I’ve been a huge fan of Adria Goetz, a senior agent at P.S. Literary Agency, since meeting her online years ago. Adria is kind, supportive, and her enthusiasm for great books and her talented clients shines through. After reading this on her Manuscript Wish List, how could an unagented writer resist submitting to her?
A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove” because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me. It feels more like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!
Here’s Adria’s bio: Adria Goetz is a senior literary agent at PSLA representing picture books, middle grade, adult fiction, and graphic novels. She specializes in picture books by author/illustrators. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, as well as the Columbia Publishing Course. In 2019, she was selected as a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree. Adria has eclectic taste but particularly enjoys projects that are tinged with magic, have so much heart you can practically hear their heartbeat, and have a compelling, commercial hook. She was recently proud to represent THE OCEAN CALLS by Tina Cho, THE WHATIFS by Emily Kilgore, THE UGLY DOODLES by Valeria Wicker, NO ORDINARY THING by G.Z. Schmidt, HALAL HOT DOGS by Susannah Aziz, and BATTER ROYALE by Leisl Adams, and dozens of others. Adria lives in an old Victorian farmhouse in Washington state with her husband and their two darling cats, Maple and Mulberry. You can find her detailed manuscript wishlist on her website, her MSWL Pinterest board, and you can find Adria on Twitter and Instagram.
Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Adria! We’re thrilled to have you here. Can you share how you became an agent…and the best parts of your job?
Sure! I started off with an internship at Martin Literary when I was in college. I interned for two years, then became a part-time assistant there. I attended the Columbia Publishing Course, which is a summer intensive where you learn about all the ins and outs of the publishing industry. When I returned from that, I officially joined the Martin Literary team as an associate literary agent in 2016. I switched over to P.S. Literary in 2022. The best part of my job is the wonderful, creative people I get to work with—so many of my clients feel like kindred spirits to me. I’ll also always love getting to feel like a bookish fairy godmother—becoming an author is often a lifelong dream that people have had since they were kids, so the fact that I get to come alongside people and help make that dream come true is really special and exciting to me.
You definitely are a bookish fairy godmother–helping dreams come true. What do you love most about middle-grade novels?
I think the thing I love about middle grade most is how much room there is for whimsy. But it also takes me back to such a special and vivid time of reading for me growing up. I’ll never forget being captivated by A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and fretting about Count Olaf and the creepy eye tattoo on his ankle, or reading THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS and having to close the book and take a deep breath because I was so frightened. Or feeling like I was actually traveling through time with THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE chapter books, or actually running around Chicago with Esperanza in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. I remember desperately hoping with all my heart that Winnie Foster would drink the water in TUCK EVERLASTING. Those books are all so vivid to me in ways that books I’ve read as an adult or young adult just aren’t for some reason. Can we dial up a lovely neuroscientist to explain why that is? I’m sure they would know!
What are some of the top reasons you pass on submissions?
The top reason I pass on things is just because of the volume of submissions I receive. I usually receive somewhere between 4500-5500 submissions per year, and I only sign a couple of clients from that stack. The second most common reason I pass on things is based on the concept of the book, rather than the writing. I’ll read a query and if I don’t feel like it has a strong hook, then I pass at that point. I think when writers receive passes they think, “Oh no! They didn’t like my writing!” But for me it’s usually more about the idea. That’s why whenever I have appointments with writers at conferences, I always like to ask about what other projects they’re working on, so if I hear an idea that sounds particularly interesting, I can say, “Ooh! That’s a good one. Follow that rabbit.”
What do you wish people knew about the life of an agent?
I wish people knew how much we hate rejecting people! It’s truly the worst part of the job. Every time I pass on a project I think, “I hope I didn’t ruin this person’s day.” I know how emotional it is to put yourself out there. Querying takes guts.
We’d love to hear what your favorite middle-grade novels are…and why you love them so much.
I recently read THE ELEPHANT’S GIRL by Celesta Remington—actually, I don’t think I read it, I think I inhaled it. There’s so much heart in that story, and I loved the magical realism elements. I loved CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley—it’s magical, and I always love a dual timeline.
I love novels that reflect specific moments in history the way BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson explores the Great Migration or the way SHIP OF DOLLS by Shirley Parenteau highlights the 1926 exchange of Friendship Dolls. I also loved INDIAN NO MORE by Charlene Willing Mcmanis and Traci Sorrell.
Ooh, and I adore anything Brian Selznick creates—especially THE INVENTIONS OF HUGO CABRET and THE MARVELS.
What exciting projects have your clients published (or will publish soon)? What drew you to these manuscripts the most?
One of my favorite middle grade novels I’ve had the chance to represent is NO ORDINARY THING by G.Z. Schmidt which is a magical story about a snow globe that travels you through time when you shake it. The mysterious tone of those opening pages was such a love at first read moment for me, I’ll never forget it. G.Z. Schmidt also has THE DREAMWEAVERS which is a fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology and is very atmospheric—it’s about mooncakes whose secret ingredients are dreams. I’m excited for her next novel, THE CURIOUS VANISHING OF BEATRICE WILLOUGHBY, which publishes this fall. I also adore the first middle grade novels I ever sold—a whimsical fantasy trilogy by Jon Etter whose series title is “Those Dreadful Fairy Books” by Jon Etter. It’s a really funny series about a cranky fairy who very reluctantly goes on magical adventures. The books are narrated by Quentin Q. Quacksworth who is a Lemony Snicket-esque narrator of fairytales who actively judges the reader for bothering to read the dreadful books. That cheeky voice instantly drew me in. I loved working on HOUSE WITHOUT WALLS by Ching Yeung Russell which is a beautiful novel-in-verse about the Vietnam Boat People Exodus of 1979—the lyrical writing hooked me and all of the details make you feel like you’re a fly on the wall witnessing a harrowing refugee experience.
I’m also really excited for the middle grade graphic novel-in-verse THE OTHER SIDE OF TOMORROW, written by Tina Cho, which publishes next year with HarperAlley and is being beautifully illustrated by Deborah Lee. It’s about North Koreans leaving the country through a network of safehouses referred to as the Asian Underground Railroad.
Thanks for sharing, Adria. Those sound amazing! I just added so many wonderful books to my must-read list and have a feeling our readers did, too.
What about chapter books? Have you represented anything in that area?
I have! I represented an 8-book chapter book series called HELPER HOUNDS by Caryn Rivadeneira. Each book in the series follows an emotional support dog and shows how they help kids navigate different emotional challenges.
That sounds incredible! I love animals and can’t wait to read the HELPER HOUNDS series.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Can I do a quick plug for some events I’ll be at this year? I’m teaching a workshop in Tuscany, Italy this summer called The Art of Picture Book Writing and it’s going to be a really fun week filled with writing, learning, and exploring Tuscany. I’m also going to be on faculty at a writers retreat in the Catskills this fall. Anyone who is interested in either event can visit my website adriagoetz.com for more details!
Thank you so much for joining us at the Mixed-Up Files, Adria! It’s been wonderful chatting with you. 😊
Adria generously donated a query critique!
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