Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency

Rena Rossner is a Literary Agent with The Deborah Harris Agency.

Rena is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars Program, she studied at Trinity College, Dublin and holds an MA in History from McGill University. She is the author of the cookbook EATING THE BIBLE (Skyhorse, 2014) and the novel, THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD (Redhook/Orbit, 2018) which was named “One of the 100 best books of 2018” by Publishers Weekly. She has been at the agency since 2012.

Rena is interested in representing: Literary and Upmarket Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, Horror, and Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has a particular love for novels in verse. She accepts queries for Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books projects and also works with illustrators.

SPECIFICS:

“I represent Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult. In terms of Adult fiction, I look for Literary, Historical, Fantasy and SciFi, Romance and Thrillers, though I am open to all genres. Nonfiction: in all genres, but it depends on the project. I have a love for history, food, and literary science writing, but am open to anything.

“Picture Books: I want funny/quirky books (think Skippyjon Jones,) adorable books that have a classic feel (I love animals and precocious little girls and boys,) or books with a strong message (not ones that moralize) but something with an edge – be it historical fiction, an alternative princess story, or a family story that feels familiar but has a different twist. I love magical realism and poetry and I find myself attracted mostly to picture books under 500 words, though I am open to considering longer ones.

“Middle Grade: I love novels in verse. I love magical realism and poetic writing. I love funny, quirky middle grade. Historical fiction, books with a classic feel. I also love Science Fiction and Fantasy. MG contemporary with a great voice. I’m open to Mysteries/Thrillers.

“Young Adult: Novels in verse, poetry, poetic writing, historical fiction. Contemporary YA with lots of heart – I love romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Nonfiction, anything multicultural and QUILTBAG friendly too (send me the next Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe PLEASE!) but I would also give anything for the next Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

“Adult Fiction – literary writing above all, poetic writing, but I will always be a sucker for all types of SciFi and Fantasy (I love literary scifi and richly imagined alternate worlds,) all types of fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy and Magical Realism. Any kind of Literary Fiction, even edgy and gritty, but give me stunning phrases that make you want to stop and read them again and again. I love all kinds of Historical Fiction (give me the next Outlander, Hild or Pillars of the Earth,) but I am open to horror, psychological suspense and thrillers. I love romance in all genres. And I have a soft spot for Ireland and anything set in the Middle East.

“Nonfiction: I’m a foodie, so any books related to food are right up my alley including cookbooks, but in terms of non-fiction (besides cookbooks,) while I am open to them, I wouldn’t say that it’s a genre I know well, having said that, literary writing trumps all, especially in memoir.

“IN GENERAL: You will steal my heart if there is some kind of Middle Eastern, Israeli, or Jewish setting, theme, or character, in any genre, but those are certainly not the only types of books I represent.

“Though I am based in Jerusalem, I represent authors all over the world and about half of my current clients are US-based.”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Ali McDonald of 5 Otter Literary

Ali McDonald is a literary agent with 5 Otter Literary.

In twelve years as an international literary agent, Ali has represented many award-winning and bestselling authors and illustrators. Specializing in children’s and young adult literature, she works on projects ranging from concept and novelty books, board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books, and graphic novels, to middle grade, young adult, and new adult fiction and non-fiction.

Her select list of clients includes The New York Times bestselling author Laura Nowlin (If He Had Been With Me and This Song is (Not) For You), Hugo-award-winning Emily Pohl-Weary (Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl), and multi-award-nominated and Best Book-listed author Jo Treggiari (Blood Will Out and The Grey Sisters), among others.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Mary DeMuth of Books & Such Literary Management

Mary DeMuth is a literary agent with Books & Such Literary Management.

Mary is looking for:

  • Adult nonfiction Christian living titles, particularly those with a bent toward spiritual growth
  • Devotionals
  • Discipleship-oriented books
  • Accessible theological books (think N.T. Wright)
  • Books about the US church as well as the global church
  • Health-related topics
  • Mental health issues
  • Trauma-related recovery
  • Habit research
  • Design books
  • Leadership/business/productivity ideas.

She is not acquiring any fiction, YA, or children’s books.

Mary is also a podcaster of the popular Pray Every Day podcast, artist, speaker, and the author of 40+ books, including The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible (Salem 2022). She lives in Texas with her husband and is the mom to three adult children. Find out more at marydemuth.com.

Mary can’t remember when she didn’t write. From journals to letters to poems, Mary wrote her way through life.

The most important thing you need to know about Mary is she loves Jesus. She writes, speaks, and podcasts about how he’s transformed and re-storied her life.

Before she was published, Mary set pretend deadlines for herself and met them early. She wrote millions of unpublished words, honing her craft and perfecting her voice. After a meeting with a published author who guarded publishing information like a state secret, Mary vowed that if she ever figured out how to get published, she would share it with any aspiring author. Since then, she’s been pouring into new and established authors through intensives, conference speaking, one on one coaching, and mastermind groups.

Mary has made every single mistake an author can make, but she’s also learned resiliency. She is unafraid to try new things. This is her superpower in helping you navigate the intricacies of the publishing and platform journey. She’s been there. She’s walked through rejection, success, deadlines, platform creation, web presence, content creation, and social media building. Since she’s been in the author trenches, she’s better equipped to understand your pathway toward publication and success.

To date, Mary has written more than 40 books—both nonfiction and fiction. She has spoken all over the world, helping writers hone their message, write powerfully, and get noticed. Her podcast, Pray Every Day, has surpassed two million downloads and has been listened to in more than 150 countries. In her spare time, she creates small scale art projects for her Etsy shop.

A former church planter in Southern France, Mary has a heart for the world. She is a mom to three adult children and the wife of Patrick for thirty-one years. They make their home in beautiful Rockwall, Texas.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Debbie Alsdorf of Books & Such Literary Management

Debbie Alsdorf is a literary agent with Books & Such Literary Management.

Debbie acquires adult nonfiction projects that speak to real life and is looking for proposals in these categories:

  • Christian Living with a bent toward spiritual growth and lifestyle change
  • Devotionals
  • Mental Health
  • Ministry-related
  • Inner healing and recovery
  • Health
  • Marriage and family
  • Blended family and step-parenting
  • Lifestyle (décor, home, diet, food)
  • Purpose and identity
  • Leadership
  • Discipleship

Debbie’s core focus has always been in leadership and encouraging people. From leading flourishing women’s ministries, to the women she speaks to and writes for, she is known as an encourager. Many have affectionately called her a cheerleader of hope. As an agent, she will help her clients to find the hope and faith they need to follow their calling.

One thing is certain, Debbie is a woman on a mission—to help others live a better story. She does this by leading them to the heart of God’s love for them—basic but often not talked about truths that changed her life after seventeen years serving in Christian ministry. During a life crisis, she asked God for a fresh start. That meant getting real with God about her insecurities, brokenness, and lack of faith. The process took her back to the basics and a life reset. Because of this, she has a tuned ear to the felt needs of women and is an avid reader of nonfiction, which will help her to direct her clients how to focus their projects for that audience.

Debbie brings to agenting more than 20 years’ experience leading teams, creating programs, and shepherding women as the Director of Women’s Ministries in large and thriving churches. Before working in ministry, she held positions in sales and marketing, representing large national lines such as Maxell, Sony, and Avery, supplying large retailers and helping to develop marketing, sales, and strategies. This experience informs how to pitch projects to publishing houses and to guide her clients in marketing strategies for their careers and individual books.

As a writing coach, she has worked with writers to envision the best way to structure a book and write in a way that connects with readers. She is also a pastoral counselor, certified life coach, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, all of which prepare her to help authors to ride the roller coaster of publishing as well as equip her to understand readers’ felt needs.

Debbie has written fourteen traditionally-published books and contributed to four compilations. She has a heart for authors. She also understands how to promote through her experience on numerous national radio broadcasts and podcasts and being interviewed on “The Today Show” for her book It’s Momplicated. She understands the world of public speaking, having been a featured speaker at women’s events and writers’ conferences and can help writers to develop their ministries through public speaking.

Being part of the Books & Such team enables her to utilize the skills she’s gained through her own experiences. She loves imparting vision, coaching, and helping others to fulfill their calling.

After raising a blended family in Northern California, Debbie and her husband moved their empty nest and two little dogs to Arizona.

 

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Amy Stern of Sheldon Fogelman Agency

Amy Stern is a literary agent with Sheldon Fogelman Agency.

Amy works with clients who write and illustrate all kinds of children’s literature, from picture book through young adult, in poetry, prose, and graphic formats. She joined the Sheldon Fogelman Agency in 2010 as an agent assistant after receiving masters degrees in children’s literature and library and information science from Simmons College and completing an agency internship. Since then she has worked her way up to managing clients on her own, while also handling all agency permissions. Before she began her journey to agenting, Amy double majored in English and Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College and worked at libraries and bookstores. She has served as a mentor for the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature’s MFA program, and regularly participates in conferences and conventions.

SHE IS SEEKING:

“I feel like so much of what I want is what everyone wants — fresh voices, exciting stories, something very marketable but not quite like anything out there. I like my stories firmly rooted in character and my characters firmly rooted in their world.

“I enjoy a little bit of everything, and constantly surprise myself with what I want to take on; I don’t think of myself as someone who’s a big fan of romance or high fantasy or historical fiction, for example, but I can think of several examples of each that really worked for me that I wouldn’t want to rule out. That said, if you have a historical fantasy romance, I’m probably not your best bet.

“I firmly believe that every story is about race, gender, and class- it’s just that often, those are invisible because they’re the societal default. I am definitely looking for a broader spectrum of representation on my list, but I’d also like to see more stories where those default identities are explicitly acknowledged and analyzed, rather than invisible.

“Topics I love to read about? Summer camps, boarding schools, reality television, kids who are in some way extraordinary, puzzles, puns. I really love stories that involve close family relationships that both enhance and complicate the protagonists’ lives. I want to see more mental illness stories that aren’t just about diagnosis and LGBTQIA+ stories that aren’t just about coming out. I’m a giant nerd who goes to several comic conventions a year and I am always in favor of stories about geeks that don’t rely on stereotypes or pop culture references to succeed.

“I got my masters degree in children’s literature and I’m passionate about the idea that even the funniest, most light-hearted stories deserve to be taken seriously. If you think of children’s books as something easy to write or illustrate, we probably won’t be a good match.”

 

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Julia Byers of Sheldon Fogelman Agency

Julia Byers is a literary agent with the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. She joined the agency 2018 as a temp, after spending several years interning around the publishing industry, working at a bookshop, and running a nonprofit organization for young writers.

She enjoyed working with SFA so much, she decided to stay on, and is now excited to take on a more hands-on role by working with clients and foreign rights. She received her B.A. in Honors Creative Writing & Literature with a minor in Global Media Studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, as well as certificates from the St Peter’s College, Oxford University Summer School and the Columbia Publishing Course UK. Julia is enthusiastic about working with authors of children’s fiction, spanning picture books through YA, and looks forward to taking on new clients.

SHE IS SEEKING:

“I enjoy working with children’s books for all age groups.

“Within YA, I’ll read pretty much anything, as long as it has a strong voice, tight plotting, and a great sense of humor. I like to see protagonists struggle with big questions and their place in the world, no matter the circumstances, and welcome darker stories about contending with trauma and grief (as long as there’s still some humor and hope woven in). That said, I’m always a sucker for:

  • secret identities
  • time travel
  • globetrotting adventures
  • high school theatre
  • anything dealing with movies/TV
  • socially conscious protagonists
  • super fluffy rom-coms

“Also, if you can comp your book to Taylor Swift’s music (especially folklore), PLEASE send it my way, I beg of you.

“Middle grade-wise, I generally tend toward books with a lot of heart, especially humorous mystery and adventure stories. I can never get enough of kids going on quests, whether that be to save the world or just to beat a mean girl at the local scavenger hunt. I’m not the best fit for stories from animals’ POVs, but if your protagonist has a cute animal companion who goes everywhere with them, sign me up (as long as said animal companion does not die; the last time I read a book with an animal death, I accidentally threw it across the room).

“In terms of picture books, I prefer fiction, but otherwise my tastes are very open. I love both laugh-out-loud humor and quieter, more lyrical writing. What I really look for is a strong character arc and sense of plot structure.

“Across all age groups, a priority is working with underrepresented voices. I’m especially interested in stories with incidental diversity, rather than issue-driven books, and happy (or at least bittersweet!) endings.”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: James Mustelier of The Bent Agency

James Mustelier is a literary agent with The Bent Agency.

“I am an agent at the Bent Agency as well as the in-house Editorial Consultant. I was born in Miami, Florida, and lived in Spain, France and Italy before moving to New York. I studied Creative Writing at Florida State University and received my MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York, where I served as the Graduate Editor of the literary journal. I’ve worked as an editorial associate at Fiction magazine and as a freelance editor.

“I’m looking for both literary and commercial adult fiction. In literary fiction, I’m specifically drawn to visceral honesty coupled with a dark sense of humor. In commercial fiction I’m looking for horror, mystery, and thrillers. My favorite books have distinct and memorable voices that grab the reader’s attention, and a narrative gravity that permeates every action in the story.”

Pitch him:

  • Literary fiction
  • Crime
  • Mystery/Suspense
  • Horror
  • Humor
  • YA fiction
  • Short Stories

Do NOT pitch him:

  • Romance
  • Poetry
  • Self-help
  • Picture books

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary

Maria Vicente is a Senior Literary Agent and Advisor at P.S. Literary representing bold and innovative books for kids, teens, and curious adults.

Her favourite books to work on allow readers to experience something new about the real world or invite them into fictional worlds they’ll never want to leave. In her 8 years at P.S. Literary, Maria has launched the careers of many authors and illustrators and is known for being an early advocate of the growing graphic novel market in trade publishing.

With a B.A. in English from Carleton University and a B.Ed. from Western University, Maria puts her teaching background to use hosting presentations and workshops about the book industry. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada, reading and selling books from the Atlantic Ocean shore.

Maria is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents (PACLA).

“I welcome and encourage submissions from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ creators whether or not your story is considered #ownvoices.”

SHE IS SEEKING:

Young Adult: “I am interested in a variety of YA genres: contemporary, magical realism, horror, mystery, thriller, and light fantasy—just to name a few! I enjoy literary prose combined with a strong voice and high concept. My YA wish list includes: contemporary stories about best friends; macabre fairy tale retelling; LGBTQ+ romantic comedy; a book about a boy band; eerie mysteries and thrillers; magical realism with gorgeous prose; a novel-in-verse; experimental story structures.”

Middle Grade: “I am currently looking at all genres of middle grade. I am also open to chapter books with strong series potential. My MG wish list includes: fantasy based on non-Western folklore; creepy horror stories; a modern Sweet Valley Twins series; an animal story (not talking animals; ex: Pax); high concept chapter book series; realistic stories with literary prose.”

Picture Books: “I am looking for illustrated picture books by author/illustrators. Topics on my picture book wish list include: stories with literary sensibilities (ex: Birdsong, Lubna and Pebble; Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox; This is Sadie; Virginia Wolf); nonfiction (not biographies); the Wheel of the Year; cultural traditions/folklore/history.”

Kidlit nonfiction: “I am looking for nonfiction projects for readers of all ages. I expect a nonfiction book proposal to offer a new perspective on an entertaining topic. I particularly enjoy nonfiction in the pop culture, science, design, and lifestyle categories. If you’re a millennial journalist hoping to turn your expertise on a topic into a book, please get in touch! Some specific nonfiction wish list topics include: the history of a pop culture topic; lifestyle for millennials; vegan cookbook; nonfiction for kids and teens; smart essay collections; illustrated gift books.”

Kidlit Graphic Novels: “I represent illustrated books for all age categories. If you are an illustrator, please provide a link to your portfolio when sending a query letter. My current comics wish list: graphic memoirs; graphic nonfiction; contemporary young adult.”

 

 

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Ian Shea of Maximus Literary

Ian Shea is a literary agent with Maximus Literary.

“In the fourth grade, my teacher sent a note home asking if my parents knew I was writing a book report on John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. While it might not have been age-appropriate, the story sucked me in and I wanted to tell everyone how much I loved it! That was when I realized my love of books was stronger than most other kids. As an adult, my passion for great storytelling has led me to Maximus Literary.

“My first venture in publishing was working as a contributor for a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper. After seeing the power of the written word, I always knew my dream career would involve writing and pursued a degree in that field. Spending 10 years in corporate America, where I worked with Fortune 500 companies, I developed an eye for detail and thrived in the fast-paced, creative environment. I learned the value of nurturing client relationships, especially for their celebrity customers. Now, I’m able to utilize my skillset to foster lasting relationships with authors and publishers, alike.

“As an associate agent at Maximus Literary, I’ll be working with authors in a variety of genres. I am always on the hunt for talented writers with unique voices. Some of my favorite books include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. My preferred genres are science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, dystopian futures, and contemporary LGBTQ+ stories.”

HE IS SEEKING:

“I tend to lean towards YA and adult novels. I’m not currently looking for middle-grade or picture books. I’m open to both debut authors and writers who’ve been previously published. I only care about whether or not you have a well-written and compelling story that I won’t want to put down. I’m open to standalone stories or books with series potential.

“I’m eagerly seeking the following genres:

  • Mysteries and thrillers: Murder mysteries, psychological thrillers, “whodunit”, I enjoy it all!
  • Fantasy: Far-off worlds, magic, superheroes, knights, evil sorceresses, chosen ones, magical girls, it’s all fun.
  • Horror: Whether it’s a haunted house, a serial killer, or a centuries-old curse, if it will make me too scared to turn the lights off, I want to read it. I lean more towards suspenseful and atmospheric stories and I’m less interested in excessive gore.
  • Science fiction: I like anything from artificial intelligence to epic space sagas and everything in-between!
  • Adventure: Whether your protagonist is running from the mob or globe-trotting looking for ancient treasure, I’m open to reading it.
  • Dystopian futures: I love stories about corrupt governments and the last of humanity trying to survive!
  • Coming of age: I love stories about characters of any age going through life-altering journeys that cause them to grow as people. I particularly love stories about characters who are LGBTQ+ that aren’t centered around coming out.
    Re-imagined fairy tales

I’m not interested in:

Romance or stories where romance is essential to the plot.
Erotica
Cowboys/Westerns
Religion
Poetry
Memoirs
Biographies
Historical fiction
Satire

 

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary

Eva Scalzo is a Literary Agent with Speilburg Literary.

Eva  was born in New Jersey, but has lived in Houston, Buenos Aires, San Juan, and Boston before settling down outside of Binghamton, New York. She has been reading romance since the fifth grade when she discovered the Sweet Valley High series. On inheriting her grandmother’s collection of vintage Harlequin Romances, she set a goal to someday finish reading them all on top of her already massive TBR.

Eva has a B.A. in the Humanities from the University of Puerto Rico and a M.A. in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. Since graduating in 2002, she has spent her career in scholarly publishing, working for Houghton Mifflin, Blackwell Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, and Cornell University in a variety of roles. She has been with Speilburg Literary since 2013, and started accepting clients in 2017. Eva is a member the AALA (formerly AAR), RWA, and SCBWI.

In Adult Fiction, Eva represents Romance (all subgenres but inspirational) and Science Fiction/Fantasy. She also represents all subgenres of Young Adult Fiction.

Fun Fact: My name is not pronounced with a long E sound. I’m of Puerto Rican, Lebanese, and Spanish descent.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Leticia Gomez of Savvy Literary

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 11.51.01 PM.pngLeticia Gomez is a literary agent and the founder of Saavy Literary.

Leticia has been working in the publishing industry for more than two decades. During this span of time, she has published her own newspaper, authored and published three books, edited numerous fiction and nonfiction manuscripts written in both English and Spanish that have gone on to publication. Thus far in her career as a literary agent she has placed close to 200 books with independent and mainstream traditional publishers.

At the present time, Savvy Literary Agency is interested in reviewing compelling and commercially viable book proposals and manuscripts written in English or Spanish in the following genres:

Fiction: Adventure, Chick-lit, Fantasy, Historical, Humor, Multi-cultural, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult and Middle-grade.

Nonfiction: Advice/Relationships, Biography, Cooking, Diet, Health, History/Politics/Current Affairs, How-to, Humor, Lifestyle, Memoir, Parenting, Religion/Spirituality and True Crime.

The Savvy Literary Agency is not interested in representing projects in the following genres: Children’s Picture Books, Horror, Erotica, Poetry, Short Story Collections, and Graphic Novels

In January of 2007, she launched Savvy Literary, becoming one of a highly select group of agencies in the world that specializes in the Latino book market and offers literary representation in English and Spanish. Since its inception, the agency’s prime directive has been to professionally, diligently, and tirelessly represent Latino and other ethnic minority writers since oftentimes they are misrepresented or worse yet not represented at all in the publishing and film/television industry. Although Savvy Literary has evolved through the years and is now an industry leader by also specializing in Business and Self-Help, Suspense/Thriller, and the Young Adult market, championing the work of minority authors continues to be a top priority for the agency.

In partnership with Ascendant Group, one of the leading branding and marketing firms in the nation, Leticia offers an even greater level of support to aspiring authors. As president of the company’s entertainment division, she has distinguished herself as a literary/film/television agent who can communicate effectively with the authors she is representing. She has helped her clients secure deals with the largest publishers in the world. In addition, she has seen several of her projects successfully optioned for TV and film rights. She is currently an Executive Producer for Bridges, an independent feature-length film starring Chris Routhe. Blending her experience as an author, literary/film/television agent and acquisition editor, she is now truly excited to spearhead her very own Hispanic book imprint Café con Leche Books (www.cafeconlechebooks.com).