Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Agent/Author Claire Friedman & M.K. Lobb Guest Post w/Seven Faceless Saints Giveaway on 2/1/2023
  • Lori Steel Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 2/6/2023
  • Bethany Funk Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 2/23/2023
  • Agent/Author Lizz Nagle & J.A. Nielsen Guest Post w/The Claiming and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/6/2023
  • Kristen Terrette Agent Spotlight Interiew and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/20/2023

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.

Literary Agent Interview: Kelly Dyksterhouse Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Kelly Dyksterhouse here. She is a literary agent at The Tobias Literary Agency.

Hi­ Kelly! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Kelly:

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

Literary Agenting is a career that still operates on an apprentice model in many ways. In other words, the way to train is by working your way up, first an intern, and then as an assistant, and then as an associate, until you are finally an agent. And that is largely the path I followed. I started working as an intern back in 2012—wow, 10 years ago! I interned and then assisted at both a large agency and small boutique kidlit-only agency for almost 8 years. In fall of 2019, my colleague Jacqui Lipton made plans to start her own agency and invited me to work with her, and I joined her at Raven Quill Literary Agency in January of 2020. We built the agency from the ground up for 2.5 years, and in May of 2022, we merged with The Tobias Literary Agency.

As an agent, I represent authors and illustrators. My first year as an agent was focused on building a list of clients, and since, the focus has been on selling their works. I have sold picture books, middle grade, and young adult books, both fiction and nonfiction in every category, as well as illustrator deals for picture books.

 About the Agency:

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

The Tobias Literary Agency is a full service agency that offers its clients the personalized attention of a boutique agency with the full-service rights management. Each agent has the freedom to develop their practice to suit their personality and their list to suit their tastes. I tend to be more editorial and to work closely with my clients to develop projects for the market. We all work hard to manage and exploit rights in all fields: foreign, translation, film, audio, merchandising, etc.

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 all ages, Picture Book through YA, and both fiction and nonfiction, as well as illustrators, and I am pretty open in terms of genres I will consider. I am particularly looking to grow my illustrator list. In broad terms, I would say that my tastes really walk the line between literary and commercial, but I am drawn to character-driven stories that have amazing voice and stellar writing. I find that in genre fiction (fantasy and sci-fi), it’s really important to have a world that is well-defined. I love worlds where the setting is so well described it almost becomes a character in the book. I also think it’s really important in genre fiction to ensure that the character’s desires are rooted in a universal emotion to create relatable stakes. In contemporary books, I am drawn to characters whose stakes are well-defined and whose stories add something new to the shelves – new outlook, new perspective, new cultural statement. In all genres, the voice of the story must be unique and compelling.

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

Right now I would love a middle grade action adventure book, along the lines of Rangers Apprentice—books that have a vivid, well-developed world, a cast of characters that the reader loves to root for (or against), humor and high stakes. I have long been on the lookout for a spooky ghost story in middle grade. That really goes for YA as well as MG. And I would love to find a great, twisty heist story. I am also on the lookout for humor—I want a book that makes me laugh out loud. I would love a YA rom-com, but there needs to be depth to the character and the story.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

Gratuitous violence, sexual violence, and hard sci-fi are probably not a good fit.

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 represent books that bring something new to the table, books that respect the child reader, prompting them to look at the world around them in a new way, as well as their place in that world, but that are not didactic or speak down to them. Also books that are just plain—fun!

As for authors, the best kind of client is one who is always curious and never completely satisfied. Someone who is willing to do the work, someone who is thick-skinned but not hard-hearted. Someone who relentlessly pursues their craft and does so while building others up, as well.

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 do consider myself editorial, and I love working with clients to refine their manuscripts. With novels, once a client feels like their work is submission ready, they send it to me (I am usually expecting it, as we have talked about what work is best for them to work on next.) We usually put the manuscript through a developmental round of development, where I am looking at big picture edits: character arcs, plot, structure, themes, and world building. A second round goes in a little closer, and a final line edit to make sure the draft is clean and ready to go.

I always send back an editorial letter as well as the manuscript with comments in the text, and I ask for the client to let the comments sink in for a day or two and then we hop on a call and talk through any questions they may have and brainstorm possible fixes.

For picture books, my method is similar, but first a client may send me 4-6 pitches of finished works, and we would pick out one to lead with, and put that through edits.

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 should query me through Query Manager: QueryManager.com/KellyDyksterhouse.

The best query letters showcase both the author’s knowledge of their work, their craft and the business, all written in the unique voice of their work.

I want to see a logline—one sentence that describes the protagonist, the inciting incident, the Story problem and goals, and the stakes. Less is more—the snappier the better! You would be surprised as to how many queries do not have this. And then a single paragraph that fleshes out the log line a bit, giving a sense of character growth, world, themes, and a bio.

The most successful queries also showcase the author’s knowledge of the industry and where their project will fit into it, utilizing comps to showcase themes and target audience. 

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

I am not fond of overly informal queries. This is a business, and your query is a business letter. It need to be professional. Also (this isn’t a dislike as much as a warning), I see a huge number of queries that tell me about the book rather than what the book is about. Keep that focus on the characters and plot, ie: that logline/pitch!

Response Time:

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

I just checked my stats for 2022, and my average response time this year is 30 days.

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 have several clients who have self-published, but the works that I am representing have not been previously published. Traditional publishers want to publish first rights—the right to be the first one to publish a work—so they’re not likely to pick up a book by an unknown author that has been self-published. Now, if new work makes the NYT bestseller list, previous works may hold more of an interest to publishers. As they say, the best way to sell your book is to write another one!

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 have definitely seen the role of agents becoming more editorial, mainly because editors have so much on their plates. But in terms of more small presses, this is only good news for agents, as it means more places to submit their clients work!

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent Tom Birdseye, CS Surrisi, Dana Swift, Jess Brallier, Callie Miller, Nedda Lewers, Leslie Stall Widener, and to name just a few. You can check out all of my amazing creatives on my website: KellyDyksterhouse.com

Interviews and Guest Posts:

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

The best resource would be to check out my website and MSWL, which I keep updated.

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:

www.QueryManager.com/KellyDyksterhouse

Website: www.KellyDyksterhouse.com

Or www.TheTobiasAgency.com

MSWL:

https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/kelly-dyksterhouse/

Additional Advice:

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

Pursue your craft relentlessly. Love your stories. Lift others up.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kelly.

­Kelly 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 24th. Due to the holidays, the winner will not be notified until after January 1, 2023. 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.

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.

 

 

83 comments:

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful interview. I especially love Kelly's advice. Have a very merry Christmas, Natalie, and a fantastic new year. :)

abby mumford said...

Kelly's advice on remembering the query letter is a business letter is invaluable! Thank you for sharing that!

Liz A. said...

Good info.

Linda Browne said...

I'd love to get Kelly's advice on my query. Thanks for organizing this, Natalie, and thanks for the great interview!

AMcCarty said...
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AMcCarty said...
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RowDanWrites said...

I found it interesting that agents are becoming more editorial and as Kelly is on my "to query list", it would be fantastic to get her feedback on my query letter. Thanks for yet another great interview, Natalie! I shared on Twitter @rowdanwrites for others to check it out.

Emily Winter said...

This was a great interview to read. Thank you! I would like to enter the contest. My google email is emilyhrouton@gmail.com

Sue Newton said...

I love these interviews! Thanks very much to Natalie and Kelly. (I can’t see a follower button but this could be because I’m on my phone! Will try again from my laptop in the morning) sue.newton3@hotmail.com

Carrie_Karnes_Fannin said...

Thank you for giving insight into your editorial process & for offering a query critique!

M said...

Thanks for interview and for offering a critique.

Pam said...

Great interview. would love a chance to get a query critique from Kelly :)

Deborah Foster said...

Thank you for offering a critique, Kelly! That was a great interview!

la-ta said...

I love these images interviews - thanks for the insight, Kelly!

Janet Frenck Sheets said...

I'm glad to see that Kelly mentions books that "are just plain--fun!" Those are the sort of stories that kids (and adults) return to again and again.

Jessica Haster said...

I always line agent interviews! Thank you for sharing and offering a critique! I also shared on Twitter :)

Sandra F. Coliny said...

Such an insightful interview. Thank you for the advice and critique opportunity.

*I retweeted this contest on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for offering a critique, Kelly! Great interview! I retweeted also :-) - MaryEllen A

Anonymous said...

fun manuscripts are the most challenging to write. Is it funny chuckles or enough haha. exciting to possible get a query critique for a humorous lower middle grade project. Shirley Ting

Cheyne'n'Sarah Writes said...
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Cheyne'n'Sarah Writes said...

Always interesting to hear about the agents side of the industry. Also always wonderful when agents offer a chance to get some critique, as feedback can be hard to come by.

J.S. Puller said...

Thanks for sharing the great interview!

Becky said...

Thanks for the interview, I'd love a critique!

Laddy Lau said...

Great advice on the art of a query letter. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Helpful and timely! I’m adding Kelly to my query list!

Freda L. said...

Thank you for the great advice. I definitely will work on my loglines. flewk1@aol.com

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Great interview, and very thorough. I appreciated all of Kelly's advice.

Mary Rudzinski said...

Kelly’s kind personality and professionalism come through with all her great advice. Thanks for a great interview!

Hollie Wolverton said...

Great interview! The phrase about being "thick-skinned but not hard-hearted" really struck me. That seems like the best combo for this biz! Appreciate the giveaway opportunity too - I'm hgwolverton@gmail.com.

Andi Chitty said...

Another great interview! I love learning more about the process from an agents side, thanks for sharing!

Andi Chitty said...

Chittystone@gmail.com

Ilona Bray said...

Fabulous practical insights, thanks! I love the simplicity of Kelly's final words of advice. Lifting each other up really works.

Lindsey Hobson said...

I always love these behind the scenes type interviews. I especially liked reading that you are looking for MG ghost stories because those are my favorite! Thanks for the generous offer of a critique. lindseybhobson@gmail.com

EBRivnak said...

Great interview and insight into what an agent thinks. Thank you.

Cristina Raymer said...

Thanks for this great interview and opportunity! Raymer328@gmail.com

Eileen said...

Great interview - thank you! Would love a query critique!
Eileen Wilkin

Jacqui Murray said...

Ten years apprenticing! I bet you learned a lot. Very interesting interview.

KCStrocchia =) said...

Ooo, I love the line about being thick-skinned but not hard-hearted. That's such a great description of the balance we need to strike.

Would love to enter the drawing!

And I also shared on Twitter. Thanks!
https://twitter.com/KCStrocchia/status/1602693003872722946?s=20&t=RRAqPT2GYldOEbmvArgx7g

Eileen said...

Forgot to mention I shared on FB & Twitter... Sorry, and thank you!

Dedra Davis Writes said...

Great interview! I love querying Kelly and hope to send her my YA in 2023!

Jodelle55 said...

Another great agent interview! Please continue to do these as it is so helpful to querying authors. I'd love to submit to Kelly and would also love to win a critique. Contact me at Jabrohard@aol.com if I should be chosen as a winner.

Lauri Fortino said...

So great to learn more about Kelly! I just tried to query her yesterday, but see she isn't currently open to submissions. I look forward to querying her when she is! Thanks for the opportunity to win a critique. I also shared on Twitter.

Rose Kent said...

Terrific interview! Wishing well to Kelly & Natalie!

Karen Rafeedie said...

Great interview and great advice - especially with the queries! I'd love for a chance to win a critique from Kelly!

Stephanie Jones said...

I am encouraged and getting ready to query Kelly!
I'll post on Twitter and Fb too!

Bri Lawyer said...

Thanks for the interview and advice! I will be submitting to Kelly soon!

Mary said...

Thanks so much for this great interview! Will share on Facebook!

E. T. Charles said...


Thank you so much for the interview Natalie and Kelly.

ET Charles
http://bethsbiblio.blogspot.com/

Laura Clement said...

Great interview. Loved all the bases covered and the details. I'll repost on twitter etc.

Judy Bryan said...

Great interview, Natalie! Loved Kelly's tips on what to put in a query letter. I've shared on Twitter.

Rosi said...

What a great interview! So much information. Thanks for this.

Paula said...

Thanks as always for a great interview.

Tara A. Knox Cerven said...

This was a great read, especially the specific details of what goes into a good query letter. Thank you!

Tara A. Knox Cerven said...

I'm also tweeting about this amazing critique opportunity.

Christina Shawn said...

What a great interview. I love hearing about your agenting journey and style. Thank you!

Katy Klimczuk said...

I would love to win a query with Kelly! Thank you for the informative interview:)

Sarah Rose said...

I love your blog, Natalie! Thanks for another lovely and informative interview!

Sarah Meade said...

Thank you for the interview and giveaway opportunity! Happy holidays!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the interview! Always love getting to know agents (especially ones who accept commercial YA)

Unknown said...

First attempt crashed, so uh...

TY for the interview! I always love learning more about agents accepting my genre/age category combos

Martin Porter said...

Another great interview. Really great to hear Kelly's viewpoint on the industry. Thank you!

Angie Dickinson said...

Thank you for the interview and query critique giveaway! I loved this additional advice: "Pursue your craft relentlessly. Love your stories. Lift others up." We all need to come back to this reminder again and again.
I shared this on twitter!
@AngieSDickinson

Brooke Van Sickle said...
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Brooke Van Sickle said...

Great interview! I found this on Facebook. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

Judith L. Roth said...


I love that line about "someone who is thick-skinned but not hard-hearted." A great combo for a writer! Dream agent....

Sally Lotz said...

I love these Q&A Interviews. Thanks so much.
I retweeted this @SallyJLotz

la-ta said...
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Kimberly Shrack said...

Thanks for taking the time for this interview! Super helpful. I'm working on a heisty MG now - will definitely add you to the query list when it's polished!

Shamaila J said...

Great interview! I would love to enter the giveaway - shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Awesome interview! Thanks for sharing, Kelly! I'd love to enter the query critique giveaway. My email is: hello @ michellemullen.net.

mhberg said...

These interview posts are always informative and inspiring. I'd love a critique with Kelly! I receive the blogposts at maryhelenberg@sbcglobal.net but my gmail is mhberg61@gmail.com. Thank you!

Jay Linden said...

What a wonderful interview. I love Kelly's comments about the kind of author's she'd like to work with - thick skinned but not hard-hearted - relentlessly pursuing their craft while celebrating and lifting other authors up.

Yes please for the query critique opportunity - thanks Natalie - your blog is my main resource in researching agents - what an amazing gift this is for all children's authors.

Andie said...

Great interview. I would love a critique on my query that meshes very well with what she is looking for on her wishlist. Andie_Ulrich@hotmail.com

Luce Williams said...

Fascinating interview, thank you! I have noticed many agents now commenting on how they are quite editorial, and it was interesting to see you share that this is connected to the fact the editors have so much on their plates.

Please include me in the chance for a critique. Thank you!

Emily said...

Thanks for the great insights and offering a critique!

sburdorf said...

Thank you for the chance to win a critique from you.
susan.burdorf@comcast.net
Susan Burdorf

Kim said...

What a refreshing view on queries. Thank you for the interview!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the insights into your process and approach. So generous to offer a query critique. Happy Holidays!

I'm an email subscriber.

Unknown said...

What a great offer! This would be a dream come true to be critiqued by an agent with Kelly's insight!

I am an email subscriber.

Thank you again! -Amy

Folami said...

Hello,

This is so great. thank you for setting this up. I posted it on twitter. Hopefully more peopl know of this great interview and opportunity.


Folami Morris
Folamithequeen at aol.com

Unknown said...

Great interview and insights - thank you!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Leaving a message for Jessica Carson. She also posted on Facebook. jcarsonoriginalcreations@gmail.com