Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Melanie Castillo of Root Literary

Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 3.57.47 PMMelanie Castillo is a literary agent with Root Literary.

“I want to work with the kind of stories that both create and sustain life-long readers—books that make me sigh with contentment, learn something new, or take delight in the unexpected. Those stories stay with you, and they’re a gift I want to help give readers by lifting up the voices of talented and hard-working creatives.”

“I’m actively looking for fiction and narrative nonfiction. I’m especially excited to find high-concept commercial and literary leaning general fiction, young adult novels with a strong voice and propulsive pacing, and heartfelt and humorous middle grade novels across genres. I was born and raised in Southern California in a multi-cultural, blended family, so I have a soft spot for books that shine a spotlight on the nuances of family relationships and identity. In all cases—no matter what genre you’re writing in—I want to read books that are inclusive and that accurately reflect our world. I like characters who aren’t your typical lead and to be surprised by the unexpected.”

She is seeking:

ADULT:

-Upmarket fiction with elements of mystery/suspense in the vein of Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU and Angie Kim’s MIRACLE CREEK.

-Basically any commercial fiction that could sit on a shelf next to Blake Crouch or Michael Crichton.

-Beautifully-written, well-researched, and expansive adult fiction that straddles the line between commercial and literary. A recent example is Madeline Miller’s CIRCE, but Barbara Kingsolver’s THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is a tried-and-true favorite. I’d also add anything that feels like a modern-day EAST OF EDEN.

YOUNG ADULT:

-Stealing a phrase jointly coined by my colleagues Holly Root and Molly O’Neill—I’d love a YA SFF or HF that can be summed up as “feelings while running.” There’s page-turning action and adventure, but there’s also an emotional undercurrent that carries through to those last pages.

-A slow burn romance (contemporary, rom-com, and fantasy).

MIDDLE GRADE:

-Heartwarming and adventurous contemporary middle-grade fiction. I especially love books that manage to be timeless while oh so subtly touching on timely topics in a way that doesn’t feel didactic. I find most of what I read in this space is in that sweet spot between literary and commercial (a trend you may be noticing here). A recent example is Root Literary author Lynne Kelly’s SONG FOR A WHALE.

-A darker fantasy (standalone or series) that feels reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS or Jim Henson’s THE DARK CRYSTAL. Both of these series, despite their different mediums, are epic in scope but so immersive, character-driven, and awe-inspiring that it never feels like work for the audience—instead, around every corner is another surprise.

-I’m constantly on the lookout for anything that reads like a Studio Ghibli film in both MG and YA (I love them all—especially Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Howl’s Moving Castle).

ABOUT THE AGENCY:

Literary agent Holly Root launched over two dozen New York Times bestsellers before founding Root Literary in 2017. The agency’s clients benefit from our agents’ proven skills in identifying talent, negotiating advantageous deals, and advocating for our books all the way from submission to publication. We offer our clients broad-based industry insights as well as individualized strategic thinking to empower each author to define and pursue their own unique path to success.

We love what we do, and we do it best in partnership with authors who combine skillful storytelling with the drive to build a lasting body of work.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rachael Dillon Fried of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 12.58.58 PM.pngRachael Dillon Fried is a literary agent with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

Rachael is selectively growing her client list with a keen interest in women’s literary and commercial fiction. She hopes to build long-term relationships with clients who are passionate about developing their career.

Rachael enthusiastically joined Greenburger Associates in 2009 as an assistant to agent Heide Lange. She is a Rhode Island native and graduate of Brown University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, a television writer, and two energetic young boys.

Follow Rachael on Twitter @rachdillonfried

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rachel Beck of Liza Dawson Associates

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 3.21.51 PM.pngRachel Beck is a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates.

Rachel Beck joined Liza Dawson Associates in 2020 after working at a boutique literary agency for 4 years. She has been in the publishing industry since 2009 and worked at Harlequin editing romance novels for nearly six years before transitioning her skills to the agent world in order to be an advocate and champion for authors.

Rachel is looking for:

  • upmarket/book club women’s fiction in the vein of Emily Giffin, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty
  • light-hearted millennial fiction or contemporary romance like Kristan Higgins or Sophie Kinsella
  • character-driven, psychological/domestic suspense that contain fresh plots and mind-blowing premises
  • contemporary young adult, primarily issue-driven material that explores topics such as sexual assault, LGBTQ issues, etc.
  • and select nonfiction, such as feminist material; career/business/personal growth books; extreme underdog, survival, accomplishment, or rising-from-poverty type stories; select health and wellness books (especially mental health, eating disorders, any rare or underrepresented conditions, Alzheimer’s/memory books); books about football/the NFL; marathoner/triathlete memoirs; parenting books with new angles; books that explore cult life or extreme religion; 9/11 survival stories.

She is not interested in middle grade, picture books, epic/high fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, erotic romance, short stories or poetry.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Sherry Robb of The Robb Company

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 2.43.30 PM.pngSherry Robb is a literary agent and founder of The Robb Company.

In her own words: “Book development and selling books to publishers has been my main focus my whole professional life. Over the years I have launched the publishing careers of over 300 writers.”

“My main interests are: psychological thrillers/suspense, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and how-to nonfiction books (any subject if the writer is an expert in the field of her/his choice). Another, more subtle desire is to find novels that have a unique and/or quirky voice even if the story line is unusual — or a story we have heard but told in a different way.”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Paul S. Levine of Paul S. Levine Literary

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 1.36.26 PM.pngPaul S. Levine is a literary agent and the founder of Paul S. Levine Literary. He is also an attorney.

His fiction interests include adventure novels, mainstream fiction, mysteries, romance, thrillers, and women’s fiction.

His nonfiction interests include business/commerce, pop culture, how-to, self-help, politics/law, relationships, and sports.

Paul has sold more than 250 fiction and nonfiction books.

As an entertainment lawyer, Levine has written the legal contracts for several books adapted as movies-for-television. With over thirty-seven (38) years of experience in the entertainment and book industries, Levine is one of the few lawyers on the West coast who also understands the world of book publishing; as such, he is able to act as both literary agent and publishing attorney for his clients.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Samantha Bagood of Samantha B. Literary

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 11.30.28 AMSamantha Bagood is a literary agent and founder of Samantha B. Literary.

She specializes in books for all kinds of books for children — picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult. (No adult fiction pitches of any kind please.) She enjoys out-of-the-box formats and styles done well, and would love to see more stories from an Asian-American perspective.

Samantha believes in being an ardent business partner and creative advocate for visionary authors and artists. She is also personally passionate about growing the imagination of young readers everywhere and boosting the voices of marginalized creators. Her career began at Adams Literary in 2012. Before then, Samantha was a book reviewer and freelance writer and designer.

In 2017, after a cross country move to southern California, she left to start her own agency, Samantha B. Literary.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Susan Finesman of Fine Literary

Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 12.15.03 AMSusan Finesman is a literary agent and founder of Fine Literary.

She seeks: Literary and mainstream fiction, mystery, romance, young adult, historical fiction, memoir/biography, business/investing/finance, history, mind/body/spirit, health, travel, lifestyle, cookbooks.

Susan began scouting books, plays and narrative nonfiction for Tri-Star Pictures in 1986. Five years later, she moved on to SAVOY Pictures followed by a long and award winning stint at HOME BOX OFFICE where highlights included an Emmy for Ernest Gaines’ A LESSON BEFORE DYING.

“Scouting books for film is like sitting in the most fabulous catbird seat, not prisoner to any genre and not prey to any shelf space at the bookstore. Learning how to find new stories and adapt them for the screen gave me a slightly different perspective on how to sell books to publishers. In 2010, I decided to build a seat of my own, introducing great writers first to publishers and then, not as an afterthought but as part of a coordinated plan, pursue film, television and internet opportunities. I continue to be interested in all kinds of books but tend to be compelled by work that features characters that I cannot shake. I challenge authors to make me laugh or cry and you will have certainly won me over by doing both. I love the twists and turns of a great page-turner, can be seduced by a truly honest memoir and am delighted when transported by historical fiction.”

Regarding nonfiction: “Cookbooks and lifestyle are a particular area of interest but I can be compelled to consider almost any subject that is honest and thoughtful.”

“We work with co-agents in every territory and join forces with Hollywood agencies to broker film and television rights. At this time, we are not representing children’s picture books or work composed for the stage or screen.”