Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Sarah Stephens Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveawawy on 10/10/2022
  • Eve Adler Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/17/2022
  • Adria Goetz Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 11/14/2022
  • Kelly Dyksterhouse Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/12/2022
  • Savannah Brooks Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/19/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH ALYSSA JENNETTE and QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Alyssa Jennette here. She is a literary agent at Stonesong Literary Agency.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky person will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi Alyssa! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks for having me! 😊

About Alyssa:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.


My path to agenthood was not direct, although I’ve been lucky to either naturally possess or come to develop some of the necessary skills through school and internships. My degree is in Illustration, so I’ve always had an interest in narrative expression, and I’ve always been a natural editor. After college, a close friend trusted me to read two of his manuscripts and offer feedback; once I had, he told me that the literary agents he’d approached had offered him identical feedback, so why don’t I consider being an agent?

So, I emailed a bunch of agencies, lined up some interviews for internships, and ended up working with the lovely Jessica Sinsheimer (creator of Manuscript WishList) at Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. I interned there for a year before interviewing with and accepting a job at Stonesong in 2015—it’s about to be my two-year anniversary here, although I’ve only actively been agenting for a year.

Since I came to agenting relatively late, and had a surprisingly quick track compared to the more traditional route, I’m still building my list and forming relationships with editors.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Stonesong has been around for over thirty years—it started as primarily a book packager, and about fifteen years ago the agency arm of the business took the lead. It’s female-owned with an all-female team, which has been a real joy to be a part of. There’s a real feeling of collaboration and support in the office, and I know that if I need to bounce an idea off of my coworkers, or to ask for help or input, I have a ton of willing ears ready to help out. That means that all of our authors have access the same pool of knowledge: at the end of the day, a Stonesong author has a team of people working to help them succeed, not just one.

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?

My list is pretty broad when it comes to age groups: I represent picture books, middle grade (my sweet spot), and some YA and adult. My taste across the board tends to run more literary, but I love to laugh—no matter what the “mood” of your writing is, I want to see cleverness. I want to be enchanted and outsmarted.

4. Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I have been saying over and over again for months that I want a YA noir in the vein of Brick, Veronica Mars, and now Riverdale. Please, please, please, give it to me. Make it beautifully and intricately plotted, play with the traditional noir tropes, surprise your readers.

I would also love a romantic/coming-of-age plot that revolves around a Craigslist Missed Connection. I’m obsessed with Missed Connections and I read them for fun.

I’d also love an epistolary novel (text, emails, chats) about the decline of a best-friendship—think of it like a future anthropologist might if they came across some old hard drive and had to piece together the plot of some digital social media history.

That’s a lot of YA requests, so let’s talk about MG: I think MG has a unique opportunity for sophistication and complexity that other age groups don’t necessarily get. My favorite thing about middle grade is the opportunity to explore—in some readers’ cases, for the first time—the complexities of relationships, the realities of the world. This makes contemporary MG a natural fit, but I adore magic, witches, and mystery, too.

Across the board, I love cleverness. Give me some wordplay, some smart subversion of the world and society we know.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I’m not your girl for traditional high fantasy or sci-fi, or for most historical novels. Also, I love romance as part and parcel of a novel, but I want to make sure there’s more going on in the narrative than pure “will-they-won’t-they.”

I’m very wary of books that Capitalize Nouns and Concepts to make them Important and Significant. Your word choice is important, and so are your naming conventions—don’t settle!

Agent Philosophy:

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?

As an agent, my priority is to advocate for you. That means I need my clients to trust me and listen to me. Before I sign a client, I make it clear to them that I’m a pretty direct and determined person; if they have a hard time with hearing occasionally blunt—but helpful!—feedback, we may not be the right fit. I’m a collaborator, and I want to work with the author as closely and symbiotically as possible, so I need the author to work with me, too. I can’t work with someone who will constantly be pushing back and won’t hear my input.

I want to represent books and authors who are telling the truth in a way that makes me look twice. I want to represent authors who make that excitement well up in me when I read about their characters. I need that excitement in order to move forward with an offer. I will pretty much never dogpile on an author just because a lot of other agents are interested—if I don’t feel that spark, I won’t pursue it.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I am definitely an editorial agent, but I can’t be the first person who sees an author’s manuscript. It is not my job to edit your work from scratch, and the manuscript needs to be polished before it reaches my inbox—that remains true whether you’re querying for the first time or you’re my client and this is our third book together. Once I receive a manuscript from a client I represent, I will read it and line edit as I go, plus make broader observations and suggestions for developmental edits. Once I return the manuscript to the author, they’ll address my edits and I’ll read it again. This usually takes about six months from start to finish (naturally this is a shorter process for picture books). Throughout this process I’ll be doing research here and there about which editor could be a good fit for the project, but I won’t hunker down and finalize the list until the manuscript is totally complete.

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?

Authors should query Stonesong’s submission email and put my name in the subject line along with the word QUERY and the title of their book. As far as the query letter itself, I want to get not only a sense of the plot—the protagonist/s, the stakes, the basic facts—but a sense of the mood and style of the book, too. And, of course, I love to hear a little bit about the authors personally. Just try to keep your letter relatively brief—one page absolute max.

9. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

“I’m writing in the hopes that you will consider representing my novel…” Yes, of course you are. Just dive right in with your query, whether you’re telling me the title and genre or opening immediately with the plot itself.

Your first ten pages should tell me a good chunk about what’s to come: who we care about and why, where/when we are, what the characters’ goals are, what obstacles they may come up against, basic relationship dynamics between the characters. Certainly the voice should be well-established, too.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

Typically I’ll process a query within eight weeks—the policy at Stonesong is if you don’t hear back after twelve weeks, it’s a no. If I request a full manuscript, I try to keep to the same timeline—about eight to ten weeks to read and respond. If I take longer than ten weeks, I’m perfectly fine with an author nudging me to see where I am with the manuscript. Naturally, manuscripts that get an offer elsewhere will typically jump to the front of the line.

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?

I’m open to it, but generally speaking, it turns me off. A pre-published book basically has to be irresistible to me in order for me to take it on.

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?

At the end of the day, agents will always be the author’s advocate. I expect we’ll just be required to learn how to negotiate contracts that include an ever-expanding list of potential new media and new technology rights.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

13. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

https://www.bookhivecorp.com/blog/entry/interview-with-bookhiver-tallie-gabriel-s-literary-agent-alyssa-jennette-of-stonesong
http://www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/2017/02/agent-interview-alyssa-jennette-of.html#.WOgiSrvyvfY

Links and Contact Info:

14. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Please submit your query and first ten pages to submissions@stonesong.com; put QUERY in the subject line and address your query specifically to me.

Additional Advice:

15. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

-Don’t write for trends; by the time you identify a trend and start writing for it, it’s probably over. Tell the story only you can tell.

-When a character does something, ask yourself why until every single hole is closed up. All your whys should be airtight.

-Don’t rush it. Unless you have a deadline—then do everything you can to be on time. If you can’t be on time, communicate this ASAP!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alyssa.

Alyssa 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 June 10th. 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.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

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.

71 comments:

Beth Gallagher said...

What a great interview! Thanks for all the information and inspiration. I'd love to win your generous offer of query critique! :) semayawi.toadcottage@gmail.com

DMS said...

Interesting hearing from Alyssa. I always enjoy hearing from agents and getting a look at a different angle of the publishing world. Thanks for sharing!
~Jess

Unknown said...

Great info! I'd love to win the critique! I have a middle grade mystery written in diary format with a witch. Maggieviles@gmail.com

Lori Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori Ann said...

An agent with a degree in illustration?! Intrigued indeed and tweeting about this for the greater good :)

Bethany13 said...

great interview! hope i get a critique! :)

bethany.hensel@gmail.com

Jennifer Hawes said...

Awesome interview! Middle grade is my sweet spot too:)
jlhawes96@yahoo.com

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I appreciate the slow down and take your time advice. I often feel guilty that I can't write as fast as many of my writer friends, but my fast is never good.

Weaver said...

Informative interview. I also feel bad that I can't seem to write faster like some of my friends, but I don't want to publish trash either.

Unknown said...

Fantastic insight! I'd love to win the critique for my YA epistolary psychological thriller, which I'm pitching as Pretty Little Liars meets TTYL. Good luck everyone x

Natalie Rompella said...

Great information! I posted on Twitter and Facebook. :) info@natalierompella.com

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your background and interests. It's great that Stonesong agents work as a team. I Tweeted - https://twitter.com/ManjuBeth/status/867435434590314496

abnormalalien said...

Great interview: Alyssa sounds like a cool agent with some fun interests! Good to note that the agency has a set timeline for when you can assume what no-response means.

S.P. Bowers said...

Nice to meet you Alyssa and learn more about Stonestong. Don't put me in for the critique.

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for this interview!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the interview! Following and tweeted @meAngelaD

D.E. Malone said...

Thanks for sharing this! Please enter me in the giveaway. I've tweeted it as well. dawnmalone@gmail.com
https://twitter.com/dmalonebooks/status/867471724635410432

Unknown said...

Thank you for the insightful interview. I would appreciate a critique. Slowsly@sbcglobal.net

Susan Thumm Paxton said...

Great interview. Nice to know of an agent who loves mystery and magic!
stpaxton1@gmail.vom

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Great interview!The Craigslist Missed Connection idea is awesome!
I'd love to win a query critique! Thanks!
Jacysuttonauthor@gmail.com

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't know how anyone could work with an author that constantly pushed back. Ignoring suggestions sounds dumb to me.
Nice to meet you, Alyssa!

Unknown said...

Great article! I'm not quite sure where the follower button is, but I'd love the chance to win a critique! I will post this on Twitter. Thanks so much!

Tracey said...

Thank you for the wonderful interview and your generous offer of a critique, Alyssa! Sharing on twitter

Deborah Holt Williams said...

So good to learn more about your process, Alyssa. I love it that you're an editorial agent! --Deborah Holt Williams

Keila V. Dawson said...

All female agency? I'm hooked. Thanks for generous offer.

Rajeeva Jayaratne said...

great interview. hope all her wishes come true.

JEN Garrett said...

Is there a litmus test to know I'm being clever and not just "gimmicky"? Sometimes I think I fit more in the latter without meaning to.

Shared on Twitter and Facebook.

Mary Holm said...

Thanks for the interview, Natalie. It's great to hear from Alyssa and have the opportunity to get to know her. I would love a chance for a query critique. I will be tweeting about this.

Jill said...

Currently writing a YA suspense novel and would love to win the critique! Also posting this to Twitter. Thanks so much.

BranwenOShea said...

Great interview. I love what you said about Middle Grade and all the opportunities the genre offers. I would love to win the query critique.
Branwenoshea@gmail.com

Kathy Halsey said...

Insightful interview with useful tips from Alyssa on her process and the Stonestrong Agency! I'd love to win a critique. TY both.
infowoman@sbcglobal.net

Unknown said...

Thanks for the opportunity to learn more about Alyssa and Stonesong. I really liked her take on makes MG different! I'd love a critique! judyroberts97@yahoo.com

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Another great opportunity! Thanks so much Nat and Casey!

Unknown said...

I'm really attracted to honesty and authenticity and I felt that Alyssa represented these values in this interview. Thanks for taking the time to help writers. I would love a query critique.
latoyapottinger@gmail.com

Unknown said...

I'd love a query critique! I mentioned the contest on Twitter. Thanks. monicachess26@gmail.com

Jenn Ali said...

Thanks for the profile and opportunity! Mentioned on Twitter @HeyJali .

Anonymous said...

Thanks much. lellington@ncrl.org

Unknown said...

I'm excited you got to interview Alyssa! I've been following her on twitter for a while. I really admire her, so it'd be thrilling to win the contest! auburntomorrow@gmail.com

mary said...

Thanks for the info. I'd love to get a query critique.

Sara Dorsch said...

Thanks for the information. Sara

LiteraryLaura said...

Thanks for this great information! I've been following Alyssa on Twitter and really appreciate her insights. I've also shared this contest on Twitter!

Shanah Salter said...

Great, detailed interview. I would love to be considered for a query critique. I have tweeted this link too.

RuthG said...

Truth telling & also wordplay! I hope to write stories that do it. I've tweeted this--love the interview.

Becky Shillington said...

Thanks for the great interview, Natalie and Alyssa! I Tweeted about this, too!

Stephanie Faris said...

So many agents. I love that you're doing this!

caroline yu said...

I'm benefiting greatly from these agents spotlights. Thank you! And please enter me for the query critique. My email is c.roberts.yu@gmail.com and I mentioned the contest on facebook. Thanks!

Dee Knabb said...

What a wonderful interview. Thanks, Natalie and Alyssa.

Kaye Baillie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachna Chhabria said...

Nice to meet Alyssa and learn more about her agenting process. I'm querying her ASAP :)

Unknown said...

angelamariedambrosio@gmail.com

Julie Abe said...

This is a great interview! Thank you.

Unknown said...

Alyssa seems so sweet and smart. I love that she's looking for a broad range of ages and stories. Wishing her much success with Stonesong!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I appreciate that last tip about not rushing. I think I'm in a WIP that refuses to be rushed.

MarciaB said...

Thanks for sharing your history and some great insights! I like that you're direct and "blunt!" Honest feedback is the best for great revisions!

Lisa Logan said...

Thank you Alyssa for the great advice.I like your emphasis on editing and rewriting before submitting.

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking the time to pass on useful information.

Rebecca E. Bailey said...

I'll never Capitalize Important Words again! Thanks for entering me in the query critique giveaway: my email address is profrbailey@aol.com.

Tamara Narayan said...

Since I already won a query critique, I feel a little guilty entering again, yet those folks never contacted me! So maybe throwing my hat in the ring is okay.

email: tamara (dot) narayan (at) gmail (dot) com

Megan Cason said...

Such a great opportunity!! Thank you Alyssa!

Kaye Baillie said...

Not sure if Alyssa would do a picture book critique but happy to enter.

Kathy Temean said...

Met Alyssa this weekend at the NJSCBWI and posted about her, you, and this opportunity on www.writingandillustrating.com - plus Twitter and Facebook.

Sturgell Illustration said...

Wow, an illustrator turned agent! I wonder if Alyssa reps author/illustrators? Anyway, a query critique would rock! sturgellillustration (at) gmail (dot) com

Tanya said...

Wonderful interview! I would like to win a critique! I also shared via Twitter. :-) Have a wonderful day! cj_shock (at) yahoo (dot) com

McMarshall said...

Thank you for this interview. The questions were very helpful and insightful. What a great giveaway - maria.marshall912@gmail.com.

Megan Whitaker said...

It is always nice to hear how they found their spot in the literary world. Thanks for the great interview!
meganewhitaker21@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for giving us a chance to know you and your wishlist. Very exciting!

Unknown said...

v.sierra2478@gmail.com

The People Collector said...

Love to hear the 'process' of agents!

Bonnie said...

Intriguing! I Will NOT OverCapitalize! Thanks, Bonnie

Bonnieauslander at gmail dot com