* Picture Book authors should not submit unless also illustrators. *
Emily van Beek is a literary agent with Folio Literary Management. Emily moved to New York City from Toronto in 1999 armed with dual citizenship, a dream to work in children’s book publishing, and inspiration from my favorite (if clichéd) Zen magnet, “Leap and the net will appear”. Soon after my arrival in the city, I was hired as an editorial assistant at Hyperion Books for Children. During my three-and-a half year tenure at HBFC I became an editor working on projects by celebrated authors and artists, including Julie Andrews Edwards, Rosemary Wells, Susan Jeffers, and L.M. Elliott. In October of 2003, I decided to explore the view from the agent’s side of the desk, where I fell head over heels in love with my role as a literary agent. I spent the next six-and-a-half years as an agent and the rights director at Pippin Properties, Inc. Kathi Appelt’s Newbery Honor-winning THE UNDERNEATH (Atheneum/S&S, 2008), Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE (Dial, 2010), Jenny Han’s New York Times bestselling SUMMER series, and Erin Bow’s TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award-winning PLAIN KATE (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2010) are examples of some of the titles I represented before joining Folio in May of 2010. I hope never to retire.
At Folio Jr., I am honored to represent a distinct selection of both established and debut authors and artists. I am passionate about children’s and young adult books. I am passionate about negotiating the best deal possible. I am passionate about working together with our experienced and esteemed subsidiary rights and contracts teams to squeeze as much juice out of a single property as it will yield. I find it incredibly rewarding to work with new voices (and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve discovered several irresistible projects by debut authors and artists in the submissions pile). I’m also committed to helping established authors and artists continue to grow their careers. I am an “editorial” agent, in that I’ll work through as many drafts over the course of as many years as it takes to polish a manuscript I believe in to a high shine prior to submission. My goal is to build long-term relationships with authors and to help them publish books that will stand the test of time.
I am exclusively interested in acquiring projects for young and teen readers, from picture books by authors and author / artists, to authentic and fresh middle-grade fiction, to lyrical and daring YA. I’m looking for voices that won’t be ignored. I am open to considering all sorts of YA from mysteries to well-written chick lit, coming-of-age, the lyrical, the literary, and the laughable. I am looking for fiction that has an impact—whether it packs a punch or effects change with a more subtle hand, but something that can’t be put down, a manuscript that begs me to turn the page, work that changes me with the reading. I’m really, really looking for something that feels new, that I haven’t read before. I am not the best agent for fangs, claws, and wings. These topics have been very successfully published already. I’m looking for what comes after vampires and werewolves. I would love to be surprised!
I believe it was Ursula Nordstrom who once wrote (of the process of considering a manuscript) something along the lines of: “If you can resist it, do.” A tough love sort of approach to the process, but it’s a litmus test I often use to help me decide if I am the right agent to represent a particular project and to help an author achieve his or her publishing goals. When it comes to picture books I am a big fan of Mo Willems’ work (who better to capture a two-year-old’s temper tantrum?! Thank you Pigeon and Trixie!) I am madly in love with anything and everything “Polly Dunbar” (so much so that I’d submit her grocery list to publishers if I could). I think Jon Muth’s work is extraordinarily beautiful and thought-provoking, Kadir Nelson’s regal and rich, and Komako Sakai’s touching and so child-friendly.
In terms of middle-grade, when I was growing up I couldn’t get enough of Enid Blyton’s mystery series (Famous Five and Secret Seven omnibuses were my favorite Christmas gifts ever!) I’d love to find a contemporary MG mystery series. I’m also a fan of THE PENDERWICKS, WHEN YOU REACH ME, and THE MEANEST DOLL IN THE WORLD (gotta love Brian Selznick’s hilarious treatment of front matter). Classics that will always hold a special place in my heart include CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, and A WRINKLE IN TIME. Young adult favorites include Lucy Christopher’s STOLEN (I can still taste the sand in my teeth and feel the burn of the Australian sun on my skin), Suzanne Collins’ HUNGER GAMES AND CATCHING FIRE, Gabrielle Zevin’s ELSEWHERE, and Shannon Hale’s works.