Brent Taylor is a literary agent at Triada US, where he specializes in children’s books. He joined the agency in 2014 as an intern and has since built a robust list of picture books, middle grade, and YA. Some of his clients include Sayantani DasGupta, Whitney Gardner, K. D. Halbrook, and Louie Zong. In addition to his role as an agent, he oversees audio and foreign rights for the entire agency. Outside of work, some of his favorite things are the beach and ocean; sweet, cheap southern wine; and reading books on porch-swings. In his next life, Brent wants to be a CIA agent. You can find him on Twitter @btaylorbooks and online at www.btaylorbooks.com.
What was your road to becoming an agent?
I knew I wanted to work in book publishing when I was a teenager, but I wasn’t sure in which role. After I started interning for a literary agent, I knew right away that I found my dream job. The agent’s role felt the most entrepreneurial; I was drawn to the editorial and creative possibilities, but my heart really lit up at the more business-minded aspects of the job, like running an auction or overseeing a book’s publication into numerous languages. So when it came to applying to college, I only applied to schools in New York, since that was where you had to be start a publishing career. I got into my dream school, which was the happiest day of my life. The school I applied to was an honors program that came with a full tuition scholarship and all sorts of perks. And then, the summer before I was supposed to move, I found out that the scholarship had been eliminated for out-of-state students. My ability to attend hinged on that scholarship. I wasn’t going to be going to college or moving to New York, so I felt like my dream had died right before my eyes. It was very painful, and one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life — no amount of YA could have prepared me for the emotional turmoil I was going through. I spent a few months thinking about other options. Could I be an English teacher? A human resources manager? I pursued a few of those until I really concluded, in my heart of hearts, that the only thing I could be was a literary agent. So I applied to just one more internship, in the hopes that I would impress my boss enough to be offered a job. And it worked! The rest is history. It has been an incredible 4.5 years here at Triada US.
When you’re reading a submission, what makes you say I have to be this author’s agent?
When I’m reading a submission and feel like (1) it has to be a book on my list and that if anyone else snatches it up, it would be the end of the world (my proneness to exaggeration = the true sign of my passion) and (2) when I can already start visualizing the way it would be published (what sort of imprint, the type of cover) and how that author’s career could unfold. When I offer representation, I would say nine times out of ten it’s within 24-48 hours of me receiving the submission.
Once you sign a client, how do you work with them?
Each of my relationships with my clients is different from all the others, and that’s one of the things I enjoy most about this job: the true collaboration, which results in author-agent relationships that are completely unique. But generally, my clients and I will work together to make sure that their work is the best we can make it before sending it out to a list of editors and imprints that we’re excited about. After selling their work, the collaboration only strengthens; my clients and I are more often discussing and emailing about marketing/publicity plans, covers, scheduling, etc. than we are about about submissions or deals.
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
I remain incredibly excited about the graphic novel renaissance we are experiencing in trade children’s book publishing. I have sold six graphic novel projects so far (two where I represent the author-illustrator; one where I represent just the illustrator; and three where I represent just the author) and would love to continue building a list of them. I see a lot of proposals for commercial MG graphic novels, and while I love those, I’m hoping to sign up a more literary graphic novel project, whether it’s middle grade or YA. In 2018, I exceeded a personal record and sold more picture books than ever before — I’d love to continue that into 2019 with creative and bold picture books, especially by author-illustrators. I’m always looking for nonfiction. I represent a ground-breaking book about gender identity (SHE/HE/THEY/ME by Robyn Ryle) that’s coming out in March and am always looking for nonfiction books that are “of the moment” but will also appeal to multiple generations of readers. And I’d love to continue working on middle grade and YA novels, especially ones that straddle a line between realistic and fantasy (a recent favorite is THE WHISPERS by Greg Howard).
Above all, I want to work on joyful books for big-hearted young readers: books that inspire and empower kids and teens to love and live as the truest and best versions of themselves.
SCBWI members can query Brent during the month of February at email@example.com.