Waverly Place Literary Agency

How I tackle BookExpo

Photo credit: Sandrine Sahakians at BookEquals.com
There's something for writers and readers of all kinds of books at BookExpo, but what excites me the most is seeing new books that will be for sale months from now. At the Adult Editors' Buzz Panel, editors who rarely appear in public will pitch six books selected by American Booksellers Association judges as groundbreaking titles for the coming year, usually by new authors and some published by small presses. The editors pitch to an audience mostly of booksellers but I've talked to people from all segments of the industry. Unlike authors who appear in bookstores or on Book TV, who can be dull, their editors are prepared. They're pitching one book that represents their
Photo credit: Steve Kagan, Publishers Weekly
company and the quality of their list. A lot is riding on their performance. Each editor gives a five-minute pitch for the book they acquired and edited, a kind of live query letter of the book's story and author's background delivered with emotion and dramatic storytelling. Editors can see the effect of their pitches by the mad rush for galleys at the end. 
Some in the audience start making their way to the tables before the panel is finished afraid they'll run out. It's a rib-crushing crowd. The pushier they are, the more I gotta have those hard-to-get books!

Photo credit: Emma Wenner, Publishers Weekly
Next I'll make my way to the main floor of exhibits. In the past when I picked up my badge the day before, the convention space was like an aircraft hangar, dark and nearly empty of people, except for uniformed workers and the occasional beeping of a forklift moving pieces of booths into place. A few hours later when the show opened there were stadium-sized banners, a cheerful red or royal blue carpet, and rows and rows of publisher booths. It's a magical transformation to book lover heaven.

Here publishers pitch their bestseller bets to bookstore buyers and libraries. They pull you in with author autographing sessions, larger-than-life backlit displays of famous authors' faces and book covers that will sell by their clever titles and topics. It's an amazing show that gives me an idea of each publisher's list, company by company. I ask myself Why did the publisher publish this book? How is the topic presented as a book experience? If I catch an editor or sales rep at the right time, I can ask a question or two.

There's so much here. Many times I find myself wanting to be in two places at once. I get there early and stay the entire day. Chance encounters and conversations as I wait in line for author autographs, in open theaters for events and in Javits Center restaurants are enjoyable and insightful.  We are the devoted ones who show up and swap discoveries of good reads, the main thing we care about. 

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.

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).

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 and recent conferences

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

Recent conferences

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

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

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

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