Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 16, 2018

November Agent of the Month Anna Olswanger – Part One Interview

Anna Olswanger has been a literary agent since 2005. She started her career at Liza Dawson Associates in Manhattan, and in 2014 launched her own literary agency, Olswanger Literary LLC, where she represents picture books (author-illustrators only), middle grade fiction and adult nonfiction. She is a member of the AAR, Association of Authors’ Representatives.

Anna has sold to major publishers, including Bloomsbury, Chronicle, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Her clients’ books have won the Newbery Honor, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature Honor, Flora Stieglitz Strauss Award for Nonfiction, Orbis Pictus Honor, PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, Parents Choice Gold Award, Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books, Sibert Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Honor, Sydney Taylor Silver Medal, Boston Globe Horn Book Nonfiction Honor, International Bologna/Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor, CCBC Choices, and been Junior Library Guild Selections and on The New York Times Bestseller list. You can view all her clients’ books on Pinterest.

Anna enjoys discovering new authors and illustrators, and is looking for “voice,” the sound and rhythm of an author that is hers alone. She has a particular interest in picture books (author-illustrators only).

She works hard with authors to get their manuscripts into shape for submission. She finds that most manuscripts need work on plot, so if you’re a potential author or illustrator client, be ready to go through many revisions before Anna agrees to send out your manuscript. Her job is to get the story to the point where an editor will make an offer. (And then be prepared to make more revisions for the editor.)

Anna is also interested in finding unusual books with a Judaic or Israel theme. She is the agent for Ruchama Feuerman’s novel In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, about the friendship between a rabbi’s assistant and a devout Muslim janitor, and Santiago Cohen’s picture book The Yiddish Fish, about a fish who speaks Yiddish.

If you think Anna would be the right agent for you, start by sending her an email with a few details about your book and the opening pages in the body of an email (not in an attachment). If Anna likes what she reads in your query, she’ll ask to see the full manuscript.

No phone calls please.

WHAT ANNA IS LOOKING FOR:

I am looking for picture books (author-illustrators only), nonfiction for all ages (PB, MG, YA, and adult, including nonfiction graphic novels), and the occasional middle grade novel (no adult or YA fiction, unless you have written the most brilliant historical cozy mystery series). I rarely represent rhyming texts, and please don’t send manuscripts set in a circus. I would not like to be part of the publication of any book that sends the untrue message that circuses are happy places for animals. You can view my client’s book at: http://www.pinterest.com/olswanger/anna-olswanger-literary-agent/.

Submission Guidelines for Anna:

Submissions should be emailed to anna@olswangerliterary.com
Start by sending an email with a few details about your book and the opening pages in the body of an email (not in an attachment). If I like what I read in your query, I’ll ask to see the full manuscript. No phone calls please.

HERE IS PART ONE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH ANNA:

What inspired you to become a children’s literary agent and open your own agency?

In 2005, I enrolled in the Certificate in Book Publishing program at New York University to learn more about the book publishing business. I thought it would help my writing career. It turned out that I liked learning about the business of publishing, and one of the courses I took was “How to be a Literary Agent.” At the end of the semester, I interned for the agent who taught the course, and then I interned for Liza Dawson Associates. Liza offered me a job. I discovered right away that helping other writers get published was as much fun as sending out my own work.

One of the drawbacks to working for another agency, is splitting the commission. An offer from a small publisher may not be worth the time and effort on the part of the agency. Often, the large publishers passed on my clients’ work, and I wanted to be able to place their work with smaller publishers, who were enthusiastic about the submission, so I decided to start my own agency. I don’t mind doing deals with small publishers. When a client has worked hard on a book, and I’ve also worked hard to place it, I want to find a home for the project, even if it’s not with one of the big publishers. I think authors need many books in print. So, if a contract is good, I make the deal. A bookstore event or school visit is more fun when an author can sign multiple books.

Do you limit the number of clients you represent?

I don’t limit the number of clients, but currently, I’m only taking on new clients who are author-illustrators, as opposed to authors.

Do you hire readers to help keep up with the volume of submissions. If so, are you happy with that decision?

I don’t hire readers. Sometimes I will ask an intern to read a submission, especially if it’s in a genre that I’m not interested in representing, and if the intern likes it, I will coach her or him through the editing and submission process. To date, one of my interns has made a sale for a children’s picture book text.

What are your favorite genres?

My current favorites are picture books and graphic novels. I love strong, intense art.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

I’m not looking for any particular stories or themes, but I am looking for more illustrators as clients, especially graphic novel and picture book artists, and I’m particularly looking for graphic novel illustrators who are interested in being paired with nonfiction text. I would like to represent more minority illustrators.

Do you represent authors who don’t write Jewish themed books?

When I became an agent, I thought I would specialize in Jewish-themed work, but it’s turned out that I represent very few authors who write Jewish books. I am interested in Israeli-centric work, and have two Israeli clients and would like to represent more Israeli clients.

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

Literary, though I think literary can be commercial, which to me, means having an appeal to a wide audience.

What is the percentage of PB’s, MG’s, and YA you represent?

I’m currently representing mainly illustrated work, and although that can range from PB to YA, it’s mostly picture books that I’m sending out.

What do you like to see in a submission?

At the moment, brilliant art.

How important is the query letter?

Somewhat important. I like to know something about the author-illustrator’s background, but the real test is how I feel about the quality of the art in the PDF attachment.

STOP BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART TWO OF ANNA’S INTERVIEW!

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR NOVEMBER FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “NOVEMBER 2018 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE”  Example: 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: November 29th.

RESULTS: December 7th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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