Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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: Danielle Chiotti Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Danielle Chiotti here. She is a literary agent at Upstart Crow Literary.

Hi­ Danielle! Thanks so much for joining us.

Status: Closed to submissions until late spring 2023. Update on 11/9/2023: Danielle is currently closed to submissions. Please check the agency website to find out when she reopens to queries. 

About Danielle:

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 in 2009. I had been working as an acquisitions editor doing both fiction and nonfiction since 2002, and I wanted to have more freedom and creativity in my work. Also: I had a baby, and I wanted flexibility in my working schedule that, at the time, publishers were not willing to extend to employees (and I’m glad to see how much that has changed in the past 10 years or so). So I sought out a career path that allowed me more balance, and to keep doing what I love—making books—while raising a family.

As an agent, I’ve been working across categories on books that I love, from middle grade to YA to adult upmarket fiction to cookbooks, memoir, and beyond. I tend toward fish out of water stories, and stories featuring characters with rich inner lives, who are trying to find their way in the world.

I love working with debut authors, and the bulk of my list is comprised of debut clients, either through referral or queries. 

About the Agency:

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

Upstart Crow is a boutique literary agency based in Brooklyn. We take a long view of our clients’ careers, working closely with them to shape their projects and build a writing life that is creative, fulfilling, and lucrative. We bring a variety of publishing experience together in one place. Many of us worked at publishers before becoming agents, so we’ve done the job from both sides of the desk, and we use that experience to guide our authors.  

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 projects across a spectrum of categories, from upmarket literary fiction to middle grade and YA, to narrative nonfiction.

I read for voice first, and everything else second. So what I’m looking for is a character (in fiction) or a writer (in nonfiction) with a voice that makes me sit up and take notice. I’m also looking for a strong character arc, in terms of emotional motivation. Basically, I love a story in which a character’s innermost fear messes up their life, and they have to figure out a way to put it to rights. 

When I read, I’m looking to be surprised and delighted, and I always love to take on projects in new categories or categories I haven’t tried before. Categories I seem to come back to again and again are: contemporary with a slightly magical twist, fish out of water stories, books that straddle the literary/commercial divide, novels-in-verse, novels with experimental use of form or prose, historical, adventure, comedy, spooky/horror…I’m sure I’m missing something here. 

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

I would love to find a YA book that has the sex-positive spirit and deep friendship bonds of the TV show Sex Education. I would also love to do a book of interconnected shorts that comes together like a novel. 

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I’m not one to rule anything out—after all, there is growth in being surprised by many different types of stories. I can say that I don’t tend toward high fantasy or sci-fi as much as I do fantasy-lite or sci-fi lite.

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?

My philosophy is that honesty, transparency, and collaboration lead to growth. In working with my clients, I am looking to help them write as authentically as possible, and to tease out the chewy, excellent human details that make a story great. I also subscribe to a sort of relentless optimism: onward and upward! Writing is a creative endeavor, publishing is a business. And I see my role as fostering a writer’s creativity while helping them navigate the business of being a writer.

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 an editorial agent through and through. My publishing background is editorial and I love helping my clients dig deep in their stories. My process differs from client to client, based on their needs and the type of project. We may do several in-depth back-and-forths, or we maybe do a quick pass to add that extra sparkle. Each book is its own journey.

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 will be re-opening to queries in late spring or early summer of 2023. Authors should check in the submissions pages on the Upstart Crow website (https://www.upstartcrowliterary.com/submissions) for updates. When queries are open, writers should submit the first 20 pages of their project along with their query letter.

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

First pages should be real first pages—meaning beginning at Chapter One. Authors are often tempted to send later chapters, when the action picks up, but that prevents me from getting to know the protagonist and becoming immersed in their personal arc.

You could talk to 10 different agents and they’d all give slightly differing opinions on how they like their query letters. Personally, I love it when a writer names the category and word count right up front in the first paragraph. It allows me to center myself, in terms of what to expect. I also love it when query letters can tell me what a character’s greatest fear is, and how they will be called upon to face that fear in the story.

Response Time:

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

My response time is 8 week, and regretfully, I am only able to respond to queries that I am interested in. 

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?

Absolutely! My advice to authors who have self-published or who have been published by a small press is: be able to frame your work in terms of how you’d like to grow as an author, and how you’d like your career to progress. What’s next for you? How did your first book lay the groundwork for that? Use that experience to learn and grow, and look for an agent who can be a partner in helping you move forward.

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 see an agent’s role as one that safeguards a writer’s creative space while making sure they can write as widely and freely as they want, and to assure they are being compensated fairly for that. How an agent goes about that may shift and change as publishing shifts and changes, but agents are used to navigating change. And our first priority is always to act as an advocate for our clients. That role doesn’t shift, even if publishing does.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

On the adult side, I represent Deesha Philyaw, whose debut short story collection THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES (WVU PRESS) won the Pen/Faulkner Award, the Story Prize, and was a National Book Award Finalist. Brian Broome’s debut memoir, PUNCH ME UP TO THE GODS (HarperCollins/Mariner), won the Kirkus Prize for nonfiction, a 2022 LAMBDA award for Gay Memoir/Biography, a. Stonewall Honor, and was an NYT Editor’s Pick. I also represent Yona Harvey, poet and 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, and Todd Kliman, a James Beard Award-winning essayist and food writer, both of whom are at work on memoirs.

On the children’s side, my clients include NYT bestselling author Jacqueline West, who writes spooky middle grade and YA. Her most recent middle grade, LONG LOST (Greenwillow/HarperCollins) won the 2022 Minnesota Book Award and was named to the Texas Bluebonnet Master List. Nicole Collier writes warm and wonderful middle grade fiction, such as her debut JUST RIGHT JILLIAN (Clarion/HarperCollins, Feb 2022) and THE MANY FORTUNES OF MAYA (Clarion/Versify 2023), and is currently at work on a new middle grade project. E.A. Carrington’s debut middle grade graphic novel, THE KINDA SORTA NORMAL LIFE OF JOSHUA JONES (HarperAlley, 2024) is a fast-paced romp about a boy whose wish for endless snow days results in snow zombies attacking his town, and it’s an ode to boyhood, friendship, and growing up, and is illustrated by the fantastic Kitt Thomas. Christyne Morrell is the author of the middle grade sci-fi TREX (Delacorte, 2022) and forthcoming middle grade mystery, THE CURSE OF THE DEAD MAN’S DIAMOND (Delacorte, 2024).

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 on 1/18/2023:

Publishers Marketplace

Links and Contact Info:

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

You can read about our agency and get our full submissions guidelines here: www.upstartcrowliterary.com.

You can find me (infrequently) on Twitter at @daniellechiotti and on Instagram @upstartcrowliterary. 

Additional Advice:

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

Remember that querying can feel like shouting into a void sometimes, but it’s important to keep putting your work out there—and to always have something new to work on. All it takes is one “yes”!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Danielle.

­Danielle 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 December 4th. 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: 1/18/2023
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent? 2/8/2023

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.





A.Millarhouse said...

Thanks to you both for this insightful interview! I love Danielle's onward and upward approach!

Liz A. said...

Very informative.

Ilona Bray said...

I've seen lots of anxiety about the kidlit biz lately (yes, Twitter's the culprit), so it's wonderful to read about Danielle's positive approach. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this interview. As a new Teacher-Librarian, I am always looking to expand my knowledge and understanding. Would love to win a prize: khlina@deltaschools.ca (since my Google account is directly linked to the school library, it doesn't have my name attached)

AMB said...

Thank you so much for this interview!

Janice Hechter said...

Thank you for the fantastic interview.

agatharodi.wordpress.com said...

Thank you, so much for the opportunity! It's greatbti get to know agents as Danielle even being on the other side of the ocean. Greetings all the way from Greece!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

No matter how someone chooses to publish, I think an agent would be of great benefit. There is so much to writing, it's overwhelming.

mshatch said...

I've queried Danielle in the past and would LOVE to win a query critique!

KatherineChristensen said...

Thank you for this interview. I'd be thrilled to win a query critique from Danielle and appreciate the chance.

Rachel said...

Great interview, thank you!

Rosi said...

This is a terrific interview with so much helpful information. Thanks so much for that! A query critique from Danielle would be pretty amazing.

Sarah said...

Thank you for this interview! These are so helpful and I appreciate the giveaway opportunity.


Kathleen Blasi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathleen Blasi said...

Philosophy of collaboration, leading to growth! Great interview - thank you for sharing your insights and expertise!

CS Patra said...

Thank you for the interview! Very helpful and informative.

My email for the giveaway: broken.desire@gmail.com

Scott Lear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Lear said...

Thanks for the insightful interview! I'd love to win a query critique!

email- slear1970@gmail.com

Chaya said...

Wow! Really enjoyed Danielle's interview. For the giveaway, my email is chayala14@gmail.com

Christina Dendy said...

Fantastic interview! Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I especially appreciate your response to the question about authors who've published with smaller presses as I've been surprised by a few agent comments to the contrary recently. cdendy76@gmail.com

JRWilding said...

Great interview, would love to win a query critique!

Eileen Mayo said...

Another wonderful interview. I love you comment about how sending out a query can feel like shouting into a void - so true. Thanks for the encouragment!

Barbara Kimmel said...

So much helpful information. Thank you for sharing. I would love the opportunity to have a (MG) query critique with Danielle. Thank you. (I retweeted the opportunity.)

simply bethany said...

Super helpful! Thank you for your time. @ betho.sharon@gmail.com

Mary said...

Natalie, Thanks as ever for your generosity to the children's writers community! I've been following Upstart Crow Literary since its inception with Michael Sterns, and more recently watching Danielle. I would love to win a query critique from her! I'm posting this blog on twitter and Facebook!

Emily M. Bailey said...

This is a lovely interview and Danielle sounds wonderful. I'd love to be entered for the critique draw, please. Emilym.bailey3@gmail.com and I'm sharing on Twitter!

Michelle Renee Stimpson said...

Querying DOES feel like a shout into the void, but Danielle's kind words offer hope. I've shared the interview on Twitter and Facebook. michelle.r.stimpson@gmail.com

Lauri Fortino said...

So nice to learn more about Danielle! She seems like she would be fantastic to partner with. (I shared this post on Twitter)

Cindy Johnson said...

Danielle, Thank you for your wonderful interviews. It's blogs like this that keep querying from feeling like such a shout into the void. Thanks, Danielle, for the reminder that it does take just one yes!

Tonja Drecker said...

Great interview...as always!

Ryan Petty said...

Great interview. Helpful in its details. Danielle seems approachable and inspires us to also up our games and think things through before making contact.

Judith L. Roth said...

Great interview, an agent to aspire to....

Donna Stone said...

Great interview!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Joy said...

Just recently heard about Upstart Crow. This was a great interview! Would love to be entered into the query critique contest. email is joy.netanya [at] gmail [dot] com

Nick Wilford said...

Great interview. I love how Danielle looks for voice first of all. A great character is the most important. I'd love a critique - mcwilfo@gmail.com

Kim said...

Thank you for your interview! I always appreciate insight into what agents are looking for in a query!

Judy Mc said...

I enjoyed a delightful morning reading this piece and re-visiting the links that I'd read over the years. Danielle is awesome. Much appreciation to you both for the interview and the opportunity for the critique! judymcsweeney619@gmailcom

Karen K. said...

Thanks so much for another informative interview and the opportunity for a query critique.

Jennifer P. said...

A very informative interview! And thank you, Danielle, for offering a critique to a lucky winner.

Shanah Salter said...

Great interview! I would love to be considered for a query critique from Danielle.


I'm a follower (via email) and would love to win the query critique! My email is helloelizabethjames -at- gmail (dot) com

bojo2112jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claire Wallace said...

Great interview--thank you! Would love to enter the drawing for a critique!

Cris Riedel said...

Lovely interview with Danielle, and thanks Danielle for your comment, "love to work with first time writers"! Would love to enter the drawing, thanks some more.

Sue said...

I loved Danielle's answer to the question about her philosophy as an agent. She's not afraid of the messiness of the creative process, and that pairs nicely with her trait of "relentless optimism." Enjoyed and appreciated this interview!
I'd love to win the query critique. My email is sueprunella@comcast.net .

Shamaila J said...

Lovely interview. Great tip about writing about the character's fear in the query letter. Please do put me in for the critique giveway - shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Now my TBR list is even longer! Danielle represents authors I really need to Read.