This week's Agent Spotlight features Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency, LLC.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: “Michelle Wolfson formed Wolfson Literary Agency in 2007 and is actively seeking authors of commercial fiction in the following categories: mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, chick-lit, romance, women’s fiction, and young adult. She is drawn to well written material with strong interesting characters. She is also interested in practical and narrative non-fiction projects, particularly those of interest to women.
“Michelle holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from New York University. Prior to forming her own agency, Michelle spent two years with Artists & Artisans, Inc. and two years with Ralph Vicinanza, Ltd. Before that, she spent several years working outside of publishing, in non-profit and then finance, and she brings the skills she learned there plus a lifetime love of reading to the table as an agent.” (Link)
About the Agency:
“Wolfson Literary Agency is a small agency dedicated to providing personalized service to a select group of clients whose books I absolutely adore. If I can't say that, I don't represent you.” (Link)
What She's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Fiction: Mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, women’s fiction, romance (not category), and YA (not children’s picture books).
Non-fiction: Fun, practical advice books in any area, but particularly those that are of interest to women. Relationships, parenting, health/medical, humor, pop-culture. (Link)
From Publisher’s Marketplace:
“I handle commercial fiction and non-fiction with an emphasis on quirky, fun projects and practical titles that appeal to women. In fiction my taste is broad and covers mysteries and thrillers, women's fiction and romance, young adult, and the occasional memoir or fantasy (but not fantasy memoir, none of those please), and always commercial.” (Link)
From an Interview (05/2011):
“I tend to have very commercial taste, and fantasy is obviously very popular. However, I have never been much of a fantasy reader so I have to say that my taste in fantasy is pretty picky and very hard to describe. I think the best way to explain it is to say that I'm open to it. And when I like it, I love it. And then I'm the best champion for your work ever. Because no one will ever convince me that you weren't meant to be a bestselling author.” (Link)
From an Interview (03/2010):
“I’m looking for the same things that I’m always looking for: standout writing with characters I fall in love with. I want a book that will keep me up late at night until my husband yells at me to go to sleep. I want characters that I’m dying to have another book about, whether it’s a series or not. If I don’t feel this way about it, then it’s really not for me.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
“My personal agenting philosophy is that I only take on clients whose projects I absolutely love and then I work my butt off for them. I believe in my clients so much that I take it extremely personally when their books don’t sell. I have a relatively small list of clients and am committed to building my list slowly and I’m looking for big, quality projects. I often see queries for things that I think will probably sell, but I don’t realistically have time to devote--at least not the kind of time I like to give each client--to that many people. So I am ultra selective. And I’m sure I pass on a lot of talented people.” (Link)
“I definitely think of myself as someone who falls in love with voice first and foremost. That’s what stands out and makes me really fall in love with a book. Although I really love a story that I just can’t put down, so maybe a great plot too. Yes, definitely I’m looking for a gripping plot. You know, the kind where I want to go to sleep at night but I keep telling myself one more chapter and the next thing I know it’s 3:30 in the morning. But I finished it! Although maybe it was the characters. I guess you could say it’s the characters that get my attention. The kind of characters whose stories I don’t want to end. The kind where I’m emailing the authors at 3:31 in the morning saying there’s a sequel, right?? Please, tell me there’s a sequel! That was a clear answer to your question, right?” (Link)
She often asks for revisions before she signs a client, and I believe she is very hands on with her clients as well (as needed).
As of this posting, Ms. Wolfson is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 4 deals in the last 12 months, 4 six-figure+ deals, and 19 overall. Recent deals include 2 young adult, 1 reference, 1 sci-fi/fantasy.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“For fiction queries, please put “Query” and the title of your book in the subject of your email. For non-fiction queries, please put “Non-fiction query” and the title of your project in the subject. All queries should be typed directly into the body of the email and should include word count. Attachments will not be opened and will be automatically rejected.
“For fiction queries, please include the first 5 pages of your manuscript at the bottom of the email. Please paste them into the body of the email. I will NOT open attachments.”
See the Wolfson Literary website for complete up-to-date submission guidelines.
“I think the primary mistake writers make is forgetting that the query is supposed to catch my attention . And what's going to catch my attention? Your writing and your story. Not the fact that this is your first manuscript or your 23 rd manuscript. Not that you have no literary background or your mother really loves your writing. That stuff just gets in the way.
“I think the best queries look something like what you'd find on the back of a book in a bookstore. What's tempting you to buy that book, to want to read it? Those same things will tempt me to want to read your manuscript. Who is the main character? What is his/her conflict? What's at stake?” (Link)
Ms. Wolfson only responds to queries if interested. She doesn’t appear to have a stated response time. Stats on the web show her responding to queries within days to a week or so if interested. Her response time on requested material ranges from days to a few months.
What's the Buzz?
Michelle Wolfson is a highly respected agent with a select list of clients. She has a great agenting philosophy and her clients really seem to respect and love her. I’ve heard nothing but great things.
Follow her on Twitter @WolfsonLiterary where she’s very active (and funny) to get a peek at her personality and agenting style.
Worth Your Time:
An Interview with a Literary Agent: Michelle Wolfson at YA Fantasy Guide (05/2011).
Interview with Michelle Wolfson at The Novel Road (03/2011).
Interview with an Agent: Michelle Wolfson at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (03/2010).
Close-Up: Agent’s Point of View at B&N Community (02/2010).
Agents are Mysterious People - Interview with Agent Michelle Wolfson at Write On Target (10/2009).
Q&A with Michelle Wolfson, Super Agent at Kiersten Writes (09/2009).
In Defense of a Less than Huge Advance by Michelle Wolfson at WriteOnCon (08/2010).
Tweet Your Heart Out by Michelle Wolfson at Novelists Inc. (11/2009).
Around the Web:
The agency has a “News” page for updates on sales and clients.
Wolfson Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.
The Query that Hooked My Agent (with commentary from Ms. Wolfson) at client Tawna Fenske’s blog (09/2010).
Successful Queries: Agent Michelle Wolfson and 'Timing is Everything' at The Guide to Literary Agents blog (06/2009).
To My Agent On Her Birthday, cute post by client Kirsten White (03/2011).
Agent Appreciation Day post by client Kirsten White (12/2009).
Please see the Woflson Literary Agency website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 5/19/11.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/19/11.
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.