Allison Hellegers joined the offices of Stimola Literary Studio this Summer as Literary Agent and Subrights Director. She has nearly 20 years of experience in children’s book publishing, ranging from editorial and managing editorial to scouting and foreign rights. After working with the packager, Alloy Entertainment, Allison spent the last 10 years as Foreign Rights Director with Rights People, where she worked to help authors such as Cecily von Zeigesar, Anna Godbersen, Sara Shepard, LJ Smith, Jason Reynolds, Jandy Nelson, Katherine Applegate, Elizabeth Acevedo, Katherine McGee, Nicola Yoon and David Yoon, to help build their international careers. She also co-agents picture books, middle-grade and young adult novels on behalf of foreign publishers and agencies (international, British, and Australian) to represent authors in North America. She’s repped such British authors as Natasha Farrant, Liz Hyder, Emma Sheva, Tom Ellison, Lucy Ivison, Ele Fountain, and Mal Peet, and she’s worked to place Australian authors, such as Shivaun Plozza, Alice Walker, Robert Hendersen, and Gavin Aung Thang, to name a few. She’s also expanded into select adult fiction and non-fiction. Her taste leans towards books that have film/TV and/or translation appeal and take the reader on a journey.
What was your path to becoming an agent?
I fell in love with publishing when I became a literary scout for foreign publishers—a job that allowed me to travel and see publishing on a global level—as well as to meet a wonderful community of foreign rights managers and agents (including my current employer, Rosemary Stimola). After scouting, I went on to be the rights manager and managing editor for a packaging company, where I was able to work with a highly creative team, and honed my taste for quality commercial projects. In 2009 I became the director of a UK-based rights agency, where I sold US projects directly to foreign territories. I also began co-agenting and meeting publishers from around the world, and, in turn, began bringing their books back to North America. (This was satisfying, especially as I had done the inverse for so long.) What I didn’t anticipate is how much I would fall in love with selling into the US market. I found myself more stimulated by my co-agenting deals and wanting to bring them further, and I knew that I needed to work on an even deeper and more creative level with authors by agenting on my own, as well.
What does a manuscript need have to make you fight to represent it?
For me, it is more than a manuscript’s potential of success in the market place. It’s always an internal feeling—like the moment one spots a new crush or a dress they must have—where I feel awake and alive, and there is a sense of urgency. That’s only the beginning, though, as I must also have a very clear vision of how I would sell the manuscript. Maybe I start to think of the editors to whom I would send the manuscript to, when I’m making my son’s lunch or exercising. Maybe I have a call with the author and connect to their larger vision and career goals, too. Like falling in love, there’s got to be chemistry for me across the board. Also, I will fight for a manuscript if it I know I’m a good fit for the author as a whole and not just for a single project.
Once you sign a client, what can they expect working with you?
Communication and honesty are key to any good agent/author relationship, and I value dedication and commitment, as well. I will not take an author on whom I don’t feel I can sell. I will fight for all of my authors, and I will work with them to explore both traditional and more non-traditional publishing routes. I’m happy to edit a manuscript when I see talent, drive, and motivation in an author, and that author can expect me to do at least one or two passes before I submit to editors. It’s also important for me to work with my authors on a schedule so that I can anticipate when drafts are coming in and so projects can get my dedicated attention. Because of my background in foreign rights, I also think on a global level about every project, so authors can anticipate more than just placement into the North American market.
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
I tend to look for things that are surprising, deeply moving, subversive or outrageously hilarious. I like when the book plays out in my head like a movie, and when writers say something about politics or humanity (without being didactic). Please send me original children’s fiction, especially middle-grade and young adult, that are voice-driven and will appeal to readers’ emotions. I’m also eager to find texts for reluctant readers (e.g. by using different formats/layout, novels in verse, and/or graphic elements). I also always like to find author-illustrator picture books with nature themes, social-emotional issues, or family dynamics. I’m especially seeking diversity in all areas and looking for #ownvoices. Currently, I’m working on adult fiction and non-fiction with my co-agenting clients around the world only, but I would be open to looking at an adult manuscript or proposal where there is a personal reference or particular reason to be querying me.
To submit, use the link on the site: https://www.stimolaliterarystudio.com/#/Submissions (query +10 pages)