2021 Washington Writers Conference Literary Agents
(Note: Agents are subject to change; pitch sessions run six minutes apiece.)
Stephen Barr of Writers House represents contemporary and fantasy YA, contemporary and fantasy middle grade, picture books, narrative nonfiction, literary fiction, mysteries, and psychological suspense.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: clever, sentimental but still playful picture books from author/illustrators.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Definitely don't be nervous, as I'm an unrepentant goofball! I assume both of us want to have fun along the way, so go for it (that is to say, have fun)! Let me know what other books in the genre you're pitching you absolutely love, and which ones are touchstones for your own work.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: A memoir about online dating?
I hope to be pitched the next: Sideways Stories from Wayside School.
Two fun facts about me: I recently gave up my pandemic vice of nachos after an incredibly cheesy 365 days, and I met my wife on a spiral staircase at Writers House on the day I interviewed for an internship (it only took five years of unspoken pining to eventually tell her I loved her)!
Haley Casey of Creative Media Agency represents adult fiction (women’s fiction; book-club fiction; romance; contemporary; and paranormal); adult nonfiction (memoir; narrative; true crime; cultural; LGBTQ+; and women’s issues); young adult (contemporary; mystery/horror; fantasy; [light] science fiction; and dystopian); middle-grade (contemporary; mystery [The Westing Game, anyone?]; and fantasy).
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Adult contemporary romance and YA of any genre.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Be conversational — as an agent, I want to connect with and enjoy the authors I sign. Be succinct — your time is limited, so hit me with your biggest plot points and most meaningful messages. Be prepared for questions — you should know your manuscript inside and out, and I’m sure I’ll want to know more.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Adult satire; dark, graphic adult thrillers; space operas; chapter books or picture books.
I hope to be pitched the next: Beach Read by Emily Henry, Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus, or The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi.
Two fun facts about me: Before publishing, if I could’ve done any job in the world (ignoring all skill level), I would’ve been a wildlife photographer. Also, I'm a Type 5 according to Enneagram, INTP according to Myers-Briggs, and an Aquarius.
Adam Chromy of Movable Type Management represents adult fiction and nonfiction (no YA).
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Thrillers, women’s fiction, and narrative nonfiction.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Make me care about the characters and story you are pitching. Exhibit a knowledge of the competition and marketplace for your chosen genre. And keep it fun.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Fantasy.
I hope to be pitched the next: Devil in the White City.
Two fun facts about me: I’m a great pool player. And I’ve avoided social media from the start.
Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency represents mostly adult fiction and some children’s: mysteries; cozy mysteries; romance (especially sweet, inspirational, Amish, rom-com, and Western); suspense; historical mysteries; picture books; cookbooks; middle-grade mysteries; and true crime.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: mysteries, cozy mysteries, romance, picture books, middle-grade mysteries, true crime, and cookbooks.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Make sure your genre fits my agency. Make sure your word count fits the genre you write. Make sure your work has been edited by someone other than just yourself.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Horror, young adult, or any genre I don't represent.
I hope to be pitched the next: Great mystery!
Two fun facts about me: I love jigsaw puzzles. I met my husband through a phone ad 35 years ago.
Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary has been a literary agent in New York City since May 1992. She represents adult literary fiction and nonfiction and all ages of children's books.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: literary fiction with a commercial hook, narrative nonfiction, and middle grade.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Be able to answer these questions: What type of book have you written and where would it be shelved in a bookstore? What are two or three recently published comparison titles which are similar to yours? How is your book different enough from them that it is fresh and new? What inspired you to write this book? And what about you makes you the perfect person to write this book?
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: poetry, westerns, romance.
Two fun facts about me: I was an anthropology major, which means I've had a long interest in a variety of cultures and under-represented voices. I have a book collection of first printings in my house.
Facebook: Dunham Literary, Inc.
Natalie Edwards of Janklow & Nesbit Associates is looking to represent both adult fiction and nonfiction: literary and upmarket fiction; select memoir; narrative nonfiction; queer stories; #ownvoices stories; diaspora narratives; hidden histories; and anything that offers timely and sharp social critique.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: All of the above!
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Don’t just tell me what your book is — tell me why you felt drawn to write it and why you’re the best person to tell this story. Be sure that your comp titles are current and relevant and tell me why your work offers a fresh take on topics those books have already touched on. And, lastly, have fun with it!
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Sci-fi, horror, prescriptive nonfiction, self-help, mass-market thrillers or romance, spiritual, erotica, children’s, or poetry.
I hope to be pitched the next: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper, or a modern twist on Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Two fun facts about me: I played four years of varsity softball in college, and I’m half Armenian, half lapsed Mormon.
Melissa Gaines of Victress Literary represents both fiction and nonfiction in adult, YA, and children. Fiction: romance; sci-fi; women's; humor; mystery; action; LGBTQ; paranormal; and urban fantasy. Nonfiction: quirky humor; pop culture; and unique memoirs.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: romance, family saga, action, humor, drag-queen memoirs; most of all, character-driven stories that make me feel.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Please know I want to hear your pitch and I am nervous also. Please be open to feedback and conversation about your work. If your genre isn't an exact match with my list, I am still interested in hearing your pitch.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: religious books.
I hope to be pitched the next: book that drives the market instead of one that copies it.
Two fun facts about me: I still want to grow up to be Tiffany, the 80s popstar. And Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt is the book that turned me into a lifelong reader.
Twitter: @MelissaGaines42 or @Victresslit
Tara Gilbert of Jennifer De Chiara Literary represents adult, YA, and children’s fiction: fantasy, contemporary, romance, upmarket, horror, and historical.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Romance and contemporary.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: I love it when pitches are short and concise. I would advise that authors focus on their characters’ goals and stakes. I am eager to represent authors from underrepresented communities.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Thrillers or anything to do with cops or military men.
I hope to be pitched the next: Red, White & Royal Blue or V.E. Schwab, Maggie Stiefvater, Rick Riordan, or TJ Klune.
Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Agency represents high-end adult fiction (but not fantasy or science fiction) and nonfiction in the areas of health, business, cooking, baking, pop culture, France, and Judaica.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Diversity.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: 1. Don't be nervous. Smile. I'm not scary. 2. Know where your book would be shelved at Barnes & Noble. Don't say it's some of this and some of that. 3. If you have many tens of thousands of social media numbers, say so.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: poetry, Christian market, tech thrillers, or romance (unless it is a game-changer).
I hope to be pitched the next: To Kill A Mockingbird.
Two fun facts about me: I love to bake. I'm an opera fan.
Jordan Hill of New Leaf Literary is looking for adult fiction (literary, Sci-fi/fantasy, and upmarket) or narrative nonfiction. A Texas transplant, Jordan graduated from Smith College with a degree in English language and literature. After a year of handselling books at the Odyssey Bookshop in Massachusetts, she packed up and moved to NYC. There she found herself at a creative agency as an account director focusing on all things branding and marketing. She wanted to find her way back into the book world and now, at New Leaf, assists Joanna Volpe in marketing, publicity campaigns, and reading queries. It is her life goal to find the perfect notebook, the perfect pair of jeans, and the perfect cheeseburger.
Sam Hiyate of the Rights Factory represents adult and YA fiction and nonfiction. In adult fiction: debut; voice-driven; literary; thriller; commercial; and women's fiction. In adult nonfiction: narrative; memoir; health, lifestyle and self-help; and business (a humorous approach in voice or tone helps). In YA fiction: character-driven; literary; and commercial. Also, graphic novels.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Anything voice-driven or funny, and I love genre mashups.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Know some of my bigger books. Get me emotionally invested. Use great comparables.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Picture books.
I hope to be pitched the next: New York Trilogy by Paul Auster.
Two fun facts about me: I signed a handful of authors from pitches they made at parties/launches. I hate stories with sad endings.
Kat Kerr joined the Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2019 after working previously at Corvisiero Literary Agency. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in English in 2009 and is drawn to literary and commercial voices within the adult and YA markets, as well as adult nonfiction. Kat feels strongly about supporting programs like We Need Diverse Books and is passionate about creating space in this industry for those from historically marginalized communities.
Stefanie Lieberman from Janklow & Nesbit Associates represents adult fiction (commercial, historical, and rom-com).
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Commercial fiction.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Please don’t read your pitch to me verbatim. I understand writers (and agents!) often pitch from their notes, and that’s certainly not an issue as far as I am concerned. But I find it difficult to connect to your material if you can’t connect with me, in the moment, when you are describing it.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Children’s or YA.
I hope to be pitched the next: Unmarriageable, Such a Fun Age, Beach Read, Free Food for Millionaires, or Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
Two fun facts about me: I make elaborate (but tiny!) sculptures out of office supplies while on conference calls. And I’m basically tone deaf, but I love to sing.
Lizz Nagle of Victress Literary represents both adult and YA fiction and nonfiction: memoir; biography; narrative nonfiction; literary and commercial fiction; science fiction; dystopian; fantasy; horror; mystery; thriller; crime; magical realism; women’s fiction; noir; dark comedy; and humor.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: In nonfiction: substance use/mental health/grief memoirs; anything that explores anything with humor and resilience. Also, true crime. For fiction, I’m looking for anything unusual, dark, and twisty highlighting taboo subjects and propelling minority opinions in a real-world setting.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Be chill and let’s have a conversation about why you wrote this book, its message, and what it means to you. Of course, I need to know genre, word count, plot points, and conflicts and tensions. But what I want to know about is the characters you’ve created — their motivations, fights, and causes, their deepest fears, darkest adversaries, boundless minds, and resilient hearts.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Romance, historical, Western, religious, or academic.
I hope to be pitched the next: Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful or The Heart Goes Last.
Two fun facts about me: I have a squirrel feeder outside my office window that is for happy-making. I’m incredibly gifted at falling up the stairs. Any and all stairs. Carpeted or concrete. Twitter: @VictressLizz
Shannon Orso of Victress Literary represents all genres and subgenres of adult and YA.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: A laugh-out-loud rom-com…a gritty crime series…I'm really open to anything, truly.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Remember that I couldn't be here without YOU, so there's no need to be nervous or overthink. I'm very easygoing, so if you trip up, it's no big deal. Take a deep breath and tell me about your story, I'm just a person that wants to hear it.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: nonfiction, memoir, picture books, or middle-grade.
I hope to be pitched the next: Big crime drama series and big rom-com series.
Two fun facts about me: I'm a comic and sci-fi nerd and I fancy myself a little chef-y in the kitchen.
Jeff Ourvan, an attorney, author, and writing instructor, is a literary agent with the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. He represents adult fiction and nonfiction: narrative nonfiction (specifically true crime, history, science, and sports), and genre fiction (specifically thrillers, historical fiction, romance and sci-fi). He also represents YA and middle grade (various).
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: True crime.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Don't be nervous; I'm an author just like you, and I appreciate that your work means everything to you. Share with me not only the storyline but also the journey of your protagonist and what themes you're exploring. Tell me why your book will sell.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Adult fantasy, illustrated children's books, or poetry collections.
I hope to be pitched the next: Why We Swim.
Two fun facts about me: I've been to all 50 U.S. states. I wrote a book about Buddhism.
Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services represents adult/YA/children’s fiction and nonfiction. In fiction: crime; historical; contemporary; women's; romance; upmarket; military; dark psychological fantasy/horror; and grounded, near-future sci-fi. In nonfiction: business; memoir; health and medicine; history; true crime; women's issues; law; sociology; parenting; arts and crafts; cooking; and self-help.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: All the ones listed above.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Know your market and where your book fits in it. Know your comp titles. Have a good logline written to start off with.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Poetry or picture books.
I hope to be pitched the next: I'll know it when I see it!
Two fun facts about me: I collect media from the first half of the 20th century — radio shows, magazines, books, advertisements, etc. They're a fascinating time capsule! And I am constantly remodeling or building something and am very appreciative my husband is trusting enough to go along with my plans.
Facebook: Gina Panettieri
Ariana Philips of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency represents both fiction and nonfiction in adult, YA, and children’s. She’s interested in literary and commercial fiction, particularly upmarket women’s fiction, stories with unique family dynamics, and historical hooks. She’s seeking gritty stories that have a strong, authentic voice, a well-crafted plot, and carefully developed characters. She’s also on the hunt for smart and funny romantic comedies, both for the adult and YA market. In nonfiction, she’s interested in pop culture; popular history and science; illustrated gift books; true crime; sports; social issues; and cookbooks and food narratives. In YA and middle grade, she’s looking for contemporary stories with a strong hook and voice.
BJ Robbins established her Los Angeles-based BJ Robbins Literary Agency in 1992 after a multifaceted career in book publishing in NY, first in publicity at Simon & Schuster and later as marketing director and then senior editor at Harcourt. Her agency represents quality fiction, both literary and commercial, and general nonfiction, with a particular interest in narrative history, memoir, biography, pop culture, sports, travel/adventure, and medicine and health. Clients include New York Times bestselling authors and award-winning writers such as J. Maarten Troost, James Donovan, John Hough Jr., Max Byrd, Nafisa Haji, Stephen Graham Jones, and Deanne Stillman. A member of AAR, Robbins has led workshops at UCLA Extension, UC Irvine Extension, the Writer’s Pad, and at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fiction Workshop. She is looking for fiction and nonfiction projects of literary merit that are fresh and original.
I represent: both adult fiction and nonfiction: literary fiction; mystery/thriller/suspense; horror; multicultural; history; biography; narrative nonfiction; medicine/health; pop culture; and memoir.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Let's have a conversation; please don't recite a rehearsed pitch and resist the urge to recount the entire plot of your novel. Try, if you can, to offer comparable titles. Ask me questions.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Not any particular genre, but I'm always looking for a great story told well that surprises me and feels fresh and original.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Sci-fi, fantasy, anything about religion, conspiracy theories or [anything] written from the POV of an animal or other non-human.
I hope to be pitched the next: Little Fires Everywhere, Gone Girl, The Vanishing Half, The Only Good Indians, Educated, A Gentleman in Moscow.
Two fun facts about me: I was once in a tap-dance company and still tap via Zoom, and in pre-covid days, I played basketball in a mom's league.
Rita Rosenkranz of the Rita Rosenkranz Literary Agency represents almost exclusively adult nonfiction titles. Her wide-ranging list includes health, history, parenting, music, how-to, popular science, business, biography, sports, popular reference, cooking, writing, humor, spirituality, illustrated books and general interest titles. She represents first-time as well as seasoned authors, and looks for projects that present familiar subjects freshly or lesser-known subjects presented commercially. Rita works with major publishing houses, as well as regional publishers that handle niche markets. Representative titles include Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad by Betty DeRamus; Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World; 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker; and A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. She is a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), The Authors Guild, and Women's Media Group.
Regina Ryan of Regina Ryan Books has been the head of her own independent literary agency company for over 35 years, handling adult and juvenile nonfiction. Her areas of interest are wide-ranging and eclectic and include narrative nonfiction, natural history (particularly birds), popular science (particularly the brain), the outdoors, gardening, women’s issues, parenting, psychology, business, health, wellness, self-improvement, lifestyle, history, food, travel, popular reference, and a limited amount of memoir. Among the authors she represents are Andrea Warren, Donald Kroodsma, Nathan Pieplow, Randi Minetor, Peter Meltzer, Kurt Stenn, Andrea Lyon, and David and Kathryn Deardorff. She loves good stories and good writing. @ReginaRyanBooks
I represent: both adult and juvenile nonfiction.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: good, riveting narratives.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Tell me why you should write this book, how it is different and better than anything on the market, and what it is about in one sentence.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Fiction, plays, poetry, or YA.
I hope to be pitched the next: H Is for Hawk.
Two fun facts about me: I'm a birdwatcher and I love to make soup.
Paige Sisley of CookeMcDermid Literary Management represents adult fiction and nonfiction: upmarket fiction; book-club fiction; memoir, lifestyle; and health and wellness.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Upmarket fiction and book-club fiction.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: I’m looking for authors to build a career with, so when you pitch me the book, I also want to hear you pitch yourself as a writer. Tell me about your experience, how you promote yourself, other books you have in the pipeline, where you’d like to see your career in five, 10, 15 years. Also, show me your personality so we can determine if we’d be a good fit as creative and business partners.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Sci-fi/fantasy.
I hope to be pitched the next: Daisy Jones and the Six.
Two fun facts about me: One, I’m a newish mom. And two, baking is a form of therapy for me.
Shannon Snow of Creative Media Agency, Inc. represents both adult and YA fiction: contemporary and historical romance; romance (in both adult and YA); creepy-type horror (rather than monsters); thriller/psychological thriller; speculative fiction; magical realism; dystopian; apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic; light fantasy; and sci-fi.
I would love: some romances with diverse/POC characters as the main protagonists, as well as LGBTQIA+ characters.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Just relax and be yourself. I'm just a person and I WANT to love your book. Make sure your pitch is organized and that I will be able to clearly see the main point, a sense of what type of book it is, and have a sense for what type of characters you created.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Nonfiction or memoirs.
I hope to be pitched the next: One of Us Is Lying.
Two fun facts about me: I could watch “Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville,” or “The Vampire Diaries” on a constant loop. I can quote movies almost word for word after seeing them a second time.
Rachel Vogel of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner represents nonfiction.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: history, investigative, science, or pop culture.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: In addition to telling me what the book is, what makes it different, and why you should be the one writing it, I’m looking for a pitch that will convince me that this is a Big and Important idea. How will it resonate with people today? How will it change the way they see the world?
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Genre fiction.
I hope to be pitched the next: Hidden Valley Road or Unbroken.
Jennifer Weis of Ross Yoon represents both fiction and nonfiction in adult and select YA. In fiction: book-club, thriller, suspense, literary, women’s, and YA. In nonfiction: health, psychology, memoir, and current events.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Women’s suspense.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Hooks are everything! I want to be thrilled, stumped, mystified, turned on, and everything in between. Have your elevator pitch ready and have fun.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Middle grade and children’s, or graphic novels.
I hope to be pitched the next: Educated, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, One Day in December, and And Then She Was Gone.
Two fun facts about me: I’m a TV series junkie, and I read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal opinion pages first thing in the morning.