Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Agent Spotlight: Carlisle Webber Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Carlisle Webber here. She is a literary agent at Fuse Literary.

Hi­ Carlisle! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Carlisle:

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

I became an agent after years of working as a YA librarian. I lost my job due to budget cuts and decided to explore my interest in the business side of books. I attended the Columbia Publishing Course and pretty much knew going in that I wanted to be an agent. Agenting combines my interests in reading trends, editing, and advocating for authors. After working for a couple of New York agencies, I opened my own agency when I moved to California in 2013. It wasn’t a good idea. I’m an extrovert and really missed having other brains around! I joined Fuse Literary in 2017 and am still there.

About the Agency:

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

Fuse Literary is an entirely virtual agency with nine agents in New York, California, Texas, and Ontario. Each of us gets to choose what we want to represent, and as a result the agency is open to just about all genres of fiction and popular nonfiction for adults and picture books, MG, and YA fiction and nonfiction, including graphic novels. Because of our varied work backgrounds in areas like editing, marketing, and contracts, we’re able to offer authors answers to just about any questions they have. We work with our authors on maintaining a strong social media presence, and many of our clients are members of Fuse Club, a Facebook group open to all clients where they can discuss topics from editing to playlists to cover art.

Our philosophy at Fuse is that we want to represent authors for the life of their career. Publishing is such a subjective business that we may not always have success with clients’ books that we love. Because of this, we’re always willing to brainstorm with our authors about book ideas and try different paths to publication.

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 MG and YA, but not picture books. I rep almost all genres for MG and YA and am especially interested in contemporary fiction, mystery, thriller, suspense, and horror. For science fiction and fantasy, it’s important that I see elements of the world we live in. I like witches and fairies but not dragons or talking animals.

In terms of what I’m looking for in submissions, the most important thing is an authentic voice. The joy of reading YA and MG is seeing a character change and develop through the course of the book without the benefit of wisdom we’ve earned as adults. Regardless of genre, if I don’t believe the voice, I’m not going to enjoy the book. 

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

Right now, I’d love to see more books about mental health issues and both visible and invisible disabilities. I’m always on the lookout for Own Voices stories as well. Although I have some specific items on my Manuscript Wish List, most of the time I don’t really know what I want until I see it. It’s more important that a book makes me feel something than if it hits specific wishlist items. Anyone who writes in the genres I represent is welcome to query me, even if your book doesn’t include anything on my wishlist. 

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I am not the right agent for epic fantasy, portal fantasy, historical fiction, or steampunk. I also don’t like books about kids who want to be writers or journalists.

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?

I want to work with authors who plan for long writing careers. At Fuse, we want to work with authors who have lots of ideas and a vision for their author brand that we can help them develop. When I’m on a call with a potential client, I always ask them what they’re working on besides the book they’ve queried me with. It’s important to me that an author has more than one book in them.

As far as the books I want to represent, the most important thing is that I find the characters interesting. I like to point to three of my favorite TV shows: Scandal, Sons of Anarchy, and Succession. The one thing they all have in common is that they all made me say, “These people are completely terrible, and I cannot wait to see what they do next.” A character can be good and likeable or not, it doesn’t matter, as long as the author makes me want to see how they overcome their obstacles. Regardless of genre, a book has to draw me in with the voice and make me feel something, whether that’s anger, happiness, fright, or something else. 

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 think most agents are editorial to one degree or another. Usually, I read what a client sends me and offer feedback after their first round. Sometimes it’s an edit letter, sometimes it’s a line edit with an edit letter. A lot of the editorial process depends on how I feel about the book’s ability to sell in the current marketplace. All of my authors can already write great books. That’s why I signed them! When I edit, I prefer to ask questions about how they can go deeper with characterization, or streamline parts of the plot, or pick up the pacing, the things that will keep readers glued to the page and talking about the books with their friends. I do expect when I sign clients that they will be open to getting editorial feedback, because I won’t be the only one giving it to them.

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 through email or Query Manager. The details are on my Fuse Literary page, which is linked below. Besides the letter, I like to see the first ten pages of the book.

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

I’m not a fan of query letters that tell me how I’m going to feel about the characters or the story, because every reader gets something different out of every book, and it’s not a failure on my part if I don’t feel the way the author wants me to.

The most common openings I see that don’t work for me include prologues, action scenes with no background or emotion, and scenes where the author fills in backstory by having people sitting and talking. The opening of a book should be a balance of action and emotion, because these create tension. Ideally, the opening of a book invites the reader to see the mystery of who the main character is. Then, by the time the inciting event happens, we know how it will affect the main character’s trajectory.

Response Time:

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

A lot depends on how much work I’m doing for current clients at the time. Queries, unfortunately, have to come last on my priority list. I try to get to my queries within eight weeks or so, and I usually reply to manuscript requests within six weeks, give or take.

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 previously published authors as long as they’re coming to me with a brand-new book. The quality of the book is ninety-eight percent of my decision to represent an author. Many authors come to agents after self-publishing first or negotiating their own contracts with a small press and deciding it’s not right for them. To self-publish well, an author has to become their own publishing company. Doing things like marketing and publicity takes time, and I find that most writers want to spend that time writing, so they want to pursue representation. If the book perhaps didn’t have a great sales record, there are ways to work with that. My advice to these authors is to be honest with your potential agent about your publishing record and write the best book you can.

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?

It’s my job as an agent to guide an author on their best publication path, and I think that work can only increase with the number of publishing opportunities authors have. Fuse has always been very supportive of hybrid authors and our clients self-publishing when or if it’s right for them. So in that regard, I believe agenting will change in the way that there will be more to learn about new companies and ways to publish, and we’ll have to keep on top of which publishers and contract terms are best for our clients.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I’m excited to be going out with new thrillers from previously published clients J. Todd Scott and Heather Hansen. I’m also looking for a home for some debuts, including a MG contemporary by Joni Pope, a YA Own Voices romance by James Acker, and a YA horror by Finola Prendergast Davidson. I mean it when I say I only work with the best people. My authors are all talented and tenacious. Fun fact: I’ve found several of them through pitch contests on Twitter.

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.

I recently did an interview with Darling Axe Editing, and I hope writers will find it useful.

Links and Contact Info:

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

To learn more about what I’m looking for and how to submit, check out my Fuse Literary page. All the details writers need to know are listed there. For social media, anyone is welcome to follow me on Twitter: @carliebeth or Instagram: carliereads.

Additional Advice:

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

The best thing you can do to turn yourself into a great writer is read widely. Every time I do a writers conference, I always meet at least one author who doesn’t read in the genre in which they write. There isn’t a lot in this profession that shocks me, but this is something that does. I can always tell when a writer doesn’t read in their genre, because they either get the voice wrong or will pitch to me and tell me that the reason they wrote their book is that there are no good books out there for their intended audience. Of course, that’s not true. Writing is an art, but publishing is a business, and it’s important to me that writers are aware of what the current marketplace looks like. 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Carlisle.

Giveaway Details

­Carlisle is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through September 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. Please be sure I have your email address. 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.




ksw2 said...

Thank you! I really enjoyed your interview with Carlisle and would love to enter the query critique contest with her. ksw2@aol.com

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She's very specific in what she does and doesn't want which should help writers who want to submit.

nashvillecats2 said...

An excellent interview Natalie, Carisle seemsd a very clever lady.


Liz A. said...

It's always about voice, isn't it?

Melissa Miles said...

Thanks for another great interview! I'd think her background as a YA librarian would be invaluable in finding books that will hook young readers!

Lauren H. Dowdle said...

Great interview and insight!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight.

AmyHillmanwrites @ yahoo dot com

Thompson McLeod said...

Great interview. Very helpful. Thanks for the opportunity!

Angie Quantrell said...

Thanks for sharing with us!

ken ohl said...

Great interview best wishes

Justin W. Parente said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin W. Parente said...

I have a query out to Carlisle. Hope she digs my YA dark fantasy. Always look forward for a chance to win.

Laurie Smith Murphy said...

Thanks so much! This interview was very informative and I'd love the opportunity to win a critique with Carlisle!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Enjoyed the interview. The characters are so important. I love creating them, the good and the bad. Thanks for all the advice. Have a super week.

Carla said...

So glad to see her interest in MG material. Thanks for sharing.

Carla said...

I shared this on Twitter - Carla @Terracolina

BetW said...

Great interview, Carlisle! I enjoyed reading about your likes and dislikes. That should make it easier for writers to decide if you might like their book. I would love to win the critique with Carlisle.

Computer Tutor said...

Nice to meet you, Carlisle. Good interview and great advice--read!

Shanah Salter said...

Great interview! I have shared it on twitter.

Daria said...

Thanks for the great insight!

Jean said...

Great advice! Thank you.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I admire Carlisle for knowing exactly what she is and is not looking for in the YA and MG genres. She also provided some very helpful tips. Thanks for the enlightening interview, Natalie.


Lauren H. Dowdle said...

Oh, and here's my email address: lhdowdle@gmail.com