This week's Agent Spotlight features Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
About: “Sarah LaPolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes email submissions at [see website].” (Link)
Status: Accepting submissions, actively building her client list.
What She's Looking For:
General fiction, literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, pop culture, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, literary horror, magic realism, young adult fiction. (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)
From an Interview (06/2010):
“My favorite type of YA is for older teens, or anything that can have crossover appeal. I like urban fantasy and paranormal lit, but I’d also love to see a return of realistic fiction. Usually what hooks me in YA is a strong narrator. That’s true for my adult preferences too, but I think it’s even more important in YA to have a voice that readers can connect with.” (Link)
From an Interview (05/2010):
“I’m looking for literary fiction, young adult, urban fantasy, narrative nonfiction, and anything that can be called quirky, speculative, or magical realism.
“I would love to see some strong female protagonists, especially in YA. I also look for multi-faceted characters. I like being surprised by the people I’m reading about.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
“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)
About the Agency:
"Curtis Brown currently employs 32 people in our New York and San Francisco offices. Since its inception, the agency has handled more than 50,000 contracts. Our clients include many bestselling authors, award winners, and some of the leading minds and voices in the world. Curtis Brown boasts innovative and successful film and foreign rights departments, and is one of the few literary agencies that handle ancillary rights in-house, providing a motivated team working on our clients' behalf across all platforms. We are well positioned to take advantage of the new opportunities afforded by technological innovations, and we are aggressive in achieving the best possible terms for our clients. With the media industries constantly changing, Curtis Brown continues to evolve and excel while maintaining its commitment to the principles that have made it a key player in the publishing and entertainment world for nearly a century." (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)
“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)
“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)
As 04/11, Ms. LaPolla is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 1 deal in the last 12 months and 1 overall. Recent deals include 1 contemporary young adult.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (preferred).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“Please paste your query letter and the first five pages of your project into the the body of the email. No attachments.” (Link)
“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)
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?
Fabulous so far! Sarah LaPolla became an agent at the highly respected Curtis Brown agency around April of 2010. She’s made at least one sale in her first year as an agent and is actively building her client list.
Worth Your Time:
Interview with Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown 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 of Curtis Brown, Ltd. 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, Curtis Brown at YA Highway (04/2010).
Selected Blog Posts:
Voice, Balance, & How to Avoid Mary Sues (08/2010).
Dear Sir or Madam (06/2010).
Around the Web:
Curtis Brown, Ltd at P&E ($, Recommended).
Client Feliza-Rose David’s query that gained her representation with Ms. LaPolla.
Please see the Curtis Brown website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 4/07/11
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
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 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.