2023 Washington Writers Conference Literary Agents
The Washington Independent Review of Books
Presents the 10th Annual Washington Writers Conference
(Note: Agents are subject to change. Check back often for updates.)
Rachel Beck of Liza Dawson Associates believes that the right book can change or heal a life, and she wants to find those. But she’s also interested in lighter fiction that helps you escape or simply makes you laugh after a tough day. Or nonfiction that teaches you something about an obscure topic, thus opening up a new world. More specifically, she’s looking for:
- Upmarket/book club women’s fiction — authors such as Emily Giffin, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Amy Hatvany, Liane Moriarty, and Diane Chamberlain, who explore sensitive, controversial, or morally grey areas in a complex, sympathetic way. Material that reminds us how difficult it is to be a modern woman, but also how rich and rewarding. Books that explore motherhood, fertility issues, addiction, sexism or sexual assault, and messy family dynamics are good examples — but with a fresh eye that brings something new to the conversations.
- Lighthearted millennial fiction or contemporary romance — authors like Kristan Higgins and Sophie Kinsella. A beach read, but with plenty of heart that might make you go from laughing to crying in an instant. Books that address the struggles of your 20s and early 30s, such as dating woes, career fulfillment/advancement, deciding whether to have kids or not, social media pressures, etc.
- Domestic suspense — Character-driven, psychologically intense reads. This genre is saturated at the moment, so she’s very picky and will only entertain something that feels fresh from page one, with characters who are mind-blowingly insane or compelling or extreme or fascinating. Unlikable characters are most welcome; she’d love to see a good classic antihero. Just give her characters and plots she won’t be able to stop thinking about. Please avoid clichéd plotlines, twists for the sake of twists, predictable endings, or telling her that the story is the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.
- Contemporary young adult — no fantasy, but apocalyptic, cyberpunk, etc., okay. She’s primarily drawn to heavy, issue-driven YA that goes after topics such as mental health, sexual assault, eating disorders, abuse, trauma, suicide, LGBTQ issues, and dealing with death/grief, etc. She loves YA authors such as Courtney Summers, Amber Smith, Jennifer Niven, John Green, Ann Brashares, Kathleen Glasgow, Robin Talley, and Jandy Nelson. She would love to find a book about a trans character going through the experience, or a book that highlights the importance of a movement, much like The Hate U Give did — perhaps for the #MeToo movement or mass shootings.
- Select nonfiction — feminist material; career/business/personal growth books with new focus points; extreme underdog, survival, accomplishment, or rising-from-poverty-type stories; select health and wellness books (especially mental health, eating disorders, any rare or underrepresented conditions, Alzheimer’s/memory — she’s especially interested in the condition known as HSAM, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory); books about football/the NFL; marathoner/triathlete memoirs; parenting books that bring something new to the conversation; books that explore cult life or extreme religion; 9/11 survival stories; anything about Anne Frank.
- Anything featuring odd, eccentric, quirky or perhaps on-the-spectrum characters treated authentically and with compassion (think Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine or The Rosie Project).
- Anything exploring complex sibling relationships, particularly sisters.
- Anything set in the South, particularly New Orleans/the Cajun region of southern Louisiana.
- Retellings of classics such as A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, As I Lay Dying, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Tell-Tale Heart.
Please do NOT send: middle grade, picture books, epic/high fantasy, erotic romance, short stories, or poetry.
I am specifically looking for this particular genre: Upmarket/book club women’s fiction, contemporary millennial fiction, romantic comedy, thriller.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Don’t be nervous — I’m excited to meet you and hear about your book! Know the genre (and please, please, definitely know whether it’s fiction or nonfiction) and word count and some comp titles. Be sure to highlight what’s unique and interesting about your book — why nothing like it has been published before and why people will want to read it.
I’d love to be pitched the next: The Hate U Give, The Sky Is Everywhere, The Way I Used to Be, Gone Girl, Something Borrowed, People We Meet on Vacation, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
Two fun facts about me: I did a triathlon while pregnant, and I once slept in Rockefeller Center to see my favorite musician.
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.
Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Agency represents nonfiction in the areas of politics, memoir, health, business, cooking, baking, and pop culture. [NOTE: IRENE IS TAKING VIRTUAL PITCHES ONLY.]
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Nonfiction.
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).
Two fun facts about me: I love to bake. I'm an opera fan.
Susan Hawk has worked in children’s books for over 25 years and represent books for children and teens. She’s looking for diverse stories, elegant writing, and books that make the reader feel. Her clients include Alison Oliver, illustrator of the bestselling Baby Lit board books and the picture book Moon; Ruth Spiro, author of the Baby Loves Science board book series; Marcie Colleen, author of the Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series and the picture books Love, Triangle and Penguinaut!; Lisa Tyre, whose second middle-grade novel, Hope in the Holler, was an Amazon Best Book for 2018; and Rachael Allen, author of the YA novels 17 First Kisses, The Revenge Playbook, and A Taxonomy of Love. @susanhawk
I represent: Both fiction/nonfiction, but for children and teens only. I’m open to all genres, including literary, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, humor, magical realism, historical fiction, adventure, horror, thriller, and graphic novels.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: Projects and creators that are diverse, books that are unabashedly feminist, and something that will make me laugh!
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: One: Deep breaths! There’s nothing to worry about. Two: Think carefully about your hook — I definitely want to be intrigued! Three: More than details of the plot, I’m interested in what feeling you plan to leave your reader with — what’s the take-away?
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Adult books, because I don't rep them.
I hope to be pitched the next: Rita Williams-Garcia, Laini Taylor, Rainbow Rowell, Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, M.T. Anderson, or Cece Bell!
Two fun facts about me: I’m a Washington, DC, native. The last book I read, as of this writing, is Miss Benson’s Beetle, which I loved!
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.
Bridget Wagner Matzie of Aevitas has represented projects such as the #1 New York Times bestseller Shattered by Jon Allen and Amie Parnes, the national bestseller The Case for Impeachment by Allan Lichtman, the New York Times bestseller The Party Is Over by Mike Lofgren, and the acclaimed novel The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma by Ratika Kapur, as well as Smithsonian scientist Nick Pyenson’s Spying on Whales, and Emory professor Ruby Lal’s Empress, among others. Matzie graduated from Colgate University with a B.A. in English and writing. She attended the Columbia University publishing program and subsequently worked for ICM in New York and London as an agent and rights director at the Sagalyn Agency, and as foreign-rights manager at Random House India. Matzie represents nonfiction as an Aevitas agent based in Washington, DC, where Washingtonian magazine listed her as one of DC’s top book agents. She is most interested in strong, original ideas, new and international voices, big-think topics, and books that challenge readers and create discussion.
Lizz Nagle of Victress Literary represents both adult and YA fiction and nonfiction: memoir; biography; narrative nonfiction; literary and commercial fiction; SFF; mystery; thriller; magical realism; women’s fiction; dark comedy; humor; and contemporary YA.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: In nonfiction: substance use/mental health/grief memoirs; anything exploring anything with humor and resilience. For fiction, I’m looking for layered characters, challenging themes, and anything generally unusual, dark, and twisty highlighting taboo subjects and diversity while propelling minority opinions in a real-world setting.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Just 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, conflicts, and tensions. But what I really 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 travel to see concerts and sometimes go alone. I’m incredibly gifted at falling up the stairs. Any and all stairs. Carpeted or concrete.
Dana Newman is an L.A.-based independent literary agent representing authors of practical and narrative nonfiction and literary and upmarket fiction. She’s always on the lookout for compelling voices, ideas, and stories, and is a passionate believer in the power of books to connect and transform us. Dana is also an attorney, focusing on publishing law and contracts. She’s a member of the California State Bar and the Association of Authors’ Representatives. Before founding her literary agency, she worked as in-house counsel in the entertainment industry. @DanaNewman
I Represent: Adult fiction and nonfiction. Literary, historical, women's fiction; non-fiction: pop culture, biography, memoir, business, cooking, health, wellness, lifestyle, history, politics, current affairs, mind/body/spirit, science, technology, self-help, sports, travel.
I am specifically looking for this genre at the conference: practical nonfiction by authors with smart, unique perspectives and established platforms; compelling, inspiring narrative nonfiction that reads like a novel; upmarket and literary fiction featuring character-driven stories written in a distinctive voice.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: It's a conversation, no need to recite a canned speech; include a strong hook or "why" about your project; let me know a little about you and your experience as a writer.
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: children's/YA, poetry, screenplays, religion, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, Western, technical, or textbooks.
I hope to be pitched the next: Fiction: The Nix; Nonfiction: Wild or The Orchid Thief.
Two fun facts about me: I've run five marathons, and have always lived in California.
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.
Max Sinsheimer represents a range of adult and select children's nonfiction, with a particular interest in food, science, and society. Sometimes those interests intersect, as in Larissa Zimberoff's Technically Food (Abrams Press), about the lab-driven future of food. Many of his books have a policy or advocacy angle, including Marion Nestle's Unsavory Truth (Basic Books), Michael Jacobson's Salt Wars (MIT Press), and Catherine Donnelly's Ending the War on Artisan Cheese (Chelsea Green). He’s on the lookout for more great place-specific food narratives, having recently sold a sake travelogue called Exploring the World of Japanese Craft Sake (Tuttle).
There's more on his plate (pun!) than just food and drink, though. Max is arguably representing the opposite of food and drink with a book about fasting called The Oldest Cure in the World (Abrams Press). He loves working with investigative and longform journalists like Steve Hendricks, and he’s also keen to represent more environmental and social issues books, having sold Mario Ariza's Disposable City (Nation Books), about Miami's sea level rise crisis, and If I Don't Make It, I Love You (Skyhorse), a collection of narratives from school shooting survivors.
Prior to founding his agency, Max managed Oxford University Press' influential food and drink Companion series, multi-authored, subject-defining works that included The Oxford Companion to Beer (2011), The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (2015), Savoring Gotham (2015), The Oxford Companion to Cheese (2016), and The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (2021). The series has won or been nominated for James Beard, IACP, Gourmand, and other food-writing awards. While he enjoyed his time at OUP immensely, he wanted to represent his authors’ interests more completely. Since founding his agency in 2016, he can!
Max has a B.A. in English literature from Middlebury College and an M.A. in liberal studies from Duke University. He lives with his fiancé in Washington, DC, and, in non-pandemic times, travels back and forth to NYC often to meet with editors and visit family. In his free time, he plays an unhealthy amount of online chess.
Latoya C. Smith is an award-winning editor and literary agent. She has been featured in Publishers Weekly and USA Today, as well as on various author, book conference, and book blogger websites. Latoya provides editorial and consultation services through her company, LCS Literary Services. She is also a literary agent. @glameditorgirl
I represent: Fiction: High-concept women’s fiction; romance (contemporary, romantic suspense, cowboys, LGBTQ, erotic, inspirational, paranormal); high-concept thrillers and horror; comedy. Nonfiction (platform/market-based); memoir; how-to/advice; relationships; health/wellness; politics/current events/history.
Three sentences of advice for pitching me: Know your word count, genre, and marketplace (comp authors/titles).
Absolutely, positively do not pitch me: Poetry, self-published works, projects under 50,000 words.
Two fun facts about me: I love to cook. Italy and Fiji are on my bucket list of places to travel to.
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.
Jennifer Chen Tran is an agent at Folio Literary Management. With over a decade of experience in publishing, she is passionate about nurturing and championing authors and their creative lives. An attorney in good standing in New York and California, Jennifer represents a wide range of talent, including journalists, physicians, entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, chefs, and graphic novelists, among others. She is an editorial agent who believes in the art of collaboration and works closely with her authors on all parts of the publishing process. As a person of color and daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Jennifer is committed to amplifying voices from underrepresented and marginalized communities. Her ultimate goal is to work in concert with authors to shape books that will have a lasting positive social impact on the world — books that illuminate, entertain, and inspire.