Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • 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: Mary Cummings Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Mary Cummings here. She heads her own agency, Great River Literary.

Status: Open to submissions

Hi­ Mary! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Mary:

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

In 2021 I started my own agency, Great River LiteraryI began in the profession when I joined Betsy Amster as an agent in 2008 to bring expertise in children’s and teens book projects to her agency, having served as Education Director at the Loft Literary Center where I, among other things, curated an annual festival of children’s literature and chose judges for the McKnight Award from leading editors in the field. I’ve sold many books by authors and author/illustrators to such publishing houses as Knopf; Little, Brown; Abrams; Chronicle; Random House; Wiseman S & S; Philomel; Holiday House; Viking; WorthyKids; Henry Holt; Feiwel and Friends; FSG; HarperCollins; Balzer & Bray; Candlewick and many others.

About the Agency:

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

I’m an “editorial agent.” I work with writers and writer/illustrators to help them get their work revised and ready for submission. I have to love what I take on. It takes hard work, time and energy to get a project (manuscript) polished and into the hands of editors and I want to be sure it’s something I’m excited about and can share that spark with editors to get THEM excited. For every project I want to take on, there are literally hundreds that I turn down. But once I take it on, I use that excitement to propel me very quickly in getting it out to editors. (Some agents essentially keep projects “in a drawer” for months before taking any action on them).

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’m looking for the full age range, board books to YA. I’ve got quite a bit of detail on what I’m looking for on my website, greatriverliterary.com

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

How about a picture book about the Mississippi?! It is the Great River, after all. Or a novel where it figures in a significant way. Lots of other suggestions on my wishlist on greatriverliterary.com

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I tend not to like ironic or clever. I see too many monsters, superheroes, different-but-special stories, and love-themed board and picture books that are too parent-focused and not focused enough on the kid’s actions and wants. I generally don’t like zombies, vampires, et. al. For ya books, I don’t want a protagonist beyond high school age.

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?

Perhaps I can best answer that by saying that I love to see writers develop and I find real joy in nurturing them. And I want books that I can feel proud of having been a part of getting out and into the hands of kids. The authors I want to work with are dedicated, professional and talented.

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?

Yes. I’ve talked a bit about this (number 2, above), but to expand: I see areas that could be improved in most manuscripts. Sometimes it’s a small tweak or two that I will suggest to the author, while other times it’s more extensive. Quite often there will be several back-and-forth exchanges. I never want the person to feel forced in making changes. At the same time, if they don’t resonate with my insights, we may not be a good match. Very occasionally I’ll receive a project needing just about no changes.

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?

Please follow what I’ve listed under “CONTACT” on greatriverliterary.com

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

Yes. Sending attachments, when submission info specifically says not to (links are fine). Generic, “cattle-call” queries (“dear agent” or “hello”); typos and misspellings; teensy font; manuscript samples sent without a query; cutesy speaking in the voice of the protagonist (“Jimmy Jacks wants you to pay attention to his story”)

Response Time:

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

I’m usually fast. Generally within a few days or weeks, though could be longer depending upon what else is requiring my attention.

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 do not want to represent self-published work, but authors who have in the past self-published and have new work (not a continuation of a series) I’m happy to hear from. Ditto on small presses. As for advice, perhaps confer with critique groups and the broader kidlit community.

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?

In some agencies, yes, because of the factors you indicate.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I like having a mix of newcomers and career writers. George Shannon has over thirty picture books, including a number of award winners. Elizabeth Verdick is a career writer best known for her SMALL WALT series with Paula Wiseman Books/S & S. Angela Dalton is “hitting the gong” with three picture books coming out in rapid succession, from HarperCollins and Viking. Ditto for Maggie Rudd, with three forthcoming picture books and a middle-grade novel with FSG. Debut author-illustrator Ron Grady has an exciting picture book entitled, WHAT IS BROWN? coming out with Nancy Paulsen Books. Katherine Hocker’s debut picture book, I WAS, sold at auction to Candlewick. These are just a few of my wonderful clients!

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.

With my shift from Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises to my own agency, Great River Literary, I’m just starting to do new interviews.

Update on 1/22/2023

Podcast interview at The Manuscript Academy (03/2022)

Featured Agent at 12 x 12 (02/2022)

Interview at The Book of Rules (07/2021)

Interview at KidLit411 (11/2020)

Update on 8/11/2023

Interview at Writing and Illustrating Part 1, Part 2 (08/2023)

Links and Contact Info:

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

See greatriverliterary.com

Update on 1/22/2023

Publishers Marketplace

Query Tracker

Manuscript Wishlist


Additional Advice:

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

Get your work into the best shape possible before submitting. Live with it, pick away at revisions, then have others look at it and give you their insights for clarity and enhancement. Be open. Welcome other perspectives and take joy in playing with your story as you experiment with making changes. Research agents to see which may be a good fit for your work. In your query, mention why you are approaching them in particular: what have you seen on their website, in interviews, in the buzz of the kidlit community, etc. that prompts you to write.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Mary.

Giveaway Details

­Mary 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 August 7th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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.

Profile Details:
Last updated: 1/22/2023
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent 2/6/2023

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.





Susan Johnston Taylor said...

Thanks for the great interview, Natalie! I'd be delighted to win a critique. susanejohnston AT gmail

mhberg said...

Mary is such an astute reader, I'd love for her to critique a manuscript! Thanks for the interview and the opportunity. I receive the newsletter at mhberg AT sbcglobal.net. And I tweeted the critique opportunity! Thanks, Natalie.

Callie said...

Thanks for this interview! I'm in the querying trenches now and would love to receive a query critique!

Jemi Fraser said...

Mary sounds like a great agent! I'm not querying but good luck to those entering!

Liz A. said...

Very interesting.

Kellie Byrnes said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing.
I'd love to win a critique.
My email: kellie jane byrnes at gmail dot com (with no spaces - just trying to avoid spammers!)

Chloe Ward said...

Thank you! I retweeted on Twitter too!

Rose Cappelli said...

Thanks for t he great interview, Mary!

Jennifer P. said...

Helpful insights, Mary. Thanks for sharing and positive vibes as you get your new agency up and running. I'd love to win a critique!

Leyna Juliet Weber said...

Great interview - chock full of info! I'd love to win a critique :) Leyna at LeynaWeber dot com

Katy Klimczuk said...

What a great interview! I would love to win a critique - katy.klimczuk AT gmail.com

Heather Stigall said...

Congratulations on your new agency and thank you for the interview!

Erika said...

This interview is incredibly helpful! Congrats on starting your own agency! Eromero AT evereducating dot com

cleemckenzie said...

I always appreciate "editorial agents." Thank you for all the information about your new agency.

Tara Cerven said...

This was a great read. I'm not familiar with some of Mary's clients so I'm going to go check those books out. Thank you!

Tara Cerven said...

I'm tweeting about this great interview and critique giveaway right now!

Stephanie said...

Great interview! I'd be honored to win a critique. And I did share this on Twitter! stephaniemstories AT gmail.com

Mary Warth said...

Thanks for the informative interview! And congratulations Mary on your new agency. Best of luck!

Cristina Raymer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cristina Raymer said...

Thank you for this interview and query giveaway!

Cristina Raymer said...

I also tweeted about this! (Sorry for the multiple comments!)

ptnozell said...

Congratulations, Mary, on the new agency, and thank you, Natalie, for an insightful interview. And thanks, too, for the query giveaway, which I'll be tweeting about as @ptntweets.

kimlajevardi.com said...

Great interview!

Stephanie Owen said...

I have always admired Mary. I'm so excited for her and her new agency!

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

This was a great interview! And congrats to Ms. Cummings on her new agency. I'll pass on the critique giveaway, but thanks so much for sharing!

Terry Nichols said...

Thanks for the great interview. I'm very interested in a query critique!

Kirsty said...

Great interview! Congratulations Mary on your new agency..

Colleen Murphy said...

I would really love to be represented by Mary Cummings and am excited for her new adventures! Congratulations Mary!

Computer Tutor said...

Really helpful guidelines for what you're looking for in books. If I wrote those genres, it's what I would want to write.

Karen said...

Mary sounds like an amazing agent! I would love her feedback on a manuscript. Congrats on the new agency!

Laura Hale said...

I appreciate all the detail. It gives me more confidence in approaching this agent. I would like to enter the contest. Feedback on my query style might hep me get over the hurdles. Thanks, Laura Hale

jjsewell said...

Thanks Natalie for this informative post. The search for a good agent is ongoing. Mary sounds like the kind of agent I would like to work with! Jacquie

Beth said...

I'd love to win a query critique. Thanks for featuring this interview!

Allison said...

Congrats to Mary on starting her own agency! I'd love the opportunity for a query critique! allison.prueitt@gmail.com. Thanks so much to Natalie and Mary!

Sandra Cox said...

I think it's great that you're an editorial agent.
Thanks for sharing your insights.
'Lo, Natalie:)

SC Seaman said...

Thanks for another great interview. Sharing this on twitter as well.

Angie Quantrell said...

Thanks for the great interview, Natalie. Congrats on your new agency, Mary. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

Sharing on Twitter. angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Karen Gebbia said...

Was excited to hear the Mary had opened her own agency, and delighted to see this recent interview about that, Natialie - I'm sharing on twitter as well as in my private PB Writers & Illustrators FB group, thank you! karengebbia at gmail dot com

Laura Clement said...

What a great interview and inspiring new path. Looking forward to seeing great things.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice interview. It's fascinating to see each author's journey. Congrats!

Melissa Valente said...

Always exciting to discover enthusiastic editorial agents with so much experience. Sharing on Twitter and Facebook and very much hoping to be selected for a critique. Best wishes, melissakayvalente@gmail.com

Shanah Salter said...

Another great interview! I have shared on twitter and would love to be considered for the query critique.

Karen K. said...

Fabulous interview! Thanks for sharing this information and giving us writers this opportunity.

Beth Gallagher said...

What a wonderful interview. Congratulations on our new agency! I would dearly love to win the query critique. Thank you for the opportunity! egallagherauthor@gmail.com

Linda Kulp Trout said...

Wonderful interview! Thanks so much! I would love to win a query critique.

emaginette said...

Congrats on the engagement. I'd be excited, too.

You may not believe this, but both your books are in my bookcase. I have so many of them. hehehe

Anna from elements of emaginette

Joy said...

Great interview! I'd love a query critique from Mary. joy.netanya at gmail dot com

Eleanor said...

Congrats on opening your own agency, Mary!
I'd love a critique :)

Janel Caverly said...

Thank you for this informative interview. (I would be thrilled with a critique.) Enjoy your new adventure!