Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 24, 2023

March Agent of the Month: Adria Goetz – P.S. Literary – Interview Part Three

I look for books that delight readers, that help readers escape, that make readers feel seen, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that cultivate empathy and compassion, that comfort readers and make them feel safe, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that inspire reflection and conversation, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle Grade
  3. Graphic Novels (MG/YA/Adult)
  4. Adult Fiction

Visual MSWL—If you’re a visually minded person like me, head over to Pinterest to see my “visual manuscript wishlists.” I have one for kid lit, and one for adult books.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But if you don’t already know about, check them out too! They are a fantastic online book retailer that supports brick and mortar bookstores.) I also have a Pinterest board of books I’ve worked on.

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website. If you are an author/illustrator please include a link to your portfolio.

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. 🙂 I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove” because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me. It feels more like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!


  1. Picture book author/illustrators—I’m open to receiving submissions from authors, but I’m primarily looking to sign author-illustrator clients at this point. I’m open to many different illustration aesthetics from hand-drawn to digitally rendered to collage to unconventional mediums. I love having a wide range of styles on my list, and the main thing I’m looking for is a unique, distinctive look. Some of my favorite illustrators include Juana Martinez-Neal, Vashti Harrison, the Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, Anne Lambelet, Brian Selznick, Carson Ellis, Frank Morrison, and Emily Winfield Martin.
  2. Humor—I want the next hilarious, commercial-feeling, NYT Bestseller. It’s important to me that kids really love and are delighted by the books I represent, and humor is also a great entry point into reading for kids who are intimidated by books, so I take silly books seriously. 🙂 Some of my favorite humor-driven books are: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Dragons Love Tacos, The Bad Seed series, Where Bone?, A Spoonful of Frogs, When Unicorns Poop, The Day the Crayons Quit, Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, and Rot: the Cutest in the World.
  3. Family Narratives—I love books that reflect families and their everyday experiences. For me, the more specific the story, the better. Examples: Hair Love, Bedtime Bonnet, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Under My Hijab, Alma, Julian is a Mermaid, Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
  4. Magical books—I love magical stories that feel like the type of book that will stick with a child throughout their life. Anything by The Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, and Emily Winfield Martin. A few of my favorite magical books: The Night GardenerThe Antlered Ship, The Bear and the Piano, The Cloud Spinner, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, and Lights on Cotton Rock.
  5. Adventures—I would love to see more adventure stories in my inbox! Examples include The Greatest Adventure, It’s Not a Bed It’s a Time Machine, Ocean Meets Sky, and Stella’s Stellar Hair.
  6. Mermaids—Send me all of your mermaids!! (What kind of mermaid have you not seen before? I love when fantastical stories are pure fun but can also provide representation.)
  7. Karaoke—I’d love a joyful picture book about karaoke, sort of like the karaoke equivalent of Hip-Hop Lollipop.
  8. Traditions—I love picture books about family traditions/cultural traditions, especially when there is food, cooking, baking, or recipes involved. I’d also love to see other family traditions, like holiday traditions (loved Night Tree, Mooncakes), faith traditions, house-cleansing or blessing ceremonies/traditions, etc.
  9. Food—I love picture books about food! Some of my favorites are Amy Wu and the Perfect BaoFry Bread, Tomatoes for NeelaHalal Hot Dogs, and Anni Dreams of Biryani.
  10. Atmospheric—I love a unique atmosphere/strong sense of place in books across the board. Because picture books are fully illustrated, they create the unique opportunity to create a really visually dazzling atmosphere, and I’d love to have more atmospheric picture books on my list. I think Hello Lighthouse is a great example of this.
  11. Spooky—I love spooky stories! (And I loved them as a kid too.) Ghosts, haunted houses, cobwebs. Some of my favorites include How to Make Friends with a Ghost, and The Ugly Doodles and the upcoming book Knight Snacker.
  12. Creativity—I love picture books about art and creativity, like the The Dot, Ish, The Ugly Doodles, The WonderThe Storytellers Rule, and Beautiful Oops.


  1. Magical Realism or Contemporary Fantasy—I love any stories with light touches of magic or fantasy that are still accessible to readers who aren’t “genre readers.” Some of my favorite magical MG tales include Circus Mirandus, and No Ordinary Thing.
  2. Graphic Novels—I am open to taking a look at anything here, especially contemporary realistic, magical realism, fantasy, and historical fiction. I’m reallyeager to work on a historical fiction GN. Some recent faves of mine were PashminaWitch Boy, and Measuring Up. I’d also like to put out into the universe: I would love to find the next Brian Selznick type of creator that doesn’t shy away from hybrid, unconventional formats.
  3. Historical Fiction—I am a history lover and enjoy historical fiction that feels like it’s shining a spotlight on a piece of history that’s been glossed over in textbooks. I want to see a hook/premise that I think will appeal to young readers, and an engaging voice. I’m open to epistolary novels or novels in verse as well. I love Brown Girl DreamingShip of DollsHouse Without Walls, and Indian No More.
  4. Mystery—I’m hungry for a good mystery! I will never forget reading The Dollhouse Murders when I was in fifth grade and having to close the book for a moment because I was so scared. (But I loved it.) I want to work on books that inspire that same level of book-induced fright! Give me an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit.


  1. Graphic Novels—Right now in the Young Adult space, I am narrowly focused on graphic novels. I’m open to a wide range of genres and art styles here. My favorites include PumpkinheadsThe Prince and the DressmakerThe Girl from the SeaIsla to Island, and Batter Royale. Right now I’m specifically looking for something very atmospheric where the setting is a crucial element to the story.


  1. Book Club Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! When I think of book club fiction, I think of stories with wide appeal that are engaging and accessible reads, but still have layers and depth that lend themselves to discussion. I love the feeling of when I finish reading a book and immediately need to talk to someone about it. I’m a sucker for a dual timeline. I love interesting voices/POVs and rhythmic language. The biggest thing I’m looking for is a good hook and a distinctive voice. Some of my favorites include Lessons in Chemistry, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Dollhouse, Violeta, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Daisy Jones & The Six, RoomThe Maid.
  2. Thrillers/Mystery—I love page turning thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing them. I’m really looking for a hook here. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, and Lisa Jewell. I would love to see a fresh take on the genre from a POV we haven’t seen featured as prominently. Some of my favorite thrillers include Luckiest Girl Alive, Verity, The Woman in Cabin 10, Final Girls, Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Then She Was Gone, and Hunting Annabelle. I would also love to see something more in the mystery category that has a cheeky tone and engaging voice like The Maid.
  3. Romance/Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on rom coms that have a high concept commercial hook. I welcome tropes of all stripes, especially enemies to lovers, slow burn/friends to lovers, fake relationships, and so on. I’d love to see some speculative rom coms too, like The Ex Hex or The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. Some of my recent favorites include Beach Read, The Unhoneymooners, Real Men Knit, Maybe in Another Life, The Rosie Project, Waiting for Tom HanksNot Like the Movies, The Proposal, and After Hours on Milagro Street.
  4. Historical Fiction—I love historical fiction and am especially fascinated by lesser known historical occurrences or anything really “specific” like the focus on the Barbizon Hotel in The Dollhouse, and the focus on the Trinity Test in Come Down Somewhere. I love dual timelines. I look for engaging prose and a good hook. I have a special interest in the eras between the 1890s-1970s, but I’m happy to take a look at anything. I’m probably not the best fit for “ancient” historical fiction, though.
  5. Speculative—I am looking for adult fiction with light touches of magic/speculative elements such as magical realism, grounded fantasy, cozy fantasy, and magic-tinged rom coms. Think “a little bit of magic and a whole lot of heart” like The Inheritance of Orquídea DivinaThe Very Secret Society of Irregular WitchesThe House in the Cerulean Sea, and The Ex Hex.
  6. Graphic Novels—For adult graphic novels, I’m open to taking a look at anything. I’m especially interested in humor, romance, nonfiction, or just contemporary stories in general. I’m open to projects with speculative elements but epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me. If you’re not sure, feel free to send it to me anyway! I’d also love a really unique format outside the box of the traditional graphic novel format, something like Caroline Preston’s books The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt and The War Bride’s Scrapbook.
  7. Unique Format—I love stories that are told in unique formats, whether that be epistolary, e-epistolary (I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette), transcripts (like Daisy Jones & The Six), a unique POV (think Room), etc. If it’s slightly outside a traditional novel format or voice, send it my way!


  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stories (I quit tee-ball when I was 4 and faked stomach aches in P.E., so I’m afraid I am not your gal.)
  3. Space operas
  4. Amish Fiction
  5. Angel/Demon narratives
  6. Ancient historical fiction
  7. High/Epic SFF
  8. Military/FBI/espionage thrillers
  9. Dystopian stories



How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)?


Once you submit a manuscript to a publisher, how often do you communicate with your client during the submission process?

They know basically everything I know! I have a designated email thread for submission updates, as well as a (color-coded, alphabetized) submissions spreadsheet that is a live document they have access to at all times. They know which editors/publishers I submit to, when I send submissions, when I follow up, how editors respond, etc. I err on the side of sharing too much information.

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

It depends on the situation. Usually I advise against it, because sales numbers of past books are often held against authors when we’re trying to negotiate future deals. It’s tougher to get strong sales numbers for self-published titles because of marketing and distribution challenges. I don’t think it’s a strategic way to go most of the time, but there have been some situations with specific projects where it’s made sense, and ultimately it’s a decision that’s up to the author.

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?

Sometimes I run my sub lists past colleagues just to make sure I’m not missing anyone obvious. It’s always nice to get another set of eyeballs on things!

If you liked a manuscript, but it wasn’t right for you, would you pass it on to another agent at P.S. Literary?

Absolutely! We often share projects with each other.

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

Publishers often want to cling on to audio rights, so it’s like taking candy from a baby sometimes, but we try to retain them when we can. Audiobooks continue to be a popular format, and it seems to be a landscape that is expanding. For example, audiobooks for picture books used to not really be a thing, but now a market for them has emerged over the last few years. And they’re so beautifully produced! I’ve been really happy with how many of my clients’ audiobooks have turned out. The audiobook for THE CHRISTMAS BOOK FLOOD by Emily Kilgore and Kitty Moss is so magical and makes you want to curl up by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa. And the audiobook for SCHOOL IS WHEREVER I AM by Ellie Peterson is so upbeat and fun.

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

We work with Taryn Fagerness for foreign rights contracts, who I’m pretty sure is actually secretly Wonder Woman. And for film rights, we have several film agents within the industry we love working with.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

I think the most notable trend is the marketing machine that TikTok has become. It’s a powerful force for selling books. People have always loved finding out about books through word of mouth, and with the parasocial relationships we develop with people online, watching a BookTok video feels like listening to a friend rave about a book they loved, which is a really contagious thing.

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

The key, I think, is building a village around you. People! Relationships! And please don’t interpret this as me telling you to network—it’s so much more holistic than that. Make friends with fellow writers who you can turn to for emotional support through the mountains and valleys of the publishing experience. Find critique partners who give you helpful feedback on your work. Building relationships with people takes time and work, but you’ll be a better and happier writer once you find your village.

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

Yes! I particularly love events that are held in really special, beautiful locations. This year I’m particularly excited to teach The Art of Picture Book Writing in Tuscany, Italy this June through a company called Il Chiostro. And this fall I’m on faculty for a cozy writers retreat in the Catskills with Elixir Writers Retreats. Why be in a hotel conference center with fluorescent lighting when there are events like this, you know?



In the subject line, please write “MARCH 2023 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 2023 MARCH FIRST PAGE  – 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.


DEADLINE March 24th. – noon EST

RESULTS: March 31st 


Talk tomorrow,


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