If you’re an author in North America who has written a fantastic manuscript that has the potential for large scale appeal, the next step is for you to find a publisher.
At this point, a literary agent could help you by selling your book to a publisher, and negotiating a publishing contract for you on your behalf, which ensures your interests are well protected.
Depending upon the agency, the organization could also be able to continue supporting you with your career through entering global markets where English language books are read, or through translations into other languages, or through opportunities to transform your book into other media such as film.
And you maybe at this stage, where you’re now in search for the best literary agent for you and your work.
Logically, it makes sense to start your search closer to home.
There are many in the United States such as these literary agents in New York City.
And there are also Canadian agents. To help you find them, we’ve compiled this list of 13 top literary agents in Canada. Continue reading to learn who they are, and importantly the types of books they represent and how you can go about making a query.
1. Paige Sisley
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Paige Sisley studied at three prestigious Canadian universities to refine her proficiency in English and literature. Today, she’s a top-caliber agent at CookeMcDermid, handling not only authors but also promising clients in movies and television.
Paige deeply cares about exceptional writing whether it’s about imagined words or real life. One of her clients is Tara Moss, writer of the top-selling thriller and historical novel The War Widow. For nonfiction, she has the likes of Maye Musk, veteran model and author of the inspiring book A Woman Makes a Plan.
Right now, this CookeMcDermid agent is actively looking for upmarket fiction, food-related biographies, and titles that are imbued with magical realism, feminism, or the cultural characteristics of Generation Y. CookeMcDermid will once again accept queries for Page in early November.
Everyone in the Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents (PACLA) knows about Samantha Haywood. After all, she once headed the organization. Now, she’s the president of the Toronto-based Transatlantic Agency, a 25-year-old company with hundreds of clients under its belt.
In general, Samantha is interested in graphic novels, narrative nonfiction, upmarket fiction, and literary fiction. For a better idea of her preferences, check the authors on her list such as RBC Taylor Prize winner Plum Johnson (They Left Us Everything) and novelist Shani Mootoo (Polar Vortex).
Samantha is currently open to a variety of themes and topics. Whether you’re writing a contemporary novel or nonfiction about climate change, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity. Visit her profile section for her email address and submission details.
Michael Levine’s stellar agenting career began when his dear pal needed a more reliable agent to back him up. He was in law at that time but he took the risk — and it paid off. After nearly five decades, he’s become the chairman of the historic Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto.
Nonfiction authors dominate Michael’s list. Some noteworthy examples are former governor general Adrienne Clarkson (Heart Matters: A Memoir and Room for All of Us) and acclaimed journalist Adrian Humphreys (The Sixth Family and The Weasel).
Prospective clients can focus on political affairs, biographies, historical events, and opinion collections. Visit the submissions page if you want to query Michael.
4. Sam Hiyate
After managing Gutter Press for nine years and joining The Lavin Agency, Sam Hiyate set his sails for The Rights Factory in Toronto. Since he gained sufficient agenting experience at David Lavin’s titular company, Sam had no trouble growing his new list (with over 80 active clients) while serving as president and CEO.
In nonfiction, Sam prefers memoirs, business & management, and self-help projects. As for fiction, he likes thrillers, mystery, and multi-genre stories. A few novelists on his list are Margot Berwin (Scent of Darkness) and Jesse Gilmour (The Green Hotel).
Sam can definitely help you to navigate the publishing industry. Once you’re ready, submit a query via email.
Curtis Russell is the president and co-founder of the P.S. Literary Agency. Situated in Oakville, Ontario, he’s helped the company become one of Canada’s go-to agencies with his wide-ranging literary tastes and a keen eye for creative talent.
As of writing, Curtis is on the lookout for nonfiction projects that delve into entertainment, well-being, sports, government, current events, and comedy. In addition, he wants YA novels, children’s literature, and both upmarket fiction and literary fiction.
The guidelines for digital queries as well as the complete list of Curtis’s current genre preferences are written on the submissions page.
6. Olga Filina
Authors in search of a veteran agent spearheading a bright and young agency should look for Olga Filina. As one of the founders of 5 Otter Literary (and PACLA) in Toronto, Ontario, she brings decades of relevant experience. Throughout her career, she’s taken on consulting, reviewing, editing, and managing festivals.
What are Olga’s favorite genres? First, it’s children’s literature spanning from nonfiction to modern young adult novels. She represents Nikki Bergstresser, author of beautifully illustrated titles for kids like Seasons for Stones and Lila Lou’s Little Library. Furthermore, Olga loves narrative nonfiction and historical fiction.
After viewing her interests in publishing, you can send Olga a query.
Michael Levine isn’t the only agent here from Westwood Creative Artists. Joining him is none other than Bruce Westwood, the man who established the historic and widely revered literary company in Toronto, Ontario.
Sociological and narrative writing projects are Bruce’s go-to books in nonfiction. For fiction, he doesn’t mind either mainstream fiction or literary novels. Thus, Bruce manages Roy Macgregor, writer of both novels (Canoe Lake) and award-winning nonfiction (Original Highways).
With over 20 years to refine his business acumen, his representation skills are second to none. Visit the submissions page to give Bruce a query.
8. Ron Eckel
Before becoming one of the key figures of CookeMcDermid in Toronto, Ontario, Ron Eckel was already making waves at Random House of Canada and PACLA, the latter of which he once led as its president. Needless to say, he made great use of his master’s degree in publishing.
Ron loves learning all about what’s happening in the world today. He’s open to highly informative and entertaining nonfiction about current affairs (Curt Petrovich’s Blamed and Broken) and pop culture. In addition, he seeks spine-tingling novels in genres like sci-fi and horror (David Nickle’s Eutopia).
Although this agent is seeking new clients, you have to wait until the first week of November to send queries.
With bachelor’s degrees in English and education under her belt, Maria Vicente set out of university to find the most interesting new voices in writing (and illustrating). Residing in New Brunswick, she’s one of the high-ranking agents at the P.S. Literary Agency in Oakville and has been with the team for eight years.
Maria’s interests start from picture books and chapter books all the way up to adult reads across fiction and nonfiction. Moreover, she accepts graphic novels and gift books. At present, Maria prioritizes literary novels and middle-grade fiction alongside any nonfiction writing.
Once you’ve decided to seek her agenting services, read the submission details on the agency website.
10. Ali McDonald
Another amazing agent at Toronto’s 5 Otter Literary is Ali McDonald. Even if Olga Filina has stayed longer in the industry, Ali’s 12-year run so far is highlighted by the fact that she’s been a literary agent all those years. Plus, the endless accolades of her clients prove her keen eye for talent.
Ali prioritizes children’s titles above all else. In fact, one of her clients is the prolific Frieda Wishinsky, the writer of more than 70 books for young readers like Each One Special and Oonga Boonga. Interestingly, Ali also accepts New Adult books, which are related to the YA market and include fiction and nonfiction.
If you wish to be part of her list, you must first secure a referral since she only accepts submissions with one.
11. Beverly Slopen
Beverly Slopen is the founder of her titular literary business in Toronto, Ontario. She might not be in a big team of an equally big agency, but no one can refute that Beverly is one of the most in-demand agents in the entire country.
Nonfiction writings with an earnest and intellectual tone suit her tastes. This explains why she represents folks such as primatologist Keriann McGoogan (Chasing Lemurs) and trauma therapist Shannon Moroney (Out of the Shadows). Of course, she likes both popular fiction and literary novels as well.
Great and life-changing literature will always find its audience no matter the medium. As such, Beverly hopes that authors submit their works whether in fiction or nonfiction.
12. Carolyn Forde
Located in Toronto, Carolyn Forde’s career is nothing short of outstanding. You’ve already probably seen her as an esteemed lecturer or guest at many literary festivals and events in Canada. Moreover, Carolyn is one of the first members of PACLA and was at Westwood Creative Artists before entering Transatlantic Agency.
Many of Carolyn’s clients have been nominees and recipients of different accolades such as the Toronto Heritage Book Award and the RBC Taylor Prize. Her list of over 60 authors includes Michelle Kaeser (The Towers of Babylon) and Marnie Woodrow (In the Spice House). Generally, she’s looking for narrative nonfiction, popular fiction, and literary novels.
Interested writers should read the query submission guidelines in her profile section. There, she states that people can email their queries during the first half of each month since she uses the remaining days to review them.
13. Carly Watters
When she’s not fulfilling her role as a senior advisor at Toronto’s The P.S. Literary Agency, Carly Watters is busy building her client list. Before her current position, she worked at a London-based agency and got her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English literature and publishing studies, respectively.
Carly represents wonderful writers like Anne T. Donahue (Nobody Cares) and Desiree Nielsen (Eat More Plants) — and she wants to find more authors of fiction and nonfiction. Her preferred genres in fiction include thrillers and contemporary romance. As for nonfiction, she’s into well-being, food recipes, and business.
For a more detailed list of what she’s currently looking for, read her section on the submissions page.
Some More Top Literary Agents in Canada
Emmy Nordstrom Higdon’s path to agenting didn’t begin in higher education since her doctorate was in social work. It was only when she worked at the independent bookshop Another Story that her passion for literature truly ignited. Today, she works for Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto, Ontario.
Aside from narrative nonfiction and general fiction, Emmy’s interests lie in complex, well-realized stories that shed a light on identity and sociocultural diversity. She appreciates feminist fiction, quality horror, neo-Gothic novels, essay collections, and hard-hitting journalism. One of her clients is Maya Gottfried, author of Vegan Love and Our Farm.
Everyone is welcome to submit their query to Emmy but authors from marginalized communities will be given a higher priority. After all, there’s a need for diversity and better representation in the industry. For more information, visit the submissions page.
15. Rachel Letofsky
For the past 12 years, Rachel Letofsky has worked at CookeMcDermid and proven that she’s unlike any other. For one, this Toronto-based agent represents authors hailed by Kirkus Reviews and The Sunburst Award Society, among many other award-giving bodies. Her writers have also topped best-seller lists in Canada and beyond.
Rachel loves to discover priceless memoirs and biographies like Vivek Shraya’s acclaimed I’m Afraid of Men and Ivan Coyote’s similarly well-reviewed LGBTQ+ correspondence Care of. Furthermore, she likes narrative nonfiction, children’s books, and both mainstream and literary fiction.
Rachel is more than eager to accept new queries, especially if you’re working on an emotional story for middle-grade readers and young adults. However, you have to wait until the 4th of November since her agency is currently undergoing maintenance regarding submissions.
16. Chelene Knight
Going back to Toronto’s Transatlantic Agency, Chelene Knight didn’t immediately cover books when she entered the publishing industry. Instead, she handled magazines and editorial tasks. And when Chelene isn’t managing her list, she’s writing her own works including essays, poems, and an acclaimed memoir.
Mainstream and upmarket novels are fine with her as long, more so if they feature gripping plotlines. On the other hand, Chelene’s strongest interests are memoirs and literary novels. Check the work of clients like Prince Shakur (When They Tell You to Be Good) and Yejide Kilanko (Chasing Butterflies) to know what she likes in writing.
Chelene encourages people from minority groups to submit their work. But while her profile page states that she accepts queries at present, her Query Manager says otherwise — she’s closed for queries until next January.
Completing the trio of 5 Otter Literary founders, Cassandra Rogers is no stranger to the diversity of both genres and storytelling voices among authors. For many years in Toronto, she’s been blessed with writers with unique voices in fiction and nonfiction.
Cassandra has always worked with authors of adult titles like Kath Jonathan (The Resistance Painter) and Dayle Furlong (Saltwater Cowboys). Her favorite topics in nonfiction include money and history. Likewise, she prefers general fiction and suspenseful novels, among others.
Unfortunately, Cassandra’s submission window is closed unlike those of her fellow agency co-founders. Still, you should keep the submission guidelines in mind in case she opens it again.
18. Kelvin Kong
Kelvin Kong has only had his own agency for four years. Yet this Toronto-based professional has been in the industry for more than a decade. Specifically, he offered his prized skills at Madison Press, Kids Can Press, and The Rights Factory before establishing K2 Literary.
This agent is open to practically all kinds of writing as long they prove promising to both him and other reader demographics. In other words, his list has authors of children’s literature, adult fiction (Sheung King’s You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked.), and adult nonfiction (Christopher DeWolf’s Borrowed Spaces).
Sadly, Kelvin Kong isn’t open to either queries or submissions. Visit the submission page at another time for positive updates.
19. Lindsay Leggett
If you’re from Ontario, you may have heard about Lindsay Leggett, one of the rising literary agents at The Rights Factory. With an unbridled passion for literature and the rigorous yet rewarding process of editing, she amassed many connections in the publishing industry before joining the Toronto-based organization.
Novels for middle-grade readers and young adults are part of her interests. In particular, Lindsay prefers such projects that have more grit and originality than the average YA title. A fine example is My Name is Magic by Xan van Rooyen, one of her clients. In addition, she’s open to graphic novels.
Lindsay has temporarily closed her query submission window. In the meantime, writers should bookmark her agent page if she provides a welcome update on her Query Manager profile.
What did you think of the Canadian literary agents we featured in this post? Have you worked with any of them? Please tell us more in the comments box below. Also, if you’re aware of any literary agents that really need to be included in this list, please share and leave a link to any relevant website!
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Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of Writing Tips Oasis.