The world is changing. There is an excess of stories, talent and writers every single day in every corner of the country and the world.
Every story may not necessarily be unique but they come from a unique perspective.
The publishers and the audience are eager to explore and access those perspectives.
Those perspectives can come from people viewing class, race, gender, religion and society from another angle.
If you’re an African American residing in the United States, there are stories that are yours to tell and share.
You can try sending your work to a publisher but if you face obstacles with this approach, you could find a literary agent who can pitch and sell your work to the publishers and let you focus on your writing.
You may want to work with an African American agent since they can connect in a way people of other races may not be able to. As the world is becoming multicultural and diverse, there still remains a distinct voice and expression communities share.
They have the contacts and experience and understand the inner workings of the industry enough to lend a hand to new writers and authors.
While there are many literary agents in the United States, the number of African American agents is not as high as one would expect.
Yet we have managed to compile a list of the top 15 African American literary agents for African American authors or authors and writers of any race actually.
1. Ayanna Coleman
The founder of Quill Shift Literary Agency, Ayanna has years of experience in the publishing industry and previously as a librarian. Being surrounded by books all her life has enabled her to appreciate the effect they have on children and adults. Ayanna prefers middle grade, young adult fiction and children’s books as they set the foundation to creating a lifelong habit of reading and loving books. Fun stories, quirky characters, crucial lessons provided in an engaging and interesting way are some of the things Ayanna wants to see in your work, Submissions are currently closed to authors and writers but you can check this link later if you need to submit your manuscript.
2. Latoya C. Smith
Latoya started her career as an editorial assistant to Teri Woods, a best-selling author. Currently Latoya works as a literary agent at L.Perkins Agency. Her 15 year old career includes winning the RWA Golden Apple for Editor of the Year in 2012. Having worked at the best publishing houses, Latoya knows how to negotiate and deal with companies and authors. She is interested in acquiring stories about romance, women’s fiction, thrillers, LGBTQ, memoirs and erotic fiction. Contact Latoya via email to send your manuscript. Read the submissions guidelines here before sending your manuscript.
3. Tanya McKinnon
An editor, a literary scout and finally a literary agent, Tanya McKinnon has donned many hats but all of them involved being close to books. As a child she grew up all over the world and through the constant upheavals, books remained a close friend and ally. When Tanya works with an author or writer, she does more than just finish their book; she also guides them on a path that will prove beneficial in the long run for their career. She established her own agency McKinnon McIntyre to find and represent authors, writers and talented artists of graphic novels, fiction and non-fiction. She is seeking authors of history, graphic novels, multicultural stories, African American work, fiction, middle grade, young adult and popular culture. Read the submissions guidelines carefully before approaching Tanya.
4. Regina Brooks
As the founder of the largest African American owned agency Serendipity Literary in the United States, Regina Brooks has represented some of the best authors and award winning writers. Her clients have been applauded and appreciated in the country’s top publications such as CNN, ABC, USA Today, NY Times and Oprah. Named Woman of The Year by The National Association of Professional Women, Regina has devoted all her life to literature, publishing and writing. She genuinely cares about her clients and her focus has been on getting their projects to succeed. Currently, Regina is not accepting new clients or submissions but you can check the website again to see if this changes. The form and guidelines to non-fiction submissions are available here. Authors of children’s fiction and books can find the guidelines and submission form on this page.
5. Janell Walden Agyeman
An agent since 1992, Janell has the experience, the knowledge and the dedication writers look for in a literary agent. Her doggedness and passion ensures that your story, book and talent don’t go unheard or undiscovered. She is now an agent with Marie Brown Literary in Atlanta. Janell has worked with Pulitzer Prize winners and New York Times bestsellers. She has also been named ‘Agent of the Year’ in 2013 by Black Pearls Literary Magazine. They are currently closed to unsolicited submissions but accept manuscripts through referrals or conferences.
6. Tricia Skinner
A PR executive for a video game company, editor and author, Tricia Skinner has had a career spanning all parts of the creative industry. Now an agent at Fuse Literary, Tricia understands the importance of culture, diversity and fresh ideas. She started her career as a news reporter and understands the need to represent all communities and sections. She is interested in fantasy, science fiction, romance, history in a re-imagined positive way and horror. You can visit this link to submit a query and learn more.
7. Marlene Connor Lynch
Marlene is a published author, literary agent and editor. She has worked with some of the best publishing houses and companies such as the Literary Guild of America, Random House and Simon & Schuster before forming Connor Literary Agency in 1985. A stellar literary agency with authors across all genres, Marlene is also an agent and consultant with Essence magazine, the country’s largest and premier magazine for African American women. Marlene is pursuing authors and writers of non-fiction, politics, history, sports, humor and fiction. Interested authors can approach Marlene by sending a query. She requests you to go through their previous clients and work before sending your material.
8. Trodayne Northern
Very few agents actually enjoy the process of working with the writer. They are keen on the sales, the end result and the success that follows, but Trodayne Northern genuinely savors the steps involved. As a teacher, editor and finally an agent, he loves collaborating with writers and authors, working to finesse the book and pitching it to publishers. Today he is co-president and lead agent at Prentis Literary and on the lookout for the next bestselling author. Authors and writers of science fantasy, fiction, and mystery can consider writing to Trodayne. Fill out this form to submit your manuscript.
9. Nicole Payne
Based in Texas, Nicole Payne is an agent with Golden Wheat Literary. One of the agents who believe in adapting to technology and using social media to connect with authors and writers, Nicole constantly seeks submissions and ideas through Twitter and Facebook. It is really refreshing for young authors and writers to find an agent who ditches the traditional and time consuming methods of pitching and queries to connect directly with amateur writers who don’t have the knowledge or experience in writing a query letter. You can tweet to Nicole or follow her on Twitter as she asks for specific genres and queries.
10. Kiana Nguyen
The new and fresh recruit at Donald Maass Literary Agency, Kiana joined in 2016. The Brooklyn based agency is a reputed firm with bestselling authors and award winning writers as its clients. Kiana is helping add to their roster and build her own client list by acquiring authors. She wants stories from the marginalized, people of color and queer in the young adult fiction genre. Writers of dark, intense narratives, stories with a twist, thrillers, young adult fiction and romance can send their manuscript to Kiana. Write to Kiana with a query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript pasted in the email.
11. Cherise Fisher
In a career covering 25 years, Cherise Fisher has worked in publishing and editorial before finally becoming a literary agent for Wendy Sherman Associates Literary Management. She is a staunch advocate for her authors and is committed to finding them great deals and guiding them to perfect their storytelling. Her focus is on memoirs with rich stories and memorable characters, history, non-fiction, politics, African American culture, health, fitness, popular culture, social issues and religion. Writers with good, positive stories in the non-fiction area are also welcome. The detailed submission guidelines can be found here. Writers and authors can send their submissions via email.
12. Nikki Terpilowski
A lifelong passion of reading and loving books has led to Nikki becoming an agent and finally forming her own agency Holloway Literary in Raleigh. Her previous clients have won awards and been on the bestseller lists. She has a keen eye for fresh talent and is currently interested in young adult fiction, fiction, history, science fiction, African American fiction, health, fitness, meditation, spirituality and food. Write to Nikki via email with a query letter and paste the first 15 pages of your manuscript. In the subject please mention ‘Nikki/Title/Genre.’
13. Faith Childs
The lead agent and founder of Faith Childs Literary Agency, Faith Childs has a roster of clients across genres and races. Her clients include reputed authors, scholars and researchers who have been nominated for prestigious awards and have won prizes. Having had her agency since 1990, Faith has a knack of picking out the best stories and authors and marketing them in the right way to the right audience. Send your queries to this Brooklyn based agent by post. Query letters need to have a description of your manuscript, bio, three sample chapters and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Faith is not interested in cookbooks, romance, fitness or how-to, middle grade or children’s books. Find the postal address on this page.
14. Sha-Shana Crichton
President and Lead Agent at Crichton & Associates, Sha-Shana has been in the business for nearly 15 years working with authors and writers in close quarters. Sha-Shana actively wants to acquire first-time authors and writers as she knows the importance of discovering talent early and developing a healthy professional relationship with them for the future. She is interested in a wide variety of genres such as law, history, crime, romance, politics, social issues, fiction, African American, culture, health, lifestyle, fitness, religion, Latin American and women’s fiction. Send your queries via email. Read the submission guidelines carefully before sending your manuscript.
15. Quressa Robinson
A pediatrician who realized her love for books trumps everything else, Quressa is a literary agent at the Nelson Literary Agency. She joined the agency in September 2017 and is trying to build her client list especially of the young adult and adult genres. The agency is based in Denver but Quressa operates out of New York. Her tastes and preferences are wide and she is open to being surprised by a conventional story told in an unconventional manner. Writers of fiction, young adult, romance, science fiction, Asian or Latin culture, marginalized communities and people, fantasy and family can send their manuscript to Quressa. Please read the submission guidelines before you write a query letter.
There’s our list of 15 top African American literary agents. It is astounding to discover that people of color still have a hard time breaking into the publishing world. If you are an African American author or of a writer of color, you should work with these agents as they will know how to pitch and market your story without diluting the essence.
The statistics and numbers of African American agents and publishing professionals are dismal. There are agents of all races who are keen on acquiring African American literature and stories, but that personal connection and acceptance can only come from someone who has faced the same struggles and lived the same lives.
The key here is not race or the color of your skin, but sensing the perspective and knowing where the author is coming from. A good agent is one who can fight for your work and sell it at the right price to the right publisher without compromising your creativity and integrity.
If you’re looking for more black literary agents, take a look at this post.
Shikha Pandey is a creative, content and script writer based in Mumbai, India.