Sunday, January 26, 2014

About #AskAgent

The good people over at Literary Rejections asked me to contribute to a post about what we agents like about #askagent, the irregular Twitter Q&A session. You can read what I—and lots of other agents—had to say at

Friday, January 24, 2014


I love Januarys – the year is wide-open before you and possibilities abound (it’s the kissing cousin to September, with school starting and the feeling of fresh start).  A perfect time let you know what kind of projects I’d love to find this year!

I took on a number of picture book writers and illustrators in 2013, so my focus this year is on middle-grade and young adult novels. 

Here’s what I look for in a book for any age reader:

-- Powerful, original voice
-- A great hook and strong plot
-- Real, textured, imperfect characters.  I love quirky, but not for its own sake; quirkiness that feels true and fully integrated to its character.
-- Writing with literary quality, that’s commercial too
-- Heart.  I want to be emotionally invested in a book
-- Humor is key; even if the book is dark or fairly serious, I want some humor.  Because life is like that.
-- Blow me away!  I want to read something that feels different.

More specifically, in both YA and MG, what I want most right now is a big, juicy fantasy, with gorgeous, complex world-building and high stakes, that’s not at the expense of your characters.  It’s cold and gray in Brooklyn!  Transport me to a world that feels really new.

I’d love to find a funny and layered Contemporary YA story.  Give me a great romance, but don’t stop there – add family dynamics, or a mother-daughter thread, shifting friendships, big stakes.  My client Rachael Allen’s book 17 FIRST KISSES is a great example of a book layered like this (and it’s coming out this June!).  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is another favorite contemporary YA, with very strong voice.

YA Historical Fiction that sweeps the reader up in the past, but feels immediate as well.  Something romantic please!  I’m interested in most periods, and especially like Elizabethan and Victorian England, as well as 20th century American.

YA with a unique story-telling device.  Think WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? for teens – a story that incorporates  a mix of emails, letters, diary entries etc to form the narrative.  Or something like THE 19TH WIFE, that combines a present-day story and mirrors that to a historical one.  I also like multiple points of view.

YA Sci-Fi.  I’m seeing quite a bit of sci-fi, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of machines becoming intelligent enough to outsmart their creators.  A fresh imagining of that concept please!  A recent favorite sci-fi novel is THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, which I loved for its originality and heartbreaking characters, this is the kind of sci-fi I’m looking for.

A couple others I’d love to see: a YA story about cloning, a YA mystery with tons of creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere or a YA about boarding school secret societies.

In middle-grade, I’m drawn to literary, character-driven stories with a twist.  Think BREADCRUMBS or BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT.  I’m a sucker for bittersweet.

A fantastical MG in the vein of Joan Aiken’s WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE -- something gothic, Dickensian, historical or an alternate history.

I love MG time-travel stories, and would love to find something that re-invents that concept.

MG novel in verse.  Jackie Woodson’s LOCOMOTION is a favorite, and I’d love to find an emotional verse novel.

A favorite kind of MG historical fiction has the main character meeting up with a famous historical figure – a kid who spends time in the company of Susan B Anthony or Marco Polo, for instance. 

I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings, for both MG and YA, especially ones that use a lesser known tale, and make use of the darker threads in these stories.  Some favorite fairy tales are Tam Lin, the Six Swans, and Goose Girl, and my all time favorite example of this kind of book is THE PERILOUS GARD.

Thanks for reading this list, and not to worry if your book doesn’t neatly match something I’ve described here.  What I really want is great writing and a great read, and I’m open to possibilities.  It is January after all!

I can’t wait to read your projects, thank you for sending them my way!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Jenny's Wish List: Please Send Books!

Hi guys,

I recently reopened to queries after a short hiatus so it seemed like a good time to also tell you what I am most looking for.

In general, if you have written a book that is VERY funny, or VERY scary, or VERY sad, or VERY anything, really, send it to me!  I love extremes and I love stuff that really makes me feel something, that is emotionally powerful in some way.

More specifically, here is what I'm looking for:

1. Female driven or female authored suspense or crime.  Lori Roy's UNTIL SHE CAME HOME was just nominated for the Edgar for best novel (she also won the Edgar for Best First Book for BENT ROAD) and I'd love to find more authors like Lori, who write edge of your seat literary suspense.  I also would love more commercial writers of suspense like my authors Kate Brady and Rita Herron.  And of course, I have two YA suspense novels coming out in the next year, S.E. Green's KILLER INSTINCT and Lynn Weingarten's SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS.   I love really, really dark books in general, so if you've written one, please do send it along!

2. High concept women's fiction.   This is like Lori Nelson Spielman's THE LIFE LIST or Victoria Van Tiem's LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES or Yangsze Choo's THE GHOST BRIDE.    Women's fiction with a hook, that I can pitch in a sentence or two.   Obviously it also needs to be an emotional, satisfying read.

3. I love a good ghost story.  Sonja Condit's STARTER HOUSE just came out and I'm so excited about this one, along the lines of Joe Hill's HEART SHAPED BOX.

4. Historical fiction, particularly with a tie-in to a real life person.   I'm very excited about the upcoming release of Jan Moran's A PROMISE OF ROSES next year.

5. Great, funny, voice-driven contemporary YA with a more serious theme, like anything by John Green or Rainbow Rowell.

6. Classic YA or MG fantasy with a good hook and epic feel, like SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo.

Since I've been around for a while, my list is admittedly pretty full, but I'm still ALWAYS on the lookout for that special author to add to my list, whether debut or multi-published.   Please do try me with any book that you really feel passionate about--even if it's not a fit, I'm always grateful to hear from you!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Interview with Susan at I Write for Apples

Dee over at I Write for Apples asked if I’d do an interview in her Query. Sign. Submit series, which I was glad to do.  Here’s a preview of some of the questions:

Is it okay for a writer to nudge concerning queries or partial/full requests?
What does it take for you to offer representation?
What would you love to find in the slush pile? 

There's plenty more on the process of finding an agent and sending that first project out on submission.  Check it out here: I Write for Apples.

Thanks for having me Dee!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Internship for thrillers/suspense has been filled.

We have filled the current internship position. Many thanks to all who applied. If you didn't make it this time around, feel free to apply again in the future, or try for the MG/YA/PB internship! 

Two Internships are Open, for MG/YA and Picture Books

We’re looking for two interns, one to focus on MG & YA and the other to focus on Picture Books.

If you like books by the following authors and illustrators please be in touch:

Young Adult / Middle Grade                                      Picture Books
MT Anderson                                                                 Isabelle Arsenault
Franny Billingsley                                                          Sophie Blackall
Gennifer Choldenko                                                       Brian Floca
Jack Gantos                                                                     Marla Frazee
Polly Horvath                                                                  Jon Klassen
Patrick Ness                                                                     Renata Liwska
Rainbow Rowell                                                              Sergio Ruzzier
Rebecca Stead                                                                 Philip C. Stead
Tim Tharp                                                                        Ezra David Stein
Anne Ursu                                                                       Tomi Ungerer

Here are the details:
  • The internships are unpaid and remote, so you can work from anywhere.  A treehouse, in your pajamas, in the middle of the night, for instance.
  • No publishing experience is necessary.  We’re looking for dedicated readers who have a strong knowledge of kids’ books.
  • You will need to dedicate 8-10 hours a week for this position.
The internship is a great way to learn more about an agent’s work and decision-making process.  Past interns have been writers for children, children’s librarians, elementary school teachers, MFA students, and passionate readers.

To apply, send an email to with the following information:
  • Please put either “MG/YA Internship” or “Picture Book Internship” in the subject line.
  • Tell us why you’d like the position.
  • Include a bit of information about yourself, including any relevant experience you have.  Attach a resume if you’d like to, though it’s not necessary. 
  • List the last 10 books you’ve read in either YA/MG or Picture Books, depending on what you’re applying for.
  • List your 10 all-time favorite books in either YA/MG or Picture Books.  (You can always throw in a few others that aren’t in the category too, if you hate to leave something out).
We usually receive quite a few applicants and the application period will close fairly quickly; watch this space and twitter (@susanhawk) for more announcements.

Thank you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Updated Manuscript Wishlist - a post by Beth

Back in September, I wrote all about what I wanted to see in my submissions in this post. I’ve received so many great queries and have already added a few new clients to my roster as a result. Looking ahead to 2014, I decided to fine-tune my wishlist.

Let’s take a look, starting with my MG and YA search:

- I want quirky, cute but dramatic and all-consuming contemporary YA romance. Yeah, okay, this is still true. More than anything, I want strong characters with more going on in their lives than this romance – a solid plot that makes the romance really pop.

- With contemporary, I also want to see more stories about everyday issues that are super relatable. This is also still true. What I mean here is that I want to read about people who are experiencing something real, something we can all grasp. I like a well-done “big issue” book, too, but I appreciate when an author explores the most basic emotions and makes me feel them, times a million. I’m still eager to see a Doomsday Prepper post-Rapture novel.

- Although it’s saturating the market a bit, I still love a strong YA urban fantasy with high stakes but not paranormal of the werewolves/vampires kind. Again, still true. I like fantasy. I do. But I’m looking for something extremely fresh. A whole new outlook. I want myths and retellings and something that surprises me. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of stories in others worlds that are too… otherly. I like it to be somewhat grounded in reality, so I won’t typically request epic/high fantasy. I’ll also look at science fiction, but not the kind that happens in space and obviously nothing that could be seen as dystopian. Still would love to see a dark Frankensteinian project with a lot of suspense, ghosts and witches.

- I like serious middle-grade tempered with lots of fun and adventure. I’m taking a break from MG right now, so please consider our other wonderful agents that are still looking!

- I’m also interested in finding some lovely New Adult fiction with an unforgettable voice. I definitely found some of this and I want more! I’m looking for contemporary and realistic but would love a nail-biting thriller too.

Moving on to my adult wishlist:

- I’m interested in literary fiction but obviously I don’t want the writing to be too flowery and distracting. I’m looking for bookclub-quality fiction when I say this. Still looking!

- Suspense, mysteries and thrillers that are complicated and surprising, not cheesy or derivative. I’ve been seeing a lot of the same in this area. I’m looking for a surprising villain, unexpected heroes and really twisty plots. Would love a story without a hardened cop or PI or a woman with a dark secret past.

- Humorous women’s fiction beyond the typical “Mr. Right/Back-to-my-country-roots” iterations. I’m still seeing quite a lot of these and I haven’t really connected with any of them. I’m looking for candor over campy or slapstick.

- Well-written family sagas and other general fiction. Yep.

And then there is nonfiction:

- As a home cook, I’d love to see some unique cookbook ideas with interesting perspectives on new and old recipes. I’m definitely prioritizing this above my other nonfiction interests right now and have already found a few wonderful clients to work with. Please keep reaching out and pitching me your fabulous ideas!

- I’ll consider humor/pop culture book projects with strong platforms. This is still true, and I have not been getting enough of these submissions. I’d love to work with someone immersed in comedy and funny writers with relatable stories and a loyal following.

- I’m a huge animal lover, so any pet-related submissions are welcome. I’ve still got the two dogs and I do still love them. I’m looking for interesting dog and cat stories, from impulse/gift books to the scientific.

Thanks for reading and for considering the Bent Agency! I can't wait to read your queries.

Ready... set... GO!