Agent: Charlotte Wenger, Prospect Agency
Preferred genres: children's: author-illustrated picture books, early readers, middle-grade, graphic novels; selectively: YA and adult memoir/biography.
Bio: Charlotte Wenger is a literary agent in the Boston area with Prospect Agency. Prior to joining Prospect, she was an associate editor at Page Street Kids. She has her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons College (now University) and has since mentored a number of their MFA in Writing for Children students. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and exploring New England outside the city, occasionally crafting, and randomly breaking into song. Charlotte represents authors and illustrators of children's books—ranging from board books through YA, but especially picture books.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Distinct narrative voice, quality writing, well-developed characters, marketability (What are the hooks? Does it fill a hole in the market? Has it been done before?)
2) What red flags in a query letter are enough to cause you to pass on a project without looking at the writer's sample pages? What percentage of submissions would you say die with the query letter?
Red flags: Not addressing the query letter to me personally. (Subbing to multiple agents at once is fine, but avoid blanket greetings like "Dear Sir or Madam.") Not following the specified submission guidelines or sending me something I don't represent. Having an unprofessional tone in your letter.
I'd estimate that 50-75% of the submissions I receive don't make it past the query letter, but sometimes I'll start with the manuscript and then go back and read the query.
3) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
- If it's not well written.
- If it would require more work developmental work to improve than I have the capacity to help with.
4) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
Picture book author-illustrators; graphic novels for early readers through middle-grade that don't star buddy pairs; middle-grade novels in verse
5) When you sign a new client, to what extent do you work through additional revisions together before their manuscript is ready for submission to publishers?
It really depends on where their work is at. I'm an editorial agent, so I do work with my clients on revising before submitting, but sometimes what they send me is in great shape and pretty much ready to go. Most, if not all, of my clients have critique partners/groups they work with before sending me a manuscript that's ready/close to ready for submission to publishers.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
Only one thing? I might lump a few together... I'd say more diversity (in all its forms) amongst staff, particularly in higher-level positions, and better pay and support for entry and mid-level diverse staff so that they want to stay and have more/better opportunities to move up in publishing. There's a lot of emphasis on children's books needing more diverse creators and representation, and that's absolutely important, but publishing books is a team effort and could also benefit from greater diversity of those who acquire and work on bringing books to life.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
The Last Mapmaker
by Christina Soontornvat—It hooked me with its character development, world-building, and pace. I loved its dynamic characters and immersive details. I felt there was never a dull or unimportant moment, and it had deft twists and turns.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
All my clients excite me! But I'll highlight someone who's a debut author and has his first two books coming out this year: Dano Moreno. His first book is Hope for Ryan White, a nonfiction picture book publishing with Albert Whitman in June. It highlights the powerful story of the titular young activist who faced discrimination for having
AIDS and who fought misinformation during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Dano's second book is Our Wish for You, coming out in September with Charlesbridge. Inspired by Dano's and his husband's own experience with adopting their son, this picture book about open adoption tenderly captures the dreams and wishes parents have for their children's lives to be full of love and family.