Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 15, 2017

September Featured Agent – Thao Le – Part Two 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.


Would you lose interest in a submission if the writer missed correcting a few misspelled words?

Not at all. A few misspelled words is a very fixable mistake. But if I find too many typos and grammar mistakes as I’m reading, enough that it throws me out of the story, then that can lead to a pass because I don’t think the writer is serious enough to polish their work before presenting it to an agent.

Do you let people know if you are not interested in what they sent?

Sometimes. It depends on the volume of submissions I get and how close the project was. Our agency’s policy is that if you don’t hear back after six weeks then you can consider it a pass. This is to help agents manage their lists because otherwise we’d be answering queries all day long and not actually get any work done!

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

Typically within 2 months or so, depending on my client workload and how many manuscripts are queued up. I always respond to requested material though. So if I ask for a full, regardless if it is an offer or a pass, you will hear from me.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

Great concept, but sloppy execution. I see a lot of people who have really creative ideas and that’s usually how they hook me in initially, but they haven’t quite honed their craft yet and the emotional element of the book sometimes falls flat. Emotion is a huge factor in a novel in my opinion. It’s what connects me with the characters, grounds me in the world.

Any pet peeves?

For queries: I hate it when the writer puts down the genre they are writing in. Like if you hate other fantasy books and do not read any fantasy books, why are you writing one and why are you insulting me, a fan of fantasy? That’s an immediate turn-off.
For manuscripts: I don’t like surprise pregnancy storylines and alien invasions, so stories with those elements are usually just not for me. It’s very subjective. I’m also not the best fit for adult epic fantasy the likes of Tolkien or GRRM, or any military science fiction.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes! I’m a very hands on editorial agent. I may go 2-3 rounds of revisions with my client once we’ve signed, before going on sale. I have yet to offer representation to anyone who I didn’t think needed at least one more round of revisions to polish their work.

Do you have an editorial style?

I tend to ask for a lot of streamlining and tightening. For a revision, I would send an edit letter as well as comments on the manuscript itself.

How many clients do you have or want to build up to?

I currently have around 20 clients and it’s a good amount. I’m being selective about who I’m taking on because I want to have time to focus on each client and help them build their careers.



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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