Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 8, 2017

September Featured Agent – Thao Le – Part One Interview

THAO LE has agreed to be September Featured agent and critique four first pages submitted. She is a literary agent at the Dijkstra Agency where she also handles the agency’s financials and select contracts.

She is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a double major in Econ-Management Science and Chinese Studies. While interning at the agency during college, she realized where her true love lies — books — and joined the agency full-time in the spring of 2011.

Thao is looking for: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books by author/illustrators, Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, and is selectively open to Romance.

In the Adult and YA Sci-fi/Fantasy realms, she enjoys stories rooted in mythology, fairytales, and legends with atmospheric settings and strong world building. Particularly stories that are inclusive and multicultural. She’s also a fan of magic realism.

In contemporary YA, she’s seeking witty, heartfelt writing with an authentic teen voice. Especially stories about family and friendships. Think Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, or Sarah Dessen.

In Middle Grade, she’s looking for fantastic adventures and clever protagonists the likes of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and Soman Chainani’s School of Good and Evil.

In the picture book arena, she is only currently taking on author/illustrators, however she’s a fan of Jon Klassen, Kate Beaton, Cale Atkinson, and Liz Climo and would like to add projects in the same vein to her list.

In Romance, she’s drawn to heroes/heroines who turn stereotypes and tropes on their heads (such as heroines in typically male roles and sensitive heroes who aren’t necessarily alpha, but just as swoonworthy). She enjoys historical romance the likes of Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, and Eloisa James, speculative romance similar to Gail Carrier’s Parasol Protectorate series, and contemporary romance that is as addictive as Sonali Dev’s Bollywood series.

In general, she loves beautiful literary writing with a commercial hook. She is most excited to add more writers of diversity (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status) to her client list.
Check out her tumblr for more publishing related posts:

Submissions should be emailed to

Please check for full submission guidelines and policies.

Fiction: Please send a query letter, a 1-page synopsis, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history), and the first 10-15 pages of your manuscript. Please send all items in the body of the email, not as an attachment.
Author/Illustrators with dummy: Please send a query letter, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history), full manuscript text pasted below your query letter, full dummy (in pdf format as an attachment) that includes 1-2 color samples, and link to online portfolio.

Please note that Thao does NOT represent: non-fiction, adult literary fiction, adult general fiction, mystery/thriller/suspense, memoirs, poetry, religious/spiritual books, screenplays, or short stories.


What are your favorite genres?

Fantasy, light science fiction, magical realism, contemporary romance

Are there any story or themes you wished someone would submit?

I’m currently dying for a contemporary fairytale that’s basically a magical coffee shop AU. In general though, I am a sucker for the hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers trope, mistaken identities, gender bent and/or contemporary retellings of classics. I’m actively looking to add more middle grade and contemporary YA to my list.

Do you represent New Adult manuscripts?

Not at the moment, no.

If you had a client that wrote YA and decided to write a New Adult Novel would you represent them with that?

Since they are an existing client I would discuss with them about the project and we would review its merits and marketability together.

What do you like to see in a submission?

In the query letter section: a clear hook, character motive and stakes, comp titles to show that they have a clear vision for their book and the market for it.

In the sample pages: an active opening (usually a scene, doesn’t have to be action-packed, but should show that the story is already moving and not a bunch of backstory and info-dumping), a compelling voice.

How important is the query letter?

The query letter is important in that it introduces me to the writer and their work. It helps me get an idea of the writer’s vision of the book. For instance, is this the first book of a planned trilogy or is it a standalone, who does the writer see as their audience, what books do they see as their comp titles? These are all things I will be asking going into a query letter. The query is also crucial in giving me stats about the manuscript, such as word count, genre, and most important of all writer’s contact info in case I want to request more!

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

Have an amazing opening that grabs me from the very beginning and I will definitely be asking for more. Doesn’t mean that someone has to die or there is a big terrible twist right off the bat, but I need to feel drawn to the characters and the world and what is at stake. Voice is usually what grabs me and makes me want to read more even if I’m unsure of the plot/premise.

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

For queries, I ask that they send me the first 10-15 pages, but I usually know from page one if I am going to request more or not.
When I request a full, I can usually tell by the 50 page mark if I will be finishing the manuscript or not. If I finish it completely, that’s usually a very good sign.



In the subject line, please write “SEPTEMBER 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).


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: September 21st.
RESULTS: September 29th.

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,


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