Danielle Burby Agent, Nelson Literary Agency
Based in New York City, Danielle became an agent at Nelson Literary Agency (NLA) in January 2017. Previously, she was an agent at a NYC-based firm where she managed foreign rights in addition to building her client roster. She also interned at several top agencies and publishers before graduating from Hamilton College with a dual degree in creative writing and women’s studies.
Danielle represents all genres of YA and MG along with picture books and select passion projects in women’s fiction. She particularly enjoys complex female characters, quirky adventures, narratives that ask readers to think deeply, girls with swords, and seaside novels. Danielle also looks for a strong narrative voice and characters she wants to spend time with. For more information about her wishlist, check out NLA’s Submission Guidelines page. You can find details about her recent sales on Publishers Marketplace.
What was your path to agenting?
I was an avid reader from a very young age so in a lot of ways it feels like I was always on this path (at least once I realized I wasn’t destined to be a ballerina). It doesn’t hurt that my dad is an English teacher and my mom is a journalist so my love of the written word runs in my veins. But, in terms of looking at books as a career, I landed my first publishing internship at a small nonfiction publisher after my freshman year of college and performed better on a copy editing test than most of the people they’d ever hired, which was a thrill. Through that internship, I realized the world of books was something I both loved and was good at and I never looked back. I then interned at various literary agencies and publishers throughout college and decided I wanted to be on the agency side of the business because I wanted to advocate for and work with authors over the span of their careers rather than on individual novels. My first job as an agent’s assistant stemmed directly from my post-college agency internship. I worked my way up in that agency from assistant to agent and then moved to Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 where I am building a roster of incredible clients.
Once you’ve read a manuscript you really gravitate towards, what makes you offer representation? How long of a process is that?
Once I’ve started reading, the projects I end up offering representation on usually sweep me immediately up and I’ll read the entire thing in a day or two. From there, I just go right ahead and reach out to the author and let them know how much I loved their project and how badly I want to work with them. The speed at which I startreading a requested manuscript varies wildly based on my to do list and what my clients are sending my way.
When it comes to offering representation, I typically approach the decision on a gut instinct level. I need to love it. I know the market, I know where I have space on my list and where I’ve had successes in the past (and how to build on those), I know what editors are looking for and what they’re seeing too much of lately. All of that strategy informs my decision. But, at the end of the day, I think the most fundamentally important thing is that I need to have sustainable excitement about both author and project. I need to feel enthusiastic enough that I can read the manuscript three to five times before we submit and then still have the high level of enthusiasm it takes to hype the book to editors in a way that gets them to prioritize it. And, when a submission doesn’t work out, I need to sustain that enthusiasm for the author even after heartbreak passes and setting aside a project we both really believed in. This job requires hard-headed determination and a lot of heart and I make sure to represent clients who inspire those feelings in me.
When you represent an author or illustrator, what role do you play in their career both long-term and short?
I am a pretty hands-on, client-focused agent. Each of my clients has different needs and priorities and I adapt my own approach to make sure my clients are supported in the best way. I often do quite a bit of editorial work on projects before submitting them and then I am actively part of conversations throughout the publishing process, especially when it comes to marketing and publicity. For the long-term, it is my goal to make sure my clients have the best shot at the career they want so I have active conversations with them about career planning and what their next books should be, making sure those projects fulfill them creatively while simultaneously meeting the demands of the market. Ultimately, my clients and I all have individual relationships and the longer I work with those clients the more those relationships mature. We are able to both have difficult conversations and enthusiastically celebrate the wins together. It is a really special honor to have the privilege of representing authors. I see my clients as the driver of their careers and myself as their teammate, advocate, and number one fan.
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
I would love to add more picture books to my list. My picture book taste is lyrical writing with a commercial idea, but I also wouldn’t say no to a really fun high concept told in a commercial voice! I am also always looking for more middle grade in any genre—that’s an area I’ve very actively looking to grow my list in. In YA, I’m really eager for a friendship breakup and/or a sister story. For any age group or genre, I am a sucker for a character driven story and for a unique, compelling voice. Fundamentally, I’m looking to be swept up in a story. If you can hook me in, you’ve got me!
You can submit a query letter to Danielle for the month of April to https://querymanager.com/query/1352