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Thinking Outside the Box: One Smart Thing I Did To Sell GOLDEN BOY

One smart thing I did to sell GOLDEN BOY was to dance just a little bit around the edges of the traditional lock-step route to publishing… and it’s what got me my agent!

uuw3btb1m6deb9dm3xs6A few years ago, a member of my writer’s group had the fantastic idea of submitting for a writers group development from our local New England chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). For a while we debated what to do with it, but we finally agreed: the agent query process terrified and mystified us. We were a group of six, all with YA & MG manuscripts at different stages. So, I went to work researching agents that listed all of our genres. When I found one, I approached her and asked if she would be willing to accept the grant money to do an informational Skype interview about the agenting process. She agreed and offered, in addition, to critique each of our query letters. A few weeks later we had the session and learned a lot… and she ended up extending an offer to two of us (one third of the group!) to formally query her when we finished our manuscripts. Two years later, we’re both represented by her.

So, as you try to shop your baby out in the big bad world, try to think outside the traditional lock-step for ways to actively develop yourself and gain the skills you need for whatever step of the process you’re on… you never know what unintended awesomeness might come of it!

(Disclaimer: My story in this post is intended to be illustrative only. Please do not use it as a launching-off point to bother my agent. I like her. I like that she likes me. Please don’t make her dislike me. It might make me dislike you.)

Our Agents and Why We Love Them

Most (but not all) of the Class of 2k13 is represented by a literary agent. Agents can be a great asset to your writing career. Over a third of publishers are closed now to unagented writers, which means if you have an agent, you are greatly increasing the number of places your manuscript can be submitted. Your manuscript arrives at a publisher pre-filtered by a professional. A good agent knows what publishers and editors are looking for and can match your manuscript with those editors who are most likely to buy. Unagented writers can wait months and years to hear back from publishers, but good agents hear back within weeks or even days. Finally, if you do make a sale, a good agent makes sure you get a strong book deal AND makes sure you keep all those complex rights that change constantly as the business and technology changes.

All that said, a writer can still get published with a reputable publisher without an agent. Sometimes you might be your own best agent for your book!

Here we share with you our agents, how we met, why we love them, and where to find them.


Agent: Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary

How they met: Query letter, baby – they actually work.

Why my agent is awesome: Because she’s in this with me for my career, not just one or two books.

Where to find her: Twitter: @AdriannRanta or


Lydia Kang, CONTROL

Agent: Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency

How they met: Querying!

Why they’re awesome: He’s got great experience and instinct. And he’s in this for my career, not just for a book.

Where to find him:

Demitria Lunetta, IN THE AFTER

Agent: Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary

How they met: Query letter.

Why they’re awesome: She has amazing editorial advice, she always answers all of my (most probably stupid) questions in great detail, and she’s definitely invested in my success.

Where to find them:

Stephanie Kuehn, CHARM & STRANGE

Agent: Michael Bourret of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

How they met: I actually queried a different agent at DGLM, who passed my query on to Michael. (Yes, that really happens!)

Why they’re awesome: Well, besides the fact that he’s a wonderful, wonderful agent and that I respect and admire him and all of his clients so very much, I think he’s awesome because he gets my writing. That’s important to me. My writing is strange and dark and weird and difficult, and he gets that and it makes me feel safe to be the writer I am.

Where to find them:

DGLM website
twitter: @MichaelBourret


 Agent: Michelle Andelman of Regal Litarary

How they met: Good old-fashioned query, which I personalized by highlighting why I thought she’d be interested in my work. (Helps to do your homework!)

Why they’re awesome: So many reasons! Michelle is wonderfully editorial. She really understanding the elements of story and can so perfectly pinpoint an issue and how it might be resolved. She’s savvy with the market, a great negotiator, and cares deeply for all aspects of her clients’ careers. It’s not just about making sales for her, but building authors’ careers.

Where to find them: @michellelit

Tamera Wissinger, GONE FISHING

When I sold GONE FISHING I didn’t have an agent and I don’t have one now. It is possible to represent and sell your work on your own.

Justina Ireland, VENGEANCE BOUND

Agent: Elana Roth of Red Tree Literary

How they met: I queried Elana and she passed me on to my former agent, Caren Estesen. When Caren quit agenting, Elana picked me up.

Why they’re awesome: Elana is an amazingly editorial agent, which I love. She’s also lightning quick on responses to emails and our lines of communication are always open. I really value that.

Where to find them: Elana is on twitter as @ElanaRoth and her agency website is

Liz Fichera, HOOKED

Agent: Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Agency

How they met: The old-fashioned way: a query.

Why they’re awesome: When my first book didn’t sell right away, she didn’t drop me like a hot potato. She gets my writing and quirky characters and gives me great feedback.

Where to find them: Twitter at @hroot

Jennifer McGowan, MAID OF SECRETS

Agent: Alexandra Machinist, at Janklow & Nesbit

How they met: I queried her, then emailed to let her know another agent had expressed interest. She emailed me back to say she’d never gotten my first email, but loved the idea… and she read the book overnight before offering representation.

Why they’re awesome: Other than the above, she also is someone who is an amazing advocate for me in good times and bad. She is fun, dynamic, has great insights and believes in me and my work.

Where to find them:

Janklow & Nesbit website:
twitter: @AMachinist

Geoffrey Girard, PROJECT CAIN

Agent: Stephen Barbara, at Foundry Literary & Media

How they met: Just like all the How To guides tell you. I made a short list (one agent) of pros I wanted to work with. I queried by email, sent the full, tweaked some based on his suggestions, and was then offered representation. The whole thing took about four months (which included the three-month rewrite).

Why they’re awesome: Because he loves books as much as I do. The tradition and magic of publishing and NY and the thousands who’ve come before us actually matters to him. I’d also heard – sorry, Stephen – that he was super smart but “too confident” and “too forceful.” My reaction was: Hell, Yes! That’s exactly the agent I want! Turns out he’s a charming gentleman. But I’m from Jersey, so my idea of confidence and force is different than some…

Where to find them:

K.A. Barson, 45 POUNDS

Agent: Sara Crowe with Harvey Klinger, Inc.

How they met: I met her at Vermont College over a year before I was ready for an agent. I was impressed with her and her blog, and I also respect many of her other clients. When I was ready, I queried her. She requested the full manuscript that day and offered to represent me a couple weeks later.

Why they’re awesome: Sara is awesome because she’s smart and enthusiastic. She’s not overly pushy, but lets the work speak for itself–I like that. She’s a tough negotiator, and is worth double her weight in gold.

You can find her at or follow her on Twitter @saraagent


Agent: Douglas Stewart with Sterling Lord Literistic

How they met: I read Publisher’s Marketplace religiously for a year and used their Dealmakers database to track which agents were selling the most dystopian fiction. Doug had made a couple of recent sales in that genre, so I knew he liked it, and I sent him a query.

Why they’re awesome: Doug is steady and sensible and completely believes in my writing. Sterling Lord is the third largest literary agency in NYC, so their resources and contacts are phenomenal. I had a foreign sale within three weeks of my domestic sale.

Where to find them: Doug, most sadly, rarely takes on new clients. You can try for Doug, who is fabulous, or go for one of the younger agents at Sterling Lord (

Tara Sullivan, GOLDEN BOY

Agent: Caryn  Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency

How they met: We got a SCBWI writers-group development grant and invited Caryn to a Skype conference to tell our group more about the querying and agenting process.

Why they’re awesome: Caryn is amazing! She has a very helpful, hands-on approach to the pre-pitch manuscript, and great business connections when it’s time to launch. I only received thoughtful, personalized rejections (and, of course, my acceptance, yay!) from the people she selected for GOLDEN BOY. I’ve felt very solidly that she’s on my side every step of the way and I couldn’t imagine a better agent.

Where to find them:

 Cristin Terrill, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

Agent: Diana Fox of Fox Literary.

How them met: In a completely random way. She ran across an old blog of mine, liked my writing and invited me to submit the novel I had mentioned I was working on. After I regained consciousness, I did. That novel was terrible and she wisely passed, but I queried her again with a later novel and she offered rep. And the moral of the story is, completely random crap you write on the internet MAY be being read by an agent at this very moment, so try to make it good!

Why they’re awesome: She took a chance on me because she thought I had potential and has made my writing a thousand times better. She’s tough as nails when she’s negotiating for me but also will geek out with me over the terrible teen TV shows we both like.

Where to find them: and @dianafox on Twitter.

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