Get to Know an Agent: Jennifer Wills of The Seymour Agency

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 6.52.37 PMJennifer Wills is a literary agent with The Seymour Agency.

Jennifer has five years’ experience in some of the publishing industry’s leading literary agencies. She worked with publishers around the world as an assistant in Trident Media Group’s huge foreign rights department, and with domestic publishers as an assistant at Writers House (where, incidentally, she began her career as an intern).

She joined the Seymour Agency in April 2016, where she has quickly moved up the ranks to Associate Agent. Jennifer has always loved helping fledgling authors become NYT bestsellers and she’s ready to be a relentless champion for her own clients’ work. You can find her @WillsWork4Books on Twitter.

Jennifer is particularly interested in a wide range of picture books and cookbooks, with a soft spot for author/illustrators of sweet and wacky picture books, and cookbooks with mouth-watering recipes of the health conscious, budget friendly or celebrity chef variety. For fiction, she’s also interested in middle grade and young adult with a sci fi/fantasy, horror/suspense, or contemporary bent, and upmarket women’s fiction with a sense of humor. On the nonfiction side, narrative nonfiction and memoir are also welcome. If your manuscript has a great hook, a distinct voice, and can make her laugh out loud or ugly cry (or, even better, both), she’d love to see it.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Carrie Howland of Howland Literary

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 4.14.48 PM.pngCarrie Howland is a literary agent and founder of Howland Literary.

Carrie joined Empire Literary in 2016 after eleven years as an agent at Donadio & Olson, Inc. She represents adult literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, young adult, middle grade, and picture book authors.

In terms of YA & MG, she prefers contemporary, but will look at some fantasy occasionally. No sci-fi, please.

Carrie is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives as well as SCBWI. She also enjoys speaking at various writing conferences throughout the year.

Carrie holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Albion College, where she was the Poetry Editor of The Albion Review. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and magazines. In her spare time, Carrie volunteers as a foster for a local dog rescue.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Vicki Selvaggio of Storm Literary

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Vicki Selvaggio is a literary agent with Storm Literary (formerly with Jennifer De Chiara Literary).

Victoria A. Selvaggio comes to Storm Literary Agency as a Literary Agent and Partner. Previously with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, she was drawn to the publishing scene first as an author. As a prior Regional Advisor for SCBWI Northern Ohio, Victoria’s desire to help writers and illustrators reach their publications goals inspired her to become an agent.

With over twenty-five years as a business owner, Victoria is excited to help grow the agency’s client base with talented writers and illustrators, while also helping build the agency from within with motivated agents who possess the same ideals, literary interests, goals, and approaches to the industry.

As a frequent presenter at conferences, library events, contests, etc., Victoria is always interested in meeting writers and illustrators, and hearing about unique projects! While Storm Literary is primarily a children’s book agency, Victoria will be accepting pitches for new adult and adult projects from conference attendees.

She is seeking: “I am currently looking for lyrical picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction, new adult, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, fantasy, narrative nonfiction, adult fiction but find I’m especially drawn to middle grade and young adult. I especially love thrillers and all elements of weird, creepy stuff. If it’s out of the box, and it will make me think and think, long after I’m done reading, send it to me! On the flip side, I yearn for books that make me laugh, cry and wonder about the world.”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Cyle Young of Hartline Literary

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 9.28.47 AM.pngCyle Young is a literary agent and founder of CYLE Literary Elite.

Cyle is seeking:

  • YA, middle grade, and chapter books
  • genre fiction, especially romance
  • love stories
  • speculative (sci-fi and fantasy)
  • easy readers, picture books and board books
  • nonfiction (parenting, leadership, ministry, and self-help)
  • movie and screenplays (specific details at cyleyoung.com) 

Cyle is a multiple-genre award-winning author. Winner of more than twenty writing awards, he considers himself a “binge writer” and routinely scribes 30,000 words in a weekend. His book Belly Buttons and Broken Hearts released with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in 2013.

Cyle finds great joy in writing and loves to bounce between crafting epic high fantasy tales, helpful non-fiction parenting books, and getting lost in the melodic rhythm of children’s poetry. He serves as managing editor of almostanauthor.com, a website devoted to helping aspiring writers become published authors, and is also a monthly contributor to the parenting website, just18summers.com, and the writing website, thewriteconversation.blogspot.com.

You can learn more about what genres Cyle is aquiring by visiting his website at cyleyoung.com.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Janna Bonikowski of The Knight Agency

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 12.11.39 PM.pngJanna Bonikowski is a literary agent with The Knight Agency.

Janna joined the Knight Agency in 2016 with several years of experience as both an independent editor and a freelance editor for Lyrical Press/Kensington. She holds a bachelor’s degree focused on business and economics, but her passion for books made a career in publishing inevitable.

Janna is eager to find well-crafted stories with tight pacing; authentic, diverse characters (especially by #ownvoices authors); distinctive voices; and—above all–big, imaginative concepts. She loves books demonstrating the strength of women, books that make her laugh out loud, and books about socially relevant topics. More than anything, she wants to be surprised. She’s currently looking for young adult, women’s fiction, romance, historical fiction, commercial fiction, and cozy mystery.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Bibi Lewis of The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 10.26.27 AMBibi Lewis is a literary agent with The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency.

She is seeking: “I am currently looking for Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture books, as well as Commercial and Upmarket Fiction. In all genres I am looking for contemporary realism, fantasy, mysteries, historicals and lots of humor. I have a soft spot for heists and sleuths (and would especially love to see a new YA Harriet the Spy or Veronica Mars!) as well as twisty thrillers. On the Adult side, I am looking for anything smart, sharp and witty — but specifically for Romance, Women’s Fiction, Mysteries and Thrillers. Well-developed characters are a must. I always welcome diverse narratives, including but not limited to LGBTQ or minority voices.”

Bibi manages subsidiary rights for the agency in addition to her duties as an agent and general office manager.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Chrysa Keenon of CYLE Literary

ChrysaChrysa Keenon is a literary agent with CYLE Literary.

Chrysa has always loved stories—both reading and writing them. Her degree from Taylor University’s acclaimed Professional Writing program helped her learn a thing or two about the craft, and she set her sights on working in the publishing industry. She has published over 400 pieces of fiction (including poetry, short stories, and stage plays) and nonfiction (book reviews and journalism articles). She has multiple first-place awards for her writing, including 1st Place in Sci-Fi/Fantasy for the Blue Seal Award. Setting her sights on the industry, Chrysa kickstarted her career in publishing by interning with GenZ Publishing and The Seymour Agency. By day, she works in editorial for a prominent bridal magazine. By night, she is an agent at the Cyle Young Literary Elite agency, helping writers achieve their publishing dreams, one query at a time.

She is actively seeking: YA contemporary romance, YA fantasy, adult romance, adult fantasy, nonfiction picture books, MG fantasy, MG contemporary; anything with diverse casts, creative worldbuilding, and romances that make her heart throb.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Hannah VanVels of Corvisiero Literary

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Hannah VanVels is a literary agent with Corvisiero Literary. Her life is consumed by all things books, and when she’s not working on books, she can usually be found curled up with a good book and a good cup of coffee.

She earned her BA at the University of Michigan and holds MA degrees from Tel Aviv University and the University of Chicago. Hannah has worked various bookish jobs including a stint as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, a freelance editor for scholarly and academic essays and journals, and most recently as the acquiring editor at a young adult imprint with HarperCollins Publishing.

She is seeking:

“First and foremost, I’m building an inclusive list with a variety of voices and genres. I love working with #OwnVoices authors, and I’m looking for voices from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, regardless of genre, even if it’s ‘tropey,’ ‘overdone,’ or ‘outdated.’ I want to see it all!”

Middle Grade:

  • Magical realism and contemporary fantasy: Give me a story with a magical school where the MC is a POC. Something with humor and heart and, duh, magic! Stories inspired by myths, folklore, or legends, particularly those that are non-western in origin
  • Humor: A novel that will make adults and kids alike laugh while they read (think Shrek-type humor but a little more immature)
  • Adventure: I would love to find a MG version of The Mummy (the Brendan Frasier version, of course). Characters that are on the spectrum, but their story is not centered on that; it’s just who they are. Because characters on the spectrum can fight dragons and save the world too!
  • Animals. I’m a giant animal lover and a total sucker for beautiful emotional stories that involve animals like Pax and The One and Only Ivan
  • Nonfiction. Narrative nonfiction focused on historical events or figures that history has overlooked STEAM-focused topics for students and young readers

Young Adult Fiction:

  • Fantasy. My first love is character-driven fantasy (urban, contemporary, high — all of it!). ❤ A new retelling of an old trope? A mythical setting inspired by a non-European culture? A reluctant hero who inevitably shouts, “I never asked for any of this!”? Sign me up! I’m looking for strong world-building, strange magic, empathetic villains, morally gray heroes, and subversive fantasy tropes
  • Contemporary horror/thrillers. Creeptastic thrillers with a tightly-knit, well-paced plot, clever and nuanced characters, and a twist that readers will never see coming. I generally steer clear of excessive on-page violence. Dystopian and paranormal are some of my subgenres. Ghosts, vampires, and contagions are very much welcome in my inbox. A heist narrative like a YA Ocean’s Eleven
  • Contemporary. High concept contemporary fiction aimed at all genders. Bonus points if it makes me laugh and/or cry. Evergreen themes: self love, coming of age, girls supporting girls, friendship and friendship breakups, and slow burn romances. Topical contemporary fiction addressing real issues that teens face.
  • Science Fiction. Accessible science fiction. Think Star Wars or superhero movies. I’m looking for a strong grounded story in which you do not need to understand the ins and outs of time travel and quantum physics in order to follow along
  • Young YA. Fiction aimed at younger YA audiences to fill the space where MG ends and traditional YA begins. Great writing is a must. Great character development and an unforgettable voice really drive it home.

New Adult & Adult Fiction:

  • Horror. Dark and devious stories like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. Paranormal aspects welcome! Stories that are gothic and witchy!
  • Fantasy. The key for adult fantasy, for me, is accessibility and intrigue. More Patrick Rothfuss than J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m looking for a well-developed world and magic system with very real stakes. Bonus points if your MC isn’t the typical “Chosen One.”
  • Commercial, literary, and genre women’s fiction. I’m particularly interested in the adventures of twenty-something women navigating the start of professional life after college. Think a younger version of “Sex and the City.” I’m on the lookout for cozy mysteries with a strong female MC and humorous writing style. Romantic comedies! A story that will make me laugh and swoon at the same time.

Nonfiction and Memoir:

  • Powerful personal stories and memoirs, especially from those with marginalized backgrounds. A platform can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from social media, past publications, or expertise in your subject. Essay collections on a unified and relevant theme

Graphic Novels

  • Young readers through young adult, fiction, and nonfiction. Characters that leap off the page, relatable stories, and stunning illustrations always welcome

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Latoya C. Smith of LCS Literary Services

Screen Shot 2019-10-30 at 9.08.20 AMLatoya C. Smith is a literary agent and founder of LCS Literary Services.

She is seeking:

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

Latoya started her editorial career as an administrative assistant to New York Times bestselling author, Teri Woods at Teri Woods Publishing while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Temple University. She graduated Cum Laude from Temple in August of 2005. She then attained a full-time position at Kensington Publishing in March of 2006. In October 2006, Latoya joined Grand Central Publishing, an imprint at Hachette Book Group.

For the span of her eight years there, Latoya acquired a variety of titles from Hardcover fiction and nonfiction, to digital romance and erotica. She was featured in Publishers Weekly and USA Today, as well as on various author, book conference, and book blogger websites. In early 2014, she appeared on CSpan2 where she contributed to a panel discussing the state of book publishing. From August 2014 to February 2016, Latoya was Executive Editor at Samhain Publishing where she acquired short and long-form romance and erotic fiction. She is the winner of the 2012 RWA Golden Apple for Editor of the Year, 2017 Golden Apple for Agent of the Year, and the 2017 Literary Jewels Award for Editor of the Year. Latoya provides editorial services and literary representation through her company, LCS Literary Services.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Weronika Janczuk of The Janczuk Literary Agency

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Weronika Janczuk is a literary agent with The Janczuk Literary Agency (formerly with D4E0 Literary).

Weronika (pronounced like Veronica) broke into publishing in 2009, through a high school workshop that placed me with former young adult editor Brian Farrey at Flux (now North Star), a small imprint in Minnesota, where she pulled, from the slush pile, the lovely Out of the Blue by Holly Schindler, which received a starred review in Booklist. She then moved on to intern with Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Literary Management, Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, and Mary Kole, formerly with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. From 2010-2011, as an undergraduate at NYU, she worked with Bob Diforio and sold an array of projects. Weronika’s parents immigrated from Poland to Canada, where she was born. “I grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota; and now I reside in New York City, NY. I studied at New York University’s Gallatin School, where I finished a self-designed degree in the philosophy of the human person. I love Earl Grey tea and lattes, Sudoku, rivers, and pierogi with blueberries. I am also a writer, as are many other agents and editors. I queried my first project when I was 13, and have never queried again, tinkering in silence, perfecting craft, with my current project a science fantasy.

She is seeking:

“I am not, and have never been, a single-genre reader. I am eager only for the best-told stories, building out a list of talented novelists and writers in these genres:”

  • young adult
  • fantasy & sci-fi
  • literary fiction
  • commercial fiction
  • women’s fiction
  • romance
  • crime, mystery & thrillers
  • memoir
  • nonfiction (innovative ideas & research; projects with a potential for social & cultural impact, etc.)

“Human nature fascinates me, and I am drawn to stories that share the rawness and truth of what is and what is possible. I love beautiful writers, worlds, characters; smart, quirky and genre-bending stories. I love underdogs, and stories about characters that rise above limitations. I love romance, whether genre- or element-wise, that is visceral in its rawness. I love dark contours, intense in their immediacy, and world-building that catches your breath with its precision and distinctness.

“I am very much a reader that likes to be challenged, and expanded; very carefully constructed projects, which reveal a writer’s capacities, are most often those that awaken my heart and mind. I would prefer to work with writers eager to grow in their skill as novelists and build long-term, sustainable careers.

“I will not consider middle grade, children’s, or picture books, nor am I the right agent for illustrators or graphic novels.”