Sunday, July 31, 2016

Agent Panel: Victoria Wells Arms and Kirsten Hall

Agent Victoria Wells Arms

Victoria Wells Arms started as an editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, and then Putnam. One day, she spotted an ad for an editorial director at Bloomsbury and was chosen to set up Bloomsbury USA’s children’s division. Starting with three people (and a dog), Bloomsbury grew quickly, soon hitting the bestseller lists and acquiring major awards. In 2013, Victoria opened her own agency, Wells Arms Literary, where she represents authors and illustrators for the full range of children’s books, from board books to young adult, as well as some nonfiction. Visit: and follow her on Twitter: @VWArms and @WALiterary

Victoria shares that in addition to being sure that asking "do I love it?" and "can I sell it?" that she wants to know who a potential client is as a human being. She says

"I want to know there's depth to what you're doing, and that you're in it for the long hall." 

explaining that she doesn't represent single project, but people, for their careers.

She adds, "It feels like every one of my clients is a friend" and she wants to sign someone she wants to be friends with. No divas or those wrapped up in their egos.

Victoria says that she is an editorial agent, "I always work with them [her clients] on making it better." If she can help her clients make it better, it's that much easier for editors to take it on.

"I think it's a great time. It IS really competitive. ...But I think editors are wanting to find interesting books."

Victoria reps artists and writers.

Agent Kirsten Hall

Kirsten Hall is President of Catbird, a boutique children’s literary and illustration agency. She has brokered many hundreds of children’s book deals between authors, illustrators, and all of the major American publishers. She is also the author of many books for kids. Her first trade picture book, The Jacket, was a 2014 New York Times Notable). Kirsten opened Catbird's wings in March 2014, and she likens her agency to a creative playground. Her focus is debut talent, and she works intimately with her clients to create and develop original story pitches—especially picture books. According to Publishers Marketplace, Kirsten reported more new picture book deals in 2015 than any other agent. Visit:

Kirsten tells us about how she specializes in picture books.

"I can look at something and very quickly know… if it speaks to me."

She keeps it small, curated, and everyone on her team does something different.

As to queries, Kirsten loves jokes and personal and human and hates standard query letters.

How editorial is Kirsten? "I'm not." If I see something, and that there's something completely golden about it, "I present them (editors) with something they should do their job on."

Kirsten also spoke about the new hybrid titles that are merging fiction and nonfiction, called "informational" books.

"Publishing, at least in picture book land…I feel like everyone's upping their game." There's so much out there already that's good, so we authors and illustrators have to mine what's unique about what we're offering.

"That's the only way your light's going to shine in this pretty bright room."

Kirsten reps artists and writers.

"I'm really heart-based. I rely on my instincts, I think they're sharp." 

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