Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 9, 2019

August Agent of the Month – Danielle Burby – Interview Part One

I am delighted to introduce August’s Agent of the Month, Danielle Burby, agent at Nelson Literary Agency. Danielle is attending the Fall Avalon Retreat in September 2020. Here is a chance for you to submit a first page for the chance to win a first page critique with her. Summer submissions are always low, so this is the time to submit a first page and get lucky.

Agent Danielle Burby at Nelson Literary Agency

Based in New York City, Danielle became an agent at Nelson Literary Agency (NLA) in January 2017. Previously, she was an agent at a NYC-based firm where she managed foreign rights in addition to building her client roster. She also interned at several top agencies and publishers before graduating from Hamilton College with a dual degree in creative writing and women’s studies.

Danielle represents all genres of YA and MG along with picture books and select passion projects in women’s fiction. She particularly enjoys complex female characters, quirky adventures, narratives that ask readers to think deeply, girls with swords, and seaside novels. Danielle also looks for a strong narrative voice and characters she wants to spend time with. For more information about her wishlist, check out NLA’s Submission Guidelines page.

Daneille says, “I’m the kind of nerd who always has the book I’m reading in my bag plus a backup book plus my Kindle just in case. Growing up, I was completely obsessed with Harry Potter (Fun fact: I would fluff my hair so I could look like Hermione). I also ravenously devoured anything Tamora Pierce, Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen are her best novels and I will fight you about it), Robin McKinley, Gareth Nix, Diana Wynne Jones, Judy Blume, Jane Austen…you get the picture. I have a Virginia Woolf quote tattooed on my shoulder blade. Authors have always been my biggest stars. In fact, one of my most exciting high school moments was when Newsday hired me to review the Ella Enchanted movie and then gave me a choice between interviewing Anne Hathaway and Gail Carson Levine–I chose Gail Carson Levine. My job gives me the excuse to professionally fangirl on a daily basis.

“I double majored in creative writing and women’s studies at Hamilton College (both “impractical majors” that have been incredibly practical for me) and figured out that creative writing classes do a really great job of honing your editing and critiquing skills. After internships at several top literary agencies and publishers, I spent four years at New York agency and began building a client list before moving to NLA in January 2017. Now, I work out of my NYC apartment where my office cat likes to remind me that she is boss.”

Danielle is seeking:

  • Middle grade and young adult (all genres)
  • Select passion projects in women’s fiction
  • A strong voice, nuanced writing, plots with unexpected twists, high concept
  • Complex female characters, quirky adventures, complicated family dynamics, romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative but don’t dominate it, seaside novels, girls with swords, stories that take place in the aftermath of disaster (whether personal such as the death of a loved one or bigger picture such as a revolution), magical realism, YA psychological thrillers, sister stories
  • Social justice themes, own voices authors, a special interest in LGBTQ+ stories
  • Recent reads I have loved include (in no particular order) The Thing About Jellyfish, It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, We Are Okay, Landline, The Sun Is Also a Star, Uprooted, Salt to the Sea, We Were Liars, A Spool of Blue Thread, When Dimple Met Rishi, Six of Crows, anything Liane Moriarty, anything Kristin Cashore, anything Sarah Dessen

She gravitates toward stories with a high concept and strong voice. She particularly enjoy complex female characters, quirky/humorous adventures, narratives that explore social justice issues, stories with a sense of wonder, complicated family dynamics, girls with swords, seaside narratives, and #ownvoices narratives. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it. Mainly, she’s looking to represent novels that keep her spellbound, no matter the genre.

You can find details about her recent sales on Publishers Marketplace.



What made you decide to become an agent?

I have always loved books and admired authors. When I found an author I loved, I would follow their careers closely and read every book they ever wrote. Watching author careers and the decisions made around those careers was my version of sports growing up. So when I realized authors worked with people who helped to look at those big picture career questions I got very excited. Now I get to work with authors who I love and I get to be in the arena with them, helping them strategize and fighting on their behalf for good deals. I love it!

How did you get the job with the Nelson Literary Agency?

I’d followed Kristin Nelson’s blog for years and had learned so much from it and admired her from a distance. When I found out she was looking to bring on some new agents I jumped at the chance to learn from her.

It looks like you lean towards YA and MG, but are open to all types of books. Do you have a favorite genre?

I love so many genres! The thing I look for in a read is depth, complexity, nuanced characters, and beautiful language. Whether I find that in a YA fantasy, MG contemporary, or a whimsical picture book, that is the common thread in every book I represent.

Have you ever read something that is not for you, but you feel another agent at your agency might like it and pass it on?

All the time! My colleagues and I are constantly sharing queries with each other.

If a manuscript has a prologue, would that count as the first chapter when submitting?

My general wisdom is to exclude prologues from a query submission because they don’t give the agent a sense of the overall voice of the book. That said, Rosaria Munda broke that rule in her Fireborne query package and it was the thing that got me very excited about her project. So it can work. I’d say it generally isn’t advisable to include a prologue and I would recommend that authors be mindful of whether the prologue will be their best foot forward.

How important is the query letter? 

It is pretty darn important! If your query isn’t strong enough or professional enough, an agent may not get as far as your pages.

What would you like to see in the query letter? Should writers try to keep it short?

I like a clear sense of genre, word count, age group it is geared toward (i.e. MG, YA, adult, etc.), and comp titles. I also want to know who the protagonist is as well as the goal and inciting incident. And, of course, the author bio!

Should the word count for your manuscript be included in the query letter?

Yes! I think it is very important to know the word count.

Do you like comps mentioned in the query letter?

I think it is really helpful to get a sense of some comp titles. If you can’t think of two specific titles to comp to, I also find it useful to get a sense of which authors you would compare yourself to and which audience you’re looking to engage. i.e. “for fans of AUTHOR.”

Would you be interested in representing a writer/illustrator?  

If the right one came along I definitely would!


In the subject line, please write “AUGUST 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: August 23rd.

RESULTS: August 30th.


Talk tomorrow,


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