Posts

Don’t miss out! Pitch to top literary agent JL Stermer

Literary agent JL Stermer wants to hear your pitches!

JL is adding to her nonfiction list in both YA and adult categories with smart pop-culture, health & wellness, self-help, comedy/satire, fashion, memoir and more. She’s also growing her fiction list (a bit more selectively) and is looking for adult and YA: coming-of-age, humor, dark and edgy stories, and across the board she is excited about new and original POVs from underrepresented voices in both commercial and upmarket projects.

Some of her clients include: How To Be Alone: If You Want To, And Even if You Don’t by Lane Moore (Simon & Schuster, 2018), Are U OK?: A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health by Kati Morton (Hachette, 2018), Where Am I Giving?: A Global Adventure Exploring How to Use Your Gifts and Talents to Make a Difference by Kelsey Timmerman (Wiley 2018), Again, But Better by Christine Riccio (Macmillan, 2019), Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (HarperCollins 2019).

JL is looking for voices that reflect the world as it changes, stories that share the human experience of life, love, growth, and achievement. And they don’t have to all be serious-having fun is important! Some of her favorite reads include: The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood by Janet Mock, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, The Rap Yearbook by Shea Serrano, Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis, and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren.

A born and bred New Yorker, JL has lived in Manhattan her entire life and is a lover of all things arts & culture, people watching, and doughnuts.

JL’s Wish List:

Currently adding to her nonfiction list in both YA and adult categories, JL is looking for: smart general pop-culture, social justice, current events, comedy/satire, fashion, health & wellness, self-help, memoir, essays, pop business, tech, and science. For fiction: commercial adult and YA: coming-of-age, humor, dark and edgy stories, and new, original, under-represented voices. She also loves graphic novels.

MWW board member Lylanne Musselman interviewed JL about her life as an agent and about coming to MWW Agent Fest. 

MWW: Let’s jump right into what writers are eager to know: What questions should a writer coming to the MWW Agent Fest ask an agent who is offering representation? Is there anything that writers should always ask, but may not know to because they’re new to being represented?

JLS: If we were to work together, what would be the next steps for us?

Would I be able to review your agency agreement?

What is your preferred method of communication? (email, phone, email to set a call…)

What kind of timeline do you envision to getting my work out on submission?

When would I be able to announce on social media?

MWW: What kind of fiction and nonfiction projects are you taking queries for? Are you looking for more in one genre than the other?

JLS: My list is currently 80/20 non-fiction/fiction, and I am looking for both adult and YA in both categories.

I’m looking for contemporary projects that can be easily linked to what’s happening in the world today: pop-culture, social justice, underrepresented voices (including POC and LGBTQ) family stories, fish-out-of-water stories, coming-of-age stories and anything that make me feel a real feeling. (Very subjective, I know.) Not looking for sci-fi or fantasy.

MWW: What makes a query stand out to you? Have you ever had a query grab you, but the manuscript didn’t live up to expectations? What does make a manuscript grab you?

JLS: It feels so obvious, but it’s the truth: VOICE. Voice is the equivalent of personality–it’s how you figure out if you like someone, if you want to hang out with them and hear what they have to say. Voice determines if you care about a character and if you can relate to them. Voice is a character’s style and representation. This holds true for both queries as well as for full manuscripts.

I haven’t had a query knock my socks off and then the manuscript was mediocre, but I know that can happen!

MWW: Finally, what are you tired of seeing?

JLS: I’m tired of seeing people who hold themselves back. If you want to write something that is new and out of the box–give it a shot! Be smart about how you’ll fit into a commercial landscape, but shake it up and tell the stories that matter most to you. (I know you’re probably looking for tired tropes and concepts, but I really don’t pay those any mind. If I’m not feeling it, I just move on to see what’s next!)

MWW: Oh, and just for fun…I see you love doughnuts, what’s your favorite kind?

JLS: Anything from The Donut Pub on 14th Street & 7th Avenue in New York City. This is an old school spot that blows any new fancy shops away!

 

Come to the Agent Fest and pitch to JL!

Read more about the MWW Agent Fest: May 10-11, 2019. (Including hotel options)

Register Today! Do this thing.

Click here to register.

Friday 1:00 pm through Saturday 5:00 pm. {$289}

Prepare. Pitch. Publish. #preppitchpub

You want agents. We’ve got agents.

Pitch to Joanna MacKenzie at the MWW Agent Fest

Meet Joanna MacKenzie, literary agent with Nelson Literary Agency  

Joanna MacKenzie joined Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 and is building a list of adult titles in the areas of mystery, thriller, and commercial women’s fiction as well as select young adult passion projects. She loves creepy islands, mysteries set in close-knit communities (if those communities happen to be in the Midwest, all the better), and fierce mom heroines. Joanna is looking for smart and timely women’s fiction where the personal intersects with the world at large, think Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted or Camille Perri’s The Assistants.

Joanna’s Wish List:

Her list includes: mysteries, atmospheric thrillers, women’s fiction, moms with secret lives, anything set on a creepy island (or any island, really), midwestern-set mysteries/thrillers/fiction, re-invention stories (She’d love to find more about women in their 40s and 50s reinventing themselves following tragedy or break-ups). She’d also love to find a Beaches redux (aka friendship stories).

MWW Board Member Dianne Drake interviewed Joanna about her life as an agent and about coming to MWW Agent Fest.

MWW: Could you give us a little background of the agency you represent and the overall philosophy or focus of your agency?

JM: Nelson Literary Agency was found by Kristin Nelson in 2002. We are a full-service agency and though we may look like a boutique agency, we don’t operate like one. We have amazing support staff who, for example, tackle things like royalty statement review and contracts, so agents can focus on their authors.

 

MWW: Because you primarily represent fiction, what makes fiction masterful in your eyes? 

JM: For me, masterful fiction has voice and a sense of place. I want to get swept away, no matter what the genre, and transported to a new locale and I want to go on that adventure with a fascinating host.

 

MWW: Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile? Conversely, what are you tired of seeing? 

JM: I’m actually getting a lot of great stuff right now! So please keep it coming. I’m always down to confident voice, even if, and sometimes especially if, that voice is unexpected and new to me.  When I pray to the slush pile deity, I specifically ask for the next Tana French.  Or the next  All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin or the next  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Personally, I’m a little tired of drunk cops down on their luck. I think there’s a fresh way to approach this character.

 

MWW: As an agent who’s being pitched, what do you want to hear in the allotted time? What don’t you want to hear?

JM: I want to hear a clear statement on what I’m being pitched, even if it’s wrong. Tell me you’ve written an 80,000 word thriller that will appeal to fans of Gone Girl, rather than an 80,000 word novel that might be a thriller, but could be women’s fiction and will appeal to everyone who has ever picked up a book. It’s up to me, ultimately, to decide if your comps are right, but I want to hear the clear idea.

 

MWW: What, in general, should a person do to make a good impression during a pitch session and what, specifically, should she/he do to impress you? And, if you like, what doesn’t impress you at all?  

JM: I love it when authors can place their manuscripts on a shelf for me, when they tell me of comparable titles.

 

MWW: Any other advice?

JM: Practice and don’t be nervous. Easier said than done, I know, but I’m here to help and to listen. And I’m a nice Canadian, now Midwestern, person. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s rare to have face to face time with an agent.

 

MWW: Also, what do you represent, and do you have preferences within that list? 

JM: I represent commercial adult fiction in the areas of women’s fiction, mysteries and thrillers, as well as select young adult projects. Right now, I’m drawn to female stories of reinvention (women on their second or third acts or finding new direction after a life-altering event); moms with secret lives (think Weeds); and women pushed to the limit who push back (think Widows).  I’m also a fan of Midwest stories as well as creepy islands.

 

Come to the Agent Fest and pitch to Joanna!

Read more about the MWW Agent Fest: May 10-11, 2019.

Register Today!

Click here to register.

Friday 1:00 pm through Saturday 5:00 pm. {$249 / $289 after 4/1/19}

Prepare. Pitch. Publish. #preppitchpub

You want agents. We’ve got agents.

Pitch to Brenna English-Loeb at the MWW Agent Fest!

Meet Brenna English-Loeb, literary agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency  

Brenna English-Loeb comes to the Transatlantic Literary Agency after working for several years at Janklow & Nesbit Associates and Writers House, where she had the pleasure of working with New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors across multiple genres. At TLA she’s excited to grow her list of speculative and suspenseful fiction in both YA and adult, as well as adult nonfiction, in collaboration with senior agents.

Raised on an eclectic blend of Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett and Ursula K Le Guin, Brenna has always gravitated to unique stories with a strong point of view. Aspects of a work that are sure to catch her eye include: evocative atmospheres, character-driven plots, a sense of adventure, and narratives that reveal a deep knowledge of a particular subject. She also loves old tropes made new again, unreliable narrators, and power imbalances.

Brenna’s Wish List:

She is specifically looking for works of YA and adult science fiction, fantasy, and suspense, as well as some adult literary fiction. She loves space operas, myth and fairy tale retellings, survival stories, epistolary novels, and heists. She also has a soft spot for stories that blend multiple genres and for works by and about underrepresented groups and identities. For nonfiction, Brenna is looking for serious, groundbreaking sociological work that holds our culture up to the magnifying glass. She also loves accounts of historical events and people that deserve to be better known, as well as unusual and influential object histories.

MWW Board Member Julie Tuttle Davis interviewed Brenna about her life as an agent and about coming to MWW Agent Fest.

MWW: According to your bio you represent YA and adult science fiction, fantasy, and suspense, and some adult literary fiction. What are you looking for right now and not getting? Conversely, what are you tired of seeing? 
BEL: I would really love to see more westerns, but ones that center on nonwhite characters or are set elsewhere than the American West. And if there’s some magic or a really good mystery in there, so much the better. I’m also looking for own voices, YA KPop stories.
I’ve been getting a glut of YA fantasies and political thrillers, and I’m just not in a place to engage with any more of them right now. Another turn off for me is anything with angels and demons, particularly if they’re also romances.
MWW: When you tackle the slush pile, what are you looking for in a query letter?
BEL: The biggest thing I’m looking for is clarity. After reading a query letter, I should know the story’s premise and main characters and the author’s writing history/bio. It doesn’t have to be very long or more complex than that. I think a lot of people get flustered by trying to be friendly or make their manuscript sound as exciting as possible, but unfortunately what often happens is that I don’t understand what you’re trying to sell me on.
MWW: What makes you keep reading (or stop reading) a manuscript?
BEL: There are two things that will keep me from continuing to read. The first is if I’m having trouble caring about the characters, whether because they’re not well-developed or just because they’re not clicking with me. The second issue that stops me is when the plot and character relationships stagnate. I need to see that they’re headed somewhere in particular and not just reacting to isolated events.
MWW: Is there something out now or coming out soon that you’re excited about?
BEL: I just read The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie, which is amazing. Once again, she’s managed to upend our expectations of a genre and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it. I’m also looking forward to diving into King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo and revisiting some of the characters from her Grisha Trilogy.
MWW: Any final advice for writers seeking an agent at MWW Agent Fest?
BEL: Don’t try to force it. You’re interviewing an agent as much as they’re interviewing you, and not everyone is going to be the right fit for you and your work, regardless of what they think! Having a clear idea of what you need in an agent will help everyone involved.

Come to the Agent Fest and pitch to Brenna!

Read more about the MWW Agent Fest: May 10-11, 2019.

Register Today!

Click here to register.

Friday 1:00 pm through Saturday 5:00 pm. {$249 / $289 after 4/1/19}

Prepare. Pitch. Publish. #preppitchpub

You want agents. We’ve got agents.

Pitch to Savannah Brooks at the MWW Agent Fest

Meet Savannah Brooks, literary agent with Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Savannah Brooks joined the Jennifer De Chiara team in 2018, after interning for a year and a half. She’s a nonfiction MFA candidate at Hamline University and earned her BS in marketing management from Virginia Tech. As well as agenting, she works as an editor at Red Bird Chapbooks, as a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center, and as a reader for multiple literary magazines. Her own creative work has been publishing in Barely South Review, Hobart, Lime Hawk, and Every Writer’s Resource, among others. When not immersed in the world of words, she can be found on her motorcycle, at her boxing gym, or lounging at one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. She lives in the most beautiful literary capital: Saint Paul. Follow her @slbrooks91.

Savannah’s Wish List:

For YA, she’s interested in books that focus on friendship, conflicting identity, and the theme of truth. She’s always drawn in by a protagonist venturing into a realm where society says they don’t belong (think swapping gender norms), and characters with weird obsessions. She’s all about magical realism, mythology, and modern retellings (but not high fantasy or science fiction). She’s invested in representing the diverse world in which we live and would like to see that reflected in a cast of characters. Show her variations in race, sexuality, gender, dis/ability, and ethnicity without that difference being a point of contention.

For adult fiction, she’s interested in contemporary/literary novels/stories that are relevant to culture and focus on themes and issues that impact our daily lives. She loves a meaty cast and am drawn in by the fine line between humor and depth (think Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers). She would love to hear more from marginalized voices, regardless of whether or not marginalization is a central theme.

She’d love to bring more nonfiction into this world, especially topic-driven books/essays such as those written by the likes of Mary Roach, Leslie Jamison, Michelle McNamara, Malcolm Gladwell, and Bill Bryson. She’s also interested in memoir that will inspire generations to come—H is for Hawk is a personal favorite—and interested in humor that does more than just make her laugh—see: Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.

MWW Board Member Marissa Rose interviewed Savannah about her life as an agent and about coming to MWW Agent Fest.

MWW: What’s something that comes out soon that you’re excited about? 

SB: I’m cheating a bit with this one because the book has already come out, but Angie Thomas’s new YA novel, On the Come Up, is on my immediately-to-read list. It just arrived on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t wait to crack it open.

MWW: Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile? 

SB: I really want to see more teenagers (and all characters, really) who are engaged in things outside of school. Not just sports (although sports are good too) but maybe a weird hobby or job. Or maybe they’re deeply embedded in a culture or community otherwise inaccessible to some readers. As a poster child of innate human curiosity, I want to learn about something new while I’m reading.

MWW: What are you tired of seeing? 

SB: YA novels where either the establishment of high school or the parents are the ultimate evil. Both high school and parents have an intense psychological impact on teenagers, and that impact can be negative, no doubt, but those relationships are always more nuanced than that of a hero and villain. For adult fiction, I’m tired of characters whose entire persona relies on other characters or on the plot. I want a narrator to be able to stand on his/her/their own.

MWW: What questions should a writer coming to Midwest Writers Agent Fest ask an agent who is offering representation? 

SB: Seeking representation is ultimately seeking someone to nurture and grow your professional development as a writer. So asking questions that move past the business logistics of writing and selling and get more at the ways you would work together and the future of your career are really telling for finding the best fit.

Come pitch to Savannah!

Read more about the MWW Agent Fest: May 10-11, 2019.

Register Today!

Click here to register.

Friday 1:00 pm through Saturday 5:00 pm. {$249 / $289 after 4/1/19}

Prepare. Pitch. Publish. #preppitchpub

You want agents. We’ve got agents.

 

MWW Agent Fest, May 10-11, 2019

Prepare. Pitch. Publish. #preppitchpub
You want agents. We’ve got agents.

MWW Agent Fest: May 10-11, 2019

Friday 1:00 pm through Saturday 4:30 pm. {$249 / $289 after 4/1/19}

Here’s an opportunity to pitch your book directly to vaunted agents in search of new voices! Advocate for your book in a high-energy environment, and you might just become another MWW success story.

Connect with literary agents who are actively searching for the next big thing across all genres including fiction, nonfiction, children’s, young adult and more. During the Agent Fest, you’ll have a chance to meet agents one-on-one and capture their attention with the basic concept of your book.

We’ve assembled a dynamic roster of top-tier agents to participate in our new MWW Agent Fest. We have two days of valuable sessions on how to write a query letter and a synopsis, what agents are looking for, what makes an agent/editor stop reading your manuscript, and more. No matter what you’re writing – fiction or nonfiction – the sessions will help point you in the right direction. Writers of all genres are welcome.

Our Agent Fest is designed to squeeze as much into two days of learning as possible. You can ask any questions you like during the sessions, and get your specific concerns addressed. The literary agents will give feedback and take pitches from writers. Our faculty includes: (Read their bios & wish lists)

  • Noah Ballard (Curtis Brown, Ltd.)
  • Elizabeth Bewley (Sterling Lord Literistic)
  • Savannah Brooks (Jennifer De Chiara)
  • Brenna English-Loeb (Transatlantic Agency)
  • Joanna MacKenzie (Nelson Literary)
  • Devin Ross (New Leaf Literary)
  • JL Stermer (New Leaf Literary)

You’ll meet one-on-one with at least one agent and possibly two depending on the number of registrants. Each pitch lasts three minutes, composed of a 90-second pitch and a 90-second response from the agent with feedback.

By Saturday evening, you will have added more tools to help you move forward on your writing journey.

Secure your spot today. Register HERE.