Ever since I started my career as a literary agent, I’ve wanted to represent a Christmas picture book. I love the idea of having a book I can point to every Christmas season, especially one that has a timeless feeling. I have so many fond memories of reading Christmas books with my mom and sisters as a little kid. We’d take a bath, get in our PJs (often one of my dad’s t-shirts that looked like a nightgown when we wore them) and cuddle up in my parents’ jiggly water bed—and my mom would read to us. She’s a very animated, theatrical person so story time always felt like an event. I loved when she read The Polar Express, The Mitten (or anything by Jan Brett, really), The Legend of the Candy Cone, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Christmas in the Big Woods (the maple syrup candy always sounded dreamy to me!). I wanted to represent a Christmas picture book that gave me that same nostalgic and timeless feeling, and along came The Gift Shop Bear by Phyllis Harris. I fell in love with the cozy, nostalgic feeling, the magical setting of the gift shop and the attic above it that Bear lived in in the off-season, the relationship with Annie and Bear. I was so happy that I was able to represent and sell this beautiful book, and now I’m so delighted to see people buying it and gifting it to the kids in their lives, along with a teddy bear to go along with it. What a special gift! I think this is a perfect gift for the little ones in your life. 🙂 You can order a copy on Bookshop, Amazon, Indiebound, or wherever you prefer to buy your books! A lot of Barnes & Noble locations are featuring it in their Christmas picture book section, too.
Hi all! I am so happy to share that I am now back open to submissions. As you may know, I closed for four months in preparation for an intensive surgery that required me to take a medical leave while I recovered. Recovery took longer than expected, hence why I ended up extending my time closed. Thank you to those of you who were patient and understanding. I truly missed receiving queries, and hesitated to even close in the first place. Before I closed, I asked one of my co-workers, “Do I, like, HAVE to close to queries though…?” She scoffed and said, “You’re going on *medical leave* you dum dum, it’s the least you could do to take something off your plate!” I couldn’t help but imagine myself lounging on the couch reviewing submissions in a post-surgery haze and just straight up emailing every writer, “I want to be your agent!!” Ha! I think I hesitated to close because reviewing queries has always felt like a treat to me, not a chore. I’m so happy to be back open and can’t wait to receive the gems that you all send me. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! I will particularly be looking for picture books, middle grade, graphic novels (all ages), and adult fiction, but you can take a look at my MSWL post for more specifics.
As always: please know that I WANT you to submit your work to me, and I hope you do. If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team, just go for it.
P.S. I’m feeling GREAT!
I was recently invited to do a live AgentChat interview on YouTube with Sarah Nicolas, which was so much fun. Watch to get to know me a little bit better, get a few query tips, and most importantly: hear my cat Maple screaming in the background the entire time.
Thank you so much for having me, Sarah!
I’m really excited to be opening up to adult fiction submissions, as of February 2020. Here’s some insight into what I’ll be looking for:
- Thrillers—I love gritty, juicy thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing thrillers. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, Lisa Jewell. I’m excited to see what Samantha Downing and Wendy Heard write next. Some of my favorites include Luckiest Girl Alive, Sharp Objects Then She Was Gone, My Lovely Wife, Hunting Annabelle, and The Girl on the Train.
- Women’s Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon or Oprah ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! I love interesting voices/POVs, dual timelines with a historical feel, rhythmic language, generational sagas. Some of my favorites include Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Dollhouse, Room, The Girls, The Mothers, Little Fires Everywhere, Fates and Furies.
- Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on “frothy beach reads” that have both humor and heart. I love a strong voice + unique perspective. I need a commercial hook here. Some of my recent favorites include The Unhoneymooners, Waiting for Tom Hanks, Maybe in Another Life, Playing with Matches, and The Rosie Project.
- Graphic Novels—I’d love to find some interesting contemporary graphic novels for adults. I’d be interested in nonfiction, or humor, or romance. Epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me, but I’m open to taking a look at a wide range in this space.
I’m really excited to be doing a live webinar about all things picture books for 12×12—an online empire built by Julie Hedlund, who is the Patron Saint of Helping Aspiring Picture Book Writers.
So I was very flattered when Julie reached out to me asking if I would be interested in doing this webinar.
Here are the details: the webinar will take place live on Feb. 26 at 10 AM PST, and I believe will be available for a time period after that as well. In order to access the webinar, you need to be a 12×12 member. You can become a member here: http://bit.ly/2RRcqcx
12×12 is an incredible resource no matter where you are at on your publishing/querying journey. Whenever first time writers come to me asking for advice, I point them toward 12×12, and SCBWI.
We will be talking about what makes a strong submission, what I look for in a picture book, current market trends, and what I hope to see pop up in my inbox in 2020. I’m really looking forward to it!
Aren’t our nieces so darling? We always look forward to getting to spend time with them when their parents have a date night.
I’ve read books to them before, but in the past I’ve tended to pick books based on what *I* wanted to read, rather than taking account of their current interests and picking a book based off of that. As a literary agent AND an auntie, I always want to encourage the love of reading. I knew that my older niece, Meira, is going through a potty humor phase (she is 5, after all) so when I saw WHEN UNICORNS POOP at Barnes & Noble, I knew I needed to check it out. I thought it was funny and clever, and chock-full of potty humor so it was the perfect fit.
This picture was taken for our first read-through when they both quietly listened. Then they asked to read it again, & they giggled through it. (Meira giggled at the book and Thea followed suit to be like big sis.) Then they asked to read it again & they made sound effects. Then they asked to read it AGAIN & they had it memorized.
My nieces are young and squirmy so I’ve learned that zippy, funny books are best for them, and if there’s a dash of potty humor, all the better. I have also learned: doing funny voices and accents, encouraging them to make sound effects, asking them to point to things on the page, etc. has kept them engaged. I want books to be fun for them! How do you keep your little, squirmy ones engaged?
P.S. I didn’t represent WHEN UNICORNS POOP, but that doesn’t mean I can’t plug it! You can buy it here, or at your local bookstore. I’ve seen it at most Barnes & Noble locations, too.
Let’s talk about the first paragraph of a query letter! In my mind this is the most important part to get right, and I want to share some thoughts on how to make it strong.
I look for the first paragraph of a query letter to include a birdseye view of the project—AKA the basic stats: title + reader category + genre + word count), as well as a quick logline. This grounds the agent in the project + shows that you know your stuff.
This looks like:
BIPPITY BOPPITY BOOP is a YA Romance at 80,000 words in which a young magician enters a televised magic competition only to find out that the competition is rigged to make the producer’s son win—and even worse, she’s falling in love with him.
The first paragraph is also the right place to mention any specifics on why you’re querying the agent in question—you were referred by one of their clients, you saw something specific on their MSWL, etc. Keep it professional though! Don’t be like, “I saw on your Instagram that 65 weeks ago you went to Ice Cream Social. I too love that place!” This doesn’t feel professional to me.
Now let’s talk more about what you ~shouldn’t~ do in the first paragraph. A common mistake I see is when writers use this precious real estate to list the themes or issues explored in their project. This feels vague and fluffy to me.
This looks like: “My novel is about love and fear and forgiveness and mental health issues and my protagonist overcomes many obstacles to accomplish her goal.” This doesn’t give me any sense for what actually happens in your book!
Other common querying mistakes: bashing other books in the same age group/genre as yours, word count too high/low, not including the basics, and when it doesn’t feel like a professional email.
Some of you have heard this similar advice dozens of times before, but we repeat it so often because so many writers forget to include the basics! They are crucial!
This has been First Paragraph of a Query Letter 101 with Adria Goetz. Remember to list your basics and nail down a succinct logline and you’ll be golden! Go get ‘em! You’ve got this!
“I will buy one book.”
*walks into Books Are Magic bookstore in Brooklyn*
Me: “I will buy five books.”
Family members: avert your eyes.
Everyone else: feast your eyes on (most of) the books I’m giving for Christmas this year.