FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey at least temporarily. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky commenter will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.
Status: Open to submissions.
Hi Patricia! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.
I've been an agent with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency since 2014, after starting there as an assistant. Prior to joining MLLA, I held internships with the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and Running Press Kids, and also spent several years teaching writing and literature at the college level. As for what I’ve been doing, I’m excited that in 2015, my first full year as an agent, I sold nine books -- and watching those stories begin to make their way through the publication process has been more rewarding than I could have even imagined. I say it often, and it’s true: this is the best job out there!
About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.
Marsal Lyon Literary Agency was founded in 2009; our founders collectively have over four decades of experience in the publishing industry. The agency represents multiple award-winning and New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling authors. We are regularly ranked in the top five dealmakers for fiction on Publisher’s Marketplace.
Our goal is to help find homes for books that engage, entertain, and make a difference. From conception, through a collaborative and engaged editorial process, to finding a publisher and beyond, we partner with our authors to ensure success in finding the right publisher and long term success on the market. We want to work with authors not just for a book but for a career — we are dedicated to building long-term relationships with our authors and publishing partners.
What She’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?
On the children’s side, I represent MG & YA. I also represent adult contemporary and historical romance, women’s fiction, and select adult literary fiction. For middle grade, I love heartfelt stories with pitch-perfect voice – and a touch of humor never hurt, although I don’t tend to go for slapstick or gross-out humor. My tastes here tend to skew toward contemporary, magical realism, fantasy and sci-fi. On the young adult side, I’m looking mostly for originality, in any genre: stand-out voices, beautiful writing, and stories I haven’t seen before. I tend to gravitate toward the quirky, strange and/or offbeat, especially in YA.
4. Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?
I would love to see more magical realism and more diverse characters (especially in what are now being called #ownvoices books). I tend to adore innovative narrative structures when the author successfully pulls them off. I’m always looking for LGBTQ YA and MG. And I keep asking for YA or MG featuring a girl who codes, but haven’t found the perfect one for my list yet!
Beyond that, you can keep an eye on my #MSWL tweets for specific, up-to-date wishlist items, but more than anything else, I want to find books that I fall in love with and can’t imagine not working on. More often than not, these are the books that I wouldn’t have even known to ask for – weird and wonderful voices and stories that surprise me.
What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?
Right now I’m still having a tough time with YA paranormal romance, dystopian, and urban fantasy, so anything in these genres would have to be very special for me to take it on. I love YA fantasy, but I’m feeling a little overloaded on assassins and medieval-inspired worlds right now – I’m finding myself drawn mostly to YA fantasy where the characters and world-building feels very different from what’s already out there.
As mentioned above, middle-grade gross-out humor doesn’t tend to be to my taste; I also probably would not be the best agent for Rick Riordan-style MG adventure.
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?
One of the best things about this job is getting to work with people I believe in and who are just generally excellent human beings. I’m looking for authors who in addition to being talented are professional, hard-working, kind, collaborative, and dedicated to learning and growing their craft.
In terms of what kinds of books I want to represent, that’s simple: books I love and that I can’t imagine not representing. Falling love with an author’s voice on the page really does feel like falling in love: my pulse starts racing, I get excited/nervous/excited, I want to shout about this wonderful thing I’ve found to everyone who’ll listen, I start planning for the future – I think every author deserves an agent who had that kind of enthusiasm for their work.
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?
Yes, I think that in the very competitive current market it’s crucial to send out a book in the strongest possible form to give it the best shot of getting published. I’m very hands-on with my clients as we prepare a book for submission, and work with authors on everything from big-picture notes on character arcs and plot logistics to more detailed comments on the level of individual lines.
Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?
I only require a query letter, but I’m happy to see the first 10 pages pasted below the query letter in the body of the email if you would like to include them.
9. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?
Like many agents, I consider it a red flag when authors compare their novels to children’s classics (A WRINKLE IN TIME and THE GIVER are great, but we’re in a very different market now) or mega-bestsellers like HARRY POTTER (this level of success is an outlier, and if an author is expecting that, I assume they have unrealistic expectations and will be disappointed when they learn the realities of the market). It’s also best to avoid mentioning that you think your book would make a great movie – first I hope you want it be a great book!
Also, the redundant term “fiction novel” drives me completely bananas.
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
I try to reply to queries within 1-2 weeks and requested materials within 2-3 months, although occasionally it does take me a bit longer.
Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
Yes, previously published authors are welcome, but please only query me with never-before-published projects. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for an agent to sell a previously self-published novel unless the sales are astronomical. If you’ve already hit the self-publish button and then decide you want to pursue a traditional path, the best path is to write the next book and then query agents with that new project.
12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
As time goes on, agents are becoming more and more like career managers, helping authors think not just about a single book but about branding and career arc as a whole. Hybrid authors often appreciate the long-term strategic planning that an agent can bring to their work.
For authors who are interested exclusively in self-publishing or publishing with small presses, I think an agent isn’t always as necessary. Most agents are still best suited to help authors who are interested in seriously pursuing traditional publication in some form, even if its one of many avenues.
13. Who are some of the authors you represent?
Interviews and Guest Posts:
14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.
15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.
Please send a query letter to patricia[at]marsallyonliteraryagency[dot]com. Feel free to include the first 10 pages of the novel pasted in the body of the email. No attachments please.
For more information, our agency website is at: marsallyonliteraryagency.com. I’m also active on twitter at @patricianels, where I tweet frequently about what I’m reading, what my clients are writing, and anything else I’m excited about.
16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?
Know the market. Connect to a writing community. Read craft books (I frequently recommend SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder!) and keep improving. Revise until you can’t imagine revising anymore, then revise again. Find critique partners you trust and learn from them. Keep going: if 10 agents reject your book, send it to 10 more; if 100 agents reject your book, write another book. Published authors are the aspiring writers who didn’t give up.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Patricia.
Patricia is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through March 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.
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Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.