When it comes to writing for a young adult audience, there is a lot to take into consideration. Many people mistakenly believe that young adult is a genre of writing, it is not. YA is an age range, and one that covers a broad spectrum of genres. As a writer, you can write for young adults in just about any genre of fiction or nonfiction, including paranormal, romance, horror, dystopia and more. And once you have your book, it’s time to get an agent, which is where our list of YA Literary Agents in the US comes in handy.
Before we get to our list of YA Literary Agents in the US , it’s important to know what they look for in a book. The best YA agents agree the following is true about most YA books:
- First person POV is best. Teens like to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist. So, they like to read a book as if they were reading someone’s journal.
- Present tense is best perhaps because it is a more urgent, reflecting the fact that the teen mind is very impulsive and focus on the present.
- Teen characters, at least some, and sometimes all of them sound and act like adults at least part of the time. Most young adults are capable and intelligent so avoid the stereotypes when creating your teenage characters.
- Many teenagers deal with some pretty serious issues as they struggle to move from adolescence into adulthood. Don’t leave these issues out of your YA fiction and certainly don’t sugarcoat them.
- Adult characters are typically absent. They may show up as supportive characters, as witnesses or even as villains. Think about how you saw adults when you were younger.
- More dialogue keeps the pace moving and advances the story quickly. Avoid long passages of unnecessary description.
List of YA Literary Agents in the US
If you are writing for an audience of people between the ages of 12 to 18 years old, you may want to consider researching YA literary agents in the US when it comes time to shop your finished book. The following list includes all of The main players in the US:
- Joanne Volpe of New Leaf Literary + Media, Inc. starts off our list of best YA literary agents in the U.S. Representing all fiction from picture books to adult novels, her interests include stories that have a darker element. Joanne is looking for books that captivates kids. Her preference leans towards offbeat and morbid topics. Her clients include the author of the Divergent Series, Veronica Roth, as well as Holly Black, the multi-award winning contemporary fantasy author of Doll Bones, The Spiderwick Chronicles and the Curse Workers series.
- Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency represents books for Children and Young Adults. She represents Middle Grade and YA fiction and characters that can make her laugh AND cry will catch her attention. She encourages writers from marginalized groups to query her but is not currently accepting queries. Clients include Daniel Pinkwater, author of more than 100 books for young readers; Erin Lange, author of Butter; and Ilsa J. Bick, author of the YA thriller “Ashes” series.
- Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (11 YA sales in 2015) No list of best YA literary agents in the US is complete without Jim McCarthy. His interests include adult and YA categories both commercial and literary fiction. Women’s fiction, mysteries, paranormal fiction, along with underrepresented voices and the unexpected or unusual will pique his interest. His client list includes paranormal author, Victoria Laurie, author of The Program series; Suzanne Young, urban fantasy author of the Amanda Feral series; Mark Henry; and many others.
- Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency previously worked at FinePrint Literary Management as an agent and for Henry Holt and Company in the managing editorial department. Prior to his publishing career, he spent some time in the entertainment field. He looks for stories with gripping plot lines and a strong voice, with extra points for stories that make him laugh. His interests include middle grade fiction, including author-illustrator projects; young adult fiction (not paranormal); and middle grade fantasy adventure or contemporary.
- Sara Crowe is now a senior agent with Pippin Properties, but she spent the previous decade with Harvey Klinger Inc. Sara had 12 YA sales in 2015 according to Publishers Marketplace, which monitors sales of YA literary agents in the US. Sara currently represents children’s fiction as well as adult nonfiction and fiction. Previous clients include Amy Rose Capetta, SFF author of Entangled and its sequel, Unmade (HMH), as well as Erin Entrada Kelly, the multi-award winning author of Blackbird Fly and The Forgotten Girls. Sara loves championing new talent.
- Pam Howell of the D4EO Literary Agency began her literary career as an assistant at Foreword Literary Agency, where she worked under for Laurie McLean. Soon promoted to assistant agent, she brokered 24 deals in her first two years. She has brokered deals with NAL, Knopf, ACE, Scholastic and other well-known publishers. Her clients include Jeanette Battista, Amazon bestselling author of The Long Black Veil and the Demon’s Gate Series; Sarah M. Eden, award-winning historical romance author of Longing for Home and many others.
- Elizabeth Kaplan founded The Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency in 2002. Her 20-year career as a literary agent began at Summit Books where she was the assistant to founder, Jim Silberman. She was promoted to editor before transitioning to assistant for the legendary Sterling Lord. Before founding her own agency, she was promoted to agent at Sterling Lord Literistic and worked as an agent for the Ellen Levine Agency. Elizabeth is well-known for her editing skills and sharp insight. She welcomes new writers of practical and narrative nonfiction, history, young adult, pop culture, and more. Clients include Wade Albert White, author of “The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes”; and Kate Burak, author of “Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things.”
- Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group started her literary career in New York with Corvisiero Literary Agency where she made her first two six-figure deals. With a total of nine six-figure deals currently under her belt, Stacey represents NY Times, Amazon, and USA Today bestselling authors and her clients have sold to HarperCollins, Kensington, Simon and Schuster, and more.
- Sarah LaPolla joined the Bradford Literary Agency in 2013 after working in foreign rights and as an associate agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. Sarah represents Adult fiction, YA, and MG. She looks for authors with stories that reflect larger themes like tolerance, feminism, challenging status quo, and religion. She’s not interested in picture books, nonfiction, or romance. Clients include author of Gray Wolf Island, Tracey Neithercott, author of The Veil, and MG novels Dinosaur Boy, Dinosaur Boy Saves Mars, and Witchtown, Cory Putman Oakes
- Amy Jameson of A+B Works is last but certainly not least on our list of YA literary agents in the US. Jameson began at Janklow & Nesbit Associates in New York. Her clients include Shannon Hale, and New York Times bestselling author, Jessica Day George as well as a handful of new authors. She is actively looking for Middle Grade and YA projects including humorous MG, sweet YA love stories, animal story MG, and MG and YA in yet unexplored cultures or time periods.
Most importantly, if you’ve got a story to tell, get it down on the page and bone up on how to write a phenomenal query (you can learn about this in our guides on How to Write Query Letter and 7 Reasons Why Your Query Was Rejected). Once you feel confident you can query an agent in a professional and confident manner, start researching YA literary agents in the US to find one that thinks your story should be available to the world. The best YA agent, along with your ability to accept constructive feedback when given and a thick skin for rejection are huge allies on the road from writer to published author.