Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Kelly Van Sant of KT Literary Agency

Kelly Van Sant is a literary agent with KT Literary Agency.

Kelly has nearly a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She cut her teeth in New York working at esteemed literary agencies such as Writers House and Harold Ober Associates, where she developed an eye for compelling, emotionally resonant stories, honed her editorial skills, and soon grew adept at contract vetting. She quickly gained expertise in subsidiary rights management, with focuses on audio rights, foreign rights, and permissions.

After relocating to Minnesota, Kelly joined Llewellyn Worldwide as their Contracts Manager across all three imprints and then moved to Quarto Publishing Group USA where she led the contract department. She has worked as a freelance editor with various publishers and is a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center. She also blogs about writing and the publishing industry at Pub(lishing) Crawl and co-hosts the their weekly podcast.

Kelly’s career came full circle when she realized he true passions was advocating for authors. She is now a literary agent at KT Literary and is actively building a client list.

She is seeking:

I am seeking Middle Grade, Young Adult, and limited women’s fiction across all genres, including fantasy, science fiction, adventure, historical, and contemporary. I love character-driven stories with intricate plots, and am always drawn to explorations of friendship and found family. I am especially interested in #ownvoices and inclusive narratives. I’ve expanded on my interests within each category below.

In Middle Grade:

I am seeking Upper MG only. Chapter books or early readers are not for me. My ideal middle grade needs to be whimsical, funny, and full of adventure. My tastes lean away from contemporary in this genre, and more toward fantasy, speculative, science-fiction, or magical realism. I like intricate world-building and MCs with gumption. Give me a quest, give me steadfast friendships, give me insightful, magical parallels with the real world, and make me laugh. No books with an educational thrust; I want to have fun!

Young Adult:

I dearly love fantasy, science-fiction, speculative, and other magical elements in YA stories. Even better if mixed and matched with other genres. YA historical fantasy? Yes, please. Alternate universes, fictional worlds, your very own hometown with a secret or sinister twist. If the world-building is original and intricate, if you’re either dismantling existing tropes or executing them exceptionally well, if your characters are complex and come alive on the page then what are you waiting for? Send me your query.

Let’s talk about romance in YA. I prefer romance in my YA to be an undercurrent (even an urgent one) but not the main point. Something needs to be going on in universe and in your characters’ lives beyond their love story. Instant love is not for me; I appreciate when characters grow together over the course of a book. Attraction can happen instantly, but intimacy takes time.

I am selective about YA contemporary. A strong voice is vital, and again, I love to see a complex web of relationships beyond just romantic (though romance can be included): especially friendships and family relationships. More often than not you need to break my heart or make me fall head over heels in love with your characters in order for me to be the right agent to rep a contemporary book. But my heart longs to love and be broken! These books above all else must absolutely be character-driven.

Nonfiction

I am exclusively seeking non-fiction books on the subjects of magick and the occult, with a strong focus on tarot in particular. Please be aware that within both the modern and historical practice of tarot there are issues of cultural appropriation, and I am not interested in projects that continue or condone that appropriation. I am especially interested in working with tarot readers who are Indigenous, Black, POC, LGBTQIA+, or from other marginalized communities, and with anyone who brings a unique perspective to the cards that is welcoming for all.

Not seeking:

I am NOT seeking picture books or poetry at this time.

I do not represent previously published books, whether self-published or put out by a small press. Please only query me with new work.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Caitlin McDonald of Donald Maass Literary Agency

Caitlin McDonald is a literary agent with Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Caitlin joined DMLA in 2015, after five years at Sterling Lord Literistic. She represents adult and young adult speculative fiction, primarily science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and related subgenres, as well as select contemporary YA fiction about geeky characters. She is also seeking graphic novels along the same lines as above. Caitlin looks for diversity in all projects, and is most drawn to unique, evocative narratives and cross-genre works, with an emphasis on high-impact stories that have something powerful to say. Some of her clients include C.L. Polk, Caitlin Starling, A.J. Hackwith, Lara Elena Donnelly, and Emma Mieko Candon.

Looking for:
– All SF/F fiction for adult, YA, and select MG, especially secondary world fantasy or alternate history
– Genre-bending or cross-genre fiction, and stories that examine tropes from a new angle
– Diversity of all kinds, including (but not limited to) race, gender, sexuality, and ability, in both characters and worldbuilding

Do not send:
– contemporary women’s fiction
– crime or military fiction
– picture books or young reader chapter books
– poetry, screenplays or short stories
– memoir and nonfiction

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Hannah Brattesani of The Friedrich Agency

Hannah Brattesani is a literary agent with The Friedrich Agency.

“After handling international rights for Emma Sweeney agency and Folio Literary Management, I joined the Friedrich Agency at the end of 2019.”

She is seeking: “I’m always intrigued by literary fiction that has a playful disregard for the rules of a novel, like SPEEDBOAT by Renata Adler, and I admire authors with a dark bent (Iain Reid) and an offbeat sense of humor (Jen Beagin). I’m drawn to narrative nonfiction that invites me into a community, culture, or lifestyle that I would never otherwise experience or reframes familiar subjects in humorous or surprising ways. I enjoy popular science but digest it in much the same way as I ate vegetables as a child: mixed into something I find more palatable – I need a strong story and voice to carry me through but appreciate every nutritious morsel I get along the way.

“Five books that I loved but did NOT sell: FEVER DREAM, THE FALCONER, HOW TO BE BOTH, anything by Rebecca Solnit, and BARBARIAN DAYS.”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Literary Agency

Rena Rossner is a literary agent with The Deborah Harris Literary Agency.

“I represent Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult. In terms of Adult fiction, I look for Literary, Historical, Fantasy and SciFi, Romance and Thrillers, though I am open to all genres. Nonfiction: in all genres, but it depends on the project. I have a love for history, food, and literary science writing, but am open to anything.

“Picture Books: I want funny/quirky books (think Skippyjon Jones,) adorable books that have a classic feel (I love animals and precocious little girls and boys,) or books with a strong message (not ones that moralize) but something with an edge – be it historical fiction, an alternative princess story, or a family story that feels familiar but has a different twist. I love magical realism and poetry and I find myself attracted mostly to picture books under 500 words, though I am open to considering longer ones.

“Middle Grade: I love novels in verse. I love magical realism and poetic writing. I love funny, quirky middle grade. Historical fiction, books with a classic feel. I also love Science Fiction and Fantasy. MG contemporary with a great voice. I’m open to Mysteries/Thrillers.

“Young Adult: Novels in verse, poetry, poetic writing, historical fiction. Contemporary YA with lots of heart – I love romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Nonfiction, anything multicultural and QUILTBAG friendly too (send me the next Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe PLEASE!) but I would also give anything for the next Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

“Adult Fiction – literary writing above all, poetic writing, but I will always be a sucker for all types of SciFi and Fantasy (I love literary scifi and richly imagined alternate worlds,) all types of fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy and Magical Realism. Any kind of Literary Fiction, even edgy and gritty, but give me stunning phrases that make you want to stop and read them again and again. I love all kinds of Historical Fiction (give me the next Outlander, Hild or Pillars of the Earth,) but I am open to horror, psychological suspense and thrillers. I love romance in all genres. And I have a soft spot for Ireland and anything set in the Middle East.

“Nonfiction: I’m a foodie, so any books related to food are right up my alley including cookbooks, but in terms of non-fiction (besides cookbooks,) while I am open to them, I wouldn’t say that it’s a genre I know well, having said that, literary writing trumps all, especially in memoir.

“IN GENERAL: You will steal my heart if there is some kind of Middle Eastern, Israeli, or Jewish setting, theme, or character, in any genre, but those are certainly not the only types of books I represent. Though I am based in Jerusalem, I represent authors all over the world and about half of my current clients are US-based.

“Fun facts about me:

  • I’m a poet and an author
  • My pug’s name is Pablo Picasso Neruda
  • I love green and purple
  • And coffee and bourbon”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Shari Maurer of Stringer Literary

Shari Maurer is a literary agent with Stringer Literary.

Shari graduated from Duke University with a degree in English, and later studied Dramatic Writing at NYU. Following a stint at The Children’s Television Workshop on international productions of Sesame Street, she published both novels and non-fiction, and worked as a writer and editor. Shari has also written Parenting & Lifestyle columns for several websites. A mother of three, she lives in New York with her husband.

In fiction, she seeks Picture Books, Middle Grade (Contemporary, Historical, Literary and Mystery), and Young Adult (Contemporary, Historical, Literary, Mystery).

In nonfiction, she seeks Juvenile (YA and Middle Grade), Memoir, Narrative, Parenting, and Popular Science.

Note from the agency: Please do not send Literary fiction, Inspirational, Screenplays, Plays, Poetry, Short Stories, Comedy, Erotica or Erotic Romance, True Crime, Religious, or Instructional. We are not interested in seeing any projects that include abuse of children or animals as plot elements.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Stefanie Molina of Ladderbird Literary Agency

Stefanie Molina is a literary agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency.

I became an agent in January 2021 and joined Ladderbird Literary Agency in April 2021 after spending my early career advocating for marginalized folks in publishing as a technical editor at a national laboratory, senior editor at the literary journal F(r)iction, and book coach and editor for women of color. I am one-half Mexican, one-quarter Japanese, and one-quarter Irish. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, both from the University of California at Davis. Aside from reading, I enjoy hiking, swimming, baking strange new things, and playing the piano. My favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park

Across the board, I’m extremely passionate about increasing representation for Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities in publishing, and have a soft spot for stories about mixed people of color. I’m also invested in increasing representation for other marginalized populations, including but not limited to LGBTQIA+ folks, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, and people who are neurodiverse.

I am only interested in working with people who are invested in representing the diversity of our world on the page.

Right now, in MG, YA, and Adult, I badly want a story that pulls from ancient legends and cultures written by someone with connection to and knowledge of those legends and cultures. If you have an #ownvoices book that fits this, I want to see it.

In all works, I love redemption arcs, especially those that result in enemies-to-lovers.

It’s hard, though not impossible, to sell me on a sad ending.

In children’s and picture books:

I’m most interested in stories that tell the experiences of growing up as a person of color, especially as a mixed person of color. Think Rise and Shine, Mariko Chan!; Lucia the Luchadora; Grandma Says My Hair Has Flair; We Are Water Protectors; and Binny’s Diwali.

I’d also love retellings of traditional folktales from all cultures, including stories that somehow reflect the oral storytelling tradition.

In middle grade and young adult:

Historical fiction and fantasy that explores diverse experiences and cultures (think Percy Jackson or Flame in the Mist)

Funny, deep, and heartfelt coming-of-age stories, especially about and by people of color (Never Have I Ever (the TV show), American Panda, Becoming Naomi Leon, Finding Miracles), bonus if it has romcom elements

Fantasy and all its subgenres: I’m looking for emotion- and story-heavy writing with an easily trackable narrative, diverse and inclusive cast, and mindful worldbuilding. Favorites: Song of Wraiths and Ruin, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns.

Solarpunk, hopepunk, and silkpunk

In Adult Fiction:

The best books for me combine elements of humor, romance, and adventure into emotion-forward works full of feeling and excitement. I’m looking for:

Diverse romcoms, especially starring people of color and featuring interracial relationships between people of color, and/or starring LGBTQIA+ folks with an emphasis on bi and pan rep

Cozy mysteries, especially those that heavily feature dogs (Chet and Bernie, Andy Carpenter)

Steamy thrillers (think Sandra Brown)

Fantasy and all its subgenres: Again, I’m looking for emotion- and story-heavy writing with a trackable narrative, diverse and inclusive cast, and mindful worldbuilding. (Circe is a big favorite of mine.)

Historical fiction and fantasy that explores diverse experiences and cultures (Fifty Words for Rain)

Solarpunk, hopepunk, and silkpunk

In memoir and nonfiction:

I’m very selective with nonfiction, but I am interested in deeply moving memoirs and business/personal development by people of color.

I’m also looking for cookbooks and baking books that make rich culinary traditions accessible while keeping them authentic, especially those with recipes that have been passed down through generations. I love fusion cuisines and I get most excited about dessert!

Fun facts about me:

I’m a pianist and saxophonist (alto and tenor). I love running, volleyball, and swimming (I used to race butterfly!). I’m an avid baker and food is my love language. It is possible that I am a dog in a human body!

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Alec Shane of Writers House

Alec Shane is a literary agent with Writers House.

Writers House is one of the largest literary agencies in the world and prides itself on providing an extraordinary amount of individual client attention combined with the full service benefits of foreign and sub rights departments, as well as a full accounting and royalty staff.

“I began my career at Writers House as an intern in September of 2008 and simply refused to leave, so I was given the wonderful job of Assistant to Jodi Reamer. I am now also in the process of actively building my own list and currently represent a fairly eclectic mix of Children’s and Adult fiction and nonfiction. I’m eagerly looking for both.

“On the fiction side, I love mysteries, thrillers (although I’m experiencing a bit of terrorist fatigue at the moment), bad-ass protagonists with a chip on their shoulders, beautifully told historical fiction (The Vietnam War, the Maccabees, and The American Revolution fascinate me in particular), well-researched adventure stories, and great horror – I haven’t been scared to turn off the light in far too long and something needs to be done about it.

“In terms of children’s books, getting boys to read again is especially important to me, and thus I’m particularly on the lookout for a fun middle-grade adventure series, ghost story, or anything else geared toward younger male readers.

“On the nonfiction side, I’m attracted to odd, quirky histories, military history, biographies of people I didn’t even know existed (but definitely should have), “guy” reads, humor, narrative nonfiction that sheds light on under-the-radar events and lifestyles, and all things sports. I’m also currently up in the air as to whether or not I believe in ghosts, hauntings, and the supernatural, so if you have something that can convince me one way or the other, I’d love to see it.

BEST-KNOWN PROJECTS

SHARK WARS, EJ Altbacker
THE LAST PUNISHER, Kevin Lacz
NIGHT ON FIRE, Ronald Kidd
THE BOOK OF BLOOD, HP Newquist
HOW THE STATES GOT THEIR SHAPES, Mark Stein
YOU MIGHT REMEMBER ME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PHIL HARTMAN, Mike Thomas