This is always such a difficult post to write, trying to encapsulate in a blog post “what I’m looking for” in a manuscript. Six months from now I might feel differently. I might even feel differently right after I hit the “publish” button on this blog post. I fear that what I’m looking for comes out of an amorphous, organically burping puddle of orange purple pink black lava, spewing fumes of sulphur (or is that lavender? patchouli?), continually giving birth to odd, original, quirky-yet-well-written children’s books. Yes, that explains it (or doesn’t). (I’ve posted this video before, but it’s worth starting 2015 with a laugh, as it’s often exactly how I am.) Ok, here goes with some “what I’m looking for” and what I’m not looking for…
1. Basically, I’m currently looking for unique, well-written children’s literature, from picture books through young adult, including both fiction and nonfiction.
2. For picture books, I like a strong voice, and when it’s funny, quirky and unusual. If you’re too didactic and teachy-preachy, it’s not for me. I don’t mind rhyme if it works for the story, but if you’re jamming your story into a rhyme scheme it’s not going to work, for the manuscript or for me. I’m looking for authors and author/illustrators. Also, I would never take on a new client who has only one picture book manuscript, so although you should only pitch one project at a time, make sure you have other things you can show me if I ask.
3. I like character-driven middle grade fiction with lots of action. I like middle grade mysteries, fantasy, scifi, realistic contemporary, historical, and when the lines between genres blur. Some recent middle grade books that I don’t represent but I wish I did: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; Hook’s Revenge by Holly Schulz. I want you to make your middle grade characters relatable and knowable, or your awesome plot will feel hollow.
4. For YA sometimes it’s easier to tell you what I’m not looking for. I don’t like or read Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars kinds of books and I don’t like things that are scary or horror stories. I’m not into “gritty” or “urban.” I do not like “issue” books (i.e. rape, abuse, eating disorders, run-aways, drug abuse, bullying, etc) where that’s what the whole book is about. I don’t like romance or paranormal romance (although I do like when stories get romantic). Here are some things I do like though: I like realistic contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical, GLBTQ, literary, funny, serious, nonfiction, fiction, re-tellings, epistolary, novels in verse, and I’d take a collection of linked short stories (but otherwise I don’t represent short stories). In YA, make sure your teenaged characters are really teenagers, not what an adult thinks teenagers are like, not a whitewashed version of a teenager, not what you might wish a teenager were like, not a caricature of a teenager. If it doesn’t really read authentically teen, I’m not going to want it, I wouldn’t be able to sell it, and teenagers won’t read it.
5. Genres I don’t currently want, for any age (mostly because I can’t sell them): dystopian or post-apocalyptic, almost anything with vampires, demons, mermaids, genies, etc… unless (because there’s always an exception!) you’re bringing something totally new to it.
6. I’m on the lookout for stories with diverse characters written by diverse people. By diverse I mean ethnically, racially, socioeconomically, all across the gender and sexual orientation spectrum, with and without physical “handicaps,” and including any other kind of “other” one might think of or create. As always, I want to represent, read, and promote voices that don’t traditionally get heard.
7. I am specifically looking for manuscripts that are well written and readable. I want to get so lost in the experience of reading your story that I forget it’s a submission. What that means is that not only should your story be well written, but it should be super polished, almost perfect, without any typos, spelling or grammar errors, etc… It should be a page turner! I’m looking for manuscripts that don’t still need a ton of editorial work (even though I’m a very editorial agent).
To submit, send me a short, snappy, professional query letter with the first 20 pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. Don’t send me an email asking me if it’s ok to query. Don’t ask me in the comments section of this post whether <insert what you’re writing> would be something of interest to me. Put “Query” and the title of your manuscript in the subject line. Send it to QueryLindaEpstein (at) gmail (dot) com. That is my preferred email for queries, even though it’s not what is listed on my agency’s website (new website is under construction).
If you’re not sure whether you have something I’d like, do your research. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, have been interviewed, and have blogged enough here that you should be able to get a sense of who I am and what I’d like.
Ok, that’s it from me for the moment. I’m going to push that “publish” button on this blog post now…