Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 22, 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



  • Do you have any pet peeves, yet?

Please be honest and polite. I don’t like when people for example SPAM everyone in the office’s direct email with a submission instead of sending it through our submissions email. If you can’t decide who to try, we offer the option to address to Submissions Coordinator.

  • Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

I’ve noticed an increasing number of writers who list authors who have “agreed to accept an ARC”, so I’m not sure if that was advised somewhere. That doesn’t really mean anything. You don’t need to ask anyone for a blurb until well after the book is sold, and your publisher and agent can help you find those people if you don’t have established connections. At the query stage, I only want to hear about people you do have a genuine connection with (critique partners, mentors, etc.). Other authors should only be getting your fan mail.

I also think it’s a mistake to accept a publishing deal without representation. Please know that if you receive an offer from a publisher without representation, you have the right to tell the publisher you’d like to get an agent before accepting. It’s very difficult to know what to ask for (and to have the leverage to get it) without an established agency having your back.

  • What are your feelings about prologues?

Like anything else, there has to be a reason for it, and it has to be well done. I like stories that are a little out of the box, so sometimes it’s the best place to start!

  • Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

My Manuscript Wishlist page is the best source for that.

  • Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, I do, and often we’ll make a revision request before we even sign someone to make sure the project is close to submission-ready and that our vision aligns well with the author’s. All feedback is subjective, but our aim is to objectively make the work stronger and have it better achieve what the author is trying to do.

  • Do you have any plans to represent a children’s book illustrator? Would an illustrator have to write before you would represent them?

I am very excited to represent a growing list of illustrators. So far, they all write too, which is a good fit for me. At a minimum, we would need to see the illustrator demonstrating the ability to tell a story visually, which distinguishes a good illustrator from a good artist. Do your characters show a range of emotions? Can you draw full scenes/spreads? How do you make use of page turns?

  • How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

The bulk of my communication is by email because it’s more flexible, but I always have an initial call before signing a client and when things arise that require a more extensive conversation—offers, working through an editorial problem, etc. However, I would be happy to accommodate if someone is unable to speak on the phone.

Regarding submissions, I run submission lists by clients before work goes out and share editor feedback as I receive it.

  • What happens if you don’t sell a book and the author wants to self-publish a book? Would you be okay with that?

My clients tend to be prolific and focused on traditional publishing, so if we’ve really exhausted possibilities with a project, we will put it aside and focus on something else. If someone wants to self-publish, we’re probably not the right fit.

  • Do you seek help from other agents at your agency to get suggestions on editors and/or publishers to submit to for the clients you sign up to represent?

We do often discuss submissions lists internally, and we share all of our connections with each other.

  • Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency if it was good, but not your style?

Yes, a submission to one is a submission to all for us. We know each others’ tastes well, so if something is a better fit for a colleague, I’ll share it internally or suggest the author/illustrator resubmit to that person.

  • What do you think of digital and audio books? Are they part of every sale these days?

E-book rights are always included, but we try to retain audio rights and other digital formats.

  • Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

We handle them ourselves, and we have a lovely foreign rights manager by the name of…Janine Le! J Being a small, full-service agency, we wear a lot of hats, which has forced me to go a little slower than most in growing my own list, but it gives me a good holistic perspective about rights and marketability.

  • Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

The graphic novel market has really grown in recent years, and I’m excited to also be growing my list in that direction.

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

Revision is your friend! Most really thrive on feedback, so a great critique group, mentorship opportunities, or conferences can be such a great help at any stage. Before querying, polish your work as much as you can, then work with your agent to take it to the next level, and finally with your editor, copyeditor, and art director to make it something you can really be proud of for years to come!

  • Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

Yes, but only virtually for the immediate future.



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.




Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great news! Thanks, Kathy.


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