Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Agent/Author Jennifer Unter and Melissa Dassori Guest Post & Query Critique & JR Silver Writes Her World Giveaway on 7/11/2022
  • Alex Slater Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/20/2022

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: Gemma Cooper Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Gemma Cooper here. She is a literary agent at The Bent Agency.

Hi­ Gemma! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Gemma:

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

After doing a business and psychology degree at university, I spent six years working in recruitment before moving from London to New York. There I got my real estate license and worked as a realtor for a few years. I had always been a big reader as a kid, but not so much in my twenties. Traveling around the city and waiting in the big Barnes & Noble on Union Square between appointments, I got the reading and writing bug again. When went to a writers’ conference and heard a literary agent talk about their job – the always brilliant Joanna Volpe—I knew that that was the only job I wanted. I landed an internship with Joanna and Suzie Townsend, and the more I learned about the job, the more convinced I was that it was perfect for me. I moved back to London, did another internship, undertook a maternity cover at an agency, and then I met the amazing Molly Ker Hawn from the Bent Agency and the rest is history. I’ve been an agent for over ten years now and became a director of the Bent Agency UK in 2020.

I specialize in children’s and YA fiction, with some picture books and children’s non-fiction. My sweet spot is series fiction with magic and/or humor. I love building brands and developing series that have kids queuing up with each new release. I also enjoy selling film/TV rights to my clients’ work. My clients have been New York Times and Sunday Times bestsellers, and they’ve won the Barnes & Noble Children’s Book Award, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and the Australian Book Industry Overall Book of the Year, and their books have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, the Edgar Award and many more.

 About the Agency:

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

The Bent Agency was founded in 2009 by Jenny Bent, and now has offices in NYC and London, with twelve agents covering all ages and genres of books. We’re proud of our collaborative approach and we’re truly transatlantic – the two offices work as one big team.

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?

Chapter books, middle-grade, graphic novels and YA, plus webcomics. I do represent picture book authors, but only if they also write fiction. 

My sweet spot is middle-grade fiction, where I have the widest taste: anything from mystery to fantasy, historical to funny, adventure stories to serious topics, and all the gaps in between.

 

In young adult fiction, I’d love a standout romance or something with strong friendships or sibling relationships – contemporary, funny, or fantasy based in the real world.

 

I love high-concept funny chapter books with series potential aimed at ages 7+. I’m also looking for graphic novels and highly illustrated books for emerging readers ages 5+, with simple concepts but laugh-out-loud pre-school humor. Author/illustrators in the chapter book, graphic novel and middle-grade markets get my immediate attention.

 

Across my list I’m looking for books that make me laugh. I like books that have obvious potential for dramatic adaptation, whether for a funny pre-school TV series or a big-budget feature film. I’m very keen to see writers from historically underrepresented communities, particularly those who write chapter books and middle-grade fiction.

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

A new take on Wimpy Kid – I’m a massive fan of the series.  

A big middle-grade fantasy with exquisite attention to detail in the world building and a feisty heroine.

A YA romance with massive end-of-the-world stakes. Think Angel and Buffy (season 2 finale)

What She Isn’t Looking For:

I’m not the right fit for books that are overly serious. I don’t like books that open with a kid being bullied. I’m also not a fan of dreams in books. I’m not the agent for YA high fantasy or big sweeping epics.

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

Picture books

Adult fiction

Adult non-fiction.

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?

Publishing is a business and I want to work with authors who take publishing seriously and treat their work like a business -- answering emails in a timely manner, dealing promptly with paperwork, sticking to deadlines and so on. I also want to work with authors who don’t talk down to their audience.

I hope that the books I represent are hugged. That they get dog-eared, their spines broken from returning to favorite pages. I hope they get wet from being read in the bath and creased from being read under the bedcovers by torch light. I want to represent books that kids love. 

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, very much so. I tend to do two rounds of edits with clients before submission: one big edit that encompasses structural and line edits, and then a final polish before submission. That said, every author is different, so it might be that I work on outlines with an author first, or I might read three chapters and then comment before they write the rest of the book. The agent/author relationship is very individual.

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?

Email cooperqueries@thebentagency.com

Tell me briefly who you are, about your book, and why you’re the one to write it. Include the title of your project in the subject line of your email. Then paste the first ten pages of your book in the body of your email (not as an attachment, please).

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

I like a short query letter with comp titles or a good ‘X meets Y’ elevator pitch.

Response Time:

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

I respond to all queries within 4 weeks, but usually sooner.

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?

Yes. Put as much information in your query letter as you can about your self-published history, including sales if you have them, and reasons for now wanting to get an agent/go down a traditional route.

Clients:

12. Who are some of the authors you represent?

BB Alston, Jessica Townsend, Shirley Marr, Aislinn Brophy, Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson, Katrina Charman, Robin Stevens, Matt Tarpley, Mike White, PG Bell

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.thebookseller.com/insight/cooper-s-homecoming-proves-sweet-deal-979746

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/80669-a-debut-middle-grade-author-s-life-changing-tweet.html

https://cynthialeitichsmith.com/2017/03/2017-scbwi-europolitan-con-agent-gemma/

https://www.wordsandpics.org/2013/07/ask-agent-how-not-to-write-query.html

Links and Contact Info:

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

http://www.thebentagency.com/submission-guidelines

http://www.thebentagency.com/gemma-cooper

Additional Advice:

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

As an agent with a big client list, I only have room for one or two new authors a year, which means I have to pass on a lot of amazing books. Just because something isn’t for me, doesn’t mean it’s not publishable.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Gemma.

­Gemma 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 31st. 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.


54 comments:

  1. Nice interview and spotlight, Natalie! (No need to enter me...I have an agent). Hope you have a great week!

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  2. Gemma Cooper has a reputation as a stellar agent. Thank you for posting this interview!

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  3. Thank you very much for interviewing Gemma Cooper!

    My favorite part was:

    "I hope that the books I represent are hugged. That they get dog-eared, their spines broken from returning to favorite pages. I hope they get wet from being read in the bath and creased from being read under the bedcovers by torch light. I want to represent books that kids love."

    I can't believe she is offering a query critique to one lucky winner! Wow, that's like the best Christmas present ever! I mean, she represents so many wonderful writers like Robin Stevens and Mo O'Hara. I wish I could show her my query.

    (I would probably print her comments and frame it! I mean, even if my novel will never get published... at least, Gemma Cooper herself will tell me what she thinks about this idea.:)

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  4. Gemma sounds both philosophical and practical, what a wonderful combo! Thanks for this interview.

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  5. I would so greatly appreciate feedback from Gemma, my CB are in her wheelhouse and understanding how to best present that in a query from someone with her experience would be a dream!

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  6. For comment above email is rhiltoneddy@gmail.com

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  7. Thank you so much Natalie. A fantastic interview and I would love the opportunity! Rosannamontanaro@gmail.com Thank you so much! Rosanna

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  8. I would LOVE to win a query critique from Gemma! Thank you for the opportunity!

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  9. Great interview! Thank you for featuring Gemma. She sounds fabulous to work with!

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  10. Great interview! Thank you for featuring Gemma. She sounds fabulous to work with!

    ashleemaccallumwrites@gmail.com

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  11. Great interview as always! Thank you for the opportunity. broken.desire@gmail.com

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  12. That's always good to remember: just because you pass doesn't mean the book isn't good. From the query trenches, we wonder sometimes.

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  13. Gemma was already on my query list, but it's nice to read an update about her.

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  14. Thank you Natalie and Gemma for this wonderful interview! I Would love a query critique from Gemma for my chapter book. Thank you for this Fantastic opportunity. Jennycaddy@hotmail.co.uk

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  15. Thanks, Gemma, great interview.

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  16. Loving the wonders of Twitter and the treasures it reveals. Just discovered your blog and have enjoyed exploring it this morning. A query critique from Gemma would be amazing! Thanks for this opportunity.
    Vicky

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    1. Not sure why the comment hasn't appeared as from me but just in case:
      evpeaches(at)Gmail(dot)com

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  17. I always love your interviews! I would be thrilled to hone my query with Gemma! Thanks for the opportunity!

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  18. Oops! Here is my address! Thanks as always for the fantastic profile. I've learned so much from your interviews over the years! elaineavt (at) gmail (dot) com

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  20. Book hugging! I love it. But because I'm American, my first mental image of taking a "torch" under the covers is a bit alarming....
    Thanks for all the great interviews.

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  21. Great interview, love how varied your career path was. I would love to enter the critique giveaway. My email is shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

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  22. I often hug a book when I'm finished. Really hope to hug my own some day. Thanks for the interview. Michelle.r.stimpson@gmail.com

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  23. Wonderful interview! I'd very much like to enter the critique giveaway please. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

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  24. Great interview! I'm glad to see that Gemma is open to queries again. sara(at)leachfamily(dot)ca

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  25. I paused reading in my twenties too. I read much more as a teen than I ever did. Being an adult can be a real downer sometimes. LOL

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  26. Thanks for the great interview! I'd love a query critique with Gemma.

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  27. Loved Gemma's interview. I'd love to win a critique!

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  28. Thanks for this interview! I'd love to enter to win a critique. clairewallace13@gmail.com

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  29. I love Literary Rambles, such good information! Please enter ericaj.duarte@gmail.com for the query critique. Amazing! Thanks Gemma.

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  30. Wonderful interview (as always). And I'd love to join in for the possible query critique, this time.

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  31. Great interview. Thanks for sharing.

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  32. Thank you! Such helpful tips from Gemma!

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  33. Great interview as always and helpful information. Thanks!

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  34. Very informative interview. Unfortunately Gemma recently passed on my middle grade science fiction novel this past August. I was disappointed and continue to send to other agents. doctorwhoe@gmail.com

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  36. Great interview - recently sent my query to Gemma and she passed, but I know she has a very full list already. Although Gemma does say she doesn't like a book that opens with a kid being bullied - which is exactly my opening scene! But I would love a query critique - hard to know if the query was not great, or was it the writing. Martinleeporter@gmail.com

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  37. Dream Agent! Great Interview - thanks so much!

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  39. I'd love to be entered to win the critique. Thanks for sharing! I follow via email and on the gadget.
    helloelizabethjames -at- gmail dot com

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  40. I too like your comment about creating books so well loved they are falling to pieces! I would love a query crit. Cheers! Brooke

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  41. Thanks for offering a critique! Would love to be entered into the giveaway.

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  42. Thank you for this interview. I'd love to enter for a query crit!
    sgallison01@gmail.com

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  43. Thank you for posting the interview, and thanks to Ms. Cooper for offering a query critique giveaway!

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  44. Thank you for the interview and for the chance at winning a critique!

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  45. What a great interview. Full of helpful ideas. I would love to enter this giveaway. I would love my book to be hugged by young readers. It's truly wonderful when you feel that connected to the words. I would hope my MG story would warm their hearts and bring them some fun and joy. Thank you Gemma.

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  46. Thank you for another great interview and another chance for a query critique. Much appreciated!

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  47. Thank you, Natalie, for a great interview. Thank you, Gemma, for your encouragement. I'd love to be entered to win a query critique!

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  48. Thanks for interview loaded with info and the offer to critique a query! elizabethchestney@gmail.com

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  49. Hello,

    When will the winner be notified? Sorry, I'm new to your blog, so I'm not sure how it works - will you add an announcement to let everyone know that the contest is closed?

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    1. So glad you are a new follower, Alina. I just send an email to the winner to let them know they won. In the giveaway contest details, it tells you when the contest closes. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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