From Editor To Agent: Two Sterling Lord Literistic Agents Share Their Journey

by Elizabeth Bewley and Sarah Landis

Why did you make the switch from editors to agents?

SL: I’ve always been someone who goes out and looks for projects. I was an editor for 15 years, and I’m excited to find great writers and to work with them over the course of their careers.

 

EB: Like Sarah, I was an editor for 15 years, and my favorite part of that job was the lasting relationships that I forged with authors. As an agent, I hope that I can be an integral part of an author’s career. I know that I can steer them towards rewarding and profitable opportunities.

 

How did you meet?

SL & EB: We met at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where we were both editors. But, even before that, we had crossed paths over the years. Once we started working together at HMH, we realized that we shared favorite authors, books, and even a few friends in common. We’re always each other’s first reader when we are evaluating a promising new manuscript.

 

How do you work together?

SL & EB: We will have our own client lists, but we bounce ideas off of each other and closely collaborate. When an author signs with one of us, they can expect to have a team backing them every step of the way towards publication and beyond.

 

What kinds of projects are you looking for?

SL: Middle grade and YA across all genres. I tend to like books that are high-concept, and I don’t shy away from darker stories. I’d love to find the next Adam Gidwitz or Lisa Graff. Basically, middle grade with heart, humor, and magic. I’m on the look-out for great YA fantasy set in a world that I haven’t seen before and YA speculative fiction. And, I’m a sucker for anything set in the South, having grown up in Virginia.

 

EB: I’m looking for middle grade and YA, as well. I love contemporary, realistic stories, especially those that feature a really great romance or characters offering a unique perspective on growing up. Authors who craft stories and characters with emotional depth are on my wish list. I also enjoy narrative nonfiction and memoirs centered on young people.  

 

Why is working with an editor-turned-agent advantageous for authors?

SL: I hope that I bring a wealth of publishing knowledge. I know that I won’t be able to turn off my editor’s brain, so any author that I work with can expect to get editorial expertise and agenting expertise.  

 

EB: Working with a publisher for the first time—or even the 10th time!—can be confusing and overwhelming. Having been on the other side of the desk, I can walk my clients through each step of the publication process. And, I can hopefully be a useful ally for the editors that I work with, too. I know all of the hard work that goes into their job.

 

How did you choose to join Sterling Lord? What it’s like at the SLL office?

EB & SL: We wanted to join an established agency that had impressed us when we were both editors. Sterling Lord Literistic is one of the best agencies in the business, with a history of representing award-winning and bestselling children’s book authors. It’s a full-service agency that will give our authors an advantage. Our office, located downtown near Wall Street (the new hot spot for publishing!) is very collaborative, busy, and friendly. It’s exciting to be working with agents who represent so many of our favorite authors and to be surrounded by a library of bestselling SLL books.

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Elizabeth Bewley represents young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction. Before becoming an agent, Elizabeth held editorial positions at HarperCollins, Intervisual Books, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, where she was an Executive Editor. Elizabeth has worked with bestselling and award-winning authors including Jennifer E. Smith, Estelle Laure, Claire LaZebnik, Linda Williams Jackson, Ashley Herring Blake, Sophie Flack, Kass Morgan, Josh Sundquist, Alyson Noël, and Nic Sheff, amongst others. You can see her MSWL profile here.

Before joining Sterling Lord Literistic in 2017, Sarah Landis worked as an editor for fifteen years, holding roles at G.P. Putnam Son’s, Hyperion Books, HarperCollins Children’s Books, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Over the course of her career, Sarah has had the pleasure of editing many talented authors including the likes of: Jodi Lynn Anderson, Kasie West, Claudia Gray, Michael Buckley, Eileen Cook, Erin Summerill, and Megan Shepherd. Sarah graduated with a BA in English from the University of Virginia. You can see her MSWL profile here. 

Want to e-meet our agents and editors?

You can now book ten-minute e-consultations to go over your work (either your query or first page) with many of our agents and editors. This is a great opportunity to ask the following:

  1. Why do I keep getting form rejections?
  2. What can I do to get a better request rate?
  3. What insider feedback can help me make this project a success?

You can see a list of participating agents and editors, and/or search by genre for the perfect fit–just select “Available” next to “Consultations,” select agent and/or editor, and then choose your genres and hit SEARCH.

Everyone is hand-selected for kindness, thoughtfulness, and the ability to give astute feedback on the spot.

These meetings are sponsored by The Manuscript Academy, #MSWL’s sister company designed to bring affordable publishing education to you, wherever you are. You can learn more about e-consultations here.

PS: Can’t afford an e-meeting? Apply for our scholarship!

Success Story: Agent Lauren Spieller and Author Wendy Heard

Lauren: Hi Wendy! I’m so excited to talk to you about how we started working together, and the role Manuscript Wishlist played in your publishing journey. First, can you tell me a bit about how you first went about querying, and what you were looking for in an agent?

Wendy: Hi Lauren! I’m more excited! I feel like I found the best, shiniest, solid-gold needle in the world’s biggest haystack!

I started querying seriously about six years ago. I began by sending queries blindly through sites like agentquery.com and moved on to looking through agency websites, where I’d pore through agent bios searching for a genre match. I was looking for an agent who was editorial, hands-on, and (I barely dared to dream) excited about the types of projects I liked to work on. It seemed like a lot to ask for, and there were definitely moments of despair when I thought I’d settle for a Golden Retriever with a Blackberry and a monocle.

Actually, that’d be really cute. Can Triada look into that?

Lauren: I’ll get on that right away. ::adds to To Do list:: In the meantime, I’d love to hear more about how you eventually found me, and the kind of research you did before or after you queried. Did you already know I was an editorial agent, or was that something you figured you’d find out if I offered to represent you?

Wendy: I’m very excited about the new mascot idea.

 

His name should be something ambiguously British like Lieutenant Count Vanderhooper, and I obviously want full credit when he becomes famous.

Through Twitter and writing contests, I found my way to ManuscriptWishList.com, where I found a handful of agents looking for psychological thrillers, one of them being…youOn your ManuscriptWishList.com bio, you stated that you were looking for “twisted, female-driven psychological thrillers in the vein of Lauren Beukes and Gillian Flynn.” Now, as you well know, HUNTING ANNABELLE is…it’s…well…it has some pretty dark moments, and I thought you’d be an agent who could hang on through them.

After stalking you online, I saw that you write YA and are active in that community. I thought that would help my chances, as my books tend to skew young for the genre. HUNTING ANNABELLE’s characters are college age, which was something I worried about with agents used to more domestic GONE GIRL/THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN style thrillers.

Through Twitter, I knew you used to do editing, and I had participated in a first page/query swap organized by you a year or two prior, so I hoped you’d be an editorial agent, but it was our first conversation that really clued me into your process. I don’t know if you remember, but we were at least a half hour deep into plans to completely rewrite the third act from a different POV before I realized you were offering to represent the book. I thought you were just seeing if I was willing to do a rewrite, which would lead to an R&R, which has historically led to rejection/despair/Pinot Noir/long diary entries/shaving strange parts of my head. So before I even knew you wanted to represent me, I knew you’d be very hands-on. Which I love.

Lauren: I’m so glad! Okay, one last question: what advice would you give to querying authors? Is there anything you’d recommend they consider, or ask on The Call?

Wendy: Ooh, this is a good question. Here are the big ticket items toward which I’d steer a querying writer, keeping in mind that I am no more an expert than anyone else, and my advice is surely incomplete:

1. Communication: Agents, being human, are very diverse. To the writer I’d say, make sure you can agree on norms of email response time, timelines for partial and full manuscript reviews, revision expectations and style, and the like.

2. They need to be a fan of their clients’ work. It shouldn’t be lukewarm.

3. Do they have a coherent, organized plan for selling the book? Do they have a mental list of editors they’re excited to pitch it to?

4. Do they have a history of positive and professional industry relationships? Do their clients seem happy with them?

5. Do they push their clients to do better? This person should feel like a coach, both tough and their clients’ biggest fan.

6. This one is kind of a “duh,” but…do they know how to sell books? Lauren, you were pretty new to agenting when we signed, but you had worked in the industry for a good amount of time and had a lot to say about the process of submission. You knew editors. You had a great, successful agency team. You were clearly already highly skilled in your field, and I never worried you didn’t know how to do your job.

I feel like we should all take a moment to show our undying thankfulness to the agents who work so hard for our projects, pitching them until their iPhones have to be surgically extracted from their fists. I believe I got my Call from you when you were on a family vacation, and we’ve had many a weekend chat/evening email session. I am grateful every single day for you, Lauren, and all the work you put into my book.

Lauren:


I feel the same way, and that is absolutely fabulous advice! Thank you for sharing your story!

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Lauren Spieller is an Assistant Literary Agent with TriadaUS Literary Agency. When she isn’t reading, she can be found drinking lattes, pining for every dog she sees, or visiting her native California. Lauren is also the author of Your Destination is on the Left, which is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in June 2018. Follow her on Twitter @laurenspieller.

 

 

 

Wendy Heard is a Los Angeles-based novelist writing psychological thrillers for an adult audience.  Her debut thriller, HUNTING ANNABELLE, is forthcoming from Mira in 2019. She enjoys adventures both real and imagined, preferably involving the ocean and the woods, concurrently if possible. Her natural dislikes as a native Angeleno include traffic and people who commit traffic-related driving infractions.

 

Next #MSWL Day September 12!

On Tuesday, September 12, agents and editors from all over the world will begin to tweet their manuscript wishes–the ideas they’d love to see in book form, the works they’d love to read–and the types of creations that fit their tastes.

Our hope is that this event will help you find the very best match for your work. Please follow along and then query each agent traditionally (versus tweeting back at them).

Please do not pitch on the feed. Be kind to fellow writers, keep the #MSWL tag for agents and editors, and help writers more find the people who are a good fit for them.

We’ll also, of course, have surprises, announcements, and plenty more for you that day. Want updates in your inbox? Join our mailing list.

We can’t wait!

NEW: Join The Five Day First Page Challenge!

The first page can mean everything. As you know from browsing in bookstores, it can be the difference for any reader–but is a HUGE difference when that reader is an agent, editor, or other publishing professional pressed for time.
Enter Five Days to a Fab First Page–The Manuscript Academy’s newest mini conference. Join us for daily classes, inspiration, community + a live first pages panel. All for $25–the cost of a fancy coffee a day. ☕

Starting May 15, you’ll receive a video class–with written notes–every day in your inbox. You’ll watch them, discuss the lessons on our private forum, partner to critique your pages–and get your pages ready. We’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

After you go through our five-day process, we’ll send you a checklist and you can give your first page a final polish before sending that page back to us for our live Manuscript Academy First Page Expert Panel (pages will be picked at random, and we’ll get through as many as possible). The first pages panel will air LIVE, Wednesday, May 24, 8pm EDT–but you can watch the live recording at any time after.

This event is open to all genres, age groups, and experience levels. 

First Pages Podcast with Kelly Van Sant of D4E0 Literary

This week on the First Pages Podcast, we speak with Kelly Van Sant, agent at D4EO Literary. This FREE podcast is brought to you by The Manuscript Academy, #MSWL’s educational arm.

Each week, we invite an agent or editor to choose one of your first pages–and spend ten minutes commenting on those pages on the air. Kelly chose a page of YA fiction with a magical element by Erin Shachory.

We talk about Kelly’s time as a contracts manager and the switch to agent–plus, of course, how Erin’s page is a great example of showing magical details through imagery, letting the reader figure them out–and impressing us with her subtlety.

Feeling brave? Want to submit your page for consideration? Send it to Academy@ManuscriptWishList.com as a Word document with–and this is important–“First pages podcast” in the subject line. The expert of the week will choose his or her favorite to discuss.

Just want to listen for now? All episodes of The Manuscript Academy podcast are free for everyone, and available on iTunes and Soundcloud.


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Spring Special: Manuscript Academy Classes 50% Off Until Friday

Until Friday, all of The Manuscript Academy’s a la carte classes are 50% off. This means that a single class is just $24.50, and craft packs are only $39.50! Scroll down to find out more.

Classes come with 15 days of access–so you can watch, rewind, take notes–and 15 days with the meeting and written critique booking system. So, if you’ll want a meeting before the next Ten Minutes With An Expert event this summer, this is a way to learn AND connect.

As always, we’re here to help if you have any questions!

All best wishes,
Jessica and Julie

 

Un-branding Yourself: Revealing the True You to the Book Community — Laura Barbiea, Alloy Entertainment, $24.50

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For so many creative people, “branding,” “marketing,” and “promotion” are bad words. Many view these things as chores or barriers to expressing your true self. This class will change how you perceive the online world, and expand your understanding of how to effectively represent yourself and your work! Taught by Laura Barbiea, social media manager at Alloy Entertainment (a publisher), this class will discuss strategies for reaching the fans you already have and ways you can connect with other like-minded artists in the writing community.

49:02, shot in the Alloy Entertainment New York offices in HD.

 

 

 

From Pitch to Page — Katharine Sands, The Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, $24.50

Literary agents are always on a treasure hunt. But few writers know what it takes to make agents yell at first glance: “Eureka, I’ve struck gold!” And a first glance is all that most writers will get before the agent moves on without ever reading further. This presentation cuts through the mystery of getting an agent to want YOU, to read YOU, and to say YES to YOU. In this class, literary agent Katharine Sands shows you the best ways to showcase your writing as a bold, new entry into its category—and yourself as a potential author with an intriguing book poised to spring forth. We look at hooks, selling points, and engines; and how to avoid Querial Killers: the easy-to-fix mistakes writers make when querying agents and on All-Important Page One. Shot in standard definition.

Nonfiction Basics — Amanda Shih, Tarcher/Perigee/Penguin Random House, $24.50

AmandasqDo you have an amazing personal story, expert knowledge, or creative talents you want to share with the world? With so much information out there for fiction authors, it can be tough to get detailed advice on what it takes to make a nonfiction project stand out. This class will walk you through the basics: What qualifies as nonfiction? (It’s not all memoirs and big-issue books!) How does a nonfiction proposal differ from a fiction submission? And platform, platform, platform: Why does it matter, and how can you build yours? We’ll demystify this wide-ranging genre, and give you the tools you need to create the kind of nonfiction project agents and editors will be excited to pursue.

27:49, shot in the Penguin Random House offices in HD.

 

 

 

Craft Pack, $39.50

  •  Writing A Manuscript That Gets and Keeps Everyone’s Attention — Linda Camacho, Prospect Agency
  • Worldbuilding 101 — Roseanne Wells, Jennifer Di Chiara Literary Agency
  • Character, POV, and The All-Important Voice — Laura Zats, Red Sofa Literary 

Writing A Manuscript That Gets and Keeps Everyone’s Attention — Linda Camacho (Prospect Agency)

Prospect Agency Profile Pic

Manuscripts are vetted at so many levels. They pass from the eyes of agents to editors to marketing to sales, and while there are some variables outside of the writer’s control, craft is not one of them. In the end, publishing folks seek the same thing: A good story. Every good story has certain key elements that I looked for as as a marketer at Random House and even now as an agent. If the manuscript falters on any of these counts, it’s a pass. In this workshop, I’ll talk about several key story fundamentals that not only grab an agent or editor’s attention, but that of the acquisitions board as well.

Shot in Standard Definition, 49:19 with 20+ slides.

 

 

 

 

Worldbuilding 101 — Roseanne Wells, Jennifer Di Chiara Literary Agency

Roseanne Wells copyEver received feedback on your work that said “I didn’t connect with the world”? Perhaps you’re not sure if your fantasy story is believable? Worldbuilding–for fantasy, magical realism, and even contemporary–can be hard to define, but it’s essential to support any narrative. Taught by a literary agent who seeks immersive and detailed worlds, this session will discuss what worldbuilding is, how character and worldbuilding help each other, and a breakdown of the elements of worldbuilding. (13:07, shot in HD)

 

 

 

Character, POV, and The All-Important Voice — Laura Zats, Red Sofa Literary 

Laura new headshotIn fiction, a solid, engaging voice is the hardest thing to nail down. The reason why a book’s voice might fail is very often linked to one issue: a lack of connectivity between a character and the space they occupy (both their body and the world around them). The good news is that there’s a fairly simple solution to this problem: deepening POV. This class will focus on some simple self-editing techniques you can use to deepen your book’s POV without rewriting entire chapters. Shot in Standard Definition, 39:29 with 20+ slides.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Pack, $34.50

  •  Un-branding Yourself: Revealing the True You to the Book Community — Laura Barbiea (Alloy Entertainment)
  • Internet Stalking Without Being Creepy: Research, Networking, and Becoming A Priority — Jessica Sinsheimer (The Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency)
Un-branding Yourself: Revealing the True You to the Book Community — Laura Barbiea (Alloy Entertainment)

lbarbiera-240x300

For so many creative people, “branding,” “marketing,” and “promotion” are bad words. Many view these things as chores or barriers to expressing your true self. This class will change how you perceive the online world, and expand your understanding of how to effectively represent yourself and your work! Taught by Laura Barbiea, social media manager at Alloy Entertainment (a publisher), this class will discuss strategies for reaching the fans you already have and ways you can connect with other like-minded artists in the writing community.

49:02, shot in the Alloy Entertainment New York offices in HD.

 

 

 

Internet Stalking Without Being Creepy: Research, Networking, and Becoming a Priority

TwitterPictureJessicaEveryone knows that social media can build your platform, expand your network, and make you look more appealing to a potential agent. But for the introverts among us, blasting content can feel unnatural, intimidating, and borderline creepy. This course will show you how to think of this now-essential task as a way to build authentic connections and find real friendships—while also locating the people most likely to move your career forward. In this course, you’ll learn how to build your list of potential agents, how to do targeted research that helps you personalize your pitch, and how to become a known factor—to present yourself as someone great to work with—so your name leaps out, and the agent already likes you, when you finally do submit your work.

38:21, shot in the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary offices in standard definition.

 

 

First Page Podcast Reaction Episode

We talk with Lindsey Danis about her experience being workshopped on our podcast, the changes she’s implemented, and whether she wanted to reach through the screen and shake us for not getting it.

We also answer Lindsey’s questions and talk about how much self-deprecation can work on the page (versus in real life) and how to create (and why you should try to create) an emotional and aesthetic range.

Want to volunteer as tribute? Submit your page for consideration by sending it to Academy@ManuscriptWishList.com as a Word document (yes, we know! The opposite of querying: we WANT an attachment). Please put “First Pages Podcast” in the subject line.

The Manuscript Academy podcast is FREE to everyone, and available on Soundcloud and iTunes. Click the logo below to find us, or search for “Manuscript Academy” in iTunes.

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New: The First Pages Podcast

Welcome to our very first First Pages episode! In this new series, we’ll be discussing the most interesting first pages we can get our hands on–YOURS! We’ll ask agents and editors to join us in finding the lessons in these pages that not only improve this work–but give you ideas for your own. Want to submit a page for consideration? Send it to Academy at ManuscriptWishList dot com as a Google doc (then you can make last-minute changes!) or Word doc.

We’re joined this week by the lovely and talented literary agent Linda Camacho of the Prospect Agency. You can view her class, How To Write A Manuscript That Gets and Keeps Everyone’s Attention, in The Manuscript Academy’s A La Carte classes section.

The Manuscript Academy podcast is FREE to everyone, and available on Soundcloud and iTunes. Click the logo below to find us, or search for “Manuscript Academy” in iTunes.

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Publishing & Publicity In Your Pajamas

This week, The Manuscript Academy Podcast talks with literary agent and publicist Dawn Michelle Hardy of Serendipity Literary to hear her take on how you, as an author, can best focus your energy when promoting your work.

In addition to savvy tips we’ve never heard before, Dawn tells us about the surprising amount you can do from home, plus talks profit and loss statements, distance running–and what really happens when a publisher rejects your work.

But our personal favorite is a wonderful story about how she made an author feel at ease at a live pitching event.

If you’ve ever been nervous to speak with an agent, you won’t want to miss this episode!

All episodes of The Manuscript Academy podcast are free for everyone, and available on iTunes and Soundcloud.

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