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Agent Spotlight: Sarah LaPolla

This week's Agent Spotlight features Sarah LaPolla of the Bradford Literary Agency.
Status: Accepting submissions.
Sarah-Bradford-Lit-photo About: “Sarah LaPolla joined Bradford Literary Agency in May 2013. Prior to joining forces with Laura and Natalie, Sarah worked for five years in the foreign rights department at Curtis Brown, Ltd., and became an associate agent there in 2010. She received her MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) from The New School in 2008 and has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Ithaca College.
“Sarah represents YA and adult fiction. On the adult side, she is looking for literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and upmarket commercial and/or women’s fiction. For YA, she is interested in contemporary/realistic fiction that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of adolescence. YA sci-fi, horror, mystery, and magical realism are also welcome; and she would love to find a modern Judy Blume for the MG market. No matter what genre, Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters, engaging narrators, and a story that’s impossible to put down.” (Link)
About the Agency:
“The Bradford Literary Agency is a boutique agency which offers a full range of representation services to authors who are both published and pre-published. Our mission at the Bradford Literary Agency is to form true partnerships with our clients and build long-term relationships that extend from writing the first draft through the length of the author’s career..” (Link)
Web Presence:
Bradford Literary.
Publisher’s Marketplace page.
Glass Cases (blog).
What She's Looking For:
General fiction, literary fiction, magical realism, science fiction, psychological mystery, literary horror, middle grade, young adult fiction.  (Link)
From Her Website Bio (as above):
“Sarah represents YA and adult fiction. On the adult side, she is looking for literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and upmarket commercial and/or women’s fiction. For YA, she is interested in contemporary/realistic fiction that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of adolescence. YA sci-fi, horror, mystery, and magical realism are also welcome; and she would love to find a modern Judy Blume for the MG market. No matter what genre, Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters, engaging narrators, and a story that’s impossible to put down.” (Link)
From an Interview (08/2014):
“Adult science fiction in the tradition of Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick - not a space opera or action/adventure story.
“Literary fiction (adult or YA) that has a strong plot as well as high quality writing.
“YA horror/super dark mystery - psychological plot twists are a huge bonus!” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2013):
“1) Great characters. A good character has a life outside of whatever book they’re in, and I want to be able to think about them after the story ends.
“2) Something that surprises me. [Note: Not shock value!] I want a book that surprises me in some way, whether it’s through the style of the writing, the type of character I’m following, or an element of the plot I didn’t see coming.” (Link)
From an Interview (04/2011):
“I really want to see more horror, dark mystery, and fairytales (fractured or otherwise) for YA. Dark mysteries for adult would be great too. Also, adult dystopian, as long as it’s original in execution.” (Link)
Related to the above:
“I want horror too. Like HOLY-CRAP-SCARY horror. No more demons/ghosts w/ hearts of gold. They should want to kill the MC.” (Link)
“I've always been a huge fan of fairytales, the more fractured the better. They are strange and fantastic and wonderful, and the real, folklore kind are dark.” (Link)
From an Interview (01/2011):
“I do still like witches, aliens, ghosts, and (if you follow me on Twitter, you know this) centaurs! (Seriously, it doesn’t have to be the main character; just plop one in your next fantasy submission.) Of course, you need a solid plot to back up these characters, no matter what.”
“I get a lot of queries for ‘magical realism,’ but they always turn out to be fantasy. So, I wish I got more magical realism. I’d also like to see more horror and mystery, both on the literary side, for YA and adult. A great YA or MG ghost story that’s scary instead of romantic would be fabulous.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
“Non-fiction, picture books/children’s, inspirational/spiritual novels, romance, or erotica.” (Link)
“Vampires! Werewolves! Angels! Zombies! No more please. Some creatures are still OK, but I need an indefinite break from those others.” (Link)
“On the ‘less of’ side, I am still getting vampire queries, so that makes me cringe. Anything with ‘creatures of the night’ I stay away from. I also steer clear of anything labeled ‘women’s fiction,’ which for some reason I get a lot of. Anything written with the intention of excluding half your audience not only makes little sense, but usually ends up being rife with gender stereotypes.” (Link)
“I’d like to add gods and other forms of shapeshifters to the list of non-humans I don’t want to see anymore too. I just have no interest.” (Link)
“I send instant form rejections to picture book, chapter book, self-help, general nonfiction, and traditional romance queries. I will never have an interest in those genres.” (Link)
“Do your research. There are a million blogs, guides, and websites devoted to how to query and who to query. Choose an agent who represents your genre. The other key thing to remember is to not get discouraged. Rejection is a huge part of publishing. It's practically a rite of passage. Embrace it, move on, and keep looking for someone who loves your project as much as it should be loved!” (Link)
“Maybe it’s my background in being around aspiring writers, but I love supporting debut authors. I think the most satisfying part of my job is being able to tell a writer that someone is going to publish her book. This is exciting for any author, but everything is so fresh and new for debut authors. It makes it more special that way. Plus, debut writers have the advantage of offering a fresh voice. People get excited to hear something new.” (Link)
Editorial Agent?
“I’d want a writer whose work I am in love with and who will be in it for the long hull. I also like to be a part of the editorial process, so it’s important for me to have mutual trust and respect in our relationship. So far, I’ve been lucky.” (Link)
Dislikes (Don’ts):
“Improper grammar and misspelled words are huge pet peeves. Seeing mistakes like that make me question the person’s ability as a writer.” (Link)
“It bothers me when it is very clear the writer has done no research whatsoever before querying me. Another pet peeve is when authors compare their books, whether for better or worse, to other popular novels. I’ve been getting a lot of Twilight-meets-blank lately and then realize that the only thing remotely close to Twilight in the book is that a vampire shows up. I want writers to be able to describe their work without relying on anything else other than their own story.” (Link)
“Cliched phrases! I've also been noticing the word ‘ravenous’ a lot in fiction lately, so I'm adding that to my ‘cliched words’ list. I'm also tired of lame female characters, especially in YA. I don't want to see any more female protagonists who don't really come alive until some boy - be it a vampire, werewolf, zombie, or human - enters her life andthensuddenlyeverythingchanges! It's upsetting, and insulting, and needs to end.” (Link)
Feliza-Rose David, Christa Desir, Nathan Graziano, Pam Harris, AJ Larrieu, Jennifer Mathieu, Cory Putman Oakes, Stephanie Scott, Shana Silver, Jessica Taylor, Kaitlin Ward, among others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (only).
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail a query letter with the first chapter of your manuscript and a synopsis in the body of the e-mail. Include genre and word count.   
Put QUERY in the subject line followed by the title of the manuscript and any short message needed. No attachments unless requested.
Please see the Bradford Literary Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Query Tips:
“Be succinct and get to the point. Before I even read a query, if I see it is only two or three paragraphs, I am already relieved. And if the first paragraph is a three to five sentence plot overview, even better. All I do is search for that anyway, so you might as well put it up front.” (Link)
“Honestly, I gloss over a synopsis. It is never a deciding factor for me. If I’m hooked by the query, I’ll go straight to the sample pages and decide whether to request the manuscript from there.” (Link)
“Query Tip: Try not to refer to people w/ more commercial taste as ‘low class readers.’ It does not sound the way you think it sounds.” (Link)
“The only time I delete something without reading it is if the query letter is sent as an attachment. Everything else, I send at least a form rejection." (Link)
Response Times:
The agency’s approximate response time for queries is 2-4 weeks. If you have not received a response within 1 month, resend your query and note you’re resending.
Ms. LaPolla’s response time on queries seems to range from minutes to a week or two.  Requested material usually gets a response within days to a couple months.
What's the Buzz?
Sarah LaPolla joined Bradford Literary in 2013 after five years with Curtis Brown. She maintains a small list of authors who appear happy with her representation. See her recent deals here.
I recommend following Ms. LaPolla on Twitter @SarahLaPolla and subscribing to her blog, Glass Cases.
Worth Your Time:
Query Questions with Sarah LaPolla at Michelle4Laughs (08/2014).
Meet Sarah LaPolla, associate agent from the Bradford Literary Agency! at All the Write Stuff (03/2014).

Query, Sign, Submit with Sarah LaPolla at Write For Apples (06/2013).
Agent Sarah LaPolla returns to MWW at Midewest Writers Workshop (06/2013).
7 Questions For: Literary Agent Sarah LaPolla at Middle Grade Ninja (03/2013).
First Five Frenzy with Sarah LaPolla at Chasing the Crazies (03/2013).
Interview with Literary Agent Sarah LaPolla at Stacey O’Neale’s site (01/2013).
Interview: Sarah LaPolla, Literary Agent at The Madeleine Project (01/2013).
Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Sarah LaPolla! at Fizzygirl (01/2013).
LitChat Interview: Sarah LaPolla at LitStack (08/2012).
YA/MG Agent Series: Sarah LaPolla at Michelle Kyr’s blog (04/2012).
Tales from the Slush Pile with Agent Sarah LaPolla at MWG Conference Notes (03/2012).
Interview with Sarah LaPolla at Janet Sumner Johnson’s blog (04/2011).
Agent Interview: Sarah LaPolla at Y(A)? Cuz We Write (01/2011).
20 Questions Answered by Sarah LaPolla at WOW (02/2011).
Agent Pitch Contest (includes a mini interview with Ms. LaPolla) at Market My Words (09/2010).
Agent Advice Interview with Sarah LaPolla at Guide To Literary Agents (08/2010).
Interview with Literary Agent Sarah LaPolla at Blame It On the Muse (06/2010).
Agent Interview: Sarah LaPolla at Ramblings of a Drifting Mind (06/2010).
Interview with an Agent: Sarah LaPolla at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (05/2010).
Publishing Interviews: Sarah LaPolla at YA Highway (04/2010).
Selected Blog Posts:
2013: A Year in Queries (12/2013).
Any Questions? (08/2013).

Around the Web:
Bradford Literary Agency at P&E ($).  
Laura Bradford Literary Agency thread at AbsoluteWrite.
Keep an eye on the News page of the Bradford Lit website for client news, new releases, and recent deals.

Sarah LaPolla’s Tweets at MS Wishlist.
Guest Post: Sarah LaPolla on Finding Her Voice as an Agent at Cynsations (08/2013).
Agent Sarah LaPolla – Bradford Literary at Writing and Illustrating (08/2013).
Dear Teen Me, from Literary Agent Sarah LaPolla (06/2011).
Client Feliza-Rose David’s query that gained her representation with Ms. LaPolla.
Please see the Bradford Literary Agency website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 9/23/14.
Last Reviewed By Agent?  4/07/11
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 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.


  1. You people are so cool. Like rock stars.

  2. Yay! So glad that you spotlighted Sarah. She's truly awesome, and her editorial feedback is just incredible. Good luck to everyone who's thinking about querying her. :)

  3. Great spotlight. I've heard such great things about Sarah and you've found out so much about what she likes and dislikes. I'm definitely adding her to my list. Thanks!

  4. This is extremely helpful. Thank you.

  5. Yay new spotlights! Thanks for all your hard work.

  6. Her take on horror is funny!

  7. I am beyond impressed with the thoroughness of your post. Thank you!

  8. Sarah = Awesome

    That pretty much sums her up. But I forgot about brilliant, funny and incredibly hard working.

    She is THE BEST. I am so happy you spotlighted her, Casey!

  9. Chiming in here to say that Sarah really is the best agent out there! She gives great editorial feedback, she's very supportive and communicative, and she loves Buffy. Which means she has excellent taste.

  10. You just got back and already you're hard at work. Thanks, Casey!

  11. Thanks so much for the info. She passed on my last manuscript. I think she'll like my next one, but I have to finish the last few chapters, edit, get critiqued, and edit some more. It's not going to be anytime soon!

  12. Great interview! I love how you guys tell us all we need to know. Sarah sounds wonderful, but I know she's not for me because she doesn't rep what I write....I'm so glad you guys are here for us.

    Have a great weekend! I can't wait to read your interivew of Judith next week!

  13. Super in-depth review! Ms. LaPolla seems like a great agent. You do such a good job with these agent features.

  14. Hi ladies! I'm pretty sure Sarah is with Bradford Lit these days. :)

    1. Thank you, Jade. I'll try to get her profile updated soon!.