Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Karly Dizon Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/12/2023
  • Daniele Hunter Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/25/2023
  • Jane Chun Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/7/2023
  • Heather Cashman Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/11/2023
  • Jen Newens Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/25/2023
  • Lane Clarke Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/9/2023

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "H" as of 5/11/2023 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Marlo Berliner here. She is a literary agent at The Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency.

Hi­ Marlo! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Marlo:

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

I was originally an accounting manager for a Fortune 500 company, but I’ve been involved in publishing now for over twelve years, as a writer, the chair of a major publishing conference, a published author, a freelance editor, and finally a children’s lead bookseller for Barnes & Noble. As a freelance editor, I’ve always enjoyed helping other writers develop their stories. After a while, I realized I was able to recognize which stories in my inbox had much more potential than others. So when I saw an opportunity to intern at The Bent Agency, I jumped at it. I learned a great deal from that first year long internship with Molly Ker Hawn, and then even more from my second internship with Colleen Oefelein at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. After interning at JDLA for about nine months, Jennifer made me an Associate Agent in November 2018. The last ten months have been a whirlwind of reading queries/manuscripts, signing clients, attending conferences and events such as BEA, and reaching out to editors.

About the Agency:

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

The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency is a New York City-based full-service literary agency founded in 2001 and named one of the top 25 literary agencies in the country by Writer’s Digest. The agency represents children’s literature for all agespicture books and middle-grade and young adult novelsbut also represents high-quality adult fiction and non-fiction in a wide range of genres. JDLA is proud to represent illustrators, as well as screenwriters for both television and film, including Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writers and illustrators. What sets JDLA apart from other agencies is our holistic approach to managing every aspect of an author’s career to make the most of their project's potential. We offer:

·         A designated Foreign Rights team, with co-agents in every country and an established presence at Book Expo and book fairs throughout the world.
·         A designated Film/TV/Media agent based in Hollywood.

·         An affiliated Presentation Service and Media trainer to help authors communicate with clarity, precision, and greater impact.

·         An affiliated Speakers Services agent who coordinates booking speaking engagements.
·         Strong affiliations with top merchandising agents to handle merchandising opportunities as they arise.

 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? 

I represent PB, MG and YA in all genres, but am particularly interested in contemporary, fantasy, mystery, suspense, paranormal, horror and speculative. I believe the best submissions have both compelling characters and tight, emotionally involving plotlines. If your writing can translate emotion to the page and give me a visceral reaction of humor, fear, joy, sadness, intrigue, or romance, then I will keep turning pages. Basically, I’m looking for a book I simply can’t put down.

Update 12/31/2022: "I believe the best stories have both compelling characters and tight, emotionally involving plotlines. If your writing can translate emotion to the page and give me a visceral reaction of humor, fear, joy, sadness, intrigue, or romance, then I will keep turning pages.

"Across the board, I'm always looking for stories written by underrepresented authors.

"Middle-Grade and Young Adult: I am interested in ALL genres of MG and YA fiction, with particular emphasis on adventure, fantasy, mystery, thriller, suspense, paranormal, urban fantasy, horror, speculative, sci-fi, contemporary, and romance. I enjoy ghosts, witches, magic, magical realism, unusual settings, dark elements, gothic stories, secrets or secretive characters, treasure hunts, puzzle-solving, and unreliable narrators. Basically, my tastes are varied, so even if you have something not mentioned on this list, try me! Also, if you can take a story or intellectual property (in TV or books) that is popular with the adult crowd and give me its MG or YA version, then I will give it a look because I believe these types of stories may have strong potential for the market. I am also open to coming-of-age stories set in college that walk the line between upper YA and new adult. While I do like contemporary tales, I may not be the best fit for “issue” books where the central conflict revolves primarily around rape/rape-culture, drugs, or illness. I will also consider some select non-fiction projects in MG and YA, particularly if they involve pop-culture, current events, or social awareness/commentary.

"Picture book: Seeking submissions primarily from author-illustrators, though I will consider select text-only submissions. Please submit your query with a link to your portfolio and the entire text of the PB manuscript. Also, please query only one PB at a time! I am more drawn toward character-driven stories that are cute, funny, or heartwarming. I love twists on familiar characters or story lines, and unlikely friendship stories.

"Adult: I am particularly interested in horror, mystery, thriller, and suspense, especially psychological suspense, supernatural suspense, and domestic thriller. I am also seeking women’s fiction with some heft and heart, and all genres of Romance, except inspirational and erotic. As far as historical romance, I prefer the Gilded Age and forward." (From the agency website)

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

I would be especially excited to see more magic, magical realism, unusual settings, pirates, ghosts, dark elements, gothic tone, secrets or secretive characters, treasure hunts, and unreliable narrators. I’d also like to see some emotional friendship stories, twisty mysteries that are well-plotted, and YA romance with a funnier/happier/lighter tone.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

While I do like contemporary tales, I may not be the best fit for ‘issue’ books where the central conflict revolves primarily around rape/rape-culture, drugs, or illness.

Update 12/31/2022What I’m not looking for:

  • Political, true crime, or military/espionage thrillers
  • Short stories
  • Poetry
  • Screenplays
  • Books involving rape/rape-culture, drugs, or illness
  • Previously self-published books
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? 

An ideal author I would want to work with is someone who reads voraciously, writes consistently, and wants a career (not just to sell one book). An ideal client would also show patience, be open to critique and revisions, and always be seeking to improve their craft. I believe in giving 100% effort to my author’s career; all I ask is that they do the same. Once I take on an author and their book, I will work tirelessly to give that author their best shot at getting published.

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 very editorially hands-on with my clients. I will work hard with my authors to get their work 100% ready for submission to editors, through multiple revisions if that’s what it takes. I thoroughly enjoy editing at all levels, from big-picture right down to line-editing, and would want to be sure we are sending out an author’s very best work.

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 can query me by first reviewing my most up-to-date guidelines here: https://www.jdlit.com/marloberliner and then using my query form here: QueryMe.Online/marloberliner

To me a successful query begins with the title, genre and word count, so I know what I’m supposed to be considering. It’s a bonus if you can add some personalization of why you specifically queried me (i.e. you met me at a conference, saw something I mentioned on #MSWL, read an interview about me, etc.) From there, the query should clearly describe who the main character is, what the dilemma is that they’ve been thrown into, and what the stakes are. This is the ‘meat’ of the query, so be sure to show me the hook, or what makes your story unique. End the query with a short bio that tells me a bit about yourself, particularly your writing pursuits, publications and any accolades. Then upload the most sparkling first twenty pages you canshow me a well-thought-out original concept, with memorable characters, a great voice, and solid, polished writing. Draw me into your story, your world, and your character’s dilemma immediately. Make those first twenty pages so great I simply have to ask for more. And if I do, then send me a full manuscript that has all of the above through to the very last page.

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

I can sometimes forgive a muddled up query letter, one which doesn’t follow what I’ve outlined in the previous question, but it usually puts me on alert that the pages may not hold up either. In most cases, I will still read a few pages of the writing to give the writer a chance. But if the writing doesn’t wow me by page ten, I stop reading. One of the more common mistakes is writing that feels too distant and doesn’t make me feel as if I am taking a journey along with the main POV character. Another mistake I see quite frequently, particularly in fantasy, is what I like to call the ‘imagination dump’too many confusing fantasy elements that don’t seem to fit well together or make sense, tons of characters that aren’t fleshed out enough, and plots that wander all over the place. Info dumps in the beginning are equally off-putting. Head-hopping within a scene will also make me reject quickly. Telling a story through multiple POVs is fine; head-hopping is not. And if a writer doesn’t know the difference between the two, then it makes me question how well they really know their craft.

Response Time:

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

I usually respond to queries within six weeks. Requested full manuscripts may take longer than six weeks to read, so please be patient. All queries and requested material will get a response.

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 am open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses, but only if they query me with something new that has never been published. I don’t take on previously self-published manuscripts because in 99.9% of cases, major publishers simply will not acquire them. Believe me, as a highly successful self-published author myself I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is. One day a Big-5 publisher might acquire THE GHOST CHRONICLES series, but probably only after I become the next Stephen King or Lauren Oliver. So, my best advice would be to query agents with a manuscript that is completely new.

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?

I only see the role of agents changing slightly, in that they may need to support their authors’ efforts if they decide to go hybrid. Other than that, I believe our role will continue to be to find great authors and submit them to houses which might otherwise be inaccessible.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?
I’m happy to represent authors, Mimi Cross, Timothy Power, Kristin Smith, Rina Heisel, Courtney King Walker, and Brittany Kelley.

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.

Update 12/31/2022
Agent of the Month Interview at Writing and Illustrating Part 1Part 2Part 3 (02/2019)
Podcast with The Writer Experience (12/2019)

Links and Contact Info:

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

Authors can query me by first reviewing my most up-to-date guidelines here: https://www.jdlit.com/marloberliner and then using my query form here: QueryMe.Online/marloberliner

You can also follow me on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MarloBerliner and Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/marloberliner/ (But please do not query me on any form of social media.)

Additional Advice:

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

My best advice would be to join writing organizations, learn your craft, revise, revise, revise, revise some more, and then put your book through the paces with multiple beta readers and critique partners before you send it out to agents. I see way too many manuscripts that could be promising, but the writing falls apart at some point. It all begins with a great book!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Marlo.

­Marlo 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 October 5th.  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.

Last Updated: 12/31/2022. 
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 2/4/2023.

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.


lostinimaginaryworlds.blogspot.com said...

Thank you so much for the opportunity of hearing from agents, Natalie 🌹

nashvillecats2 said...

This was a great interview Natalie. Good to read about the agents. Thanks for sharing.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fantasy tends to dump a lot of information and characters on a reader, so I'm glad she looks for ones that are more focused.

Robyn Campbell said...

Natalie, Alex, how are you? This is a great interview, Natalie. I love Marlo. She's a great hands-on agent.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Pretty impressive for an accountant. LOL. I don't write MG or Ya, but still a lot of great tips. I've been having that same thought lately about paying better attention to the fundamentals of a story. I worry so much about voice and style, I worry that the other basics get lost and without those, the story falls apart.

kristi o. said...

Thank you for a great interview, Natalie! Marlo's interests seem like a good fit for my writing. I appreciate hearing her thoughtful comments.

Snuffalupagus said...

Fantastic interview and very insightful!

Angie Quantrell said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing with us. I always learn at least one tidbit of new information. :)

Kim A. Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim A. Larson said...

Wonderful interview, Natalie. Thank you, Marlo, for the helpful information and for offering a critique.

sherry fundin said...

enjoyed the interview
sherry @ fundinmental

Jennifer Lane said...

All the varied roles in Marlo's past and current career undoubtedly help her succeed as literary agent! Great interview, Natalie.

BetW said...

Great interview! With all of her varied experiences Marlo has what it takes to be a good agent. Thanks for the helpful information and the chance to win a critique.

Heather Villa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Villa said...

Thank you for keeping these interviews going strong. I will also mention this post and "contest" on Twitter. I would love to be entered in the contest.

Carolyn Chambers Clark said...

Marlo sounds like a great agent and editor. Please enter me in the contest to receive a query critique.
I posted about the contest on Twitter @DrCCClark

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

Let's try again.
Thanks for these interviews, Natalie. I'd love a critique of my query.

Amy Hillman said...

lovely interview.
A query critique would be amazing

Sammi Spizziri said...

Great interview! I loved reading her advice.

Sherry Ellis said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. It would be nice to see more magic and fun stuff kids should be reading instead of all the dark, contemporary themes that are out there.

Megan Bates said...

Thank you for sharing this interview. I particularly liked questions 8 and 9. Very useful, as agents vary to some degree on how to begin a query letter.

Liesbet said...

Test comment, as my previous one doesn't seem to show up.

Liesbet said...

I'll try again, as my previous comment disappeared for some reason.

Thank you for this timely interview with Marlo. I am familiar with JDLA, as I just sent a query out to Colleen. I really appreciate Marlo's take on the business, her straightforward replies, and her relationship with her authors. And the fact that she "enjoys editing at all levels and wants to be sure they are sending out an author’s very best work."

Please, enter me in the contest for a query critique from her, please!

Rosi said...

Thanks for another very informative interview.

DMS said...

What an interesting interview. It was great to meet Marlo and learn about her experience as an agent. Thanks for sharing. :)

Erica H said...

Great interview! It was definitely a debit in my ledger of knowledge of the publishing industry and an asset on my books!

Would love the chance to win a query letter critique : )

Vercingetorix said...

Thanks in particular for your commentary on query letters, which provided specificity on a topic where most people opt for generality.

I would, of course, welcome a critique.

Marykate said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful, thorough responses, Marlo. What a great interview. I'd love the opportunity to have you critique my query.

Elephant's Child said...

Your posts are always so generous, supportive AND informative. Huge thanks for that.
I often find myself rooting for the villian. We do indeed need them.