This week's Agent Spotlight features Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: “I come to TBA from Children's Book Marketing, where I worked for over 15 years, most recently as the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and previous to that as the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. I was lucky to be involved in many different books during that time ranging from Eric Carle's Baby Bear, Baby Bear to Betsy Partridge's This Land Was Made for You and Me, to Nancy Werlin's Black Mirror, as well as the work of Mary E Pearson, Richard Peck and Joan Bauer.
“While at Penguin, I also worked for a time in Dutton Editorial, acquiring projects for that list. My favorite part of that time was being able to read new submissions -- finding something wonderful and imagining where it can go was thrilling to me then and remains so now.” (Link)
What She's Looking For:
Children’s picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult, fiction and non-fiction.
From the Website (as of 5/2012):
“In middle-grade and YA, I’m looking for something that makes me laugh out loud, I’m a sucker for bittersweet, and I can’t resist a character that comes to understand how perfectly imperfect the world is. I want a book to stay with me long after I finish reading, and I’m looking for powerful, original writing. I’m open to mystery, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre). My favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. In non-fiction I’m looking for books that relate to kid’s daily lives and their concerns with the world. In picture books, I’m looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and characters as indelible as my childhood favorites Ferdinand, Madeline, George and Martha.” (Link)
From a Blog Post (03/2012):
“I long for a gorgeous, literary novel for middle grade or YA. In the past couple of years a few books stick with me: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, Chime by Franny Billingsley, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (though this is an older title, I read it recently and fell deeply in love). One thread of commonality between these books is that though they are all wonderfully written, none of them are short on plot: Things happen. There are mysteries to solve. No one’s sitting around luxuriating in doing nothing except come up with some fabulous prose. So, I’m looking for a stop-me-in-my-tracks-beautiful, character driven novel that doesn’t stint on plot.
“I’ve always loved rich, atmospheric historicals that feel immediate. Here’s a short list of some time periods/places I’m interested in: World War I, Jazz Age, Berlin between the wars, India under British Colonial rule, Japan and/or China in the first half of the twentieth century, Sydney’s first 50 years, Venice, Henry VIII and the Elizabethan period, Spain during the same time. I’m interested in the moments, and places, where cultures and values have collided and change is happening fast, around people who may or may not want to be caught up in this change. I’m a sucker too for the romanticism of some historical fiction, and can be swept up into the dresses, the balls, and definitely intrigue.
“In YA, I do see quite a bit of snarky humor, especially coming from a teen girls’ point of view. In MG, there are plenty of goofy boys, and girls who are quirky originals. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but I think it’s harder to be original with these sorts of characters, since there are many of them out there. I’d love to see something, that’s witty, or sly. Also, I love word play.
“Mystery is always top of my wants list. Many mysteries I see involve a magical element, or a teen that has special powers of some sort. I’d love something that is less fantastical, and more grounded; perhaps about a teen who works with a PI, breaking her own cases?
“I’ve always been a fan of scifi and I’d love to see a real space adventure; think Battlestar Gallactica, which I loved (I do see lots of dystopian, which I’m not as keen on right now).
“Much of the contemporary that I see has a romantic element (not that I object to romance); I’d love something that’s about the other parts of a teen’s life; perhaps friendships, which can be so hard to navigate at this time too. And I’m always a sucker for a good heart-wrenching mother-daughter story.” (Link)
From an Interview on Picture Books (02/2012):
“I am especially looking for a wonderful character, someone who is going to jump off the pages and into kids’ hearts.
“I’d love to do some non-fiction picture books – biography, history, science – particularly when the story revolves around a particular person; in essence, is still a character-driven story.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Poetry, sports, textbooks/academic books, reference, books for the adult market. (Link)
“I am not especially drawn to board books, rhyming texts, message driven or purely educational texts.” (Link)
“My ideal client is a talented and imaginative writer, who is willing to go deep into their story and characters. Ability to laugh at life makes you good to work with, and makes for good writing too. I also appreciate someone who understands that publishing is a business, and has done their homework.” (Link)
“I'm fairly editorial, but it depends on what each project needs.” (Link)
There is a list of agency clients on the website.
As of this posting, Ms. Hawk does not appear to be a member of Publisher’s Marketplace.
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“If you know you are a great writer with a story to tell, we hope you will be in touch. Tell us briefly who you are, what your book is, and why you're the one to write it. Then include the first ten pages of your material in the body of your e-mail.
“If you're submitting a picture book, please include the complete text. For illustrations, please also include a link to your website if available, or 2-3 pdfs or jpegs of your work.”
“Really, for me, it comes down to the strength of the writing. I’m less concerned with the query itself, than I am with the sample pages that the author attaches, so be sure to include your first ten pages.
“To avoid pitfalls, it’s best to look closely at an agent’s submission info, which should always be available online--if you make sure to follow the instructions there, you’re in good shape.” (Link)
The agency has a goal of responding to all queries within a month. If you do not receive a response within this time, resend your query and indicate you are resending.
Stats on the web show Ms. Hawk responding to most queries within hours to a month. Requested material ranges from days to a few months.
What's the Buzz?
Susan Hawk has been an agent a little over two years now. She has a small, selective list of clients who seem happy with her representation. I’m not aware of any sales at this time, but she’s still relatively new. TBA is a successful agency with many New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors
Worth Your Time:
An Interview with Agent Susan Hawk at YA Highway (04/2012).
Agent Susan Hawk Talks Picture Books at Frolicking Through Cyberspace (02/2012).
7 Questions For: Literary Agent Susan Hawk at Middle Grade Ninja (04/2011).
Interactive Interview with an Agent: Susan Hawk at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (10/2010).
Interview with Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency at Market My Words (10/2010).
Meet Literary Agent Susan Hawk! at YARWA (09/2010).
Selected Blog Posts:
A Wish List (03/2012).
A Word from Susan Hawk at Bent on Books (02/2010).
Around the Web:
See the sidebar on her blog, Susan Says, for conferences she’ll be attending.
Editor Navah Wolfe and Agent Susan Hawk, first page session notes at Writing and Illustrating (04/2010).
Please see The Bent Agency website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 5/3/12.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/15/12.
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 and/or teen 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.