Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
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  • 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: Haley Casey Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Haley Casey here. She is an associate agent at Creative Media Agency.

Hi­ Haley! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks for having me!

About Haley:


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

My road to agenting was a bit of a winding one. I knew for a long time that I wanted to work with books, so—living in the middle of Kansas—I started building my resumé toward that career without knowing exactly how I’d break into publishing. I majored in creative writing, worked in the Writing Center at my university, worked at Barnes & Noble, and finally attended the Denver Publishing Institute. That was the first place that I realized agenting was a viable option. Still, my first break was becoming an editor at a magazine publishing company in Topeka, Kansas. A few years later, at the same time I realized that wasn’t where I wanted to stay, I learned that an excellent way into agenting was by interning with an agency or two, and it could be done remotely. I applied immediately. That’s how I found Creative Media Agency, where I interned for two semesters, alongside an internship at Metamorphosis Literary Agency. I was lucky that Paige Wheeler at CMA was looking to bring on a couple of agents to work with her as my time as an intern drew to a close, and I’ve now been working there for just over a year!

Just like all agents, my work is varied and my priorities are different every week. First and foremost, I read and respond to queries (in as timely a manner as I can); read and evaluate manuscripts; and search for those un-put-down-able, beautifully written, moving, and marketable stories that I want to throw my support behind. I’ve signed eight amazing clients, and we’re working on revising their manuscripts, submitting to editors, and brainstorming second projects. If/when we do make a deal (and I have a couple in the works that I can’t announce yet!), I negotiate the terms and the contract as much in favor of those I represent as possible. My authors are my priority, and I’m always championing them as well as I possibly can.

I’m also our digital rights manager, which means I help republish CMA authors’ backlists as ebooks and work to find new digital outlets for their work. I run our agency’s Instagram, and I do have to keep my own social media accounts fairly active so querying authors can learn more about me. Through those channels, I often participate in pitch events, and I usually have a writing conference on my schedule. And of course, I’m always collaborating with Paige Wheeler and Shannon Snow—my wonderful colleagues—and working with our dedicated team of interns to help ensure they receive the same learning experience at CMA that I did.

About the Agency:

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

Creative Media Agency has launched the careers of bestselling authors and sold millions of copies of books around the world, but it still has the feel of a small, personalized, boutique agency. It’s one of the things that immediate drew me to the company. We’re seeking to nurture long-standing partnerships with the authors we represent on top of selling the books they create, which means we want our authors to be as excited about working with us as we are about working with them! Each of us approaches manuscripts with an editorial eye; we want to help make a project all that it can be before it goes on submission. Perhaps most important, though, is that our agents work collaboratively. At any time, I know I can reach out to Paige and Shannon for advice and opinions about projects, revisions, and editors, and they can do the same.

As our website says: “From queries and contracts to subrights and promotion, CMA agents will be with you through every step of your publishing journey.”

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?

When it comes to children’s lit—though I’m happy to work with clients of mine who write picture books—I’m seeking to represent MG and YA across most genres.

In MG, I always like character-focused, relatable contemporary fiction that showcases diverse experiences; creative and compelling mysteries, like The Westing Game; well-conceived fantasy with high stakes, as in Gregor the Overlander; science fiction that teaches young readers something new; and dystopian settings that speak to the world around us.

In YA, my tastes are even wider! I love complex contemporary fiction that speaks to family dynamics, multifaceted friendships, and personal growth as much as romance—and I do love romance and all the tropes that come with it. I’m also very into mystery and horror for this age group right now, like Karen McManus and House of Hollow; fantasy, especially non-Western, that uses magic and character to say something meaningful, as in The Belles or Cemetery Boys; light science fiction with creative takes on the future of technology; hard-hitting dystopians, like Uglies; and nonfiction with a strong voice and unique perspective.

In all things, I’m seeking to uplift minority voices, including POC, LGBTQ+, disability, and mental health issues. I love thoughtful and meaningful magical realism for any age group; manuscripts with nuanced character relationships; unique urban fantasies; clever fairytale retellings; and reimagined classics. I have to fall in love with your engaging writing; your complex, flawed, and dynamic characters; and your plot, which should breathe new life into your favorite clichés. Whatever you submit, tell me what makes your manuscript different!

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

At the very top of my list at the moment are minority voices across genres and age groups. I’m especially excited about fantasies that aren’t based in Western settings, because I think they’re so interesting and so needed.

I would love to be queried with more books with unreliable narrators, interesting antiheroes, compelling villains, and psychological intrigue.

I’m craving a YA romance with a male love interest who oozes charisma and absolutely know it. As I described it on Twitter: “Please give me your Henry Montagues, Ian Flannerys, Jesper Faheys, and yes, even Jace Waylands.”

Something I’m eternally seeking are contemporary stories with a tight focus on ride-or-die female friendships, like Hello Girls or Booksmart.

Whether for MG or YA, I’m always in the mood for a fun and purposeful heist story with a wonderful and diverse cast of characters.

And truly, I would die for a fantastic, creative, dark, and whimsical take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I already read every retelling I can get my hands on, so to represent one is a dream.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

In general, I’m not looking for children’s picture books, chapter books, or graphic novels, and I’m not the best champion body horror or satire. In nonfiction, I’ll usually pass on self-help and how-to manuscripts and religious, scientific, and academic texts.

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 all of my authors to feel like they know me, that I understand their manuscripts and their writing goals, and that I have their best interests at heart. I want to use my career and the platform it creates to champion underrepresented voices and make sure I’m working to publish works by authors who can help readers—especially young readers—feel seen.

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! Editors see so very many submissions that I want the work I send to have its best chance at standing out in the crowd. However, any revisions I suggest go through the author first—and I tell authors as much before they sign with me.

The first step in my editorial process is to write what we call an “editorial letter.” I’ll take all of my developmental notes from reading the manuscript and describe my suggested changes—and the reasoning behind them—in paragraph form in a 3- to 4-page document. As I always tell authors, I think listing edits isn’t nearly as effective as explaining why I feel they might be necessary; this also gives the author a chance to think through a different change that might have the same effect for the manuscript.

Once I send the editorial letter to the author, they’re encouraged to talk over any concerns or questions with me. If we’re on the same page, however, they’ll dive back into the manuscript to make changes and send it back. If I feel there are still developmental concerns, I may write a second, shorter editorial letter to address them. Often, though, as I read the newly edited manuscript I’ll simply make comments and track changes on the page. This may include anything from suggestions to further draw out a specific scene and its emotional resonance to line edits. This, again, returns to the author for their input or acceptance. We may go back and forth with minor changes once or twice more, but once we’re both happy with the strength of the finished product and everything it has to say, it’ll be ready for submission!

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 send any queries to query@cmalit.com—addressed to me specifically! For any agent at CMA, we request that you include the first five pages of your manuscript below the query letter for fiction, or an extended author bio and the marketing section of your book proposal for nonfiction. (Memoirs can be a bit of a hazy area, but personally I prefer to see the pages in that case more than the book proposal sections, as the voice will be key.)

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

Query letters can be so difficult to write, and you’re probably going to hear different pieces of advice from anyone you ask. For me, first and foremost, you have to get my name right. If you don’t, I’ll be skeptical right away—and it happens more than you think. Same with following query guidelines. More specifically, though, while I do want to know a little about you as the author and where your inspiration started, I need to know about your book and its plot, conflicts, themes, and characters. If an author spends multiple paragraphs describing themselves and the reason they began writing, I’ll lose interest because I’m not hearing about the project they’re pitching me.

As for the first pages, I recommend doing your absolute best not to start the manuscript with backstory. You only have five pages to give your book its best chance with me, and an intriguing situation, a compelling voice, and/or emotional resonance will hook me more than hearing the history of a character I’m not yet connected to.

Response Time:

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

I try to respond to queries no later than two months after they’re sent, partial manuscript requests (the first three or five chapters) in two to four weeks, and book proposal or full manuscript requests within three months. Generally, I hope you’ll hear back from me earlier than that, but if I have a lot of client or agency work waiting for me, reading queries and manuscripts will be put on the backburner.  

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 represented previously self-published authors, or those who have been published by smaller presses. In fact, some authors I represent now fall into that category! However, generally I’m looking to represent new projects by those authors, not the same book that’s already been published.

I think it’s best to be upfront with any potential agent about the fact that you’ve been previously published in some manner, because finding out after the fact can sometimes change our plan for pitching what you’ve written. Personally, I like to know whether that book is still available for purchase, or whether you’ve taken it down (if self-published) or had the rights reverted back to you (if published by a small press). If it’s no longer available, I also like to know why. Having all of the information helps me make the best possible decision about whether I’m the right agent to represent you, and how best to move forward should I choose to do so.

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 think that the role of an agent is to act as an author’s inroad into traditional publishing as well as the custodian of their career, and I don’t think that should change no matter how publishing shifts. Those changes to the publishing industry simply effect what we should be aware of as agents, what we need to learn about to best assist our clients, and what responsibilities we may have in the future.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

As of this interview, my clients are Alli Vail, Stephanie Campisi, Sara Pintilie, Ana Wesley, Emma Duval, Stacey Anthony, Elizabeth Barrera, and Isabel Yacura.

Interviews, Guest Posts, and Podcasts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews, guest posts, and podcasts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

The Manuscript Academy podcast: https://manuscriptacademy.com/podcast-haley-casey

SWW Workshop on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MFqf7xYQb4

Links and Contact Info:

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

To query me, please send your query letter to query@cmalit.com. Our detailed submission guidelines can be found at https://cmalit.com/submit/.

Online, I can be found at…

CMALit.com: https://cmalit.com/haley-casey/

Manuscript Wish List: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/haley-casey/

Publisher’s Marketplace: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/HCasey/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Haley_J_Casey

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/haley_j_casey/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/haley-casey-6805a9127/

Additional Advice:

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

My evergreen piece of advice for aspiring authors is that no agent is better than a bad agent. Make sure that any agent you query—especially those who make you an offer—is someone you genuinely want to work with, who shares your goals, and who sees a long-term future for you and the books you want to write.

And I do want to finish with some encouragement: Just by being here and following Natalie’s incredible posts, you’re putting in the time to help make your journey into publishing a successful one, but I know it takes time, and it can feel discouraging. Keep researching, writing, pitching, and querying; ask questions of people in the industry when you have a chance; and be patient! Your time will come.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Haley.

­Haley 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 January 29th. 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? 10/17/2022

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.








Melissa Miles said...

Great interview! I loved seeing Haley's journey to becoming an agent and her enthusiasm for championing her clients!

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the interview and letting us get to know Haley. I enjoyed her advice about aligning an agent with your writing goals as well as her encouragement to research agents--thank you, Natalie, for these posts to help fellow writers. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/673185511063568384/agent-spotlight-haley-casey-interview-and-query

Edie Parsons said...

This is a wonderfully detailed interview, and Haley sounds like she would be a great agent to work with. Thank you for posting!

Chelly Writes said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

Karen Rafeedie said...

Loved learning more about Haley and appreciated all the generous suggestions.

cleemckenzie said...

Haley sounds like a multi-talented agent! Thank you for her interview here today.

Liz A. said...

I find it fascinating that agents don't have to be in New York anymore. It truly is a wide open world.

Jessica T. said...

Haley sounds like an amazing agent to work with! Thank you for this interview!

Nick Wilford said...

Haley sounds very hands-on with manuscripts. It's great to see. Good interview!

Sandra Cox said...

Hi Haley, Good on you for answering all the queries, I know its time consuming, but it really means a lot to the author. Sounds like you take great care of your clients.
'Lo, Natalie;)

Mal Malme said...

Great and helpful interview! And always appreciate the encouragement!

Emily said...

Great interview!

Martin Porter said...

Great interview as always - and I always love reading what is on agents manuscript wish lists. And would love a query critique :)

Diane Burton said...

As always, an interesting interview.

Biz said...

Thanks for all the great advice, esp. about being patient and not giving up! I have a reimagined classic based on Welsh mythology with a good dose of STEM for girls mixed in. I'd love some help with my query letter! elizabethchestney@gmail.com

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Natalie, Hi Haley,

Thanks so much for the interview ladies! It is a pleasure to read about an agent who is so upfront and honestly trying to help authors find the right fit. I am also pleasantly surprised how diverse you are Haley in what you are seeking. I am hoping you may be the right agent for my Contemporary Y/A novel.

Have a great weekend ladies, and thanks again for the interview.

Karen said...

Great interview, and very helpful.

Shamaila J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamaila J said...

Great Interview! You represent middle grade fantasy that is right up my alley! Good advice, no agent is better than a bad agent. I would love to enter the critique giveaway - shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Thank you for this great post!

Angie Quantrell said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing your journey and your joy in being an agent!

angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Danny B said...

Great interview. Thank you! And Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Scott said...

This is another great interview. Thanks!

Janice Sperry said...

Great interview! It's always nice to learn about different agents.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice thorough interview. Happy New Year!

Gayleen Rabakukk said...

Thanks for this interview. I wasn't aware of Haley or CMA and grateful to have a new entry on my agent spreadsheet. I also tweeted about the post & now follow both Haley & Natalie. https://twitter.com/gayleenrabakukk/status/1482068761943306241

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Natalie, I hope you had good holidays. I think it's really nice that your mother lives so near you, although I think you are wise to stay secluded, for her sake and yours, until virus times are safer. I'll skip your giveaways, since I live in Portugal, but I think it's wonderful you offer them for those who qualify. What a wonderful calendar of events you have coming up. Where do you find the time.

Karen K. said...

Thanks so much for another great interview!

Jennifer Pickrell said...

Great interview, I always enjoy reading these!

Claire Wallace said...

Thanks for another good interview! Interesting to hear about different editorial processes. I'd love to enter to win a query critique.

JRWilding said...

Great interview!

Erica Duarte said...

Thank you for the interview and critique giveaway!

Erica Duarte said...

Ericaj.duarte@gmail.com - thanks for the interview and giveaway! It's much appreciated.

Holly said...

So grateful I found you! Thanks for the information, Haley and Natalie!

Tammy West said...

Love and visit your site regularly, Natalie. Thanks for all the thorough research and content! Great interview with Haley, and I appreciate the opportunity for the query review!