Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 21, 2017

Part Two of Interview with Featured Agent Holly McGhee

Read about Holly’s new Middle grade novel, MATYLDA, BRIGHT & TENDER. Click link and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy. I read the whole book and I think it is destined for a Newbery Award. Perfect example of a literary middle grade book. Reminded me of a Kate DiCamillo book.

The amazing Holly McGhee is our Featured Agent for April and will critique four first pages.

Holly M. McGhee still carried MADELINE around in 3rd grade — until Mrs. Carrier, her school librarian, tricked her into reading longer books by giving her one with her name on it, HOLLY IN THE SNOW. After college, Holly headed straight into the book world of New York City, where she has enjoyed being a secretary, an advertising manager, a sales rep (for one month), and in the six years prior to opening the doors at Pippin, an executive editor at HarperCollins. Now, as the President and Creative Director of Pippin she is dedicated to shepherding books that make a difference into the world. Someone once told her, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life,” and that has proven true for her.

Holly is interested in literary fiction (middle-grade or YA) and simple picture books that say something we need to hear.

Pippin Properties has the editorial expertise required to help bring each project to its full potential, prior to submission, and they place nearly every project they submit. They are avid caretakers of their clients’ projects, marketing plans, and careers, be it picture books, middle-grade, young adult, graphic, novelty, and adult trade projects.

Interview with Holly McGhee April Featured Agent (Part One)

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes. If I see something in the story that wins my heart, I’ll edit it until it’s polished enough to secure a publishing deal.

Does an unpublished writer have any chance with landing you as their agent?

Yes. I just took on a debut YA writer last month. It’s not often that I take on new clients, as my list is very full and I need time also to write my own books, but I do take on people, maybe one or two per year.

Do your other agents discuss submissions they receive with you before offering representation?

We are a close-knit group and are all aware of what each other is taking on. Further, if one of us receives a submission that we think is a better fit with someone else, we share internally.

What is your typical response time to email or call your clients back?

It’s not often that an email sits for more than two days. Only if I’m out of town or swamped. Phone calls are generally scheduled, although unscheduled calls are fine if I’m open.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

I use both email and phone. I think it’s important to connect every so often voice to voice, rather than just email. I generally do phone calls on Wednesdays, when I’m in Maplewood. However, during a submission, I’m on the phone and email with my client constantly. It’s an exciting time and I like to share it with my client.

What happens if you don’t sell this book? Do you keep trying? Do you go back to the drawing board? When do you tell the client to work on something else?

It depends. If we receive consistent feedback from a number of publishers, we do a revision. Other times, it’s not the right project for the current marketplace, so we shelve it until its time comes around. Usually I just keep going until I sell it, because if it’s something I’m sending out, I believe in it.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

If I believe in the project I don’t usually give up. It just becomes a “rolling” submission, meaning I keep on sending it out when I meet editors who I think might like it.

How long is your average client relationship?

Many of my clients have been with me since the beginning (18 years!). I only part ways if I feel like I am working harder than my client, or if there is a project that I don’t think I can place but the client wants to submit anyway.

Are you open to authors who write multiple genres?


I know you have many famous author clients. Maybe you could share some of the fun parts of those relationships.

I remember screaming on the phone with Jandy Nelson the first time we made the New York Times Bestseller List for I’ll Give You the Sun! I was in New York Penn station and I could hardly hear her but it didn’t matter ‘cause we were both screaming anyway. Taking the #1 subway uptown with Ken and Kathi Appelt after the National Book Awards in all our finerie. We’d all worn blue for The True Blue Scouts of the Sugarman Swamp. Popping open tiny cans of Sofia Coppola champagne in the car with Kate DiCamillo and the Candlewick gang on the way to the NBA awards for Raymie Nightingale. Stuff like that makes me grin.

Stop back next Friday to read Holly’s critiques.


In the subject line, please write “April 2017  Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page). REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED!

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: April 20th.

RESULTS: April 28th.

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Quite simply, Holly—I just LOVE you 😀


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