A Cafe Chat with Agent Zoe Sandler, by Laura Parnum


Have you signed up for YA/MG Day in Lancaster, PA, on November 3? Did you know you can also sign up for a ten-page critique from one of the faculty members? Critique submissions are due this Friday, October 5. Sign up here if you haven’t done so already.

Zoe-Sandler-Headshot-wpcf_240x319I recently invited Zoe Sandler, another of the YA/MG Day faculty members, to stop by for a chat at the Eastern Penn Points Café. Zoe is a literary agent at ICM Partners. Here’s what she had to say.

Laura: Hi, Zoe! I’m excited to welcome you to the Eastern Penn Points Café. What would you like while we settle in for our chat?

Zoe: Thanks, Laura, I’m excited to meet you and chat! A café au lait with whole milk would be lovely.

Laura: Coming right up! First, let’s talk books. Tell me about a recent middle grade or YA book that you fell in love with and why.

Bone GapZoe: This book isn’t super recent, but it bears mentioning because it utterly influenced my taste in kid lit and my desire to represent authors who write within those categories: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (represented by my esteemed colleague and dear mentor, Tina Dubois). The exquisite writing, the subtle use of magical realism, and its overall sophistication just blew me away and exposed me to a more literary side of kids publishing.

Laura: How about movies or TV? Have you binge-watched anything recently?

Zoe: Not kid-friendly, but I inhaled the BBC series Killing Eve. That combination of dark edginess and biting humor is my exact (adult) fiction taste, and I also love how female-dominated that show’s cast and creators are. Switching tones entirely, I’m also a huge fan of The Bold Type—the premise is nothing new (three girls work at a women’s magazine in NYC and navigate life in their twenties), but the amazing chemistry between the protagonists and the depiction of female friendship and workplace relationships are the major draw for me and, in my opinion, unparalleled amongst similar shows that came before it.

Laura: I definitely see a trend: Strong female protagonists all the way! What brought you to ICM Partners, and what has it been like working for them?

ICMPartnersLogoZoe: I started working at ICM almost seven years ago as an assistant in the royalties department, which was a great introduction to the agency side of the publishing business. So much of what I learned that first year—more numbers than reading!—I still use when representing my own clients. After that, I worked for an agent for nearly five years, during which time I learned from the best and started developing my own client list, and in the time since then I have been actively growing my roster of authors. I’m one of about a half dozen agents who were homegrown here as assistants first, so something I’ve come to love about ICM is the blend of being at a big, established, well-reputed agency, but in the books department especially there’s such a collegial, family feel, which makes for a wonderful work environment in which to grow my career.

Laura: When you’re reading through your query inbox, what gets your attention and what kinds of things are a major turnoff?

Zoe: The more pointed the query, the better—mentioning one of my authors or an #MSWL post will definitely get my attention. One major turnoff is referring to me as Ms. Sanders or some other typo associated with my name—this may seem like a small gripe, but attention to detail can be quite revealing about the care an author takes with his or her work.

Laura: All right, that’s S-A-N-D-L-E-R, everybody! Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be sharing with us at our upcoming YA/MG Day in Lancaster?

Zoe: I’ll say that my session will focus on where business meets craft—the art of querying, pitching, submitting, and selling.

Laura: I can’t wait! Thank you so much for chatting with me, Zoe. We’re looking forward to seeing you in November.

Zoe Sandler, Agent, ICM PartnersZoe joined ICM Partners in October 2011, and is actively building her own list of author clients with a mix of fiction and nonfiction books for kids and adults. For middle grade fiction, she is drawn to quirky humor and voice-driven contemporary novels. For YA, she is seeking subtly executed speculative fiction or novels with hints of magical realism, especially those helmed by no-nonsense female protagonists. She accepts queries and can be reached at zsandler@icmpartners.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @zosandler


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