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Carrie Pestritto & Author E.M. Castellan Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/4/2020

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

Agent Spotlight: Stephen Barr

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stephen Barr of Writers House, LLC.
Status: Open to submissions.
Stephen Barr About: Stephen Barr is a literary agent at Writers House. Here's what he says that he is interested in: “I'm a pretty omnivorous agent. At the moment, I've got a particular hankering for...
- intricate, heart-on-its-sleeve, voice-abundant YA like King Dork or The Highest Tide (bonus points for unrequited love stories!)
- audacious, experimental YA mysteries or fantasies that handcuff humor and tragedy to the same radiator
- middle grade that takes on heavy themes with a light, optimistic, eccentric touch
- sweet and/or silly and/or heartbreaking picture books from adventurous author/illustrators
- unexpected memoirs with itchy voices
- narrative non-fiction that tackles hard-to-tackle issues
- and any fiction that rewards the reader line-by-line and gets to know at least one character really, really well (recent favorites include Fourth of July Creek, & Sons, Jeff In Venice, The Lazarus Project, Diary of a Bad Year, Horns, and Skippy Dies).
I'm also willing to be a sucker for...
- detective stories that bend reality
- ghost stories that blow reality to hell 
- Secret Book X (I don't know what Secret Book X is, but suffice it to say, I'm open to the occasional curveball).” (Link)
About the Agency:
"Writers House was founded in 1973 with a vision for a new kind of literary agency, one that would combine a passion for managing a writer's career with an integrated understanding of how storytelling works. With this two-pronged philosophy, Writers House has played a critical role in developing the careers of hundreds of novelists and non-fiction authors. We believe in offering our clients not only our expertise in negotiating contracts, but in contributing to all phases of the editorial and publishing processes. Our goal is to maximize the value of our clients' work by providing hands-on editorial and marketing advice, as well as leading the way in branding, licensing, and selling film/TV, foreign, audio, dramatic and serial rights." (Link)
"Al Zuckerman, a former novelist, TV writer, and teacher of playwriting at Yale, is the founder of Writers House. One of the largest literary agencies in the world, Writers House provides an extraordinary amount of individual client attention combined with the benefits of full service foreign rights, subsidiary rights, and contracts departments. We house an accounting department equipped to provide forensic royalty and financial analysis, as well as a digital department focusing on the ever changing technological landscape of contemporary publishing. Home to more than a dozen senior agents and several rising junior agents, we work individually as well as collectively and take full advantage of the unparalleled depth of experience we embody. Some of our agents started here as assistants, while others have joined us from other parts of the business, bringing editorial, bookselling, writing, and legal experience. We also pride ourselves on the stability of our firm. Many of our agents have been here together for more than 20 years, as have many of our clients. Writers House is a name which reflects our vision for our authors and ourselves. Our goals are long term, and the environment we strive to create is one that invites authors and agents to stay with us for the duration of their careers." (Link)
Web Presence:
Writers House website.
Publisher’s Marketplace page.
What He's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Literary fiction, Memoir, Narrative non-fiction, Middle grade, Picture books, Young adult, Graphic novels, Humor, Pop-culture, Food stuff, Weird stuff. (Link)
See His Bio (above)
From Theresa Rizzo’s Interview at Five Scribes (02/2011):
“I’m trying not to be sick to death of anything just yet (it sounds like an awful condition!), but I will say that I’m much more interested in personal demons than ACTUAL demons, who seem to be littering the pages of young adult literature (and a fair amount of adult suspense) like confetti. Personally, I find paranormal touches to be more effective when the reader’s not exactly sure that whatever’s going on is, in fact, paranormal…when there’s an ambiguity that touches upon our everyday fears, as opposed to the much rarer fears of, let’s say, fire-breathing angels, or who knows what. I like being scared, but I prefer to be scared of what’s real.” (Link)
What He Isn't Looking For:
Screenplays, poetry.
“If there’s an engaging voice, sharp writing, an interesting plot, and at least one character I give two shakes about, then I’m willing to work hours on end to fix just about any other problem, whether it be a fuzzy ending, a wonky structure, or even a parade of iffy scenes.” (Qtd. from Theresa Rizzo’s interview at Five Scribes)
Editorial Agent?
John Corey Whaley, Maggie Thrash, Christopher Silas Neal, Brooke Shields.
As of this posting, Mr. Barr is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 8 deals in the last 12 months, including 1 six-figure+ deal, and 52 deals overall.  Recent deals include 2 YA, 4 picture books, and 1 graphic novel. (3/2017) 
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (Faster Response).
Snail-Mail: Yes.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“You can send me a query letter by post or by e-mail (odds are I'll respond to the digital ones sooner, though), so just make sure to include the first five or ten pages of your manuscript (and a self addressed stamped envelope if it's snail mail), then fire away! I promise to fire back, hopefully within a week's time.”
Do not query more than one agent at Writers House at a time. For complete, up-to-date submission guidelines see Mr. Barr’s Publisher’s Marketplace page and the agency website.
Response Times:
Mr. Barr has a stated response time of one week on his PM page. Stats on the web show he does usually respond within hours to a week or so.  Response times on requested material range from days to a couple months.
What's the Buzz?
Stephen Barr has been with Writers House since 2008.  After a brief internship, he became assistant to Dan Conaway and Dan Lazar.  In 2010 he began signing his own clients.  He considers himself “freakishly ambitious” and is finding (creating?) success accordingly. Given that he’s actively building his list and has rather fast response times, he seems like the ideal Writers House agent to target first.  Good luck!

I recommend that you follow Stephen Barr on Twitter @yikeslouise for the latest.

Worth Your Time:
Interview with Writers House Agent Stephen Barr at Five Scribes (02/2011).
Interview with Literary Agent Stephen Barr at Amy Newman (4/2014).
7 Questions for Literary Agent Stephen Barr at Middle Grade Ninja (7/2013).
Around the Web:
Writers House thread on AbsoluteWrite.
Agent Stephen Barr on Thrillers and Suspense at Five Scribes (05/2011).
A Book Worm Finds His True Calling, article at The New York Times (01/2011).
How to Make a Book Trailer on a Shoestring Budget, article about a book trailer Stephen Barr created for an agency client at GalleyCat (10/2010).
Please see Mr. Barr’s Publisher’s Marketplace page and the Writers House website for further contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 3/15/2017.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 3/16/2017.
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.


  1. OH, have I got a humours book for him!!!!

  2. Another great Spotlight. Thanks, Casey!

  3. Writer's House is sort of like the Holy Grail.

  4. These spotlights are so thorough. Thank you. And seeing the MG in 'what he/she is looking for' makes me smile.

  5. I've been trying to get with Writer's House for three years. My first novel was an no... Maybe my second? It's worth a try .... right?

    Thanks Casey.

  6. Thanks for this spotlight, Casey. Mr Barr sound like an amazing agent!

  7. These spotlights are awesome. And I wholheartedly agree with his thing about personal demons. In fact, I even think I blogged about it (check it out!)

  8. Great spotlight Casey! And he likes middle grade too. Thanks.

  9. he sounds perfect for my picture books. I'm not sure he'd like my mid grade or adult novels.
    Thank you so much for the information.

  10. I think Writers House is everyone's dream agency.

    Thanks for the round up. Great job as always. So that's what Stephen looks like. He kind of reminds me of someone I knew in high school.

  11. Thanks so much, everyone. Best to all who query! Let me know if you get good news. : )

  12. Too bad he doesn't take much paranormal.

  13. Wow, he really does represent a variety of stuff!

  14. Thank you for doing the spotlight! I've never seen such an in depth, concise review of an agent, let alone one from Writers House. I'll keep him in mind when I query.