Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 15, 2021

October Agent of the Month: Janine Le

October’s Agent of the Month – Janine Le from the Sheldon Fogelman Agency

Janine Le

Sheldon Fogelman Agency

Janine Le joined the Sheldon Fogelman Agency in 2010 and continues to assist in rights, contracts, and accounting as she expands the list of clients with whom she works. She enjoys the balance of creative-minded and business-minded work and knew she had found her niche in the field when she interned at an agency and realized the agent is the author’s biggest advocate. Janine graduated from Bucknell University with honors in English (Creative Writing) and completed NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. She is accepting submissions for fiction and narrative nonfiction picture books through YA. She has served as faculty for SCBWI events and is also open to conference opportunities.

What She Wants:

Across the board:

  • stories and illustrations with emotional resonance!
  • originality (unique twists, fresh styles/approaches)
  • great voice (we see through a distinct point of view that draws the reader in)
  • engaging writing (rich sensory details, puns, or interactivity that add to the story)
  • like poetry, I love when form matches content in all genres
  • swift reads (compelling voice, well-paced plots rather than non-stop action. Shorter book/chapter word counts)
  • writers and artists who take their craft seriously and wow with revisions
  • diverse perspectives (BIPOC, Latinx, disabled, chronically ill, neurodiverse, immigrant, refugee, adoptee, multiracial, religious minority, LGBTQIA, etc.)

Some particular interests:

  • joyful stories (though I always welcome tough subjects, I’d like to see more joy in my inbox)
  • contemporary (romance, adventure, coming-of-age)
  • historical featuring less common settings
  • fantastic elements (surrealism, magical realism, mythology, mysticism rather than high fantasy or hard sci-fi)
  • narrative non-fiction, including subjects that broaden children’s views on science & culture (especially story-driven)
  • novels-in-verse
  • well-developed secondary characters (glimpses of each character having their own story)
  • humor that doesn’t rely on gags or the protagonist being the butt of the joke
  • complex relationships (characters navigating hurdles in friendships/dating/family relations rather than always-the-loner stories or characters who accept abuse)

For illustrators:

  • expressive characters
  • visual narratives
  • styles that are softer yet bright & vivid
  • strong use of light and shading, texture, backgrounds, layouts
  • professional artists crossing into kidlit
  • author-illustrated picture book dummies and graphic novel proposals

*******

PART ONE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JANINE LE:

When did you decide you wanted to become an agent?

I was intrigued by the agent panel at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute and met with the agencies at their career fair, which led to an internship in the children’s department at another agency. There, I really fell in love with agenting. I was in awe of the career-long relationships agents build with authors and illustrators and how they work for creators.

How did you get the job with Sheldon Fogelman Agency?

I tried to keep my options open to all of children’s publishing, but things really fell into place here because it was such a good fit for my experience and interests, and it definitely helped that one of the agents I interned for put in a good word for me!

Did you have to move to New York City for the job?

I moved to NY for my internship. When I started at SFA, our office was in midtown located across from Bryant Park and the main NY Public Library. Fortunately we shifted to work-from-home pre-pandemic.

Do you have a limit on number of clients you will represent?

Yes, I need to be sure I’m leaving enough time for each client, so we have to be very selective and only take on work we truly love and clients we feel we can help build a career.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

I want to work with innovators and with stories that pack a punch emotionally. I am also always seeking diverse perspectives.

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

More literary. I want to be pulled in by the quality of the art and writing. The agency has represented a lot of classics, and I want to work on such enduring titles.

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

I am open to clients who do both, but if someone is working in multiple genres, I like to see the full range of what they’re working on before signing, because we need to be committed to representing all of their work. It’s best to pitch one project (or two for picture books) but briefly mention what else you’re working on in your query.

What do you like to see in a submission?

If you’re a picture book writer, please include two different stories. For novels, the first three chapters. For illustrators, a portfolio, and a dummy if possible. Graphic novels do not need to be completed. I like to see a synopsis, chapter outline, sketches, and some finished samples.

How important is the query letter?

The query letter is your opportunity to get the agent excited about reviewing your work! I usually skim query letters as I move them to my submission folder, and if something about a query really catches my attention, I mark it to prioritize, and sometimes I’ll even dive in right away.

Would you have a sample of a good query letter or a link to one you saw on the Internet?

Leanne Hatch’s query is a great example because it’s so concise. It drew me in, and the work delivered!

Dear Ms. Le

As an author-illustrator, I have written UNRAVELED, a 187 word picture book that tells a gentle story of a small boy coming to terms with growing up. It is illustrated in a loose, modern style that I thought you might appreciate.

Mama knits Cole a baby blanket. It’s an instant bond. But when the blanket comes unraveled, so does Cole. Is he getting too big for a blanket? How can he ever give it up?

I am an artist working in the textile and apparel industry, where I create graphics and prints for children and teens. I am also an active member of SCBWI. My book dummy is attached. This is a multiple submission.

Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing from you!

Leanne Hatch

I loved Leanne’s story my from the first read, and our first call cemented my interest in working with her. We admired a lot of the same illustrators, and I could tell she was very professional in how she’d gone about getting into children’s books, even though she was still brand new to it. Leanne says, “I remember feeling so unprepared to talk to you so I always give the advice to others to have a list of questions ready.” (I also always make a list of questions before talking to a potential client!)

Do you have any tips on how to find comps of book to use in a query letter?

There’s no one right way to do comps, but I tend to find comp titles that are in a similar vein stylistically more useful than those that are about the same exact subject matter. I want to know the type of work you aspire to and whether it aligns well with my tastes.

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

Not really. I see a lot of good work, but it’s not all right for me. There has to be something about the story that either makes me request immediately or keep coming back to it. It’s kind of like dating in that there has to be a spark!

Will you let people know if you are not interested in their submission?

We are always open to submissions and review each one, but we receive far more than we have time to respond to. We prioritize giving more personalized feedback to those that most resonate with us.

After you request more of a book, how long do you think it will take to respond?

It really depends on my workload, how long the work is, and how much editorial feedback it requires. If you haven’t heard anything from me in six weeks, feel free to check in, and if you receive an offer, please let us know ASAP.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART ONE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JANINE.

*******

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR OCTOBER 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “OCTOBER 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, 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).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2021 October  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

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. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and including you in the running.

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: OCTOBER 22nd. – noon EST

RESULTS: OCTOBER 29th.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JANINE:

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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