Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 13, 2018

Agent of the Month: Cari Lamba – Interview Part One

Prior to officially joining the team of agents, Cari Lamba interned for The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for eight years. It wasn’t long into her internship before she knew she wanted to join the publishing world and help writers bring their books to life. Cari graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She also studied literature at The Advanced Studies in England Program. She has experience as a bookseller and in publicity and content writing for online publications. Cari has been published in Writer’s Digest Magazine and has taught webinars for Writer’s Digest as well.

What Cari is looking for:

She is interested in middle grade fiction with wacky plots (Roald Dahl is a favorite of mine) and characters that drive the story. She would also like contemporary stories that are both humorous and heartfelt. While she is not interested in stories with high fantasy, she would welcome elements of the fantastic and otherworldly. She wants novels that will resonate with children without being didactic.

Both fiction and non-fiction picture books are welcome. She is looking for unique ideas with fun and quirky elements as well as sweet, endearing picture books. In non-fiction I’m especially looking for strong female role-models.

I’m looking for commercial fiction with original plots and clever characters. While I’m not interested in romance novels, elements of romance are welcome. She also has a particular interest in mystery/detective fiction, and novels with culinary ties. 

She NOT interested in science fiction, horror, high fantasy, Christian fiction, political novels, or books with extremely violent elements.


Did your mother influence your decision to become an agent?

I always knew I wanted to be in publishing, and I was fortunate enough to have a great internship with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for several years. So becoming an agent was something I always had in mind. It was helpful for me to see my mom’s experiences as an agent, and it really informed me about all the different aspects of being an agent. What influenced me the most from seeing my mom work was the career-long relationship with clients that she formed, and that is something I hope to bring to my work as well.

Do you have a goal for the amount of clients you will represent? 

I definitely think of clients in terms of quality over quantity. So while I’m actively growing my list of clients I don’t have a goal number I’m working towards. What I’m really looking for is talented authors with a lot of potential.

What are your favorite genres?

I have so many! I love cozy mysteries, I’m currently working my way through Agatha Christie’s works. I also really enjoy clever middle grade novels that have a strong voice. Across genres what I want to read is a story that makes you think.

Is there a reason why you are not interested in YA?

I find I just don’t connect with the YA voice as much as I want to which is why I’m not currently looking to represent YA fiction. This could definitely change though, but for now it’s not on my list.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

I would love to read a culinary mystery (in either middle grade or adult genre). Anything food related I’d be interested in. I also think it would be really cool to have a mystery set in a museum. I have a strong interest in ancient history so a story that could update ancient history and incorporate it into the plot would be great to see as well.

Do you consider a book with a character between 18 and 25 years old an adult book?

A book with characters that age are considered to be the new adult genre. I think the older end of that age group could definitely still be considered an adult book but it would depend on the plot and material that the story is dealing with.

Do you think it’s okay for an author to write picture books, middle grade novels, and YA novels? Or do you feel it is better to focus on one age group and genre?

I think it’s definitely okay for authors to write in different genres and age groups. Just because you write a story in one category doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to that one space. As an agent I always ask what other genres potential clients are interested in writing in because I know that writers don’t necessary stick to one.

How important is the query letter?

So very important! It is a first introduction to a potential client. Writers should always follow the submission guidelines for the agents they query and keep their query letter professional. Beyond being a great writer, I want to see that the author is someone who I would enjoy working with and that is something that can really come through in the query letter.

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

Having a work that is unique will definitely get me interested to see more. A lot of plots are things that I’ve seen before so having something new is always a great way to get an agent interested. Beyond that, having a strong writing style and a character I’m truly invested in will make me want to see more.

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

It really depends. If it’s a genre I don’t represent, or has element I say on my guidelines I don’t represent (religious works, violence, etc.) then I don’t read the sample pages. But if the query letter shows me that it is a work that has everything I’d be interested in, I can usually tell within the first few pages if I connect with voice and if I’m invested in the plot enough to read more.

Any pet peeves?

When authors query me or try to reach out through social media – including LinkedIn. I don’t respond to anything that doesn’t come through my email. I’ve had so many messages come in through social media accounts that just get deleted.

Do you let people know if you’re not interested?

Yes, I will always respond to query letters sent to me to tell them if I am interested or not.

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

I try to respond within a few month of getting the requested materials. Of course this doesn’t always happen and it can depend on how many other manuscripts I have requested previous to getting one in. I also have to focus on my client’s works as well which is a priority.



In the subject line, please write “April 2018 FIRST PAGE 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 19th.
RESULTS: April 27th.

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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