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Agent Spotlight: James McGowan

Agent Spotlight: James McGowan


Happy Tuesday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight.

Thanks again for showing up to support fantastic debut authors like Pippa Chorley! Her two winners for signed copies of Counting Sheep are:


Miss Pippa's Author Spotlight? Check it out here.

Today we have another Agent Spotlight!

I am pleased to turn the lights up on Literary Assistant, James McGowan of Bookends Literary Agency...who is ACTIVELY BUILDING HIS PICTURE BOOK CLIENT LIST!

If I told you he didn't have a giveaway with his post, I would be deliberately lying. Because he does. He totally does. But first...dim the lights. Settle in. SNAP. The spotlight kicks on. It glows and warms the proverbial stage...

Here's James!


Snacks. Snacks. E-mail (bless those from snail mail publishing days). And snacks, likely.

What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator or pantry?

Fridge- Seltzer. Lemon Lime preferably.

Pantry- pretzels. And cheez-its. I really like snacks.

Where do you feel most inspired and why?

The library. I can spend hours sitting there and working or reading. Being surrounded by books is the dream, right? Plus, there’s always story inspiration at the library; whether I’m working on client projects or my own projects.

I decided to work in kidlit after becoming enamored with the picture books I was reading with my nephews. I’m amazed by picture book creators and their cleverness and wit, and I knew right away that I wanted to work with them/be one.

My favorite part of the job is brainstorming. It’s always an incredible experience to hop on a call with an author and ramble for however long it takes to bring (back) a solid vision for their current book or future projects. And the excitement in their voice when we get there always makes it worth it.

What types of picture book submissions are you most excited about and want to see more of?

I love humorous picture books and am always, always, always looking for a good laugh. However, I am dying for some non-fiction picture books on my list right now. I love clever non-fiction, or unique structures. And am looking for NF in all categories: pop-culture, science, activism, you name it.

Talk to us about what makes BookEnds Literary Agency unique.

The team dynamic. BookEnds truly is a collaborative agency. The agents work together extensively, and all of the clients have developed an incredible community that has been fun to watch grow. One of my favorite things is seeing two writers in completely different genres form a friendship. It’s always cool for me.

If you aren’t crazy about a particular project and you decide to pass, do you encourage authors and illustrators to resubmit after significant revision? If so, how much time is appropriate before a resubmission?

This depends on what you mean by “aren’t crazy.” If I’m not feeling it, I’d likely just pass and encourage them to keep working/querying. If it’s something I think is good but not right for me, I’d pass and suggest another BookEnds agent (or directly forward if I’m that confident it’s a good fit for them). For those that I think are not quite there yet and offer revision suggestions for: whenever a writer has completed a substantial enough revision that addresses my initial concerns, then I’m happy to see it again. Whether that takes a few weeks or a couple of months. Whenever you’re 100% ready to share it again, please do!

If authors and illustrators have multiple projects that they want to share with you, what is a respectful amount of time in between submissions?

This is a tough one, and I say that because of the way picture book submissions work. If I request additional manuscripts and reject, I don’t think it’s wise to resubmit until you have an entirely new submission package ready for submission. Otherwise, if I enjoy the new manuscript and request, I’d be seeing the same additional manuscript I’ve already passed on.

So, my rule of thumb is to suggest not to re-query until you have enough new stuff I haven’t yet seen. If I didn’t request anything additional, I think a couple of weeks is an appropriate time to resubmit something different.

As cliché as it sounds, you know it when you read it. I look for that feeling of “I need to read this again.” If I get to the end and immediately want to start over, I’m likely sold.

What are some picture book submissions that may be a waste of time for you?

I don’t believe in this! I love picture books of all shapes and sizes, so I say try me.

Is there a particular query format that seems to appeal to you more than others?

I think the easiest format to read is Greeting à Why You’re Querying à Blurb à Bio.

Sometimes, though, they just don’t get on paper in that order, but as long as you have those elements, then I’m fine!

You should have the set-up, problem, and hint of a solution. And as always, your voice should come through as much as possible.

Share a few common query mistakes that you see in picture book submissions.

This is such a subjective answer, but I think the biggest problem is that your query for a picture book is too long, or you’re pitching multiple projects in one. Remember that picture books themselves are short, and I want to read the sample you’re sending and be invested. Don’t give the entire thing away in the query. Give me just enough to entice me to read the sample.

Whether their book is ready to be submitted. Whether their query is ready to be submitted. Did you get critiques and incorporate the most important and resonant feedback?

Are you comfortable and proud to submit your work?

And are you prepared to do the work to bring your book to shelves?

What is something upcoming you are excited about or would like to promote? Any travel plans or upcoming conferences that you’ll be attending?

I’ve completed most of my travel schedule for 2019, but if I could promote the BookEnds social media?

Twitter: @bookendslit

We’re doing a lot of fun things on social media and we’ve got a ton of exciting books forthcoming. Our kidlit list is building rapidly, and I’d love for you to check out some of our incredible picture book (and other genre) authors.

Please complete the following sentence: "James is an agent who…"

James is an agent who likes to take risks, and is completely involved editorially.

Thank you so much for sharing your agent world with us, James!

And thank YOU for reading, kidlit fam! If you're knee deep in the query trenches, be sure to mention this post in your next query to James. You know what's even better than an Agent Spotlight? An Agent Spotlight with a GIVEAWAY! See details below to enter.

Picture Book Manuscript critique!

To enter this contest:

Retweet this post on Twitter


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The deadline for this contest is Tuesday, August 6th at 9AM CST

The winners will be contacted on Tuesday, August 6th and announced on Twitter and Facebook

About James McGowan

James is seeking submissions in adult literary and upmarket fiction, mystery, thrillers, and suspense including, but not limited to, psychological and domestic suspense/thrillers, literary and upmarket thrillers, and historical mystery. He is also accepting submissions in all sub-genres of Young Adult fiction, and is actively looking for Picture Books. James is actively looking for #ownvoices and diverse characters and stories in all genres.He’s eager to find an adult fiction with the same feel as Station Eleven, The Road or The Book of M. He loves all things dark and creepy in adult fiction, and all things funny and silly in picture books.

Some of James’ favorite authors include Celeste Ng, Edwidge Danticat, Jesmyn Ward, and Tana French on the adult side; Jason Reynolds and Sabaa Tahir in YA; and picture book authors like Jason Carter Eaton, author/illustrator Elise Parsley, and our very own Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie.

To submit to James, please go to the following link: http://QueryMe.Online/jmcgowan

Other Interviews Featuring James McGowan


Brian found the wizard. He asked him to make him young again. This is NOT what he had in mind. Brian is now a baby. An actual baby. An adorable human baby who some might say resembles his son. An adorable human baby who somehow writes picture books and who is somehow represented by Melissa Richeson. A human baby librarian who also somehow teaches high school English. He is currently crying. Someone should feed him. And change him. NOW. Despite the undeniable fact that he is a legitimate infant, he would like to offer you an emoji code to increase your chances at James' critique giveaway. If you're this dedicated to read a pretend bio at the end of an already longish blog, your hard work should be rewarded. Toss a baby emoji onto your retweet of this post and I'll give you 4X entries!

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!

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October 19, 2021 (34)_edited.jpg
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