Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 19, 2018

January Agent of the Month – Penelope Burns – Part Two Interview

Penelope is the newest member of Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners. She came to the agency as an intern after graduating from Colgate University and attending the Denver Publishing Institute in 2012. Currently, as an agency assistant, Penelope is looking to a build a list of her own. She is interested in Literary and Commercial fiction and non-fiction, as well as a variety of Young Adult and Middle Grade.

She is actively looking for YA/MG novels with a unique voice or an unreliable narrator, or an interesting and unique premise. I’d also love to see a YA contemporary romance, or a clever MG with a lot of humor. I am not seeking adult thrillers.

To query Penelope Burns, please send a query letter and sample chapters (1-3) in the body of an email to Please include “query” in the subject line. Queries sent elsewhere will be deleted unread.

Any queries with attachments will be deleted unread. 


Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

I think not doing their research enough or not following submission guidelines. For example, queries with attachments are deleted unread (unless it’s requested material of course!) There are so many resources out there for aspiring authors that seeing a sloppy mistake—like the wrong agent name, or sending a submission for a genre I don’t represent—can be glaring.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, absolutely. It’s important that a book is as perfect as it can be before it goes on submission. I don’t want an editor to pass on a manuscript for a reason that was easily fixable.

If you are submitted something you think is good, but better for another agent at your agency, would you ask them to take a look?

I’m currently the only agent accepting queries at Gelfman Schneider, so unfortunately I can’t pass referrals to the other agents here. However, I do have relationships with agents from different companies and if I think something is to their taste, I may suggest the author query someone else.

What is your typical response time to email/phone calls with your clients?

Within the day. I’m adaptable to my clients’ needs as well.

What happens if you don’t sell a book?

Move on to the next one! I like to tell my clients that they don’t need to “audition” for me: I’m with them to build their career, not sell a book and say my job is done. One thing I tell my clients to do to distract themselves while on submission is to work on the next book.

How many editors do you go to before giving up on a manuscript?

I go in rounds, so it’s hard to give an exact number, but I exhaust all resources for my clients. It only takes one yes!

What do you think of digital books?

They’ve become a staple in the industry and for good reason! As long as people are reading, it doesn’t matter what they’re reading on—but personally I will always be partial to print books. There’s something about opening a brand new hardcover that I just don’t get from an eBook.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, get an agent, and get published?

I think having a strong community of writers around them can certainly help, to get feedback about manuscripts or just to provide encouragement when necessary. Twitter pitch contests are also good ways to help hone your pitch and perhaps get interest from agents. And do your research! Writing a book can be an isolating experience, but it takes a strong community to get a book published.

Would you like to be invited to other writer’s retreats, workshops, and conferences?

Absolutely! They’re great places to meet potential new clients.


In the subject line, please write “JANUARY 2018  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: January 19th.
RESULTS: January 26th.

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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