Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • 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.

Literary Agent Interview: Laura Gruszka Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Laura Gruszka here. She is a junior agent at Writers House.

Hi­ Laura! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Laura:

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

I’d always known that I wanted to work in publishing, but, like many young people, hadn’t heard of any other position besides editor. After interning at a few different agencies, it became evident to me that agenting—and agenting in the children’s space specifically—was where I wanted to stay! Not only do I get to work editorially with brilliant creators throughout their careers, but I also have the privilege of telling everyone about just how talented they are. I started at Writers House assisting senior agent Rebecca Sherman, and now, I’ve been promoted to junior agent. I’m so excited to be actively building my client list!

About the Agency:

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

Writers House has a long and impressive legacy as an agency representing writers and illustrators of all genres and styles. Our high standards, experienced staff, history of success, culture of collaboration, and dedicated contracts and global licensing departments are all essential elements in building and sustaining clients’ careers.

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?

The best place to get a thorough breakdown of my submission requirements and interests is my Publishers Marketplace profile: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/lgruszka/

As of the date of this interview, I’m open to projects for all age groups, PB through YA (and select adult). I’m looking for fiction in all age groups and am open to, but more selective in, nonfiction. In picture books, I look for memorable artwork with a voice and stories with a strong voice. In MG and YA, prose is very important to me, whether it’s pitch-perfect slice-of-life or breathtaking new worlds.

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

In picture books, I love stories that tune into kid-specific frequencies—ones that don’t talk down to kids, but rather understand and speak to their humor, logic, and independence. I’m also a sucker for watercolor and a consistent, evocative palette.

In MG and YA, I especially appreciate casts of characters with distinct, memorable personalities who love each other fiercely—the kinds of characters readers can’t help but make 100-song playlists and moodboards for. And I love projects that jump headfirst into their uniqueness (or even weirdness), whether it’s retelling a mythology not ubiquitous to Western pop culture, upending a genre convention, or building an unforgettably lush, real-feeling world (magical or not).

I’m also an avid concertgoer and video game enjoyer (particularly, though not exclusively, narrative-driven games and RPGs), and I have a special soft spot for the Midwest/Great Lakes region. I also played percussion, including concert percussion and drumline in marching band, for many years. If you’re working on a project that taps into any of these, keep me in mind!

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

It might seem self-explanatory, but I’m not looking for submissions outside of the specified genres on my profile. This includes picture book text-only submissions and adult nonfiction submissions. In terms of subject matter, I generally steer away from overly didactic or strictly pedagogical stories without an overarching narrative, regardless of age range. I’m also picky about historical fiction—I prefer thoroughly-researched stories about less-commonly-seen times and places.

I’m not the right person for projects about police, true crime, voluntourism, fantasy with “evil” races, or horror predicated on mental illness and physical disability—unless your project is upending genre conventions or commenting critically on the history of or our cultural relationship with any of these. Relatedly—and I wish this went without saying—please don’t send me anything promoting racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, fatphobia, misogyny, and anything else of this nature.

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?

Especially in the realm of children’s books, I’m looking to work with creators whose books will be life-changing for a young reader, whether it’s by finally seeing an authentic representation of their own experience, learning about a subject not discussed in their everyday life, or igniting their lifelong love for reading. I’m committed to uplifting traditionally underrepresented voices and stories in publishing. I want to help creators publish the books they wish they’d read when they were younger—and get those in the hands of today’s young readers. On the technical side, I seek to work with creators who are open to and intentional about editorial work, yet also don’t lose sight of their unique voice and ideas.

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, I definitely am! My goal is to help each creator best achieve their vision for their project and to lean into their talents. I approach the editorial process by asking, “What does the writer do well? What needs work—and how can the writer use their talents to strengthen those parts?” I work with authors in the format most helpful for them, whether it’s emailing an editorial letter or hopping on a call to discuss top-line points. We’ll go back and forth as necessary until we both feel the project is in its best shape to be submitted to editors.

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?

Queries should be sent to gruszkasubmissions@writershouse.com. Longer works should include the first 10 pages and a detailed synopsis; picture books should include a dummy and a sample of final artwork or a link to a portfolio; graphic novels should send a detailed summary, sample pages/thumbnails of at least one chapter, and a sample of final art or a link to a portfolio. Again, please read my Publishers Marketplace profile for the most up-to-date query guidelines.

Query letters that remain focused and accurate are the best! In general, I like to see a quick pitch of the project, a summary, any other relevant details about why you wrote it, some current comparative titles, and a bit about your writing background if applicable.

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

It may be funny to say, but I dislike when query letters don’t follow submission guidelines. Writers House submission guidelines ask that you only query one agent at the agency at a time—so if your query is addressed to 10 of our agents, you’re off on the wrong foot. Check, then-double-check, your queries: make sure you’re up-to-date on the genres I represent, my submission guidelines, the email address I receive queries at, and the spelling of my last name!

In first pages of longer works, I often like to see a day in the life or a minor conflict faced by our protagonist before the apocalypse begins/they find out they have magic powers/someone close to them dies/they step through a portal. I find it harder to connect with characters undergoing huge life-or-death events if I haven’t gotten to know them first, as flawed or unlikeable as they may be. This isn’t a strict rule, though, just a general preference!

Response Time:

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

Please give me 6 weeks minimum to respond to your query (and a bit longer if a bank holiday falls within that time frame). I reply to every query I receive, and that takes time!

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’m certainly open to representing authors who have self-published, but re-publishing self-published books is a complicated matter best addressed case-by-case. It is always helpful to query with a new work of yours, though!

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?

While publishing may be changing, I feel the role of agents remains the same: commitment to supporting clients’ careers and goals, supplemented by industry knowledge and experience.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I’m very excited to be working with Binnie Kearns, a phenomenal artist whose work I’ve followed for years: www.writershouseart.com/binnie-kearns   

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.

N/A

Links and Contact Info:

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

As mentioned above, please visit my Publishers Marketplace profile for up-to-date detailed submission guidelines: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/lgruszka/

Additional Advice:

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

It’s so important to have a creative community to support you and your artistic journey. Attend a workshop, join a writers’ group, enlist some critique partners! Not only will your peers help strengthen your submission, but they’ll also provide valuable community and continued education and growth. Books are a business, yes, but writing, illustrating, and creating are lifelong endeavors that are rewarding in themselves. It is my hope that, through it all, all aspiring authors and illustrators find a way to keep alive the joy of making art.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Laura.

Giveaway Details

­Laura 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 10th. If your email 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 follow me on Twitter or 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 email 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.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Thursday, February 1st I’m participating in the Heart 2 Heart Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Marc Gregson and a giveaway of his YA dystopian Sky’s End

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by author Sherry Ellis as part of her blog tour and a blog-tour giveaway

Friday, February 16th I’m participating in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 26th I have an interview with debut author Megan Brennan and a giveaway of her MG graphic novel Kira and the (Maybe) Space Princess

Hope to see you tomorrow!

32 comments:

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Querying everyone at once isn't just not following the rules, it's rude! It's like asking out every guy or gal in one family at once. Who does that??

ikmar said...

"In first pages of longer works, I often like to see a day in the life or a minor conflict faced by our protagonist before the apocalypse begins/they find out they have magic powers/someone close to them dies/they step through a portal."

Me too :) Otherwise it feels like the story is being rushed.

But there has always been two sides to this fence.

Alicia J Novo said...

She sounds like a dream agent. Crossing my fingers for a query critique. aliciajnovo@gmail.com

Caroline Kerfoot said...

Hi Natalie & Laura!

Thank you for sharing this interview and your professional experience with us! I am a children's picture book author/illustrator and would love to be entered in the Query Critique Giveaway!

Thanks so much, in advance!
Kindly,

Caroline Kerfoot
www.adventuresoffox.com

Liz A. said...

It's always interesting to see the different ways people come into agenting. Authors who don't follow the directions are just rude.

Jayme Inman said...

I love how Laura gave us aspiring writers so many great specifics. Would love to get her take on my query.

Shanti Thirumalai said...

I'd love to send her a query.
Thank you, Natalie.

Best,
Shanti

Amelia said...

Must spend some time creating 100-song playlists for my characters :)
Would love to enter the query giveaway first though.

Allison said...

I love this statement from Laura: "My goal is to help each creator best achieve their vision for their project and to lean into their talents." Any author would be lucky to have her on their side. I'd love a query critique. allison.prueitt@gmail.com

Melissa Miles said...

As a regional advisor for SCBWI, I love her advice about finding a community and attending workshops. This has proven crucial to me as I've moved along in my writing journey! It's always so helpful to get feedback on a query from an agent--the reads tons of them! Thanks for the great interview and the chance for feedback.

Stephanie J said...

It's always fun to read about new agents. I'd love the query critique. StephanieWritesForKids at gmail dot com.

Eileen said...

Thank you for the great interview, from a mid-western, lake-loving gal!

Would love to win that query critique!

eileen@wilkinusa.com

Eileen said...

Oops - forgot to mention I shared the interview on Twitter & FB!

Jacqui Murray said...

Very thorough! Thanks for all the info.

Jamie Bills said...

Thank you for your helpful tips! jmebills@yahoo.com

Amanda said...

Thank you for this! I'd love to be entered.... rotondo(dot)amanda(at)gmail(dot)com

Paula said...

Lovely interview. I shared on Twitter (X) and FB. Paula McLaughlin

Anonymous said...

Another wonderful interview! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Oops! My browser didn’t let me comment with my Google account. Diane Telgen, diane@neglet.com

Chris_Shestak_Author said...

As a prepeublished YA/MG author who is actively querying, I'd love to see what an agent thinks of my query. It is always helpful to hear from agents about the process.

Cathy said...

What a great interview. Please enter me in the query giveaway.

Tina Hoggatt said...

It is always a joy to encounter a thoughtful, questing agent at the beginning of their career. Lovely to read about Laura's interests and focus.

Shamaila J said...

Great interview. I would love to be part of the critique giveaway shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Tonja Drecker said...

Interesting interview!

abby mumford said...

I'm always inspired by the passion and dedication of literary agents. Thanks for introducing us to Laura!

Rosi said...

Another great interview. There is a lot to digest here. Thanks for the post.

Brenna Jeanneret said...

Great interview! Would love to work with Laura on my stories!!

Laurie Zaleski said...

Would love to win a query critique

Alyssa said...

I greatly appreciate your insight as a first time author. I would love your query critique.

gundrum4885@gmail.com

Jennifer P. said...

Great insights to consider. Thanks for sharing, and for offering a query critique!

Susan Santone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Santone said...

Great interview! Thank you for the details on your MSWL and your generous giveaway.
Susan Santone
susan at susansantone.com