10 Young Adult (YA) Agents and What They're Looking For Right Now
Article by Savannah Cordova @ Reedsy
Young adult fiction, or YA, has been a burgeoning literary category for the past decade or so—and luckily for those writing YA, it doesn’t seem to be going away!
On that note, while self-publishing your YA book is always an option, most authors will have the greatest success if they work with a literary agent who specializes in YA: someone with intimate knowledge of what’s trending, and connections with publishers that want to acquire your book.
If you’re just beginning your search, I’d recommend starting with this extensive, vetted directory of YA literary agents across the US. But if large quantities of profiles overwhelm you and you’re looking to ease into this process with an essential sense of who’s out there, I’ve got you covered with the highlights!
Here are 10 of the best YA agents in the US and what they’re looking for; read on to potentially find the perfect fit for your book.
1. Patrice Caldwell
Agency: New Leaf Literary
Currently seeking: MG science fiction & fantasy; YA horror and other darkly themed works.
A former editor at Scholastic and Disney-Hyperion, Patrice Caldwell has a finely honed sense of what young readers want. She’s always on the lookout for “high-concept YA” and “projects with an amazing hook,” especially in SFF — some of her recent favorites are The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta and Wilder Girls by Rory Powers.
She loves magical heist YA à la Six of Crows, wants to see more cyberpunk sci-fi, and prioritizes diversity in her represented works: “I’d love to see and champion more intersectional coming-out stories,” Caldwell says.
2. Jemiscoe Chambers-Black
Agency: Andrea Brown
Currently seeking: contemporary stories that weave in humor, whimsy, and wonder; YA romance, fantasy, and mystery.
Jemiscoe Chambers-Black is currently building her client list at Andrea Brown and excited to take on new prospects. She’s interested in realistic, contemporary tales told in a compelling voice, though she’s also open to “paranormal, low fantasy, and magical realism” and exceptional works in other genres.
When it comes to YA, she’d love to see the next big romance, ideally in the form of a rom-com! Because Chambers-Black hopes to represent a wide range of voices as she develops her list, she’s especially receptive to BIPOC and LGBTQ stories.
3. John Cusick
Agency: Folio Literary Management
Currently seeking: exciting new voices in YA; sci-fi, fantasy, and genre fiction from under-represented groups.
Though he’s not to be confused with the eighties teen icon, John Cusick has represented a number of iconic clients! These include Julie Murphy, author of the NYT bestseller Dumplin’ and Hafsah Faizal, author of We Hunt the Flame.
Today, Cusick is seeking unique and impactful voices in all genres of MG and YA, with an emphasis on proactive protagonists and passionate prose. “I want stories that move readers,” Cusick says. “Moments that make me look up and say ‘Wow, yes. I’ve felt that.’”
4. Jessica Errera
Agency: Jane Rotrosen
Currently seeking: diverse, adventurous, imaginative YA; snappy stories with great hooks that can be read in single sitting.
Jessica Errera represents a number of adult genres at the Jane Rotrosen agency, but she’s carved out a solid niche in YA as well. She craves exciting plots delivered via unusual methods: “I love anything with lists/letters/texts/media embedded into the story, or subplots that weave together in unexpected but seamless ways.”
In terms of subject matter, Errera has a penchant for family stories, stories involving food or travel, and vibrant retellings of well-known tales.
5. Brianne Johnson
Agency: HG Literary
Currently seeking: funny, exciting, intensely creative MG and YA.
In her fourteen years as an agent, Brianne Johnson has built what she calls a “boundary-pushing, empathy-building” list of children’s titles. Her favorite authors are a combination of “dark/crass/wacky/hilarious,” ranging from Roald Dahl to Francesca Lia Block, and her collection of clients reflects that — though she notes that humor tends to link almost all of them.
These days, Johnson is especially interested in taking on more diverse YA books with social justice themes. In her own words: “bring on the queer, the under-represented, the hot-button reproductive rights and feminist stories!”
6. Maggie Kane
Agency: Irene Goodman
Currently seeking: character-driven YA, especially involving complex female characters; stories with elements of dark humor and/or the macabre
Maggie Kane has devoted the past few years to building her cohesive list of twisty, thriller-y titles. Her passions include elegantly crafted suspense, folklore-drenched historical fiction, Black Mirror-esque sci-fi, and anything else you might label “beach reading with bite.”
Kane requests dark tales of female friendship and experience, as well as villains “you love to hate” forming mesmerizing relationships with their heroic counterparts (think Gone Girl and Killing Eve).
7. Laura Rennert
Agency: Andrea Brown
Currently seeking: feminist and multiculturally inspired YA; emotional and idiosyncratic plots that unfold in breathtaking prose.
Executive agent Laura Rennert is one of the top representatives at Andrea Brown, with bestselling YA clients such as Maggie Stiefvater and Ellen Hopkins. Rennert describes herself as “drawn to narrative risk-takers,” which won’t surprise anyone familiar with her authors’ works — according to her, she can’t get enough of the “refreshingly unexpected.”
She does have a few specific subjects she enjoys, but she’ll consider any emotionally gripping story told in an unorthodox way, naming Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near as a quintessential example.
8. John Rudolph
Agency: Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
Currently seeking: authentic-sounding YA; conceptually intriguing stories; low fantasy.
Having spent twelve years as an acquiring children’s editor, John Rudolph knows precisely what makes young readers tick — and today, he helps YA authors reach them as an agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. Rudolph mainly represents realistic, contemporary authors, though he also “love[s] a good ‘what-if’ scenario” in a story.
More than anything else, he’s on the lookout for authentic voices and rousing plotlines in YA.
9. Kelly Sonnack
Agency: Andrea Brown
Currently seeking: MG and YA graphic novels; novels in verse.
As Andrea Brown’s resident graphic novel representative, Kelly Sonnack is constantly on the hunt for brilliant new author-illustrators in YA. Sonnack is a patron of new and inventive creative writing, seeking stories that effectively convey “unique, memorable main characters who face (and overcome!) childhood challenges in engaging, surprising ways.”
With that in mind, she’s also a strictly visual arts-focused agent, so non-illustrators may want to try their luck elsewhere.
10. Emily van Beek
Agency: Folio Literary Management
Currently seeking: epic, unexpected, conceptually unparalleled YA; emotional stories that resonate with adolescent readers.
Emily van Beek is a partner at Folio Jr. and a premier YA agent, representing phenomenal authors like Jenny Han, Lois Lowry, and Tamora Pierce. But don’t let her top-shelf clients deter you—van Beek is always building her list, and she’s actively in search of “stellar, fun, expansive, bright, fantastical, joyful, adventurous middle grade.”
She wants works that are enthralling and “impossible to put aside,” with bonus points awarded for spot-on humor (she cites Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging as an example) and mischievous escapism.
Writing YA? Download our Ultimate Guide to Writing YA!
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world's best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She’s a big fan of indie publishing and hopes to help every aspiring author achieve their dreams!