works internationally with a respected network of co-agents to place our titles with leading foreign publishers, and we are regular participants at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, and Book Expo America." (Link)

Pet-Peeves / Dislikes:

"I'm old fashioned, and bad grammar really is deadly for me.  Self-aggrandizement in a query letter, lack of pagination, sloppy writing, bad writing, unoriginal plot – all kinds of things turn me off." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes.  "We offer service in four broad areas: editorial development, business representation, collaborating writers, and publicity & marketing strategy." (Link w/more info)

Web Presence:

Levine Greenberg Agency website.





AgentQuery, QueryTracker, AuthorAdvance.


There is a list of agency clients on the website.  Ms. Skurnick's clients include: Senator Tom Daschle, Harry Dolan, Robert Rotenberg, Alice LaPlante, Sasha Abramsky, Karen Bergreen, Rachel Brady, Libby CataldiNaomi Fein, June Breton Fisher, Daniel Friedman, Jennifer Hillier, Jess Lourey, Susan Elia MacNeal, Meline Nadeau, Debbie Mumford, Jude Polotan, Andrea RobinsonDanny Schechter, among many others.


As of this posting, Ms. Skurnick is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 10 deals in the last 12 months and 17 overall.  Recent deals include 3 debut, 2 mystery/crime, 1 general/other, 1 inspirational, 1 history/politics/current affairs, 1 humor, and 1 young adult.

The YA sale is for Andrea Robinson's SOPHIE MCGEE, VAMPIRE QUEEN (Harper).

NOTE:  PM is usually not a complete representation of sales. 

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.  

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: Yes.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

According to her AAR and AgentInbox profiles, Ms. Skurnick does accept e-queries directly.  Send a query and the first 25 pages.  Send a query and proposal for nonfiction.  You can also query via the group agency e-mail or online form, attaching no more than 50 pages. 

If Ms. Skurnick wants to see more, she usually asks for the entire novel or nonfiction proposal as a single e-mail attachment.

Query Tips:

"Turn-ons – obvious intelligence on the part of the writer, writing that has flair, a plot I haven't seen four hundred times, a short but to the point query letter, a sense of humor, again, just plain good writing." (Link)

Response Times:

The agency only responds if interested, usually within three weeks but sometimes more than.  Ms. Skurnick tends to have rather fast response times with occasional instances of longer or no response. 

What's the Buzz?

Ms. Skurnick appears to be a good, well-respected agent.  She's a member of the AAR and has an established list of clients and sales.  A couple of the other agents at the Levine Greenberg Agency are more specialized in YA, but Ms. Skurnick is accepting and considering YA submissions.

Worth Your Time:


Interview with Victoria Skurnick, Literary Agent by client Jennifer Hillier at Killer Chicks (10/2010).

Audio interview with Victoria Skurnick where she discusses John Hart's novel The King of Lies (couldn't listen, seems to be a subscription thing).

Around the Web:

Interview with Elizabeth Fisher, the Levin Greenberg rights manager at Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood (12/2010).

YouTube video featuring literary agents Victoria Skurnick and Michael Strong and Bantam Dell Assistant Editor Randall Klein (05/2009).

Victoria Skurnick on P&E.

Levine Greenberg Literary Agency on PE (recommended).


Please see the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency 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.

Tip Tuesday #47

Hello everyone! I have another fabulous Tuesday Tip from Ammie Hart. You can read her previous tips here and here. She doesn't have a blog for us to stalk, but if she does start one or gets any great news I'll be sure to pass it along. Here she is!

Tuedsay Tip-Your Word Count is Your 401K

We all know writing is a long, long, LOOOOONG process. Especially when you are writing a novel of any considerable length. It's easy to feel overwhelmed writing thousands and thousands of words to get to the end of your WIP when you are only able to commit to writing a few paragraphs a day. For me, sometimes I don't get to write more than a page a day when my life is focused on raising two babies. I then feel terrible that I didn't get more done. Why didn't I get to 1000 words today? How will I ever get to 40,000 when I can't even get to 20k? I'm sure many of us have been here.

But here's a tip--when you are feeling discouraged about how long you have to get to the end of your WIP, don't look at your word count and be put off by how little you were able to accomplish in that one sitting. Think of your word count as your 401K. Sure, maybe there is only $10K in it now, definitely not enough to retire on, right? But you can bet I'm going to be pretty happy I kept putting in a few bucks every month over the course of my life when I'm in my seventies.

Well, writing a manuscript is the exact same thing. You want to get to retirement (ahem, a finished manuscript) right? Well, every time you deposit a few words, a paragraph, a scene, you are putting a little bit of money into that 401K and it will grow over time. So you were only able to type up 50 words today? Guess what? You are 50 words closer to your finish line. Maybe tomorrow you will write seven hundred fifty words, but for now, be proud of just those 50. Those 50 are better than nothing.

Hope this one helped you out! Happy writing!


I love this one, Ammie! Such a clever tip and a great way to think about adding to the WIP. Thank you!


So, I'm finally going to the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference! I can't beleive it's at the end of this week. Ack! I sooo don't feel ready.

I really wanted to go the last two years but my kids were too little and dependent. I feel better about going this year, but I'm already panicking about leaving them. I know they'll be perfectly fine with their papa, I've just never been away from them for more than a day.

But enough about my breaking heart. I do plan to have a good time and enjoy the adult interaction.

Who else is going? How do you stand leaving your family? Any bits of advice for me? If you're going, I hope to see you there!

Agent Spotlight: Katie Grimm

This week's Agent Spotlight features Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates.

Status: Accepting submissions.

Katie_Grimm_Picture About: "Katie joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007. She is interested in vivid literary fiction, transportive historical fiction, up-market women's fiction, cohesive short story collections, lurid mysteries & thrillers with exotic settings, high-concept young adult, and middle grade and children's with heart and humor.  Most importantly, she hooked by fiction with emotional resonance and longevity, and in her opinion, this requires an authentic and fresh voice, relatable characters, and a twisting plot that keeps her intrigued.  For non-fiction, she is looking for offbeat narrative non-fiction, European history, pressing cultural issues, memoir with distinct voice, religion from a historical or sociological point of view, narrative science and medical, multi-cultural, illustrated, and counter-culture." (via e-mail)

About the Agency:

"Don Congdon Associates, Inc. represents over one hundred active authors and many authors' estates, as well as a substantial backlist. The agency is a member of the AAR and has been in business since 1983. Many of its authors have appeared on best-seller lists, and have won numerous awards, including: Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award winners Russell Baker and Edna Buchanan; recipient of the National Book Award Ellen Gilchrist; New York Times Best Seller Kathryn Stockett; James Thurber Prize winner David Sedaris; winner of an Edgar and Grand Master of Horror awards Richard Matheson; and Ray Bradbury, who has received numerous awards including the National Book Foundation’s 2002 medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters." (Link – defunct)

There is more information on the history of the agency in this piece on Don Congdon.

Web Presence:

Don Congdon Associates website (coming soon)




AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:

From her Bio:

"She is interested in vivid literary fiction, transportive historical fiction, up-market women's fiction, cohesive short story collections, lurid mysteries & thrillers with exotic settings, high-concept young adult, and middle grade and children's with heart and humor.  Most importantly, she hooked by fiction with emotional resonance and longevity, and in her opinion, this requires an authentic and fresh voice, relatable characters, and a twisting plot that keeps her intrigued.  For non-fiction, she is looking for offbeat narrative non-fiction, European history, pressing cultural issues, memoir with distinct voice, religion from a historical or sociological point of view, narrative science and medical, multi-cultural, illustrated, and counter-culture." (via e-mail)

From an Interview (2011?):

“I want to read and represent books that push my emotional boundaries and teach me something about the world beyond, or even better, myself.  I’m looking for fiction that is both of the moment – speaking to this particular period of time – yet timeless in its emotional truths.  I’m also searching for non-fiction with voice and authority.  Keeping that in mind, I want strong literary fiction, up-market women’s fiction, thrillers with bite, cohesive short story collections, and narrative non-fiction from qualified authors.  In young adult and middle grade, I look for high-concept with emotional honesty – they can be contemporary or more fantastical, but they have to have relatable characters. There are certain genres like high fantasy, sci-fi, or romance that I don’t represent, but I think a touch of these elements in both adult and children’s keep things interesting.” (Link)

From an Interview (11/2010):

“Across all genres I am looking for something that has a high concept hook with the emotional resonance to have staying power. As incongruous as this may seem, I’m looking for more horror and gore in both children’s and the mystery/thriller department. I’m also always on the hunt for more historical fiction across all genres from the early modern period and beyond – there are so many meaty events and points of view in history that have yet to get the literary treatment.” (Link)

From an Interview (12/2009):

"I am especially interested in young adult and middle grade, but I do consider picture books as well. Illustrated books are such a specialized market—it requires a completely different skill set to be able to parse out the prose and the artwork—but I welcome the challenge." (Link)

"I’ve been receiving and requesting a lot of young adult and middle grade, but I also want more historical fiction. The key to historical fiction is creating characters and plots that are engrossing no matter what the era, and the historical setting should inform the story and not overwhelm it. I am also looking for historical mysteries and lurid thrillers that aren’t in the terrorist or conspiracy theory mold—in my opinion, you don’t need far-reaching plotlines and global masterminds to deliver excitement. 

"I need more nonfiction that isn’t misery driven or inspirational—I want to learn something new! I’m always interested in well-researched, personal, and enlightening nonfiction, but having a strong writing platform is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially since much of marketing and publicity is placed on the shoulders of the author from the beginning." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

High fantasy, straight science fiction, adult speculative fiction, paranormal, chick-lit, romance, western, political, inspirational, how-to, self help, Christian literature, comix, graphic novels, erotica, poetry, western, business, investment, mind, body, spirit, professional, reference, religion, spirituality, inspiration, textbooks, dramatic works. (Link, Link)

"I’m rarely drawn to thrillers with terrorist plots or government agency acronyms, and I am so turned off by romance that I rarely read anything that has substantial a romantic plot. But often you won’t know the details until you query me, so it’s always worth a shot." (Link – defunct)


"Despite the fact I read so much, I rarely find stories or characters that gnaw at me weeks later, and good literature should have that sort of staying power.  Writing something memorable requires originality in voice, style and plot, but it also means tapping into the human consciousness and making readers feel something outside themselves.  Cultivating that emotional investment simply requires a lot of talent, but real, relatable, and lovable characters are a good start." (Link –defunct)

Her Advice to Writers:

"Read and write every single day, and be evangelical about what you’re reading and loving. No amount of marketing or publicity dollars will ever trump the power of word-of-mouth, and sharing the emotional experience is why we’re all here." (Link)


There are a lot of great pet peeves in Ms. Grimm's interview The Guide To Literary Agents Blog.

Editorial Agent?

“I am an editorial agent, so I’ve been known to go several rounds of edits with a project if it warrants it. In this marketplace, editorial board meetings are especially competitive, so you have to arm editors with a manuscript that is polished. The bar is high, and we should strive to pass it, not just submit something that is ‘good enough.’” (Link)




As of 12/2011, Ms. Grimm does not appear to be a member of Publisher's Marketplace.  Don Congdon is listed as having made 2 deals in the last 12 months, 3 six-figure+ deals, and 22 overall. 

NOTE:  PM is usually not a complete representation of sales, and Ms. Grimm has confirmed that the agency does not announce all their sales. 

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (preferred).  

Snail-Mail: Yes.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

E-mail your query to dca[at]doncongdon[dot]com with "Query for Katie" in the subject line.  Include the first chapter in the body of the e-mail.  No attachments.  Query only one agent at the agency. (Link)

For snail mail send a query, the first chapter, and a SASE to:

110 William Street, Suite 2202
New York, NY 10038

(This is a new agency address as of December 2011, provided by Ms. Grimm)

Response Times: 

Ms. Grimm's stated response time on queries is 4 weeks, which seems to be fairly accurate.  If you haven't heard from her within 5 weeks, feel free to follow up.  Her response time on requested material varies per submission, but she tries to respond to those within 4 weeks as well. 

What's the Buzz?

Don Congdon Associates is a highly respected agency and Ms. Grimm has the benefit of her colleagues' years of experience and guidance. While the agency prefers to keep a low profile, Ms. Grimm has been making co-sales and subright negotiations and is now subbing her own clients.  She is a member of the AAR, as are all the agents at Don Congdon Associates, and is actively developing a children's list for the agency.  She's been extremely warm and helpful in my dealings with her.

Worth Your Time:


Interview with Katie Grimm, Literary Agent at How to Publish a Book (2011?).

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Katie Grimm at Middle Grade Ninja (11/2010).

Agent Advice Interview with Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (12/2009).

Around the Web:

Don Congdon Associates AbsoluteWrite thread.

Don Congdon Associates on P&E. Katie Grimm on P&E.


Please see the submission guidelines or one of the query databases above for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 12/16/11.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 8/19/10.


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.

Tip Tuesday #46

Happy Tuesday! I have a tip to share from Katharina (Cat) Gerlach. It's similar to a tip I featured in the past, but it's a good one and Cat approaches it from a different angle. Here she is!

As writers, we are always told not to use adverbs and that usually is sound advice. Now, I noticed that I keep missing the little monsters, especially if reading on screen. So, how do I make sure that I keep only those few adverbs that I really, really need? I color them. It's fairly easy. This is how you do it:

Open the manuscript and choose a color for highlighting (In MS Word the icon is on the far right and looks like a knife hovering over a line).

Open the "Search and Replace" dialog of your writing program and enter "ly" in the search and in the replace box. Then, with the cursor in the replace box, click on a button called "More" or "Expand" or something similar (it depends a bit on which program you use) which will give you additional options. Choose "Format" and "Highlight" and then click on "Replace All". Now, you won't miss the brightly colored -ly words any more when reading through your manuscript.

By the way, this can be used for any other annoying word or word combination you use.

This is such a useful tip. It definitely helps to tame down those "ly" and overused words. Does anyone use it for anything else? Thanks for sharing, Cat!

Agent Spotlight: Ken Wright

Mr. Wright is no longer a literary agent. He is now the Vice President and Publisher of Viking Children's Books. Profile removed.

Tip Tuesday #45

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to share a tip, please do so. I'm running low! Today's tip comes from the lovely Ammie Hart (who shared a tip a couple weeks ago). Enjoy!


So there you are, working on your manuscript, and you hit the good ol' road block in your writing. You know where the book needs to go, you see it in your head, you know how you want the scene to play out, yet, everytime you go to type it up, it's DEAD. Nothing. Nada. The words will just. not. come. Ugggggh... Don't you hate when that happens? Here's a tip to get your fingers moving across that keyboard and make those juicy scenes come ALIVE on that screen! Make a playlist for your book. That's right. Make a happy ol' playlist that will have some music to inspire the writing. Is your main character struggling with an issue they need to overcome? How about a little Matt Kearney or Patti Griffith? The folksy drama inspiring tunes can't do anything but help. Is your MC a scheming, horrible, plotting type that has a kickass attitude? How about a little Metallica to set the scene? Or Rage Against the Machine? Or Smashing Pumpkins? You get the idea.

I tend to make a manuscript playlist that I know will inspire the scenes and dialogue for those particular characters. Here are some of the tracks playing on my current upper MG about a boy who is learning to accept the fact that all the other families who he thought were normal are just like his--imperfect. Hope some of these songs help inspire some of your work! Happy writing!

"Razor" by the Foo Fighters
"There Goes the Fear" by the Doves
"Full Moon" by The Black Ghosts
"Remember Me as A Time of Day" by Explosions in The Sky (no lyrics, just great tunes)
"Blackbird" performed by Sarah McLachlan
"All I Want to Do" by Sugarland
"Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
"Whir" by Smashing Pumpkins

Ammie, I love this tip. And the beauty of it is that even writers who can't listen to music while they write can make a playlist to listen to when they're not writing. There's something really special and inspiring about finding the right song for a character or scene. I definitely recommend this!

Q&A with Tina Wexler of ICM

Hi everyone!  Thank you so much for your patience.  Here are Tina Wexler's most excellent answers to your questions.  I definitely think they were worth the wait.  Her answers are in bold


S. Kyle Davis asks:

Tina WexlerWhen you're submitting to agents, there's a fine line between staying committed to your work and living in denial about the marketability of the manuscript. I know that there is no fast and true answer for how long you should query. However, in general, how can an author know that the book is not going to find an agent, or, even if it did, would be unlikely to sell to an editor?

For good or ill, there is no real way to know whether or not your manuscript is going to find an agent, but it may prove helpful to ask yourself the following: Have you received any requests for partials or fulls? If not, take a good look at your query letter. Are you presenting the manuscript (and yourself) in the best light? How does your manuscript fit in with what’s being published today/what agents say they’re looking for? I’m not saying you should write to the trends (please, no!) but you should be mindful of the market, reading what’s being published in your genre. Are you targeting your search to appropriate agents? If you’ve sent out pages, what kind of feedback did you receive? To that end, how many people have read your work? If you’re your sole reader, why not join a writer’s group? No one can tell you if you’re manuscript will ever find a home, especially without having read it, but I would start by trying to determine whether it’s the query or the manuscript that’s preventing you from snagging the eye of an agent, and then act accordingly.

Sharon Roat asks:

Tina - What is your favorite part of being an agent? Least favorite? And what aspect of your work takes up the most of your time?

My favorite part of being an agent is helping my clients fulfill their dreams of being published and keeping that dream going for years and years. My least favorite? Delivering bad news.

Email takes up most of my time in the office. Out of the office, my time is spent reading manuscripts, which takes up the most time overall.

Natalie Aguirre asks:

I know you aren't looking for high fantasy manuscripts, but can you advise me of the word count range for an upper level middle grade high fantasy with twelve-year-old characters?

I think 35,000-65,000 words is a good range for upper middle grade, be it high fantasy or not.

Ammie asks:

Let's say an established agent requested a partial on one manuscript and you are about to finish 2 others and get them ready for submission.  Do agents like to see that potential clients are workhorses?  Or is it better to just focus on getting an agent for your ONE finished project?  I am always thinking, hey, I want to show this agent how multitalented and diverse I am, look at this great portfolio of work I am doing, but I also know some agents say just focus on one.  What does Ms. Wexler recommend?  What is the most "professional" way to go about this?

I like to focus on one project at a time. If that project strikes my fancy, I’ll talk with the writer about the other projects she has in the works. That said, you can always mention (briefly!) whatever else you’re working on in your initial query: “I’m currently at work on a paranormal YA featuring mummies and a dystopian middle grade set in Portugal.” If the agent is interested in reading them too, she’ll ask.

Shawna asks:

You have said in various interviews that you "tend to shy away from high fantasy". What would make a fantasy novel stand out to you? What kinds of genres within the umbrella term "fantasy" appeal to you?

I know everyone says it, but it’s all about voice. If the narrative voice pulls me in, I’ll follow it most anywhere. I also want characters I connect with—love ‘em or hate ‘em, I want to feel something toward them. Lastly, I want to enter a fully-realized world, with rules and boundaries. That goes for all fiction. The world needs to have limits; that’s what gives us conflict. Within fantasy, I like urban/contemporary, dystopian, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy hybrids…

Carolyn Flower asks:

When you have a writer on your hands you are thinking of representing, do you read his/her past tweets/blog posts/web content, etc.? If so, do you ever find that material actionable? As in, if it's good it tips you into offering representation, or if it's crazy/offensive/otherwise bad you decide against that writer?

I do like to see what I can learn about a client before I sign him or her, but if I’m so-so about a manuscript, I won’t sign that client, even if she writes a really stunning blog or a particularly witty tweet (though I’ll probably work with her on revisions, in the hope of falling in love with a later draft.)  I could see myself not signing a client because of particularly offensive online content, but I’m not exactly easy to offend.

Hilary asks:

My question or Ms. Wexler is about the market. Not as in trends (vampires are out, editors are looking for selkies, etc.) but the overall mood. Are editors hunting to buy or still very wary because of the economy? And I was also wondering about what seems to be a glut of new agents after all the layoffs in the industry and if that makes it harder for established agents and writers to get their work/clients noticed by editors?

The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Editors need to buy manuscripts or they don’t have jobs, so they most definitely are hunting to buy. At the same time, they are being more selective about what they buy. And while there are certainly more agents sending out manuscripts, established agents have long-standing relationships with editors and most have strong reputations for sending out quality material, and so the manuscripts they send don’t have to fight to get noticed. (This isn’t to say that signing with an untested agent means your work won’t get the attention it deserves; we all had to make our first book deal at some point.)

Rob Kent, middle grade ninja asks:

Were Peter Nelson and Rohitash Rao of HERBERT’S WORMHOLE an established team of writer/illustrator when you agreed to represent them? If so, did this make the submission process more difficult? Would you consider an established team of writer/illustrator for future clients?

Yes, Peter and Ro were an established team right from the start, but that didn’t complicate the submission process. I’m certainly open to considering established writer/illustrator teams.

Suzie F. asks:

If someone is writing for a tween audience how should that person introduce her genre in a query? Would it be okay to label it as a contemporary Upper Middle Grade novel in a query? Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us.

I would go with upper middle grade. The age of the protagonist and the word count will also help signal to the agent that you’re writing for a tween audience.

Mari asks:

How do you feel contemporary YA fares in a market rich with paranormal and fantasy?

If the NYT Bestseller list is anything to go by, contemporary YA remains strong; it’s just not getting the kind of media coverage that paranormal and fantasy are getting right now.

Can you share some opening lines that have grabbed your attention?

You can assume that the first lines of all the books I represent have grabbed my attention, so I’ll pick a few from books I didn’t rep:

“I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure Adam—as in the guy who named all the animals in the Garden of Eden—wasn’t a hermaphrodite.” –DONUT DAYS by Lara Zielin

“We can hear someone screaming as soon as we get off the elevator.” –BLACK BOX by Julie Schumacher

“‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” –CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B.White

Happygrrl asks:

If you have read a full manuscript, but decide to pass on the project, under what circumstances would you reconsider it, or would you?

Generally, if I’m interested in seeing a rewrite of a manuscript, I’ll provide the writer with detailed feedback and an invitation to submit a revision should that feedback resonate. Barring that, if the writer emails me with details about how the work has been improved and if the overall project still appeals to me, I may ask to see pages again, but I just as well may not.

Lois D Brown asks:

Since you work at a full service agency, I thought you might have some insight to movie rights. How does a book manuscript turn into a movie? Is the author involved with the creation of the screenplay? What sort of royalties are possible? What makes a movie producer interested?

Manuscripts/books get pitched to studio execs, producers, talent, etc. If a party is interested, they will option the property, meaning they have a limited period of time during which they have the exclusive right to purchase film rights. During that initial option period, the party will try to set that property up (securing financing, commissioning a screenplay, etc.) If the initial option period expires, the party may extend the option (usually for an additional payment) or let it lapse. If they let it lapse, the film rights go back on the market. If the party opts to exercise the option, they pay what is called a “purchase price,” meaning they officially buy the film rights to the book and hopefully a movie goes on to be made.

It’s rare that the author of the book actually writes the screenplay for the movie. (Writing a screenplay is a very different skillset.)

Producers tend to want four-quadrant films (movies that will appeal to young and old, male and female), bestsellers, and/or sequels/remakes, but there are always those who are willing to take a chance on an unknown gem, a sleeper hit.

Suzanne Warr asks:

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Ms. Wexler.  You often refer to magic realism when listing what you accept, but I haven't seen you list urban fantasy.  How would you define magic realism, and does that definition exclude urban fantasy?  Are you interested in seeing urban fantasy?

I think of magic/magical realism as fiction wherein something happens that you just have to take on faith. The odds of it happening are slim, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. I classify Kurtis Scaletta’s books this way. In MUDVILLE, the protagonist lives in a town where it’s been raining for over two decades. Raining nonstop. Has that ever happened? Not that I know of. Could it? Well, sure. It could. On the fantasy scale, I put magical realism in the 2-3 range, urban fantasy in the 4-7 range, and high fantasy at 10, where we’re in another world entirely.

Katharina Gerlach asks:

If a project has been rejected by an agent (because the query was not even remotely good), is it ok to re-query after revising the query to perfection and doing another round of revision on the manuscript?

Hmm, this is a tough one. I respond to two things in a query: 1) how well is it written, and 2) if I’m interested in the story’s premise. Rewriting the query (and even revising the manuscript) isn’t necessarily going to make me more interested in the premise. Since there’s no way of knowing WHY an agent passed on your query, you have no way of knowing if they passed because it wasn’t “even remotely good” or because they just weren’t interested in, say, rhyming picture books about polka-dotted ducklings. Given the many, many agents out there, I’d say submit your shiny new query elsewhere, unless you’re truly convinced this agent is THE ONE. And then, well, what the heck? Resubmit it. What’s the worst that can happen? You get rejected twice. There are worse things in this world.

If the manuscript is aimed at the lower/higher end of a genre (like Lower Ya or Higher MG) do I need to mention that in my query, or is it enough when the agent notices that when reading the sample?

Because I get queries for everything from board books to adult fiction, I like it when writers specify the target demographic in their query. As I mentioned in my answer to Suzie, other markers in your query should also help tip off the agent as to what genre you’re aiming for.

Laura Pauling asks:

Is it acceptable to have a murder in a humorous tween mystery if the murder is off screen with no blood or gore?

Yes, I find that perfectly acceptable. Susan Runholt’s MYSTERY OF THE THIRD LUCRETIA has a murder in it, and we didn’t hear any complaints. And Donna Gephart’s AS IF BEING 12 ¾ ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT has an assassination plotline, and she still won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award from SCBWI.

Paula Kay asks:

If a query is well written and peaked your interest, would you turn it down if the word count was high?

The word count of the query or the ms? Kidding. I’m getting punchy as I near the end of these questions (though I am a bit wary of really long query letters.) In truth, a really high ms word count often gives me pause. To me, it signifies that the writer can’t self-edit, and while I’m certainly what you’d call an “editorial agent,” if the ms is unnecessarily long, I’ll need to weigh how much editorial work I can give it against how much I love the manuscript as a whole. That said, if I love the voice of the query and the premise of the story, I’ll ask to see pages. No harm in dipping a toe in, right? Of course, if it’s crazy long, like 600,000 words long, it’s a pass, but that’s often because the manuscripts with these super high word counts tend to have the worst queries. Go figure.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. Thank you to everyone for submitting their smart questions. I do hope you’ll be in touch, if your project sounds like a good fit for my list. Good luck!


Thank YOU, Tina, for being so generous with your time and knowledge.  Everyone, please thank Ms. Wexler for participating in our Q&A.  If you'd like more information on what she's looking for and how to submit, please see her Agent Spotlight profile.  Thank you!

Agent Spotlight: Ginger Clark

This week's Agent Spotlight features Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown LTD.
GingerClarkAbout: "Ginger Clark has been a literary agent with Curtis Brown LTD (New York) since 2005. On the adult side of her list she represents science fiction, fantasy and horror. On the children’s side she represents middle grade and young adult fiction and non-fiction. In addition to representing her own clients, she also handles British Commonwealth rights for the agency’s children’s list. She attends the Bologna Book Fair every year on behalf of her agency, and visits London annually as well. Previously, she worked at Writers House for six years as an assistant literary agent. Her first job in publishing was as an editorial assistant at Tor Books. She is the Chair of the Contracts Committee of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, and a member of its International Committee. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter here:" (Link)
Also see the following CurtisBrown Links:
Status: Accepting submissions.
What She's Looking For:
I’m looking for adult SF, fantasy and literary horror. I’m looking for middle grade and young adult fiction and non fiction, and all genres and topics. If I had an actual MSWL in my head (which I don’t) it would be MG and YA novels about family members with dementia; and a YA historical novel about Boudicca.
Please note that these interviews are older, and what Ginger Clark is interested in has changed. However, they may provide other helpful information about her.
From an Interview (05/2010):
"If anyone has a book about a mermaid/selkie/angel/some other not overused magical creature, please email me a query IMMEDIATELY." (Link)
From an Interview (11/2009):
"Currently, on the adult side of my list I represent science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance. On the kids side of my list, I do everything for ages 8 and up—so, middle grade and young adult." (Link)
From an Interview (03/2009):
"Right now, I am focusing more on building the kids side of my list than the adult side. I’d like to see more YA post-apocalyptic fiction; more YA urban fantasy that involves more unusual paranormal elements (less vampires, more witches, ghosts, were-creatures); more middle grade fantasy of all kinds; and more YA military science fiction. I’d really, really love more military SF on my adult side of my list, too, but I think that YA military SF could do well right now, as long as it was the right kind of military SF." (Link)
From an Interview (12/2007):
"What I am specifically looking for right now on that side is YA or MG science fiction—series based would be great, but not required. I'd love a fresh YA fantasy series, too (particularly YA urban fantasy) and contemporary "boy books." And of course, YA paranormal romance/chicklit would be great as well. On the adult side, I do science fiction, fantasy, literary horror, and paranormal romance. I'd love to see some military SF; alternative history; post apocalyptic SF; urban fantasy; romantic fantasy; and paranormal romance that is not heavily focused on vampires." (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Picture books, illustrators, graphic novels, non-fiction.

About the Agency:
"Curtis Brown, Ltd. is one of the world’s leading literary agencies, representing a wide variety of established and emerging authors of all genres since 1914. With seventeen agents in our New York, San Francisco and New Orleans offices, and a staff dedicated to handling dramatic, translation, audio and digital media rights, we provide the highest standard of literary representation in all aspects of our clients’ careers." (Link)
Her Advice to Writers:
On researching Agents:
"Look up the agent on Publishers Marketplace and see what deals they’ve done. Google them, and see where they’ve worked. If you are still worried, ask nicely to speak to current clients. Having a bad agent, as you say, can be harder on your career than having no agent. A bad agent won’t have an accurate idea of what editors to send your book, or they might not be good at negotiating deals or contracts. A bad agent (which I consider different from “scam agents” who are truly, truly evil) is often ignorant of the industry, or behaves very unprofessionally."
There is other situation-specific and general advice in this Q&A thread, as well as more in the interviews and Q&As below.
"Oh, I have A LOT but here are two: not being patient with me when I have your partial, and calling the agency to see if I have gotten to your query yet." (Link)
"...what makes me hit “delete” are the usual mistakes—addressing the letter “Sir/Madam,” calling me someone else’s name, misspelling my name, lots of typos, a weak command of the English language, etc. etc." (Link)
"Unrealistic dialogue is a big turn off for me. And this is key with writing for the children's market--kids are very good at picking out what is legit and what is not. They know when characters don't sound like themselves or their friends.  I also am not a fan of a lot of "info dump" early on in the manuscript--or really, at any point in the manuscript. World building and communicating background information can be conveyed by dialogue or interior monologue." (Link)
There are more more query turn-offs in this interview at Charge of the Writer.
Editorial Agent?
Only broadly.  "I don't line edit. I rarely, however, send out a book on submission that has not been through at least one round of suggested edits by me."
Web Presence:
Curtis Brown website.
AgentQuery, QueryTracker, AuthorAdvance.
Jon Armstrong, Steph Bowe, Liz Braswell, Jonathan Carroll, Tina Connolly, John Dickinson, Karina Yan Glaser, Molly Gloss, Monica Hesse, M. K. Hobson, Richard Kadrey, Drew Karpyshyn, John Langan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kasey MacKenzie,  Gretchen McNeil, Tim Pratt, Lyra Selene, Kristin Walker,  Elizabeth Wein, Patricia Wrede, Caroline Yoachim, among others.
As of this posting, Ms. Clark is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 4 deals in the last 12 months, 4 six-figure+ deal, and 29 overall.  Recent deals include 1 young adult and 3 international children's deals.
NOTE:  PM is usually not a complete representation of sales. 
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (preferred).  
Snail-Mail: Yes.
Online-Form: Yes.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail queries:  Preferred.  Keep them brief.  One page at the most.  Include contact info.  No attachments. 
Snail-mail queries:  Send a brief query by regular mail.  Include a SASE.
Please see the agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Query Tips:
"It begins by spelling my name correctly! There is a sentence that sums up the plot nicely, along with a sentence or two as to why the author thinks I'd be the right agent for the book. Then, no more than two paragraphs of plot description. Then please suggest authors whose work yours is similar to." (Link)
"If you are querying the first book of a series, be sure to tell her that in your query." (Link)
Synopsis Info:
"All writers hate synopses, including my clients. A page or two at the most. It can even be less. Just give me the basics of the plot and tell me the ending. Authors: stop freaking out about synopses." (Link
Response Times:
Ms. Clark only responds if interested.  Her stated response time on e-mail queries is 2 weeks and several months on snail-mail.  She asks for 5 weeks on requested partials.  Upon reviewing stats on the web, it looks like these are very realistic response times. 
What's the Buzz?
Ginger Clark has fabulous online buzz.  She's a top-notch agent with a fabulous stable of clients and sales.  She's a recommended agent on P&E, a member of the AAR, and her clients seem very happy under her representation.  Definitely follow her on Twitter where she tweets quite regularly.
Worth Your Time:
Interviews and Q&As:
#MSWL Wish List (09/2017)
PW Talks With Speaker Ginger Clark at PW (11/2015)
Interview With Agent Ginger Clark at Amy Newman (09/2014)
A Literary Agent Answers Your Fevered Questions at The Toast (08/2013).
SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview with Ginger Clark at Cuppa Jolie (07/2010).
Agent/Editor Perspective Q&A with Ginger Clark and Annette Pollert at Class of 2K10 (05/2010).
Interview with Literary Agent Ginger Clark at Charge of the Write Brigade (01/2010).
Interview with Ginger Clark by Theresa Rizzo (11/2009).
Interview with Ginger Clark. Literary Agent at Seanchai (03/2009).
SCBWI Bologna Interview with Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown at Cynsations (3/2008).
Agent Interview: Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown at Cynsations (12/2007).
Guest Posts:
Agentfail - a Response From a Non-Failing Agent featuring Ginger Clark at Seanchai (04/2009).
Ginger Clark on the Frankfurt Book Fair at Nathan Bransford's blog (11/2008).
Ginger Clark on How To Handle an Offer of Representation at Nathan Branford's blog (10/2007).
Around the Web:
Ginger Clark on Dos and Don'ts - notes at The Ron Empire from the Crested Butte Writers Conference (07/2010).
Agent Appreciation Day post on Ginger Clark here and here.
Ms. Clark was the September 2009 Secret Agent at Miss Snark's First Victim.  You can check out her entry comments in the archives.
Please see the Curtis Brown website for contact and query information.
Profile Details: 
Last Updated: 1/10/18. 
Last Reviewed By Agent? 1/18/18

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.

Tip Tuesday #44

I hope everyone had a fabulous 4th. I sure did, but the extended weekend has me completely thrown off. Today (it's Tuesdays right?!), I have another great tip from Deren of The Laws of Making. Please give his blog a visit!

When you come to a question as you write, don't settle for the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, get in touch with your inner obnoxious child and ask yourself, "Why?" after you answer your question at least five times. I actually learned about this technique while tracing the root cause of failures in engineered systems. In that context, studies showed that asking why five times really did get to the original failure. The people that you write about are likely more complicated than an engineered system, so asking why five times won't get you to the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it's a great way to get beyond the superficialities to the deeper matters that will make your story come alive.

If you'd like to know a bit more, I recently posted a note about the five whys on my blog.

Deren, this is one of those simple but extremely helpful tips. Asking "why" again and again is one of the best ways to avoid going in a direction that is expected or cliche. Thanks for another great tip!

Agent Spotlight: Stefanie von Borstel

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stefanie von Borstel of Full Circle Literary.

Status: Accepting submissions.

clip_image001About: "Stefanie von Borstel is co-founder of Full Circle Literary and has almost 20 years of experience in publishing. Prior to agenting, she worked in editorial and marketing with Penguin and Harcourt. Stefanie represents children's books from toddler to teen, and select adult books. On the adult side, her focus is on family-interest, design/lifestyle/DIY, and creative nonfiction.She has the pleasure of working with Meg Mateo Ilasco, Justina Blakeney, Barb Blair, Lisa Congdon, Kelly McCants, Betz White, and Anne Weil of Flax & Twine, among others.

“On the children's side, she is especially seeking middle grade fiction and nonfiction, and is excited about her clients' latest titles Diana Lopez's Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, Penny Warner's Code Busters Club, and Sarah Burningham's Girl to Girl. For picture books: diverse books with broad appeal, nonfiction with a distinct voice,"ficinformational" books (as coined by Julie Danielson at Kirkus), and books that inspire imagination of the young and young-at-heart. Clients include: Monica Brown, Jennifer Ward, Toni Buzzeo, Carmen Tafolla, Rafael Lopez, Heather Montgomery, Cindy Jenson-Elliott, and SCBWI Grand Prize Portfolio Award Winner Juana Martinez-Neal, to name a few. Books she has represented have been awarded Pura Belpre Honors, ALA Notable Children's Books, the Christopher Award, NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors, the Agatha Award, and the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Stefanie is thrilled to work with clients that have a distinct style or expertise that can crossover to both the children's and adult markets. When not reading, Stefanie is probably searching for green fig beetles or exploring tidepools with her son.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“We are a boutique literary agency, offering a unique full circle approach to literary representation. Our diverse experience in book publishing includes editorial, marketing, publicity, legal and rights, which we use to help build authors one step at a time. We work with both veteran and debut writers and artists and our team has a knack for finding and developing new and diverse talent. Our titles have received awards and honors from the American Library Association, National Book Critics' Circle, Children's Book Council, Society of Children's Books Writers & Illustrators, National Council of Teachers of English, International Reading Association, Pura Belpre Award and Honors, Americas Book Award, and Charlotte Zolotow Award. Our authors have been featured on National Public Radio, Good Morning America, Martha Stewart Living, Design*Sponge, Ohdeedoh, Working Mother magazine, Parents magazine, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and other national media.

“Full Circle Literary works with a variety of creative prescriptive and narrative nonfiction books, literary fiction for adults and teens, as well as middle grade and children's picture books. Our underlying policy is that we only sign work we are as enthusiastic about as you are. We'll support you through the publication process... full circle.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Full Circle Lit website.

Full Circle Lit blog



What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Children’s literature, picture book to young adult; select adult books.

From Her Bio (as above):

“On the adult side, her focus is on family-interest, design/lifestyle/DIY, and creative nonfiction. 

“On the children's side, she is especially seeking middle grade fiction and nonfiction, and is excited about her clients' latest titles Diana Lopez's Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, Penny Warner's Code Busters Club, and Sarah Burningham's Girl to Girl. For picture books: diverse books with broad appeal, nonfiction with a distinct voice, ‘ficinformational’ books (as coined by Julie Danielson at Kirkus), and books that inspire imagination of the young and young-at-heart.

“Stefanie is thrilled to work with clients that have a distinct style or expertise that can crossover to both the children's and adult markets.” (Link)

Agency Interests (as of 8/2014):

“Middle grade: contemporary, unique historical, voice-driven, stories that illuminate everyday life of in a distinct voice or from a diverse viewpoint, humor, multicultural (Latino, African American, Asian, Middle Eastern), fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, light science fiction

“Young Adult: literary, contemporary or unique historical, stories that illuminate social pressures faced by teens, multicultural (Latino, African American, Asian, Middle Eastern), fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, light science fiction

“Picture books (900 words or less, non-rhyming): character-driven, humor, untold biographies, nature/animals, multicultural


“Stories that appeal to boy readers of all ages

“Interactive books or multimedia projects for very young or books with family appeal that parents can enjoy with their little ones.” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

“We are currently not accepting Adult fiction submissions (except multicultural or historical), religious or spiritual, biography, history, expose-type books, cookbooks or wine books, travel, screenplays.”

“Picture books with rhyming text, picture books longer than 900 words, poetry or short stories, educational books, workbooks, or foreign language learning books.

“We do not accept unsolicited submission materials in Spanish, since we work primarily with US publishers all queries and submission materials should be in English.” (Link)

Editorial Agent?

The agency supports its clients through all phases of the publishing process, including editorial support when needed.


There is list of select client titles on the agency website

Ms. von Borstel's clients include: Justina Blakeney, Barb Blair, Monica Brown, Sarah Burningham, Toni Buzzeo, Lisa Congdon, Cindy Jenson-Elliott, Diana Lopez, Rafael Lopez, Meg Mateo Ilasco, Kelly McCants, Heather Montgomery, Juana Martinez-Neal, Carmen Tafolla, Penny Warner, Jennifer Ward, Anne Weil, Betz White, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).  

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

"Send a 1-page query letter (in the body of the email, no attachments please) including a description of your book, writing credentials and author highlights. Following your query, please include the first TEN PAGES or complete picture book manuscript text within the body of the email. For nonfiction, include a proposal with one sample chapter.

“You may include the name of the agent in the email subject line, if you're directing to a specific agent."

See the Full Circle Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Response Times:

The agency only responds if interested, usually within 6-8 weeks (Link). Stats on the web appear fairly consistent with this range.

What's the Buzz?

Full Circle Literary is a well established and respected agency that prides itself on its full circle approach. They are big supporters of diversity in books and actively seek multicultural and diverse projects. Ms. von Borstel’s clients seem very happy with her representation. Her experience and sales recommend her.

Worth Your Time:


Interview with Full Circle Literary Agent, Stefanie Von Borstel at GumboWriters (11/2008).

Around the Web:

Follow the Full Circle Lit blog for client updates and news.

Check out the Info and Upcoming Appearances page on the website.

See the About Us page for conferences Ms. von Borsel will attend this year.

Full Circle Lit thread at AbsoluteWrite.

Stefanie von Borstel at P&E.

Full Circle Literary in the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents via Google Books.

Marilyn Atlas & Stefanie Von Borstel - 2012 Agents & Editors Conference video at YouTube.

Agent’s Conference Success Story from Stefanie von Borstel at Writer’s League of Texax (10/2010).

If you have a MediaBistro membership you can check out this article, "Pitching an Agent: Door Open to Innovative Authors" on Full Circle Lit.


Please see the Full Circle Literary website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 8/28/14.

Last Reviewed By Agent? N/A.


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 literature. 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.