Monday, July 6, 2015

Agentopia: Caitlin McDonald

Welcome to the July edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Caitlin McDonald from Sterling Lord Literistic is in the spotlight.


Caitlin McDonald joined Sterling Lord Literistic in 2011 and has worked closely with both George Nicholson in children's and young adult, and Celeste Fine in nonfiction. Caitlin represents a select list of fiction and nonfiction clients. She is looking for adult and young adult genre fiction, primarily fantasy and science-fiction with a smart edge. In nonfiction, she is interested in food, fashion, pop culture, journalism and narrative nonfiction, particularly in the areas of anthropology and psychology, science, travel, feminist theory and women's issues, and internet culture and general geek-related works. Caitlin grew up overseas and has a BA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.  You can read more about her on her blog or follow her on Twitter @literallycait. 

Submission Guidelines

As always, I’m looking for adult and YA fiction, particularly fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and related subgenres, both commercial and literary. I especially love badass ladies, tropes and genre-bending, diverse fantasy worlds, LGBTQ characters, and heists. I also like contemporary realistic fiction about geeky characters.  
For nonfiction, I am interested in women’s and LGBTQ issues, anthropology and psychology, popular science, food and cooking, travel, fashion, art, and of course fandom, geek, and pop culture.  Can be any type of nonfiction: narrative, prescriptive, gift book, memoir, etc. 
I do not work with commercial romance fiction unless it crosses over heavily with another genre. Our agency also does not handle screenplays. 
For fiction, please send a query letter, a synopsis of the work, and the first three chapters. For nonfiction, please send a query letter with your bio and project proposal.
Email submissions are strongly preferred.  Please email your query letter and material IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL (no unsolicited attachments) to caitlin [at]  Please include the word “submission” or “query” in the subject line.  If you would rather submit by mail, please send your materials, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to: 
Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc
Attn.: Caitlin McDonald
65 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012
Submissions will be open through the end of July. 

1. What are you looking for in YA/MG submissions right now? 
Geeky contemporary for YA, and high concept MG in the vein of Artemis Fowl or the Bartimaeus trilogy.  Fantasy with LGBTQ characters.  And I was raised on Alanna of Trebond, so I love well-rounded warrior ladies with emotions and personalities that haven’t been beaten out of them!  Overall, I’m always looking for something new.  Trends are very fickle mistresses and you are much better off blazing your own path rather than trying to follow the latest fad.  If you try to write to what’s currently “in,” odds are it will be out by the time your book ever sees the light of day! 

2. What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?
I’ve talked a bit about the biggest pitfalls when querying in this blog post, but when it comes to the sample chapters, that’s a much broader and more subjective net.  The best I can say is to avoid clich√© opening scenes, such as your protagonist waking up, your protagonist at a bar, your protagonist getting bullied at school (especially for MG).  I once read three queries in a row that started with a description of the moon.  Try to find somewhere to start that the agent won’t have seen before—keeping in mind that we read dozens, if not hundreds, of queries weekly!  Open with something that will really set your book apart, not just sound like more of the same.

3. What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?
It’s got to have an amazing hook AND an amazing voice.  It has to draw me in within the first three paragraphs and keep me there all the way to the end.  A compelling plot is important, but compelling characters are essential.  Show me characters who are complex, who are subtle, who contradict themselves, who don’t always acknowledge their mistakes, who are unreliable narrators, who are likeable but do unkind things, or who are unpleasant but sympathetic, characters who make me laugh and who make me squirm.  The world is made up of complicated people, and I love seeing that reflected in fiction.

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