Monika is an agent with Levine Greenberg Rostan, which represents an impressive roster of fiction and non-fiction, with clients that include Gillian Flynn, Chuck Closterman, Alice LaPlante, Marc Maron, Nick Offerman, Allie Brosch and more. They have recently expanded into the world of YA and represent the 2012 National Book Award Finalist Carrie Arcos’s Out of Reach.
Levine Greenberg Rostan
Your agency uses a submission form. How do queries make their way to you? Is there a way for querying authors to make sure their query finds you?
We regularly check our submissions and circulate queries to agents, and if one of our agents is interested, they will get in touch with the author directly. Authors can definitely personalize queries within the form – there is a space to do so, and they can request their query to go to a specific agent if they wish. Though we do prefer submissions go to through our website form, authors can query me directly; I do get back to everyone who does, though it may take me some time just based on the volume of queries that come in.
Do you prefer personalized queries? If so, are there any personalizations that ping your pet peeves?
I do like to see personalized queries, but I don’t require them. If an author has done research and feels their project would be a fit for me for specific reasons, I’m certainly happy to consider those, and they can make a query stand out. I don’t have any pet peeves in terms of personalizations—I can hardly ping someone for doing background work!
What sort of YA are you looking for? What’s on your “must have” list that you haven’t been seeing?
I’m looking for a broad range of genres, but having a strong and compelling voice does trump genre in some cases. I’m particularly inclined towards contemporary YA with genre elements (light sci-fi, magical realism etc.,) mystery and suspense, historical fiction and YA retellings of classic stories. I would love to take on an elaborate, old-fashioned YA detective story, but haven’t found one yet. And anything from the above genres or otherwise that is set in Victoria era England gets bonus points.
What kinds of protagonists are you looking for? Any particular kinds of voices you’d like to see?
I’m looking for strong female protagonists in particular. In terms of voices, I respond to anything that grabs me from line one – characters who are instantly relatable (which doesn’t always mean instantly likeable) and have something different to say. I tend to relate to characters who are on the outside looking in, and who are struggling to figure out where and how they fit in to this very messy world.
What are your manuscript pet peeves?
Plot is important, but it’s very hard to get into a manuscript when it starts off with intricate plot elements and world-building and doesn’t spend as much time developing the characters. It’s much easier to get involved in a new world when you care about the people in it. Don’t worry too much about getting all the background information unloaded in the first few pages so your readers knows exactly what’s what – details can be filled in as the story progresses.
What is your agenting style/philosophy?
My philosophy is to be open, involved and collaborative every step of the way. I want to share what I’m doing with my author at all times and make sure we’re on the same page, and that we have the same goals for the project. I want to be available to my authors to discuss anything – whether it’s revisions to their manuscript, issues that come up with their publisher, or big picture questions about their writing career. I don’t disappear once a deal is done. I’m there throughout the whole book-writing journey to step in and advocate for my authors whenever I can.
What YA novel cliches do you love? Which ones do you hate?
I’m not often drawn to stories with love triangles. I prefer giving the main character other more unexpected conflicts in his or her life. Along the same lines, it’s hard for me to buy two teenagers falling madly in love right away and then completely forgetting about the rest of their separate lives, so “love at first sight” would also be on the list.
One cliché that I can’t help falling for– a girl and a guy being just friends, and then (after many trials and tribulations) realizing they’re actually supposed to be with each other. It’s not a new story, but what person doesn’t secretly love this idea?
Does a YA novel have to have romance to work?
Good question—I don’t think it has to, and I welcome submissions that aren’t romance-heavy. We need more of these in the world. If you look at books that don’t have any major romance plots, like Elizabeth Wein’s CODE NAME VERITY, the other themes like friendship are so strong that a romance would seem unnecessary. It’s certainly hard to get away from romance as it’s a key selling point for so many YA novels, but I would caution writers to include it only if they feel it will advance the plot and help define and give depth to their characters.
About Monika Verma
Monika joined LGR in 2006, and represents a wide range of nonfiction book projects. She specializes in humor, pop culture, memoir, narrative nonfiction and style and fashion titles. She loves to work with authors to develop their writing careers, whether that means helping them make the jump from blogger to published author, brainstorming the perfect funny gift book topic, or working with a debut author to showcase a strong narrative voice. Her clients include humorist and actor Nick Offerman; costume designer Janie Bryant (AMC’s “Mad Men”); style and celebrity bloggers Tom & Lorenzo; and writer, illustrator, and blogger Allie Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half.) Though her list is primarily nonfiction, she also enjoys working on Young Adult fiction, whether it’s paranormal, historical or contemporary.
Prior to joining the agency, Monika served as the administrative director for L.A. Youth Newspaper, a nonprofit teen-written publication distributed to schools throughout Los Angeles County. Monika attended Wellesley College, where she received a B.A. in English, and studied abroad at Oxford University; she spent an inordinate amount of time at both places reading Victorian novels, one of her favorite genres. Though she is now happily a New Yorker, Monika grew up in Los Angeles. When she isn’t reading submissions, she loves dipping into a good literary mystery (usually with a strong cup of tea by her side). Some of her favorite authors include Denise Mina, A.S. Byatt, Josephine Tey, Jasper Fforde and P.G. Wodehouse.
Find the LGR submission form here
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