Writer’s 101: Literary Agent Sarah Younger Shares Her Tips For New Authors


For all of our newbie author friends out there, we decided to get inside the mind of a literary agent. This week we interview Sarah Younger from NYLA.

If there’s a candid question you’d like answered, let us know on Twitter (@onfrolic) by tweeting us with the hashtag #WritersRoundtable

Frolic: Introduce yourself to our readers

Hi I’m Sarah E. Younger, Senior Agent, at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. As a literary agent I work with all varieties of romance and adult commercial fiction, including some non-fiction. I’ve been with NYLA since the fall of 2011, in fact my anniversary is coming up in the next few weeks! I recently started a podcast called So You Wanna Write A Romance that I’ll be doing more episodes on this fall. 

Frolic: What is the most offbeat/surprising thing someone done to capture your attention that has worked/not worked?

I think the most off beat thing that an author has done to get my attention would be joining me in line at a midnight release for Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. I was live Tweeting my wait and it just so happened that this author lived really close to the bookstore I was in line at. (Spoiler Alert: it was Alexis Daria.) 

[What hasn’t worked is] mentioning really random, but really specific facts or things that I mention on social media that makes it seem relatable, but really just makes me think that you’ve done a deep dive on my twitter page. (I mean cool that you follow, but no need to include the random reference to my summer vacation and hiking ..) 

Frolic: How many romance queries every week? Do you get back to each one? 

Last week I received about 30 romance queries, I currently have 320 undecided queries. I do get back to each one, however it takes some time…I try to be in touch within 3 months, but sometimes it can take longer. The percentage is really small, currently on Query Manager it says my stats for the past year show that I’ve requested 14 manuscripts and of those, I think that I’ve signed 3 authors. 

Frolic: (Assuming you have input everything correctly) Your script will definitely end up in the trash if  you make this unforgivable error?

No matter the inputting, if you send me something I don’t work on, like a picture book, it’s going in the garbage. Other things that might be genre specific is really hard, like I used to think that infidelity was a deal breaker in romance for me, but recently someone alerted me to the fact that one of my all time heroes kind of steps out on his heroine (not in an intentionally sexual way) but he does kinda cheat. *spoiler alert* He didn’t actually have sex with the other person, but their is some stepping out if one wants to be really strict in their interpretation. I didn’t see it as cheating, however some do/did, so now I can say that it’s not a deal breaker for me…It’d be seriously hard to pull off, but it can be done! 

Frolic: Can you describe one (irl) great synopsis and one terrible synopsis

A bad synopsis is 20 page and goes page by page telling me what happens in the book. Where as a good synopsis is 1-2 pages and showcases the main action, turning points, conflict, along with both the emotional and romantic arcs. All while being well written and engaging. 

Frolic: What is a theme that makes you roll your eyes or feels fully played out?

I’ve never really been into step-brothers, but I feel like I still see a fair number of them when I go trolling online for something quick and fun to read between client projects. 

Frolic: What’s too raunchy for you (if anything) and do you pass it on to someone else?

I believe I represent the raunchiest material at our agency and I love it all! I think for me I’d probably pass on something that included a lot of degrading dirty talk. I can handle filthy language and some of it can be really hot, however when a character is really awful to their partner and it’s not something that turns their partner on it bothers me. Also when one partner doesn’t respect another partner’s boundaries it’s a huge turn off. 

Frolic: What’s can an aspiring author to do stand out?

I know it’s cliché but writing a really great book is always going to be number one. However, when I go check out their website and social media, seeing that they have a great aesthetic and knows their way around a smart phone makes me smile. I also think having a great community and support network can be really helpful in this business. I know it can be hard for authors, who are naturally introverted, to go out an make friends, but those friends can be really helpful when your book comes out. 


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