Joanna MacKenzie

Nelson Literary Agency

My Manuscript Wish List

I got my start in publishing in 2002, at a Chicago-based literary agency and while there, I successfully placed numerous manuscripts that have gone on to become critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling novels. I love working with authors who embrace the full publishing process (read: love revisions) and am committed to the stories my clients want to tell both with the words they put on paper, as well as with the careers the build.

At Nelson Literary Agency I am expanding my list in both adult and YA. I’m looking for the epic read that, at its center, beats with a universal heart. In particular, I’m drawn to smart and timely women’s fiction, as well as absorbing, character-driven mysteries and thrillers – both, ideally, with a little edge. I have a weird obsession with, what I call, “child in jeopardy lit” and can’t get enough kick-ass mom heroines. On the YA side, I’m interested in coming of age stories that possess a confident voice and characters I can’t stop thinking about. I'd love to find the next Step Up because I can't say no to star-crossed lovers and I (not so) secretly wish I could dance.

Originally from Poland, and by way of Canada, I’m all about narratives that deal with the themes of identity and the immigrant experience as well as those that delve into all aspects of the relationships that make us who we are – parents, siblings, best friends, and first love.


Fun facts about me:

I wrote my MA thesis on Romantic Comedies.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to

Submissions are accepted via email only.

  • Make sure NLA represents the type of project you’ve written. (See below.)
  • Decide which agent you want to query. You may only query one agent at the agency. Our first-round readers and agents share and discuss query letters, so a response from one NLA agent is a response from all NLA agents.
  • Open a new email and address it to the appropriate agent. (See below.)
  • In the subject line, write QUERY and the title of your project. This will help ensure that your query isn’t accidentally deleted or caught in our spam filter.
  • In the body of your email, include a one-page query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript.
  • No attachments please. Because of virus concerns, emails with attachments are deleted unread.

Guidelines & Details

Vital Info

Fiction: Commercial, Crime, Family Saga, General, Literary, Mystery, Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult

Favorite sub-genres: Contemporary Young Adult
I'd like the next...

I'd love to find the YA version of Dark Matter. I'd also like to find the next Jandy Nelson, Tana French, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

My favorites include...

Movies about overcoming adversity through dance; always Buffy; always Cameron Crowe.  Books that make me slow down because I don't want them to end.

My Upcoming Events:

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