Writing is a tricky and taxing job.
Writing children’s books is even more complicated and challenging.
Authors or writers need to be well read and aware of what the children of today are reading and liking.
Before you make misguided attempts at writing, understand that the different genres and topics for children make writing for them a daunting task.
You need a guide, a mentor and someone with experience in the spirited world of children’s books and publishing to lead you, push you and support you.
That guidance can come in the form of a literary agent.
The publishing market is so competitive especially for children’s books because of the scope it can cover such as young adult, middle grade and picture books.
A literary agent can turn your raw, unfiltered manuscript into a book worth publishing and reading.
As an amateur writer and author, you need to find the right literary agent for your book.
We have decided to simplify things for you and list the 17 top American literary agents for children’s books.
1. Shadra Strickland
An agent at one of the popular literary agencies in New York, Painted Words, Shadra Strickland is a writer turned agent. An award-winning illustrator and author herself, she became an agent to help amateur writers and authors navigate the complicated world of children’s books. Painted Words has won multiple awards and nominations over the years such as the New York Times Bestsellers List, Emmy, Coretta Scott King Award, TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Children’s Books, Applied Arts Award and NAACP Image Award. Shandra is interested in humour driven picture books, graphic novels, lyrical texts, out-of-the-box illustration styles, and any other picture book underlining diverse cultural perspectives. She only accepts an exclusive submission which means you can’t simultaneously submit your manuscript to another place. Find guidelines and contact details on this page.
2. Jennifer Flannery
Founder and agent at Flannery Literary, Jennifer Flannery started the agency in 1992 in New York, moving to Chicago in 1997. An exclusive, selective literary agency that publishes only children’s books and Young Adult fiction, writers are expected to have a fresh point of view and a lesson in their story. You can contact her via email with a query regarding your manuscript. If you are submitting a picture book, you can paste the entire manuscript in the body of the e-mail. For novels, stories and non-fiction, paste the first 5-10 pages of your manuscript in the body of the e-mail. Jennifer does not open attachments so don’t include any with your mail. Writers can expect a waiting period of 4 weeks to get a response. You can find more details about the submission process on this page.
3. Mary Cummings
An associate at Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises, Mary Cummings has spent all her career (nearly 15 years of it) in children’s literature and publishing. Based in Los Angeles, the agency is a full-service agency and Mary has worked with award winning writers, authors and novelists. She is up for a challenge and is keen to mentor and guide first time writers for children’s book in fiction and non-fiction. She is looking for children’s picture books, poetry, young adult novels, middle grade fiction, multicultural novels, historical novels and novels with a tinge of fantasy, mystery, and humor. In non-fiction, she is seeking picture book biographies, and lyrical works covering science, nature, mindfulness, and issues concerning social awareness. Her belief is that children’s books need to have a solid story line and a particular zing to it that makes you feel invested in the story and elements. Submit your manuscript to Mary on this email address. Writers submitting a picture book can paste the entire manuscript in the body of the e-mail. Writers of novels, fiction and non-fiction should paste the first three pages of their manuscript in the e-mail. Mary will not read attachments so don’t include any. For more details about the submission guidelines, check this page.
4. Amy Stern
Amy Stern joined the Sheldon Fogelman Agency in 2010 as an agent assistant. Having a creative writing degree, Amy understands the creative process involved in writing a book. She also mentors writing students which enables her to use the same skills while helping new authors and writers. At present Amy is eyeing children’s picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction. Note that she is especially interested in stories exploring underrepresented identities. Writers can send their manuscripts to the New York based agency on this email address. Before sending the manuscript, read the submission guidelines carefully.
5. John Rudolph
Starting his career as an editor, John Rudolph transitioned to being an agent in 2010 at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. His client list is a mix of both children’s authors as well as adult authors. John is keen on maintaining that balance as he believes it gives him space to explore as many avenues as he wants. He is interested in middle grade, young adult fiction, writers and illustrators who have a real story with relatable characters. You can reach out to John via email. Writers, illustrators and authors should read the submission guidelines before sending their manuscript.
6. Sandy Lu
A native of Taiwan, Sandy Lu is a Senior Literary Agent at the Lori Perkins Agency. Before working as an agent, she was actively involved in the theatre industry. At that point, she also pursued a Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology. At Lori Perkins Agency, Sandy represents young adult and commercial fiction. Note that while she isn’t selective about subgenres, Sandy holds a special fondness for crime fiction and anything speculative. She is currently open to new submissions and can be reached out on this page. You can also email her.
7. Dan Conaway
Being an agent at one of the largest literary agencies in the world has its perks and responsibilities as Dan Conaway would know. Working at Writer’s House, Dan has a varied range of interests and doesn’t hesitate to work with new authors. His clients include award winning writers such as Meg Abbott, Marcia Clark and Greg Iles. Writers of young adult and children’s literature can reach out to Dan via email. Your query letter should include a resume, a synopsis and why your book is different than any of the books out there. For more details about his preferred genres, sub-genres, and the submission process, check this page.
8. Danielle Chiotti
Twelve years of experience in the publishing industry has led to Danielle Chiotti enjoying the process of finding a great story, collaborating with the writer and finishing a project that requires creativity, talent and hard work. Currently an agent at Upstart Crow Literary, it has given her a good eye to lock in previously unearthed talent and work with them to help them achieve their dreams. Writers of young adult and middle grade fiction can send a query letter to Danielle via email and paste the first 20 pages of your manuscript in the body of the email. Illustrators can paste the links to their portfolio in the email as Danielle doesn’t accept attachments. Note that Danielle is especially interested in compelling voices that’ll inspire readers to the core. For more details about her preferences and the submission process, check this page.
9. Beth Phelan
Beth Phelan has been an agent since 2010 and joined Gallt & Zacker in 2017. A voracious reader and expert in finding new talent in children’s books, Beth has used social media to create various campaigns to urge new writers to pitch to her or discuss books and spread her love for books and literature. She is looking for middle grade, young adult fiction and non-fiction. While she accepts most sub-genres in these categories, Beth is particularly fond of powerful stories with deeply resonant narrative voices. You can contact her via email. Additionally, writers should also read the submission guidelines before sending their manuscript. Note that Beth is currently closed to queries.
10. Rachel Crawford
An agent with a stellar client list of award winning authors that have been nominated for prizes such as Lambda Literary Award, Pushcart Prize and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Rachel Crawford works at MacKenzie Wolf. She is searching for authors of literary fiction, young adult fiction and non-fiction who don’t shy away from discussing the real issues affecting the country and the world. Young adult fiction with a bold narrative voice and genre elements are appreciated. You can submit a query letter via email and include a 50 page writing sample if its fiction. A non-fiction manuscript requires a proposal. You can either paste it in the body of the email or send it as an attachment. Writers should address the query letter to Rachel since general queries are not read by the agency. Check this page for a better idea about the submission guidelines.
11. Brooks Sherman
With a Bachelor’s degree in Drama and several years’ experience in the entertainment industry, Brooks Sherman is one of the leading agents at Janklow & Nesbit Associates. She ventured into the publishing industry with a short stint at FinePrint Literary Management. She worked at Bent Agency in 2014 and finally joined Janklow & Nesbit Associates in 2017. At Janklow & Nesbit, Brooks has represented award-winning authors across diverse genres. She is currently accepting submissions in multiple genres including children’s books. You can send her middle grade fiction, humorous picture books or works in young adult fiction. She doesn’t, however, accept paranormal romance. You can submit your works to Brooks here.
12. Ali Herring
A popular literary agent at Spencer Hill Associates, Ali Herring comes with a diverse background in editing and communications. Before working as an agent at Spencer Hill, she interned at a NYC based agency. Later, she also served as a communications editor at a leading magazine. At Spencer Hill Associates, Ali represents young adult and middle grade fiction across multiple genres. You can also send her works in science fiction, fantasy, and other selected genres. Ali can be reached out on this page.
13. JL Stermer
Young adult non-fiction is a tough genre to write and not many agents pursue that subject and writers but JL Stermer at New Leaf Literary is building her list of fiction and non-fiction in YA. She is also open to some selected graphic novels. Her clients include leading authors such as Jeffrey Bowman, Gina Cohen and Heather Huhman. Writers can send their manuscripts to JL via email. Do read the submission guidelines and instructions before sending your email.
14. Nicole Resciniti
Named as ACFW’s Agent of the Year in 2012, Nicole Resciniti is the President of The Seymour Agency and an agent there. A sharp negotiator and advocate for her authors and writers, Nicole has also been listed by Publisher’s Marketplace as one of the top dealmakers in the country. A highly educated woman with multiple degrees in subjects, she was also a teacher before deciding to join a literary agency. Nicole is accepting submissions for high-concept middle grade fiction, all sub-genres of romance, and fresh voices in young adult fiction. She also accepts queries in action, suspense, thriller, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy and more. Send a one page query letter and the first 5 pages of your manuscript pasted in the email to Nicole. Writers should include the word count, genre, target audience, their contact information, bio as well as professional references in the email. You can refer to this page for more details about the submission process.
15. Jason Anthony
A former film executive, Jason Anthony joined the Massie & McQuilkin agency in 2008. Prior to this, he worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. Jason holds a Bachelor’s degree in Film from the Columbia University. He has also co-authored five books. At Massie & McQuilkin, he is seeking manuscripts in young adult and commercial fiction. You can send the first five to ten pages of your manuscript as a query. However, Jason will only respond to the queries he’s interested in. You can send your queries here.
16. Kate Testerman
Working for other companies in the publishing industry, Kate Testerman finally decided to start her literary agency kt literary in 2008. The founder and an agent, Kate still is actively involved in reading manuscripts, finding the right authors and mentoring them through it all. Her client list boasts of impressive names like Stephanie Perkins, Matthew Cody and Maureen Walsh. She is interested in middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, and some selected non-fiction titles. Her preferred sub-genres include contemporary drama, fantasy, urban fantasy, magic realism, and adventure stories to name a few. Write to Kate via email to submit a query. Read the submission guidelines before sending your manuscript.
17. Carlisle Weber
Carlisle Weber is a literary agent at the Fuse Literary. She holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences and a Professional Certificate in Editing. At Fuse Literary, she is interested in high-concept commercial fiction for middle graders and young adults. While she accepts most of the sub-genres in these categories, Carlisle is especially interested in fresh stories tackling complex topics. You can send her your manuscript query on this page. For submission guidelines, refer to this link.
There you have it folks. We have created a broad and fresh list of 17 of the top American literary agents for children’s books. Whether you are a first timer or a previously published author looking to make a change, these agents will be vital in landing you the perfect publisher and contract. It is possible that because you are so excited to start your career as a writer and get published, you can get impatient and want immediate results. But they say sweet are the fruits of patience and labor.
So, follow all the instructions mentioned on the websites and be patient while waiting for a reply from the agent. Before you submit to any of the agents, please check the agency website to reconfirm if they are open to submissions since that can keep changing. You have done the hard work of writing the book, now all you have to do is zero in on the right agent and let them take it from there.
Are you an American literary agent for children’s books? Please introduce yourself in the comments box below!
17 Top American Literary Agents for Children’s Books is an article from Writing Tips Oasis.
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Shikha Pandey is a creative, content and script writer based in Mumbai, India.