Kelly Van Sant has nearly a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She cut her teeth in New York working at esteemed literary agencies such as Writers House and Harold Ober Associates, where she developed an eye for compelling, emotionally resonant stories, honed her editorial skills, and soon grew adept at contract vetting and negotiation. After relocating to Minnesota, Kelly joined Llewellyn Worldwide as their Contracts Manager across all three imprints and then moved to Quarto Publishing Group where she led the contracts department. She is a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center, and also blogs about the publishing industry at Pub(lishing) Crawl and co-hosts their weekly podcast. She just joined D4EO in 2017 and is actively building her client list.
SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES: I am actively building a client list and am open to submissions!
I am currently seeking Middle Grade, Young Adult, and limited women’s fiction across all genres, including fantasy, science fiction, adventure, historical, and contemporary. I love character-driven stories with intricate plots, and am always drawn to explorations of friendship and found family. I am especially interested in #ownvoices and inclusive narratives. I’ve expanded on my interests within each category below.
For me, middle grade needs to be whimsical, funny, and full of adventure. My tastes lean away from contemporary in this genre, and more toward fantasy, speculative, science-fiction, or magical realism. I like intricate world-building and MCs with gumption. Give me a quest, give me steadfast friendships, give me insightful, magical parallels with the real world, and make me laugh.
I dearly love fantasy, science-fiction, speculative, and other magical elements in YA stories. Even better if mixed and matched with other genres. YA historical fantasy? Yes, please. Alternate universes, fictional worlds, your very own hometown with a secret or sinister twist. If the world-building is original and intricate, if you’re either dismantling existing tropes or executing them exceptionally well, if your characters are complex and come alive on the page then what are you waiting for? Send me your query.
Let’s talk about romance in YA. I prefer romance in my YA to be an undercurrent (even an urgent one) but not the main point. Something needs to be going on in universe and in your characters’ lives beyond their love story. Instant love is not for me; I appreciate when characters grow together over the course of a book. Attraction can happen instantly, but intimacy takes time.
I am selective about YA contemporary. A strong voice is vital, and again, I love to see a complex web of relationships beyond just romantic (though romance can be included): especially friendships and family relationships. More often than not you need to break my heart or make me fall head over heels in love with your characters in order for me to be the right agent to rep a contemporary book. But my heart longs to love and be broken! These books above all else must absolutely be character-driven.
I’m seeking women’s fiction on a very limited basis. I want books written for and by women, about women’s lives and experiences and issues. Prose matters to me here, but as always, the characters are paramount. If you have something like Lorrie Moore’s WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL? I want to see it.
I am NOT seeking picture books, poetry, or non-fiction at this time.
Kelly’s Manuscript Wishlist:
My manuscript wish list is not comprehensive. Sometimes the best stories that land in my inbox are the ones I never knew I always wanted. So if your book is unlike anything listed here, please don’t be discouraged. I absolutely still want to read your query. But there are definitely stories that I want to see out in the world, and if your novel encompasses some of these elements (particularly through an #ownvoices or otherwise inclusive lens) then I’d dearly love the opportunity to consider it. Query me!
•LIFE IS STRANGE in YA book form! Intensely beautiful female friendships, romance, supernatural elements, tough choices, oh, and did I mention intense female friendships?
•ORPHAN BLACK for a YA audience. Sci-fi, action, suspense, and above all smart, capable, funny women who form a family.
•All-girl heist team.
•Witchy books. I want all the witchy books.
•I want capable women and girls in positions of leadership, or single-handedly coming to the rescue.. Think LOST if Kate were the protagonist instead of Jack (and if she were well-developed and not merely the center of an incredibly boring love triangle). Think DIE HARD, if John Mcclane were a woman.
•I want a character arc that rivals that of Zuko in AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER.
•Chosen one who would really rather not be chosen, thanks.
•I’m longing for a diverse, well-plotted, #ownvoices fantasy with compelling characters and stakes beyond romance.
•An #ownvoices fantasy featuring a disabled character who has magic, but not a “magical cure.”
I blog more extensively about what I’m seeking and my manuscript wish list at http://www.penandparsley.com and you can also find me on twitter @bookishchick.
Please send all queries to: email@example.com with the word QUERY in the subject.
Please include your query letter and the first chapter of your novel in the body of the email. I respond to all queries within 4 weeks.