How I met my book agent

I’ve been wondering: how do we even be right now without unhinging our jaws and just SCREAMING for the next four years? How do we do normal when the world is burning?

I think the answer is we don’t. Do normal, I mean. But I thought maybe one thing we can do—because I’ll be damned if they take our sanity too—is share praise about the people and issues we care about.

Me, I’m going to focus on diversity in storytelling, because I believe with all my heart that if more people from more backgrounds get to tell our stories in print and on screen, fewer Americans will think of us as “other.” So what’s stopping those stories? What I hear over and over is: access.

Any working writer will attest that the first question they get from aspiring writers is: “Who’s your agent?” The second is: “Can you introduce me?” And maybe because we working writers worked so, so, so hard to become working writers, we don’t usually like to share.

So I’m sharing. My book agent is Theresa Park of Park Literary & Media. This is the story of how she became my agent. (If you want to skip this part: scroll down for info on how to reach her agency.)

In 2001, I had a brilliant book idea. I bought a copy of “Writers’ Market” and found a profile of her: the Asian-American agent who had discovered an aspiring writer named Nicholas Sparks by digging “The Notebook” out of the slush pile and recognizing it for the monster it would become.

Then I stalked her. I pitched her my idea. She said it was dumb (not really, but she did hate it). Still she took me to lunch. And she let me keep calling her with more dumb ideas. Until finally, YEARS later, I had an idea she liked.

She sold two books of mine, one nonfiction and one fiction, and got me nice advances that I have absolutely not earned out. I am absolutely her charity client. If you click through to the website, you’ll see the other superstars besides Sparks she represents, and you’ll wonder how in the devil I wormed my way in. I could not explain.

So here’s the plug. Park Literary is a boutique agency with a very selective clientele (except for me), and it’s got something others don’t: one foot in Hollywood. Theresa is also a producer, and shepherds her books’ transition to film and TV. (She’s also the one who introduced me to my first TV agent.)

Three PLM agents have agreed to let me post their “wish lists,” in the event you’re their next superstar. I’m setting this post on public so you can share, if you like, with the writers in your life. I hope you’ll understand I can’t read or recommend your ms or query, mainly because I’m hustling so, so, so hard to remain a working writer myself. If you’re a personal friend, you can pm me with questions or whatnot. Otherwise, please follow the links below. Good luck.

Peter Knapp represents children’s and young adult fiction, and is actively seeking to add more authors of middle grade and young adult novels to his list. Some of his favorite YA titles include “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon, “Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman, “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir, “The Disenchantments” by Nina LaCour and S”imon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. In middle grade, he loves everything from standalone literary titles to commercial series. Favorites include “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead, “The Thing About Luck” by Cynthia Kadohata, “Savvy” by Ingrid Law, “Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage and “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds. You can find more about his manuscript wish list here.

Abigail Koons represents both narrative nonfiction and commercial fiction. On the nonfiction side, popular science, current events and anything that could be described as “stranger than fiction” would be a good fit. Some of her favorite books of the last few years include “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics,” “I Contain Multitudes,” “Do No Harm: Life, Death and Brain Surgery,” “The Lost City of Z,” “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America,” “Born to Run” and “An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.” Occasionally, a memoir will catch her eye, but it needs to be on the level of “Wave,” “H is for Hawk­” or “Brain on Fire”—truly exceptional books—in order for her to take it on. On the fiction end, she is always looking for commercial novels that have a sense of adventure or that tell a somewhat familiar story in a new way. Anything with an international angle might appeal to her, and she is constantly on the lookout for crime and thrillers. At the end of the day, though, she has to buy into the mystery at the heart of any story she represents, regardless of the genre. Tana French is one of her favorite authors, and she thoroughly enjoyed “Before the Fall,” “The Shining Girls,” “The Passage,” “One Day” and “The Girl on the Train.”

Blair Wilson is looking for middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as adult non-fiction. Some of her favorite middle grade novels include “When You Reach Me,” “Fish in a Tree,” and “Wonder.” Recent YA favorites include “The Raven Boys,” “I’ll Give You the Sun,” “The Serpent King,” “All the Bright Places,” and “Fangirl.” In adult nonfiction, Blair’s focus is on DIY, lifestyle, pop-culture, pets, and books dealing with issues of sexuality, identity, and culture. She’d also love to find artists and designers with a visible web presence and strong point-of-view (think Mari Andrew or Maryanne Moodie).

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Good luck. Believe. #Weneeddiversebooks

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