Jennifer March Soloway is an associate agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She represents authors and illustrators of picture book, middle grade, and young adult stories. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and spooky middle grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult. A suspense junkie, she adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. Regardless of genre, she is actively seeking fresh new voices and perspectives underrepresented in literature. Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer worked in marketing and public relations in a variety of industries, including financial services, health care, and toys. She has an MFA in English and creative writing from Mills College and was a fellow at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in 2012. To learn more about Jennifer, follow her on Twitter, @marchsoloway, and find her full wish list at www.andreabrownlit.com.
What led you to children’s book publishing and becoming an agent?
After college, I worked in public relations and marketing in a number of industries, including banking, health care, and toys—and except for the banking, there was always a focus on kids. But I had always loved literature—especially YA—and after a number of years, I went back to school to get an MFA in English and creative writing with an emphasis on young adult literature. I was first introduced to the Andrea Brown Literary Agency at the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop. On a whim, I applied to be executive agent Laura Rennert’s assistant to learn more about the industry and quickly discovered I love agenting. I enjoy reviewing contracts and thinking strategically on behalf of the clients. I love writing pitches. I even like reviewing royalty statements. Most of all, I love editorial. It gives me great joy to help writers find their story. After a number of years of assisting Laura, I was promoted to associate agent, and I have been lucky to find and represent incredibly talented clients. Working for ABLA is my dream job.
When you read a submission, what keeps you turning the pages?
If a story raises a compelling question in my mind, I will read nonstop to find out the answer. I find the projects that capture my interest have at least three of the following traits:
A strong, engaging voice.
An intriguing premise that somehow feels different from anything else I’ve seen.
A dynamic opening scene filled with drama that had enough context to immediately ground me in the world and suck me into the story.
An irresistible character with high stakes and agency.
An additional story thread that is also compelling.
And, of course, if a project has all five plus gorgeous use of language at the line level, I will read in one sitting and offer representation.
When you offer representation an author, what can they expect from you?
I like to be very hands-on with my clients; I want to be both their champion and their advocate. I like to be transparent, responsive, and honest. I work closely with my clients and inform them every step of the process, from submission to (I hope!) sale, and I encourage them to also stay in close communication. I am also editorial. My goal is to help my clients revise and polish their manuscripts for publication and make their project the best it can be, so I spend a lot of time reading client manuscripts and providing editorial feedback. I want to put our very best foot forward.
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
I am open to any good story that is well written with strong, authentic voices of all kinds, and I love to savor gorgeous writing at the line level, but here’s my current wish list:
I am actively seeking MG, and I’m open to anything. I like boy and girl protagonists, adventure, spooky-but-not-too-scary ghost stories, mysteries, funny contemporary stories, fantasy, etc. Extra bonus points for humor!
Young adult is my sweet spot. I am always looking for a psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real with the imagined. I love the question: is it real or is it all in my head? Please send me action-packed thrillers and mysteries, full of unexpected twists. I’d love to find a YA version of The Hand that Feeds You by A.J. Rich. (I have a thing for bad boyfriends.) I am also drawn to literary stories about ordinary people, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. But as much as I love dark stories, lately I’ve been wanting to laugh and fall in love.
For picture books, laugh-out-loud stories are my favorite. However, I also love sweet picture books with lots of heart. One of my favorite client picture projects makes me cry (in a good way) every time I read it—and I’ve read it countless times.
Also, I’d love to find an MG or YA version of Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (which is one of my favorite picture books)—a kid or teen’s first foray into politics.
That’s my wish list, but the truth is an author might have something I have never considered before, and it might be absolutely perfect for me. Try me!
You can query Jennifer for the month of May at firstname.lastname@example.org.