This week's Agent Spotlight features Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary Management.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: “Michelle Witte has joined MSLM. As a new literary agent, Michelle Witte brings with her a wealth of experience, not only with juvenile fiction, but with the publishing industry as a whole. Over the past seven years, she has worked in a variety of positions that encapsulate the various stages of a book’s publication, from the idea and writing stages, to editing, design and production, bookselling and publicity.
“Michelle began her career as a journalist, first reporting and then later copy editing for the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, Utah, the second largest paper in the state. From there, she transitioned with her editing skills to nonfiction publisher Gibbs Smith, where she oversaw creation, editing, and production of more than thirty titles, including children’s activity, humor, gift, cookbooks, and a smattering of other topics from blacksmithing to green living.
“In her spare time she writes on a variety of topics and genres, though her great love is young adult fiction. Her first book, The Craptastic Guide to Pseudo-Swearing was released June 2012 by Running Press. Michelle’s second book The Faker’s Guide to the Classics: Everything You Need to Know About the Books You Should Have Read (But Didn’t) will be released May 2013 by Lyons Press.
“As a literary agent, she will utilize her knowledge of publishing to benefit authors both established and new. With her background in editing, she has a keen eye for quality prose and storytelling. But it is her overall experience as a reader, writer, editor, and bookseller that guides her as she searches for enthralling new writers and manuscripts.” (Link)
About the Agency:
“Mansion Street Literary Management got its start in a cute c1839 Greek Revival house on – wait for it – Mansion Street.
“Jean Sagendorph is a twenty-year veteran of the entertainment industry whose award-winning work includes many New York Times bestsellers. She spent more than fifteen years at United Media, where she managed the firm’s publishing, interactive, film, and music interests. While at United Media, her clients included Food Network, Peanuts, Dilbert, Fancy Nancy, Raggedy Ann & Andy, Rainbow Brite, hoops & yoyo, Dirty Dancing, Iron Chef, Iron Chef America, History Channel, Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, and more.
“Jean capitalized on her expertise within the publishing and entertainment industries when she launched Mansion Street Literary Management, a boutique literary agency that seeks exciting new authors and properties to represent.” (Link w/more)
What She's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Middle grade, young adult, and children’s non-fiction. (Link)
From her Website (as of 7/2013):
“I’m interested a variety of YA & MG fiction, including:
- Contemporary realistic
- Magical realism (think Sarah Addison Allen for teens/tweens)
- Historical (esp. from lesser-known culture or time period)
- Graphic novels
- But I’m over Paranormal Romance and Dystopian
“I’m also looking for children’s nonfiction, such as:
- Narrative nonfiction
- History or biography
- Science or discovery
- Children’s cookbooks
- Activity or game books
“I’d love to find a manuscript that is:
- Narrative nonfiction for kids (Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem, for example)
- Contemporary middlegrade
- Off-beat middle grade that is smart yet fun (think Series of Unfortunate Events or Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making)
- Quirky or somewhat bizarre
- Dark and creepy
- Light and fun
- Magical realism
- Literary in tone with gorgeous prose and a good plot
- Realistic story about family relationships: between sisters, between brothers, mom & daughter, etc. (like The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante)
- Realistic story about friends (think Goonies or Stand By Me)
- Based on lesser-known cultures (Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, etc.)
- Set in the West and/or Southwest” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
“I’m not your best bet if you write:
- Paranormal romance
- Angsty books that focus on an issue (suicide, anorexia, rape) over character or plot
- Moralistic tales (trying to teach kids a lesson instead of just telling a good story)
- Anything with incest/pseudo-incest (e.g., Flowers in the Attic, Forbidden)
- Novels in verse
- Cutesy mg (especially anthropomorphic characters)
- Holiday stories (Christmas, Valentine’s, Halloween)
“While I reserve the right to contradict myself later, don’t be surprised if you get a form reject for any of these.” (Link)
As a former editor, I imagine she is editorial as needed. Otherwise unknown.
“With her background in editing, she has a keen eye for quality prose and storytelling.” (Link)
There is a current list of clients at Ms. Witte’s website. Clients include:
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Send a query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript in the body of an email. Include QUERY: [YOUR BOOK'S TITLE] in the subject line.
For nonfiction, include a brief (2–3 page) book proposal in the body of the email detailing what your book is, why you’re the person to write it, and a writing sample.
See Ms. Witte’s website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
“I need a good opening to a query, perhaps something tongue-in-cheek. I like things that are weird. The writing and the voice have to grab you.” (Link)
Plus, check out the Writer Resources Ms. Witte has on her website.
Stats on the web suggest Ms. Witte usually responds to queries within 1-3 weeks and 1-3 months to submissions.
What's the Buzz?
Michelle Witte joined Mansion Street Literary Management in April of 2012. I believe she is yet to make a sale but is new and actively building her list.
Worth Your Time:
Interview with Michelle Witte at YA Lit Class (06/2013).
The Red Sofa Chats – Michelle Witte at Red Sofa Literary – Editor Interview - (07/2011).
Around the Web:
You can find which conferences Ms. Witte is attending at her website.
There is a list of Recent Deals on the MSLM website.
Mansion Street Literary Management thread at AbsoluteWrite.
A Big Wave Hello from Heather Marie: The Writer Who Wouldn't Give Up, client story at The Secret Life of Writers (11/2012).
Secret Agent Unveiled: Michelle Witte at Miss Snark’s First Victim (see the entries that month for her comments) (10/2012).
An Agent’s Clarification on High Concept at The Write Frame of Mind (06/2012).
Agency Announcement: Michelle Witte, Client and Agent! at the MSLM blog (4/2012).
Last Updated: 7/10/13.
Last Reviewed By Agent? N/A.
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/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.