You’ve been in the book business since the early 1980’s as a clerk in a bookstore, then as a buyer, then as director of sales, and ultimately VP at Warner Bros. Worldwide Publishing. How has your career in publishing led to opening your own agency?
Ever since I cracked the reading code I’ve had my nose stuck in one book or another, so I think it was a natural transition to move from books-as-a-hobby to publishing-as-a-career. Certainly, when I started as a clerk in my neighborhood B. Dalton, I never dreamed of becoming an agent; in fact, didn’t even know what an agent was. But as my publishing career grew, I discovered that I most enjoyed the creative process of working with writers as well as the thrill of making a sale – skills a good agent needs. By 2005, I was ready to combine the two and strike out on my own.
Why do you only work with children’s authors?
Kid’s books are my favorite genre, and I guess I can only cite the old cliché about getting a kick out of seeing a child’s face light up when their mind starts mulling over a new thought or idea. You don’t get that so much with adults.
What’s the flavor of your own reading?
I’m afraid I’m a book omnivore; I read everything. While I do read a lot of kids’ books, I also love adult fiction–particularly mysteries—and am
drawn to non-fiction books about books, language and history.
What stands out for you in a memorable children’s book?
A great character with a big problem and some unexpected twists and turns in solving it. I love it when a story surprises me. Also, if I think about it for a day or two afterward, I know it’s gotten to me in some way.
How do you keep up with a huge children’s literary market?
Alas, there’s only one way—read, read, read. To stay abreast of the ever-changing kid lit market, I study all the trades and talk to my colleagues at the various publishing houses.
Have kids’ reading tastes changed in the “No Child Left Behind” era?
While I applaud the government’s attempt to structure the educational track of American students, I’m afraid that NCLB has forced many teachers to ‘teach to the test,’ which limits students’ exposure to a variety of books because they fall outside the test parameters. Luckily most kids live within 20 minutes of a bookstore or library so they have access to more books beyond what they’re offered in class.
You offer international contacts in your services? How does that work?
Over my career, I’ve developed relationships with publishing professionals all over the world. This network enables me to ensure my clients’ works have global reach.
With thousands of children’s books being published every year, do you have any reasons why a children’s book author should feel encouraged in the midst of such competition?
No one will ever say, “that’s it—we’ve had enough stories.” If anything, the huge publishing market for children’s books reflects the diversity of young readers’ tastes. Publishers are always looking for interesting and meaningful stories, told in a unique voice. It would be a pretty dreary business if they didn’t.
How do you meet new authors?
Right now, most of my authors have been referrals from other authors, clients or colleagues. But I also receive submissions from this website and others such as agentquery.com.
What’s the deciding factor in accepting a manuscript?
Is it a good story? Is it well written? End of discussion. I realize that ‘a good story’ is somewhat subjective, but publishers publish what they think they can sell, and what they can sell is a story that compels people enough to want more. I feel the same way—give me a good story and we’re off to the races.
Is your client roster full?
Absolutely not! I’m always looking for new writers with a unique voice. But unfortunately, I’m not able to accept unsolited manuscripts right now. I’ll update my submissions page when I’m able to look at new manuscripts, so keep checking back.