Waverly Place Literary Agency

The agent's side of pitching: #ASJANY18

I'm in a hotel ballroom with forty or so literary agents and editors for book publishers, magazines and websites. We sit at numbered cafe tables draped in tablecloths with oversized name cards that can be read without reading glasses.

The agencies and companies are impressive. It's a competition for us as well. After participating in many conferences for years, I'm excited to be here and eager to hear about writers’ newly completed manuscripts and works in progress.

When the bell rings and a conference host brings a writer to my table for their scheduled appointment, we greet each other, exchange names and business cards, and the writer starts pitching. Are they themselves? Confident, prepared and to the point? Easy to talk to? Yes. Journalists have the art of conversation down.

It's stimulating to talk about a new book as it's taking shape.  New ideas are generated in the back-and-forth on the book's synopsis, how it can be shaped for reader appeal and reach an audience in a competitive book world.

The in-person meeting establishes a connection that can't be replicated by phone or email. Conferences match the interests of writers and agents, and agents give constructive feedback. I'm more than happy to do so. I want the writer's trust and hope we find something in common to build on for the future. 

I look forward to meeting all of you at ASJA's Client Connections Friday, May 18th.

Books I'm reading now: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Paul Theroux's Deep South, Morgan Jerkins' This Will Be My Undoing and Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers

Books I'm rereading: The Orchid Thief, Nickel & Dimed, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House by Meghan Daum, Mary Pilon's The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, Mermaids by Patty Dann, and EM Forster's A Room With a View

American Society of Journalists & Authors, Client Connections pitch sessions May 18, 2018

The appeal of ASJA writers is their knowledge of what's happening now in their areas of expertise. They keep up with the news. As with any topic, they've done the relevant background reading; sometimes the question of why something is happening now can be informed by the past. But author/journalists are particularly adept at staying on topic and synthesizing the past with the present to produce books on what concerns readers now. 

What I like about journalists is their orientation towards stories. Many of us are drawn to true stories that read like novels or play like movies in our heads. To read exciting larger-than-life stories that are also true can be gratifying entertainment as well as a good use of our time (because they're true).

I'm looking for narrative nonfiction on topics that are current and are rendered with drive. The storytelling can be fast-paced--or not--but it must be intense and offer insight in ways that good books do.

As an agent I look for nascent book projects that can compete with other clever books that will be on display (with yours) in bookstores. What I like about ASJA's Client Connections event (May 18th) are the ten-minute sessions as opposed to three-minute pitch slams. We have productive conversations about their manuscripts and discuss strategies for building a readership. As an agent I appreciate this event because it gives me a better understanding of writers' projects and their submissions become more meaningful. 

To give attending writers a sense of the kinds of books I'm looking for, I went to B&N to browse the tables for new releases for titles that caught my eye. 

Wallis in Love, a biography about Wallis Simpson offers an intriguing slant on the story, but I'd rather read about today's royals. Wait, an American actress is marrying Prince Harry, but is her story intriguing? The best love stories have a touch of scandal. It's a mean truth that I hate to admit to, but a love story need this to me care. 

A note about topics from history. If your story is set in the past, how does it link to our concerns today? The pitch should give compelling reasons why others will want to read it. Sarah Vowell writes compelling narrative nonfiction about historical influences on the present.  

The new Tiger Woods biography was on display. Great cover that allows for a billboard-like display in stores. I'm not interested in golf. I think it's boring, but I don't get bored watching Tiger. I watch for those moments he makes a spectacular shot. He's a hero making a comeback and there's enough about his life outside the sport to make him book-worthy. I'm looking for celebrity stories with a new or intriguing slant.  

Buzz Aldrin has a new book. I stopped paying attention to news of space missions but a resurgence of stories about moon walks and intergalactic exploration captured my attention. With talk of budgets and the eventual end of our planet, I feel saddened by the idea that our accomplishments will disappear. Hopefully books by Buzz Aldrin and about others in space exploration (Elon Musk) will persuade Americans that space exploration should continue.

Patriot Number One appeals to my curiosity about recent immigrants making a new life in the U.S., but there was too much back story about their lives in China for my taste. Is it a collection of immigrant stories? I really want a book-length story about an immigrant's life here, like the movie Learning to Drive in which Ben Kingsley, as an Indian Sikh working as a NYC driving school instructor, falls for one of his students, a Manhattan divorcĂ©e. He begins to see his wife at home in Queens differently. He's angry, and urges her to get out more and learn English. A shy woman who seems to have remained the bride she was in India, is comforted and drawn out by her Sikh friends, who have their own opinions about their friend's marriage and American women. The story is fiction, but it's compelling for its currency about immigrant life in the U.S.

I have other interests that weren't present on B&N's tables: slice-of-life stories that we first think of as narrative nonfiction, books like The Orchid Thief or A Year in Provence. Can it be they don't write 'em like they used to?

For more on my areas of interests, please see the list of clients currently signed up link on ASJA's Client Connections page. See you there!

Upcoming BIO conference : what I'm looking for

CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, NYC
While I'm looking for biography and memoir about extraordinary people and experiences, I'm first attracted to their books because the subjects are in a field that interests me: music, fine art, travel, NYC history, Americana, nostalgia, TCM movie stars. These books are my pleasure reading: popular biographies, not academic. But as a literary agent scouting for something new at the BIO conference (May 18-20 in NYC), I’ll be looking for popular biography that’s intriguing or provocative as well as appealing to me. I can’t represent a book I don’t like.

At the moment I’m drawn to stories of immigrants in the news, not those from the past. Even though I’m opposed to illegal immigration because of the cost to citizens, I like the immigrant workers, students and teachers I meet in NYC. I like them a lot. They step up to the job in ways others do not, their survival instincts are sharp,

A move to Brooklyn

After eleven years in the West Village, Waverly Place Literary Agency has moved to Brooklyn to be closer to writing talent. Literary agent Debbie Carter will be attending book events for emerging writers (and readers) at indie bookstores and libraries in the area. If you're traveling to NYC for a writers' conference, it's worth adding a day to your itinerary for a visit to Brooklyn for a walk, lunch, and a trip to a bookstore. People here love to talk books.

Upcoming conferences

May 18, 2018,  
American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA) Client Connections, one-on-one appointments with ASJA members, Sheraton NY Times Square

May 30-June 1, 2018, Book Expo America at NYC's Javits Center

June 2, 2018, Rutgers-New Brunswick Writers Conference, One-on-one appointments with writers and agents,  Rutgers Continuing Education Center, 300 Atrium Drive in Somerset, NJk is external)

June 10, 2018, The Writer's Hotel, One-on-one appointments with writers and agents, at Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Avenue, NYC

August 11, 2018, 10:15am-4:00pm, Writer's Digest Pitch SlamOne-on-one appointments with writers and agents at New York Hilton Midtown

Contact info

Debbie Carter, Literary Agent
Waverly Place Literary Agency

(212) 925-3721

Queries accepted by email only, no attachments

Follow @WaverlyPlaceLit

Areas of interest and query guidelines

Representing books with charisma for adults, teens and children. Areas of interests are:

  • Narrative nonfiction memoir/biography about extraordinary people and experiences, obsessions, recent stories of immigrants to the US and Americans abroad, travel, history, home & lifestyle, New York, Americana, pop culture, music and the arts. Not interested in essay collections; topics in medicine, health, psychology, science, technology, finance, business, politics, religion/spirituality, stories of abuse or victimhood, accidents, feminist screed, sports, pets, cooking, food or true crime.

Three Lives Bookstore
  • Multicultural and international fiction that's relatable to American readers

  • Mysteries, thrillers, suspense novels with likable heroes or anti-heroes that are satisfying but not predictable. No serial killers or gruesome description.

  • Mainstream fiction, excluding category romance, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, religious/spiritual fiction, gratuitous sex and violence or the sentimental. Accidents or medical diagnoses as inciting incidents show a lack of imagination.

  • Historical fiction that's relevant to our lives today, rendered in a contemporary style

  • Literary novels with an emphasis on story, dramatic action and dialogue, set in the indefinite present

  • Short story and poetry collections with popular appeal

NOTE: Not interested in any fiction with academics as protagonists. Looking for characters and situations that are more relatable for readers.

  • Children's and teen multicultural fiction, mysteries & thrillers, historical fiction, animal stories, fantasy grounded in reality, narrative and informative nonfiction for the trade market. Note to picture book writers: Will only consider writers who have at least three complete manuscripts that have been critiqued in workshops.

See favorite books in all categories on Goodreads.

Query Guidelines

Please send one- to two-paragraph synopsis and description of your background. Email queries 24/7 to literary agent Debbie Carter, WaverlyPlaceLiterary@aol.com, with no attachments. In the subject line of your email write Q: followed by a description of your book. Unsolicited manuscripts will be discarded.  Multiple submissions ok.

NOTE:  If I don’t respond within two weeks, please try again.

Jefferson Market Library, Sixth Avenue


Submits to publishers large and small. One-year contract offered when writer and agent agree that the manuscript is ready for submission. Commission is standard 15% domestic, 20% foreign and subrights. No reading or editorial fees.  All expenses (postage and photocopying, if any) are pre-approved by client. Although not a member of the AAR, the agency follows AAR recommended business practices.

Listed in the Literary Market Place and Writers' & Artists' Yearbook.

Please see Areas of Interest before sending queries to WaverlyPlaceLiterary@aol.com.

All submissions read by Debbie Carter, not by assistants or interns.

Associations: AWP, The Authors Guild, BIO, Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Women in Music

Prior to starting her agency in 1998, Ms. Carter trained with an AAR agent and worked in the music business in A&R and artist management.  She holds a BA in English and music from College of Arts and Sciences, NYU.