Book Broker – an interview with Leah Pierre

Book Broker—an interview with literary agent Leah Pierre from the Ladderbird Literary Agency (querying tips and manuscript wish list #mswl suggestions)


Agent: Leah Pierre

Website: Ladderbird.com

Preferred genres: in either adult or YA—romance, gothic/horror, mystery/thriller, contemporary, and speculative/SFF.

An interview with book agent Leah Pierre from the Ladderbird Literary Agency (querying tips and manuscript wish list #mswl suggestions)

Bio: A Texas native, Leah briefly moved to the East Coast to attend Rosemont College and to pursue her dream of working in publishing. Now having graduated from Rosemont with her BA in English and history and having accomplished that dream, she has moved back to the South to begin her next adventure. In addition to searching for the next commercial YA or adult project that will hook her (or make her cry), Leah is currently pursuing her MA in publishing. Leah spends her time enjoying the company of fictional characters more than people. When not in the company of fictional characters, Leah hangs out with friends and family, cooks, and catches up on movies and TV shows she is always behind on.


1) What stands out in a good submission?

The submissions that stand out to me the most are the ones in which the world feels solid and I immediately feel grounded. I don’t need to know everything but I’ve been given enough context clues whether it be through dialogue, setting, or just the character’s thoughts that I can understand what happens. The characters are also an important part of a good submission. They need to have a great voice and tone so that I can really get a good sense of them, what matters to them, and their stakes. It’s the characters that make me care and want to stay for the rest of the story so if there’s great characterization right off the bat then I’m immediately drawn in.

2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?

When I feel as if there is something missing from the manuscript after I finish it and I can’t put my finger on it. Or when I can tell there is a lot of developmental work that needs to be done (whether that be fleshing out the characters and plot, upping the stakes, or doing more worldbuilding), but I don’t have a clear vision for it or have an idea of how to fix it. There are also times in which the story is fine but it’s really just me as I might not have fallen in love with the plot or characters, I was pulled out of the story too many times, or I just didn’t feel passionate about it. All of which is important to have to represent a manuscript as best as possible.

3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?

Oh, I have a lot but I would love love love a BIPOC Crimson Peak x Yellow Wallpaper x The Haunting of Bly Manor. I would also really like to see a BIPOC rom-com that’s taking place during a reality TV show or a BIPOC reimagining of Macbeth (or even just a Lady Macbeth take).

4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?

What I love most about being an agent is being able to work on so many different projects and work with the authors to create something we both love then getting to go gush about it to editors. However, the most challenging part is once it’s sent to editors and is on sub as this part can be really slow. It’s just a lot of waiting all around.

5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?

Characters. The last project I offered on has a cast of I believe six characters and their characterization individually and collectively combined with the worldbuilding just drew me in completely. A misplaced info dump that turns into too much exposition is one snag, another is if the voice and tone doesn’t fit and is completely off, or if the character is pointedly talking to the reader.

6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?

I’d change the lack of diversity that appears in publishing at all levels. I’m a Black woman who grew not seeing myself in the books I read. There are no words for how disheartening that is or the internal trauma it can cause from having to question whether or not I was worth having these adventures or being a main character as that’s what it felt like the industry was telling me by putting out more and more white books but not investing in BIPOC books that were not trauma based. And I would want to do it at all levels because the change doesn’t just start with the author but it starts with the gatekeepers: the agents, the editors, the publishers, and the only way to get true change is to put people of color in these positions power so they can hold the gates open.

7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. It’s such a realistically complex multi-generational family saga that really delves into its characters. It is one of the few books I’ve read where every character is rounded and contains depth. It is also a refreshing and much-needed look into the colorism issue within the Black community. The way Bennett approaches the issue is not in your face or promoting a message, rather it is simply an exploration of the impacts of colorism and how it pervasively affects the lives of Black people, especially women, in the most subtle of ways. Her look into colorism and the Black community aside, Bennett also provides an excellent example of the divisive and disintegrating effect secrets can have on relationships as well as an interesting and complex take on the relationship between mothers and daughters.

8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment? 

So many exciting things are in the pipeline but the only one I can talk about is H.D. Hunter and his book Something Like Right which we’re still in the very early stages of. But it is about a Black teen sent to an alternative school where he finds himself experiencing the highs and lows of first love, all while contending with complicated feelings about the reunion of his estranged mother and previously incarcerated father. There’s no book cover or link to pre-order yet as again we’re in the very early stages but here is the deal announcement:

H.D. Hunter deal announcement for SOMETHING LIKE RIGHT

Book Broker—an interview with lit agent Leah Pierre from the Ladderbird Literary Agency (querying tips and manuscript wishlist #mswl suggestions)

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