A surefire way to determine an agent is the best fit for your manuscript/writing career is by learning everything you can about them. Such information is great when choosing who to query and deciding who you’d love to work long term with. As a site dedicated to guiding writers through the publication journey, we’ve put together awesome agent interviews for you!
Today we’re introducing Literary Agent James McGowan from BookEnds Literary!
Path2pub: Welcome to Path2pub! How did you become an agent?
James: My journey to agenting is a pretty straight forward one, actually. I started interning at BookEnds in 2015 and really fell in love with the job and the team here. When I graduated undergrad, I asked President, Jessica Faust if there were any positions at the agency, and came on as her personal assistant. Then I worked my way up, to agency assistant, social media manager, agent, and am now a full-time agent… right where I started.
Path2pub: That is so inspiring. What genres do you represent and why did you decide ‘these are what I want to help bring to the world’?
James: I represent board books, picture books, middle grade, and also adult upmarket and mystery fiction and nonfiction. Like any agent might say, my list took on a life of it’s own. I realized how much I enjoyed working on illustrated books for kids. There’s something exciting about they way they come together, the collaboration, the sketches, the piecing together of text and art. I also read upmarket fiction and mystery in my free time so naturally there’s something really exciting about adding to the shelves in those departments.
Path2pub: What instantly catches your eye in a query letter/manuscript?
James: In terms of books… I am immediately won over by a good laugh. If a book concept is hysterical, then sign me up. Alternatively, on the adult side, my eye is caught by an exciting setting. Every single time.
Path2pub: What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?
James: This might be a non-answer… but if it’s super familiar to me. If I feel like I know where the story is going before it gets there.
Path2pub: It’s a great answer! How hands-on are you editorially?
James: Very! My clients all know I love to be involved, I love to brainstorm and edit big picture, but also line-edit manuscript (especially picture books).
Path2pub: Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?
James: I actually don’t. I don’t like to set this kind of goal and just let the projects that light me up come to me! I don’t put a cap or a minimum on myself because I want to be fully invested in a book.
Path2pub: What is your favorite trope?
James: In picture books, I love a good fish out of water story. In mystery, I really love missing person stories.
Path2pub: What are some books you think everyone should read?
James: There are too many to list. Can I go with what I just read and can’t shut up about? If so, it’s Babel by R.F. Kuang! It was incredible. A true masterpiece.
Path2pub: Thank you for sharing that! If a writer could write a book specifically for you, what would you want it to be about?
James: Got it! I want an upmarket suspense novel set in the 80’s or 90’s, that features a missing person and deep family secrets that come unraveled when you start pulling the threads.
Path2pub: That sounds marvelous! What advice do you have for querying writers?
James: Have a detailed tracking system! It is so easy to lose track of dates or who currently has your book. Having it all in one place makes the whole process easier.
Thank you for stopping by, and for a smooth interview!
James McGowan began his career right where he is: at BookEnds. He joined the team as an intern in the summer of 2015, and as the joke goes, they couldn’t get rid of him. He has worked in all departments at the agency and is now a literary agent representing a talented list of award-winning authors and illustrators. James’ list focuses on illustrated projects for young readers (board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade) as well as adult nonfiction and mystery/suspense novels.
In addition to being an agent, James is a children’s author. His debut picture book Good Night, Oppy! launched from Astra BFYR in 2021. He is born, raised, and currently living in Staten Island, NY. He is a professional snacker, a huge fan of Jeopardy!, and fluent in sarcasm. To learn more about James, his wishlist, or upcoming client books please visit the BookEnds website or his personal website. To send a query, please use QueryManager. And to find a growing archive of thoughts no one asked for, follow James on Twitter and Instagram.
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