Today I’m thrilled to have agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin here. She is a literary agent and the founder of Birch Path Literary.
Hi Alyssa! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.
I began my career in editorial at S&S Books for Young Readers. Kidlit captivated me from the start –shaping book ideas with my authors and illustrators, the craft of editing, and learning from my brilliant mentor colleagues. Seven years in, I was seeking something less corporate and more entrepreneurial long-term. Soon after, Trident Media Group hired me for a children’s book agent position. The job was the perfect blend of editor and entrepreneur. I spent the next fourteen years there building a list of amazing, bestselling, and multi-award-winning authors and learning how to serve their creative and fiduciary needs within a large, global agency. I have negotiated hundreds of book deals as well as film deals, set up a merchandising program, and even helped put a Broadway musical in motion. And my favorite part of the job is still shaping and fostering new ideas.
What She’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?
I represent board book through young adult, and I welcome select upmarket fiction and romcoms for adults. I’ve been growing my stable of author-illustrators and am eager to review more illustrated picture book, young middle grade, and graphic novel projects.
4. Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?
I’d love to see a fiction project in the vein of Julie and Julia about America's Early Female College Students Held Illicit Fudge Parties - Gastro Obscura (atlasobscura.com) that incorporates themes of body positivity.
What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in? I am usually not a fit for dragons, paranormal, sci-fi, or gory horror.
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?
I’m a big fan of transparent communication, hard work, and laughter. I don’t believe in following trends. I’m proud to have worked with many of my clients for many years. Several of my projects illuminate underrepresented voices and break new ground in the market with innovative formats and little-known topics. There’s no greater professional joy than championing a book that you believe in and watching the world delight in it.
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?
Yes, I tend to do several rounds of back-and-forth edits on novels, and sometimes dozens on picture books, until they are ready to be shared with the world. Of course, every path is different.
Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?
Please send submissions to email@example.com.
Submission directions are available through this link. Submissions | Birch Path Literary
9. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?
No. I’ll forgive almost anything for a story that speaks to my heart.
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
Due to the large volume of submissions, I am now only able to respond to projects that interest me. I try to respond to requested manuscripts within two months, although sometimes it can be longer. If a query goes unanswered for over two months, please consider it a pass.
Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
Yes. I think it’s a robust time to be publishing independently. In the genres that I represent, I have witnessed success in both romcoms and kids’ activity/nonfiction. The best advice for any author is to do research and assess what agents seem best suited. There is no dearth of information out there!
12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
As major publishers continue to request only agented submissions, agents remain vital to the process. Further, even when books are self-published or published by hybrid publishers, there are still ancillary rights to develop and important contractual matters that benefit greatly from agent involvement. With that said, sometimes major publishers focus on the “main course” books rather than the “dessert” or “appetizer” books. It’s exciting when they find success in indie channels.
13. Who are some of the authors you represent?
Ruth Behar, Julie Berry, Jen Bryant, Lisa Greenwald, Aya Morton, R.J. Palacio, Bobbie Pyron, and Gail Villanueva.
Interviews and Guest Posts:
14. Please share the links to any interviews, guest posts, and podcasts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.
Links and Contact Info:
15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.
16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?
Sometimes I find that “analysis paralysis” can be exhausting when one is researching agents and editors with all the information out there. While research is important, it should never outshine the writing itself. I recommend Kendra Levin’s wonderful book The Hero Is You for wise advice on how to prioritize craft.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alyssa.
Alyssa is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through April 2nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.