Query.Sign.Submit. with Alyssa Eisner-Henken


Alyssa represents picture books, middle grade, young adult fiction, nonfiction, and women’s fiction.

She tries to respond to all queries, but if you haven’t gotten a response after three months, you should consider it a pass.

To connect with and learn more about Alyssa . . .

Agency Website


QSS intro


What advice would you give to querying writers?

I would urge a writer not to query before she/he feels the manuscript is complete and in the best possible shape. It can be tempting to want to pitch your gem to the world while you’re in the midst of working on it. But since editors seem to be more and more selective about the editorial quality of the works that they are acquiring, I, too, need to be selective about the books I choose to represent. Of course I’m always more than happy to do editorial work with an author to help the book make the best sale possible. But I feel I can do my job of selling most effectively once the manuscript is completed and has been through some critiques and revisions already.

What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

Seek out agents who have worked on the books you love. Never feel that because an agent represents a huge bestseller or several bestsellers that he or she won’t have time for your book. If that’s the case, so be it. But don’t assume that will be the case. When someone tells me they are writing to me because he or she love a particular book that I championed, it’s very gratifying.

What WOWs you in a query?

For me, a query is most successful when it evokes the mood of the book much in the same way a movie trailer makes you want to see a movie. It’s important that the setting, voice, characters, and conflict are all present enough to entice the reader to read. Still, there should be a sense of mystery and subtlety, too, so not everything is revealed, and the story does not feel obvious of cliché at first glance.

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

I am very much on the lookout for middle grade fiction as well as a smattering of picture books and young adult fiction. Books in which the writing is inspiring and you can’t stop thinking about the characters and their dilemmas. Some particular ideas that excite me:

1) A YA reimaging of Mad Men in which gender politics and greed take center stage.

2) A middle grade novel in which the giant balloons from The Macys Day Parade are the protagonists.

3) An illustrated picture book about the s’more. I believe it’s the new cupcake!


How editorial are you?

I am very editorial! I worked as an editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for seven years before becoming an agent. I also read manuscripts with an eye for pacing especially because I find editors are very willing to work on character development and central scenes with a client, but if the pacing is too slow, that can kill a sale, even if the writing is otherwise strong.

How do you put together a list of editors to send to?

This is one of my favorite things to do. That, and writing pitch letters!

I enjoy reading Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly to see who is buying what at this minute, so I have a very current perspective on what types of editors are drawn to what types of themes. I also read the bestseller lists and accolade lists religiously to see which editors are getting books on these lists. I like to have variety on my submission lists between more established editors who have great reputations and younger editors who have success to show for their earlier acquisitions. One can never predict the responses, but I find a balance between seasoned and hungry editors in every submission has worked well for me and my clients over the years.

At what point would a client share new story ideas with you?

I love to be part of the process as early as the author wishes to include me. Sometimes I am known to make big picture comments that can really influence the work in a positive way and help the author ground it further.

Do you want to see sample chapters as a client writes or do you prefer to wait until the manuscript is finished?

Whatever works for the client! Some people need privacy and others use me as a critique partner of sorts. There is no one formula. I do whatever it takes to help make the book successful.


How much contact do you have with a client when he/she is out on submission? Do you send weekly updates or update as responses come in?

A lot of contact! When there is interest, I always let the client know right away. And when there are passes, I share those, too. When there are multiple editors interested or an auction situation, it’s especially important to be in constant contact with the client so he/she can decide which offer to accept. One of the nicest compliments I ever received from a client was that she felt she was “my only client” when we were fielding numerous offers for her books. Of course I have many clients, but in that minute, I was wholly consumed with making the best choice for her and her book. I try to make sure that each clients feels like my only client when we are selling a book together. But I always respond to my other clients promptly while helping the lady or man of the hour, of course!

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Certainly. I feel if an agent is doing her job, there won’t ideally be painfully long stretches without news of any kind, though, that’s not always the case especially during the holiday season and the late summer when editors tend to take vacation. But usually editors decide within a matter of a few weeks when a book is going to be up for acquisitions. It’s important as an agent to keep in contact with all the editors in a submission round, so if one wants to take it to an editorial meeting, another has time to get his or her ducks in a row in order to make an offer.

What is it like to tell a client there’s an offer on the book?

It never gets old. It’s wonderful, affirming, exciting, and if I’m out and about and get news of an offer forthcoming, there is no better use for an iPhone than to extend this news!

Once a writer has sold his/her first book, how is the next submission process different?

It’s much different! Often after a book has been sold on a full manuscript, the next book is sold on a proposal. This can be wonderful in the sense that the client needn’t invest years of his or her life in order to make a sale. But once the book is sold, but not yet written, it can be overwhelming. To minimize a feeling of “oh, no, they paid me all this money and now I need to write the darn book!” I try to work with my clients to make sure they maintain a sense of calm throughout this process. This might mean reading partial drafts along the way, having long conversations about the plot and where to go with it. Of course, an editor, at this point, will usually do the heaviest lifting, but I’m always happy to jump in and make the process run smoothly.

Thank you, Alyssa!

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Win a copy of THE BFF BUCKET LIST!

9781481446433I’m one of today’s Pitch Wars Mentor Spotlights over at Brenda Drake’s blog and there’s a giveaway. Smile

Stop by and enter to win a copy of THE BFF BUCKET LIST! Better hurry though—winner will be chosen Saturday evening.

Go to Brenda’s website to enter!

Dee & Jen’s Pitch Wars Bios & Wishlist

Hey there, Pitch Wars hopefuls! You know us as Dee and Jen and may have seen us hanging around together in cyberspace. We hang out in real life too, even though we live 450 miles apart. We met in the slush pile of Pitch Madness when I (Dee) couldn’t resist tracking Jen down and demanding respectfully requesting that she send me her manuscript to read. So it’s perhaps meant to be that now we both have books out in the world and we’re co-mentoring in a Brenda Drake contest, like the one that brought us together. We’ve even written a book together (okay, okay, there were seven of us, but at least you know we work well as a team).

Our official bios:

Dee Romito is an author and former elementary teacher. Her middle grade debut, THE BFF BUCKET LIST, is now available from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, with two more to come in 2017. She blogs about writing at I Write for Apples, where she and her team share tips to help fellow writers. Dee is also Co-Advisor of Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators. You’re likely to find her on adventures with her husband and two energetic kids, at the local ice cream shop, or curled up in a comfy chair with her cats. She loves to write, travel, and giggle like a teenager with her friends. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.
Twitter and Instagram: @writeforapples 

Jen Malone writes humorous "girl power" MG adventures with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin and Random House/Dreamworks Films, and fun and flirty YA travel romances with HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Her middle grade titles include At Your Service, the You're Invited series (co-written with Gail Nall), The Sleepover, and Follow Your Art. Her young adult titles include Map to the Stars and Wanderlost. She once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star's tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. You can learn more about Jen and her books at www.jenmalonewrites.comTwitter and Instagram: @jenmalonewrites 

Are we a great match for you?

We'll be mentoring middle grade, so first let's make sure you're in the right place. :)

The number one thing we’re looking for in a submission is voice. We’d love to get something full of voice with a great hook. Although that’s not to say quieter books that simply have a great story won’t get our attention too. Interesting characters are a big-time plus as well.

As far as what really draws us in, we both love contemporary, anything with pranks, heists, or capers, as well as light historical, stories with magical elements, sports, and humor. Smart or clever characters fascinate us, and so do fun or ingenious story lines.

Things that aren’t for us are horror, high fantasy, sci-fi, anything really dark or angsty, and bullying themes.

So you won’t find it surprising that some of our favorite TV shows, movies, and books are along these lines.

All-time favorite movies and TV shows . . .

Dee: Grease (and yes, even Grease 2), Field of Dreams, The Cutting Edge, Harry Potter, Oceans 11, etc., Friends, Seinfeld, Lie to Me, White Collar, 24

Jen: Almost Famous (“it’s all happening!”), The Parent Trap (the Linsdsey Lohan version with pranks galore), When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones Diary (I think I might be her), Thomas Crown Affair, The West Wing (have seen every episode 6-plus X’s, and (all-time fave) Gilmore Girls

Recent favorite movies and TV . . .

Dee: Crazy Stupid Love, Lincoln, Pitch Perfect, The Good Wife, The Grinder (why it was canceled I will never understand!), The Big Bang Theory, White Collar (listed here AND with favorites because it’s funny, clever, has great character relationships, and stars Matt Bomer)

Jen: Downton Abbey, Inside Out, Pitch Perfect, The Bachelor (mostly so I can giggle at quips on the show’s Twitter hashtag), Roadies, and Million Dollar Listing (I love real estate p*rn) (I’m also wondering if Dee is going to let me get away with using the word p*rn on her website. If so: #LifeGoalUnlocked) (Note from Dee: Sorry, Jen. he he he)

Favorite books . . .

Dee: I’ve been reading all the Sweet Sixteens books and loving them! The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society by Janet Sumner Johnson and The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop are two I loved that might give you an example of what I’m drawn to. 

Favorites besides those? It’s tough for me to nail down favorite books. Harry Potter, YES. The Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh, anything by Kasie West or Ally Carter, The Rosie Project by Don Tillman, and the sweet ones I read with my kids, like I Love You Through and Through. So that’s picture book through adult. Obviously I like variety. ;)

Jen: What kind of a sick twisted question is this? Anything by Meg Cabot, Lindsey Leavitt, Jen Lancaster, Christina Lauren, Gail Nall, Alison Cherry…. I like to LOL. Harry Potter is in a class all its own. 

Some recent five-star reviews went to Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, The Pages Between Us by Lindsey Leavitt and Robin Mellom, Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper, Up To This Pointe by Jennifer Longo, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin. There’s also this Dee chick’s stuff I kinda dig… (Note from Dee: I have a Jen Malone shelf!)

Dee also loves: sports (watching, not playing), photography, travel, sleeping in, chocolate, ice cream, baking, the beach, Hugh Jackman, and hanging out with friends and family. I also have a habit of taking on lots of things for the PTA, our local writing group, the online writing community, class reunions . . . I could go on, but this is long already. ;)

Jen also loves: long walks on the beach, fireside chats, and strong, sensitive types with swimmer abs. Hold on, wrong ad! Revised version: pajamas, excessive tote bags, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, color-coded bookshelves, adding stamps to my passport, gelato, my Mini Cooper, my long-suffering husband who cooks AND grocery shops, and my three kiddos. Please don’t ask me to put these in order, because my kids would not love knowing they may or may not come after gelato.

Dee (question for Jen): But do you love Piña Coladas? Getting caught in the rain?

How it’ll work:

Well that’s really up to you. We’ll do our best to get notes to you asap so you have plenty of time to fine tune your manuscript. There are two of us, so we have some options. We can both read right away, or one of us can give overall notes and we can save the other for a set of fresh eyes for line edits later.

Communication is up to you too. We’re fine with email, Google docs, Skype or Google chats, phone calls, or even the old-fashioned cup and string if we can get it to work long distance. ;)

Most importantly, THIS IS YOUR BOOK, and you should be happy with it and proud to put your name on it. Everything we give you is a suggestion, and while some might be stronger suggestions than others, you decide what to change. However, you should be entering this contest for feedback, not just to showcase what you already have to agents, so please be sure you’re willing to make changes and to have some discussions about what could make it better.
** Looking for the scavenger hunt letter? Head over to Jen's website (www.jenmalonewrites.com) to get it! Scroll down on main page. **































Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Kurt Dinan

Kurt is a Young Adult author and his debut, DON’T GET CAUGHT, is now available from Sourcebooks! Dinan Author Photo - For UploadHe is represented by Kerry Sparks of LGR Literary.

9781492630142-PR-2Connect with Kurt . . .

Goodreads * Twitter * WebsiteBlog

Get the book . . .

Amazon * IndieBound * Barnes & Noble



Query into


What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?

I know a lot of people say to target your queries to a few, but I’m a nuclear bomb sort of guy, wanting to hit as many agents as possible. So when I queried, I emailed them in big batches. Because look, a bunch are going to not respond, some aren’t going to receive your query because of an email filter, some aren’t going to like your query, and if you’re lucky, a few may want to see the actual manuscript. But all agents are busy, and you’re playing a numbers game, so I say get the query out there to as many as possible. The only risk is if your query letter isn’t in top form, you’ll be getting lots of rejections before you realize the letter needs revised, so get it right the first time.

Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?

I queried another book that was read and rejected by nineteen (!) agents. I had a lot of R&R’s, but they were all contradictory, so I eventually gave in and just buried the novel for good. I went through the normal grieving process, and got to work on the next novel, which is the one that hit. I got bored and counted one day and discovered I sent out over 250 query letters and had my books read by over 30 agents before signing. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.


How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

I had offers from two agents and after talking with both of them, just knew. It was more a gut feeling I had more than anything; although Agent #2 was probably too business-y for my tastes and Kerry Sparks is just friendly and fantastic, something I knew I wanted in my agent.

Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

I signed on a book-by-book basis, which freaked me out at first, but makes sense now. Kerry is willing to look at anything I have ready, and although the book is out and her role in DON’T GET CAUGHT, is slowing considerably, we still keep in touch and I’ll send her the next book when it’s ready.


What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Look, you should probably be working on something else. That’s what everyone says. Me, I couldn’t do it. Either I’m too nervous a person or I’m a one-project-at-a-time guy, but I kept checking and rechecking my email to the point I was going to enter a mental asylum.

How much contact do you have with your agent when you are out on submission?

I tried--and failed--not to email asking for updates. Usually on a Friday Kerry would bundle the rejections we’d received from editors. Oddly, I handled all of those rejections pretty well because they were mostly very positive and Kerry kept telling me the book would sell. She was right because about a month into the process, Aubrey Poole at Sourcebooks jumped all over the book!


What have you learned about being a debut author?

Being a debut author has been a job. Seriously, like the best job you’ll ever have, but a job. It’s a lot of work: doing blog posts, hunting down opportunities, getting buttons made, mailing out arcs, answering questions, and then obnoxiously and compulsively checking and rechecking Goodreads to see if anyone’s rated your arc yet.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

Easily the best thing about being a debut author is meeting the other people going through the same thing. I’ve made a lot of new friends and read a lot of great new books. There’s a decent stress level tied to having a book come out, so it was nice knowing others who had the same questions, the same struggles, and even the same freakouts. It was like being in a fraternity/sorority with a like-minded nutcases. Smile

Have you done any conferences, book festivals, or events as an author? What was it like?

I’ve done a couple of book festivals/conferences, and that’s an entirely different world. You have to go in ready to be “on” the entire time--friendly, interested, and personable, all while also being a salesperson for your book. I’m lucky because I’m really comfortable talking to people I don’t know, but at the same time, I’m always exhausted after these events.

What was release day like?

I’ll give you the same advice I was given--enjoy release day. Celebrate it; don’t overthink it. Go to a favorite restaurant for a meal, visit a couple of book stores to see your book live in the wild and maybe sign stock, and keep up on social media as best as you can. But mostly, take the time to enjoy that fact that you’ve accomplished something most people never will experience in their lives. When the book is now “out”, you’ve done pretty much all you can. If the book catches on and finds an audience, great. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. But regardless, the day your book comes out is to be celebrated. I had to keep reminding myself this, and did a pretty good job I think. Mostly, I didn’t want to look back on the day and think, “Man, I did a whole lot of worrying for nothing, and now I can’t go back and relive that day.”

Thanks, Kurt!

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Margaret Dilloway


Margaret is a middle grade author and her debut, MOMOTARO BOOK ONE: XANDER AND THE LOST ISLAND OF MONSTERS is now available from Disney-Hyperion! She is represented by Dan Lazar, Writers House.

front cover_MomotaroConnect with Margaret . . .

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon * IndieBound * Barnes & Noble



Query into


What resources and websites did you use when querying?


Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?

Consider whether or not it agrees with your vision of the book. Sometimes it may make your book stronger and sometimes it does not.


At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

I want to share them as soon as they come into my head. But I develop them a little bit, then ask if he thinks it’s a good idea. I submitted a list recently and he and his assistant were really into this one idea over all the others.

Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the manuscript is finished?

I send samples to make sure I’m on the right track. Then he asks me to make some revisions.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

It depends on the agent. I see all the feedback. It can be a bummer, or puzzling, but mostly you have to shrug it off. It’s clear they’re looking for reasons to turn down the book. Everyone has something different to say, usually.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

The agent calls up the other people who have it. Other editors might want to make an offer, too. Or the editor might do something called a “pre-empt” which is to make an offer that is good enough to take the manuscript out of circulation.

My first women’s fiction book, How to Be an American Housewife, was smuggled to my editor through a leak in another publishing house, somebody’s assistant or someone like that, whose boss had turned it down. So we didn’t even submit to this editor, and she’s the one who ended up buying it. Thank you, still-anonymous assistant.

Can you check in with your agent if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Of course. You can always check in with your agent. Your agent knows that authors are prone to freak-outs!

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

I did. Stephanie Lurie at Disney-Hyperion must have read it the same day she got it because I think it was just a day later when she said she was interested. Secretly I knew Disney-Hyperion was my dream publisher, so I was very happy with this. I then talked to her on the phone and I felt like I already knew her. She really gets me.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

For MOMOTARO, I bought a bottle of the nicest sake I could find.


What’s involved in promoting a book?

A lot of social media. For middle grade fiction, you want to reach out to schools, teachers, and librarians and try to set up school visits. The publisher tells me this is still the best way for a kids’ book to get started—old-fashioned word of mouth.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

There really is. Everyone knows how nerve-wracking the process is and shares information. You don’t know how much you don’t know, really!

Thank you, Margaret!

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