Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • 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.

Literary Agent Interview: Lori Steel Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Lori Steel here. She is a literary agent at Red Fox Literary.

Update on 7/6/2024: Lori has left Red Fox Literary to found SteelWorks Literary. She is currently closed to queries. Check the agency website to learn when she reopens to submissions.

NOTE: Lori is closed to queries but has created a special submission form on Query Tracker for Literary Rambles followers that will be open until August 2023. You can find the link in this interview.

Hi­ Lori! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks, Natalie. I’m delighted to be here!

About Lori:

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

Like many things in the publishing industry, my path to agenting was one of time, patience, and hard work! My first career was as an educator and school librarian. After completing my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College, my interests shifted from a solely craft/writing focus to a curiosity about other possible opportunities in the publishing. In 2012, I began the common practice of working behind the scenes to gain industry experience and build kidlit community relationships. I interned as a reader at a large agency and also worked as an Agent Assistant for Agents representing kidlit. I also taught writing classes as an adjunct professor, and was writing instructor at my local indie bookstore, Politics & Prose for seven years. Just after Jacqui Lipton founded Raven Quill Literary in winter 2019, I joined her team first as an Assistant before slowly taking on my own clients in spring 2020. When RQLA merged with Tobias in summer 2022, I joined the exceptional team at Red Fox Literary.

Early clients were predominantly picture book authors working in both fiction and nonfiction. My first deal (Jilanne Hoffmann’s nonfiction PB, The River of Dust illustrated by Eugenia Mello and publishing in summer 2023 with Chronicle) went to auction in summer 2020, which was certainly an exciting way to begin! Since then, I’ve signed middle grade and YA authors, both debut and award-winning, and talented illustrators. I now work full-time as a literary agent and love that each day is different, challenging, and inspiring.

About the Agency:

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

Red Fox Literary is a boutique agency that represents authors and illustrators for the children’s and YA markets. RFL was founded by Karen Grencik and Abigail Samoun in 2011, and now has eight agents working on both coasts, with foreign rights support from Rights People. Since its inception, the agency has built a reputation that includes not only an incredible list of authors and illustrators, but a collaborative, collegial, and knowledgeable team of agents. I feel incredibly fortunate to have joined the Den, as we affectionally call it.

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 audiences and forms—fiction and nonfiction picture books through Young Adult—as well as illustrators. I tend to lean into the older end of the PB spectrum and younger YA with all in between. Having said that, I have broad tastes and enjoy graphic novels as much as narrative nonfiction picture books, and middle grade horror, so it’s more a matter of if the narrative voice captures me, and I have a clear vision of where it would fit in the marketplace.

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

Honestly, anything unexpected that compels me to turn the page! I always have an eye out for manuscripts that approach story in unique or unexpected ways, will contribute to the kidlit cannon, and, most importantly, capture young readers.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

Hard sci-fi (think space or tech), YA horror (I represent MG horror), expository nonfiction, potty/slapstick humor, gratuitous violence, self-harm, and eating disorders are probably not great fits for me.

My MSWL page has more details about what I’m looking for and is updated regularly.

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’m looking for authors and illustrators who seek to create meaningful, sustaining stories that never talk down to their audience. As a former school librarian and educator, I have seen firsthand that books can change lives, and their impact in providing safe spaces to explore, understand, and challenge. I seek projects that have the potential to become classics in the future, not necessarily the next NYT bestseller (although, of course, it’s great when both happen!). Curious creators who explore, play, tinker, and challenge themselves to experiment with difficult topics, structures, and forms. Essentially, I’m looking for creatives who are responsive to feedback, actively engage in learning more about the industry as a business, and who approach their work with the philosophy that the endgame isn’t always publication, but the craft itself.

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 an editorial agent. I work with clients to develop new work, and to revise and edit projects in preparation for submitting their work to editors. However, I often hear confusion around what to expect from editorial agents. For me, any feedback I provide should not take the place of trusted critique partners, sensitivity readers, or craft instructors in the drafting and revision stages. Instead, this process begins when clients feel that they are close to submission-ready and send to their agents to evaluate their projects for both craft and industry readiness. Authors just starting out will get more of this guidance, while more experienced authors with established editor relationships may not need as much editorial work before submission. When searching for an agent, it’s a good idea to ask what kind of editorial work they provide, if any, before making representation decisions.

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 my Query Manager page found here. At the moment, I’m closed to unsolicited submissions, but Literary Rambles readers can submit using the link below until August 6, 2023.

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

If queries are not personalized, it may give the impression that the author is simultaneously submitting to a large group of agents without taking the time to research a strong match for their project and career goals. Tailor submissions and query letters to specific agents for a more professional impression. Also, please don’t undermine your hard work—pointing out that you’re inexperienced, a debut author, don’t really have any qualifications is not necessary! Let your query and manuscript speak for themselves and highlight the positive! Likewise, reconsider going overboard and naming yourself the next NYT bestselling author.

Response Time:

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

My aim is to respond to queries within two months, but I’m a percolator. I tend to spend more time with pages that interest me. Chances are, if I have a project for an extended amount of time, I’m seriously considering it. For instance, QM stats for the past year show that my average pass time is 28 days, but my average full request is 71 days. I always put client work first and I admit to being a slow reader! So, while I respond to all queries, requested full novels or multiple picture book projects can take a bit of time to complete, especially during busy seasons.

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! Some authors start by self-publishing, then grow their audience, develop craft, and/or want to explore the traditional market. However, once a book is published, agents cannot market the project for First Rights, so it’s unlikely to garner interest with unknown writers in this way.

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 don’t think so. Literary Agents focus on the trade industry, not self-published or hybrid titles. Small publishers are doing exciting things and we work with many of them! Additionally, small publishers are more likely to be open to unsolicited submissions and unrepresented authors, providing more potential avenues to pursue a book deal outside of traditional publishing.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent both up-and-coming debut authors such as Nydia Armendia-Sáchez, Jilanne Hoffmann, and Anita Yasuda, alongside award-winning authors such as Colleen Paeff (The Great Stink) and Laura Shovan (A Place at the Table). You can find more about my clients at RedFoxLiterary.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.

Lori's website

Vermont College of Fine Arts Alumunx Interview

What Was on Her…interview with author Sandra Nickel

Café Chat with Eastern Penn PA/SCBWI and Jennie Krumrine

Links and Contact Info:

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

I am currently closed to queries, but Literary Rambles readers can query me on this special event link until August 6, 2023. I am most active on Insta at @bookishsteelfox and Twitter @bookishsort.

Additional Advice:

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

Remember that a persistent writer becomes a published author. Publishing is a long-game business. If you work on your craft, build community, and consistently create, you’ll find the right publishing path. And when you do, I will be cheering you on!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lori.

­Lori 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 February 18th. 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.

 

 

74 comments:

LRH said...

Woo! I've been patiently waiting this interview. AND literary rambles readers can query Lori- Wow. Yay! Thank you!! Would love to win the critique by Lori and I'd love to be rep'd by her too! Time to keep writing.....

MWolpin said...

Thank you for this very thorough interview. Lori sounds like a professional and experienced agent with diverse tastes. My email is mwolpin@optonline.net or marilynpbauthor@google.com.

Deborah Foster said...

This would be an amazing opportunity! Thanks Lori!

Samantha Bryant said...

Interesting interview. You find the best people to talk to! @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Anonymous said...

Love this interview and amazing opportunity to query Lori! Thank you!
Just in case... nicolegarnett2015@gmail.com

abby mumford said...

Thanks for all these tips and tricks to make our query letters shine, Lori! And thanks for creating such a great opportunity for us to get to know Lori, Natalie!

Anonymous said...

Another great interview. A query critique would be amazing! I'm keeping my fingers crossed. adwest.prose@gmail.com

ELIZABETH said...

I'd love to win a critique! I subscribe via email and your widget on your website.
helloelizabethjames -at- gmail dot com

la-ta said...

Another great interview! Thanks for the insight. I would love to be included in the query critique contest.

mhberg said...

Thanks for the interview with Lori! I'd love a chance for a query critique.
I receive the blog at mhberg@sbcglobal.net but I'm signed in at mhber61@gmail.com. So complicated!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

She's going to be so excited when that first book she signed comes out this year.

Computer Tutor said...

So nice to meet you, Lori. How nice to make the special track for this blog's followers (like me!). I write historical fiction which you don't agent, but I am impressed with your goodness.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing opportunity. I would love to win. Critique from Lori.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing opportunity I would love to win a critique from Lori. Thank you. Email: Claudine.pullen@gmail.com

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I love reading how people find their path through the industry. It is never one set route!

Debra Wolf Goldstein said...

Thank you for the encouragement to continue writing and the good tips!

Linda Browne said...

What a great interview, Natalie! Thank you! I'd love a chance to win a critique from Lori Steel. Email: lindabkai@gmail.com

gowri said...

Great interview, and thank you Lori!

Brenda said...

Great interview, have a lovely week, Natalie. No need to enter me in the critique.

Bri Lawyer said...

Great interview! I'm excited for this amazing opportunity to query Lori! Thank you! I shared this on Twitter. I think I follow, but for some reason I haven't been getting the emails anymore so here is my email just in case: brilawyer@gmail.com

Jay Linden said...

I so agree with Lori - love the process, the joy of creating and then it's much easier to take the time needed to create a quality reading experience and gain mastery of all the skills - and really have fun along the way. Lovely interview - and yes, would love to be in for the query critique - thanks Natalie for your oh-so-helpful website :-)

Anonymous said...

Great interview Natalie! Thanks for the special opportunity Lori. Kshalperin@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Just popping in to say thank you for the kind comments! Natalie knows how to bring out the best in her interviews. Also to say that I do represent Historical Fiction...if it's for young readers! :)

Nina Snyder said...

Sounds great! My email is nina.t.snyder@gmail.com

Hollie Wolverton said...

Thank you for this interview. Loved learning more about Lori!
hgwolverton@gmail.com

Liz A. said...

Publishing is definitely a long game sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I would love to win a critique =)
angelbee54321@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

A wonderful interview, Natalie! Thank you for the generous opportunity, Lori! 😊

Donna Rossman said...

Thank you for the sweet and generous opportunity, Lori! What a great interview, Natalie! I would love to win a critique from Lori.

Sarah Rose said...

Thanks again for a great interview, Natalie! I enjoyed reading about Lori and her career.

Wendy Weitzel said...

What a great interview! Thank you for offering this opportunity to query and the chance for a review. wendyweitzel@gmail.com

Kim said...

Thank you for sharing- I love getting more insight on what agents are interested in!

msanchez said...

What a fabulous post! Thanks for sharing this agent interview, and good luck to the lucky winner of the query critique!

Rhett Trull said...

Great giveaway opportunity. Thank you. I'm sharing this on Twitter, as well. My email: rhettreep (at) yahoo.com

Brian Burak said...

Thank you, Natalie and Lori, for this interview and for your generous offer for queries from readers of Literary Rambles, Lori!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Another informative interview, Natalie. Thank you. Lori, thank you so much for sharing this information with Literary Rambles. I write contemporary upper middle grade adventure stories. I better get writing.

Elizabeth Curry said...

Thank you both for this wonderful interview.

Elizabeth
curry.elizabeth@gmail.com

Debbie Moeller said...

Another great interview! Natalie-many thanks for the opportunity to find out more about Lori. And Lori- thank you for your generosity.

Kate Larkindale said...

What a wonderful interview! Thanks for taking the time, Lori.

Jessica Haster said...

Thank you for opening to queries for Literary Rambles subscribers!

Jennifer Cowan said...

I love this interview, learning more about you and also Red Fox. Thank you so much Lori for this, as well as your generous offer to provide a query critique!

Katie McEnaney said...

What an awesome opportunity! Love that idea of being a "percolator."
Tweeted @katie_mcenaney
Follower 1logonaut at gmail

Anonymous said...

Lori seems like she would be lovely to work with. It's a shame she isn't interested in author only picture book writers. laurifortino@gmail.com

Carmela Martino said...

This is a great opportunity. I subscribe via email to martino [at] att.net.
I also tweeted about the giveaway here:
https://twitter.com/carmelamartino/status/1623032680290914346

M said...

Entering the contest. Thanks!

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

What a cool opportunity, not only to potentially win a critique but also to query a closed agent. (In case my email doesn't show up, it's susanejohnston At gmail.)

Sandra Cox said...

Fascinating interview, Natalie and Lori.
Lori, Nice that you have a special submission link for Literary Rambles readers.

Ana K said...

As always, thank you Natalie for bringing the kidlit community top-notch guests...and thanks to Lori for her insight and query offer.

Susan said...

I would like to leave a comment but this gmail address is not the one I use for writing or the one that I joined Literary Rambles with. My correct gmail address should be susanvandeweghe@gmail.com
I enjoyed the interview with Lori Steele. Thank you so much for presenting it.

Kathy Doherty said...

An interesting interiew! This is a great opportunity.

Penny M said...

Great interview! Thanks Natalie and Lori.

Anonymous said...

That was very interesting. Very informative. There’s lots to think about. Lori you came across as so lovely, ur personality shone through. What an amazing opportunity it would to work with you. Thank you for you time ordene.parris@icloud.com

Lauri Meyers said...

I really appreciate your editorial approach and your focus on the author's career. Thank you for offering the submission opportunity! laurimeyers AT gmail.com

McMarshall said...

What a wonderful and informative interview and such an amazing opportunity. Thank you Natalie & Lori!

Sarah Meade said...

Thanks for the chance at a query critique and thank you for the interview!

Deniz Bevan said...

Great interview! And it reminds me, it's been ages since I read MG horror, that's such an intriguing genre.

(just in case: denizb33@gmail.com)

KCStrocchia =) said...

Love the encouragement that "a persistent writer becomes a published author." I'm pinning that one to the wall in large letters!

Shared on twitter...https://twitter.com/KCStrocchia/status/1623692507669200899?s=20&t=O92W2l-Pn0vNAwelXAjmsg

And Facebook too, thanks!

Ellen said...

What a great interview! I loved when Lori said she leans towards the older end in picture books. As a teacher, I used picture books for older elementary students all the time. Sharing this on Twitter. Thank you!

Andi Michelson said...

Thank you for the opportunity to submit to Lori. I'd also love to win a query critique!

And I'm hanging on to the sentiment that "a persistent writer becomes a published author." ;)

Claire Annette said...

Thanks for this thoughtful interview with great suggestions for queries. I love the visual of being a percolator reader!

Unknown said...

Another wonderful interview! Thanks for all the wonderful input, Lori!

kelleysmithauthor@gmail.com

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Yolanda Renée said...

I keep thinking I should try again to find an agent. Representation would be wonderful.

Rosi said...

What a wonderful, rich interview. I always enjoy your interviews and always, always learn from them. Thanks for this and for the chance to win a query critique.

Kamilla said...

What a rich interview! I love the description of the type of stories you are looking for and would love the chance for a critique. I'm at kamillab@gmail.com

Janet Frenck Sheets said...

Red Fox is a terrific agency, and I'm thrilled that some of its agents have offered query opportunities for your readers. I'd hate to miss one of these open windows. If an agent hasn't responded after 4 or 5 months, is there a recommended process for following up? Thanks! (I'm sharing this Literary Rambles post on Twitter.)

Angie said...

Lori, thank you for sharing such sound and insightful writing advice. A critique opportunity from you would be wonderful. I've tweeted this blog interview.

Claire Bobrow said...

Thank you for sharing your insights and journey with us, Lori. I am super-excited for Jilanne's debut! clairebobrow@gmail.com

Brandy K. said...

These interviews are so informative. Thank you. I would love to win a critique. :D

Ruthie Kirk said...

Love this advice: "Remember that a persistent writer becomes a published author." ruthmkirk@gmail.com

Cheryl Johnson said...

Thank you for the interview, submission opportunity, and chance at a query critique. Absolutely love 'a persistent writer becomes a published author' and added it to the quote page in my writing planner!

Maureen Egan said...

Appreciate all this!

Erin Lee Golden said...

I'm helping with a webinar Lori Steel is doing tomorrow and just came across this interview. Thanks for posting it and for offering the query contest. My email is erinleegolden@gmail.com

Natalie Aguirre said...

Janet, since they don't have guidelines, I think you could sent the agent a followup email if you haven't gotten a response in four or five months. If you don't hear back, you probably need to consider it a pass since many agents are too busy to respond to queries they aren't interested in.