Interview with Sara Crowe, agent

Sara is an agent with Har­vey Klinger, Inc. in New York City. I was lucky enough to be able to hang out with Sara last Jan­u­ary pri­or to the 11th Annu­al SCBWI Inter­na­tion­al Win­ter Con­fer­ence. Yes, she is every bit as cute and friend­ly as she appears in the pho­to below, so if you’re going to attend our con­fer­ence this April, be sure to tell her hello!

L: Wel­come, Sara! Thanks so much for tak­ing the time to answer some ques­tions for me! Let’s jump right in at the top of my list… with a rather tricky one. Your var­i­ous bios and list­ings say you accept non­fic­tion, but I don’t see any non­fic­tion for kids among your titles. Am I miss­ing it? If not, what do you sup­pose are the rea­sons? Do you just not get many non­fic­tion sub­mis­sions, are they hard­er to sell, is it just hard­er to find one that grabs you per­son­al­ly, or some com­bi­na­tion of those? Give us some insight on the juve­nile non­fic­tion mar­ket from an agent’s perspective.

S: Hi Lau­rie! Thanks for hav­ing me! What my web­site says about what I rep­re­sent is this: I am an agent with Har­vey Klinger, Inc., a full ser­vice bou­tique lit­er­ary agency in New York where I rep­re­sent both adult and chil­dren’s titles. On the adult side, I rep­re­sent com­mer­cial and lit­er­ary fic­tion and a range of non­fic­tion. On the chil­dren’s side, my list includes YA and mid­dle grade fic­tion, as well as pic­ture books.
S: So, I am upfront about my lack of non­fic­tion on the chil­dren’s side. How­ev­er, I am very open to queries for chil­dren’s non­fic­tion, and do hope to find more. Many of my favorite books as a child were non­fic­tion, and it is some­thing I remain inter­est­ed in read­ing. My client Erin Vin­cent’s debut YA, GRIEF GIRL (Dela­corte, 2007) is a mem­oir, and I would love to see more YA mem­oir. I am also work­ing on two non­fic­tion projects at the moment—one pic­ture book and one biog­ra­phy for children.
S: I do rep­re­sent a lot more fic­tion, though, so when it comes down to it, I am not as famil­iar with the juve­nile non­fic­tion mar­ket, and the chances are slim­mer that I will be the right fit for a non­fic­tion book. If it does grab me per­son­al­ly, and if I can come up with a great list of edi­tors to send it to and am 100% sure there is a mar­ket for it, I will take it on!


L: Okay, that was sort of a doozy—thanks for play­ing along and giv­ing such a can­did answer! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this one is prob­a­bly even worse. I see you’re not tak­ing pic­ture book sub­mis­sions at this time, which seems to be a trend among agents. Can you tell us why? What do you think about the cur­rent state of the pic­ture-book indus­try? What can pic­ture-book authors do to help them break in?
S: I prob­a­bly should take that off my site and the agen­cy’s site. I get many pic­ture book queries, what­ev­er it says online, and they did not seem to slow at all when I post­ed that notice. (Inci­den­tal­ly, it says every­where online that I do not like to receive snail mail queries, but those keep com­ing too, and I respond to them!)
S: I sold a debut pic­ture book recent­ly, by Matthea Har­vey, to Schwartz & Wade, and one of my cur­rent pic­ture books, on sub­mis­sion now, is non­fic­tion. I just took on a pic­ture book from a query that real­ly grabbed me. So like with non­fic­tion, I will take on the right pic­ture book project for me—but I will take on much few­er pic­ture books than nov­els, and so it’s less like­ly I will be the right fit.


L: Okay, you made that one seem easy, so this one should be a piece of cake… Tell us about your agent­ing style: Are you very edi­to­r­i­al? Phone or email? Hands-on through­out the whole process or mitts off until the final prod­uct? It’s clear your clients LOVE you, so what­ev­er it is, it’s working!
S: Thank you! I am an edi­to­r­i­al agent and do think I am very hands-on. I edit every­thing I take on before it goes out to edi­tors. If I see any sweep­ing changes that I think need to be made before sub­mis­sion, I talk to the writer about that when we dis­cuss rep­re­sen­ta­tion. And the edit­ing does not stop with the first sale. I con­tin­ue to edit my authors’ books, and to dis­cuss their new book ideas with them. I usu­al­ly read major revi­sions before we send to the edi­tor, and I read and dis­cuss syn­opses and par­tials, or some­times just ideas, about what the author should do next. I am always on email, but some­times a phone call is the best thing for the sit­u­a­tion, and I am always hap­py to be on the phone.


L: What aspects do you like most about being an agent? Least? Pet peeves?
S: I tru­ly feel lucky every­day to have a job that is nev­er bor­ing, always chal­leng­ing, and that involves read­ing books that I love and talk­ing them up to any­one who will lis­ten. I love find­ing a new client, a new book to be excit­ed about. Call­ing an author, espe­cial­ly a debut author, to tell them their book will be pub­lished nev­er gets old. I love all of my agent roles: edit­ing, match­mak­ing, mak­ing deals, nego­ti­at­ing con­tracts. Its the kind of job that does­n’t end at the end of a day or week, though, and agents are always work­ing, even when they are try­ing to read for plea­sure. It is a job with­out bound­aries. That applies to every­one in pub­lish­ing, I think, writ­ers, too. I wish there were time to read when I am actu­al­ly at work! Real­ly, I just need there to be more time in a day.


L: Oh, I think we all could use some of that! Besides the man­u­script itself, what oth­er fac­tors do you con­sid­er when decid­ing whether or not to offer rep­re­sen­ta­tion (plat­form, online pres­ence, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, spe­cial­iza­tion, rec­om­men­da­tions, affil­i­a­tions, etc.)?
S: Unless it is adult non­fic­tion, where plat­form tru­ly mat­ters, I am only look­ing at the book first—and if I love it and feel con­fi­dent I can sell it, I am not con­cerned about a plat­form or an online pres­ence. I think for the most part, those things can wait until after the sale of the book to the pub­lish­er. Once we have sold it, I do think all authors should get online. Of course a blurb or rec­om­men­da­tion from a well known author is appeal­ing, as it might make the book eas­i­er to sell, but its not necessary.


L: Besides care­ful­ly read­ing mar­ket guides, surf­ing the web and send­ing tar­get­ed queries, what can we authors do to ensure a good fit, both when sub­mit­ting and when con­sid­er­ing an offer of representation?
S: I think that what you want to find is an agent who is pas­sion­ate about your book and your writ­ing, who has knowl­edge of the mar­ket­place, expe­ri­ence with your type of book and whose list is a place you think you belong and where you want to be. You can find much of this out with research, talk­ing with his or her oth­er clients, and by ask­ing the right ques­tions when you speak to the agent on the phone. As for queries, make them count! Spend the most time on your book descrip­tion as its the most impor­tant thing. And do not make it all about the query—make sure the man­u­script is in great shape before you start querying.


L: Do you have any clients or titles you’d like to high­light for us?
S: Two chil­dren’s books out in March: a mid­dle grade and a YA. IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES (Aladdin), Lisa Schroed­er’s mid­dle grade debut, is about Isabel, who dreams of see­ing the world but she’s nev­er left Ore­gon. When her best friend, Sophie, tells her of a bak­ing con­test whose win­ners trav­el to New York City, she eager­ly enters despite con­cerns about her moth­er, who is open­ing a cup­cake bak­ery. And SAVING MADDIE by Var­i­an John­son, just out with Dela­corte, about Josh, a preacher’s son, whose best child­hood friend, Mad­die has come back home a new person—gorgeous and trou­bled and with­out her faith. Can you save some­one who doesn’t want to be saved? And more impor­tant­ly, how do you save some­one with­out los­ing yourself?


S: In April, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER by Dan Wells is out with Tor Books. It is about a boy who is con­cerned he might be a ser­i­al killer, and so makes rules for him­self to avoid becom­ing one — but then a real one comes into town and starts killing peo­ple, and he has to break some of his rules to find the killer. Its a def­i­nite crossover title–a hor­ror nov­el with a lov­able teen pro­tag­o­nist and a great YA voice, though will be pub­lished here as an adult book. Its already out in Ger­many where its a best­seller, and is also out in the UK– where it was pub­lished as YA. Kirkus just gave it a starred review and wrote: “(An) unabashed­ly gory gem.… Buy mul­ti­ples where it won’t be banned.”

S: Final­ly, Hol­ly Nicole Hox­ter’s YA debut, THE SNOWBALL EFFECT will be out from Harp­er in April! It’s about Lainey Pike, who is try­ing to make peace with her dead moth­er (not easy), take care of her five-year old broth­er who is now an orphan, and to learn to love with her estranged old­er sis­ter who is now back in her life as her guardian until she turns 18.


L: Is there any­thing else you wished that I had asked, but didn’t?
S: I have too much read­ing to do to come up with anoth­er question—but I loved answer­ing all of yours. Thanks so much, Lau­rie! I am real­ly look­ing for­ward to the conference!
L: Thank YOU, Sara, for being so open, hon­est, and approach­able! I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing you again in April and show­ing you around our neck of the woods.

8 thoughts on “Interview with Sara Crowe, agent”

  1. Great inter­view, Lau­rie- thanks for shar­ing it with us. I’m look­ing for­ward to meet­ing Sara at the April con­fer­ence. Will be glad to see you, too!

    • Thanks, Amy! I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing you again, too. I’m sure I’ll be run­ning around like my hair’s on fire, but please stop me and say hel­lo anyway. =)

  2. Impor­tant inter­view for those writ­ers find­ing it dif­fi­cult to move their cre­ativ­i­ty into the pub­lish­ing world. The pic­ture of Sara and her per­son­able nature seep­ing through the per­ti­nent infor­ma­tion came just in time. Send­ing query let­ters was becom­ing daunt­ing and I was slip­ping into an imper­son­al task. Thank you Lau­rie and Sara. I am remind­ed to main­tain a warm open heart in order to draw the same from my agent. Of course skill and knowl­edge is nec­es­sary, but I must not for­get that I require a lit­tle more.


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