James McGowan is the Literary Assistant and Social Media Manager at BookEnds Literary, and is open for submissions. He’s looking for adult, YA and picture books (see more details in the links below). James is also a picture book writer and understands the process from both a writer’s and agent’s perspective. He is a Friends aficionado–my name not his–and contributes to the BookEnds’ very fun and informative blog.
Thank you, James, for your time!
You started out as an intern at BookEnds Literary before becoming a Literary Assistant and Social Media Manager. What led you into publishing in the first place?
Just like anyone in publishing, a love for books. It took me a while to realize that there were people behind the books working to get them on the shelves (it just never clicked), but once I did, I dove right into the application process and eventually landed an internship at BookEnds.
You’ve done some informative interviews with Jessica Faust on BookEnds’ YouTube channel. Do you have a favorite?
Ha! I actually don’t have a favorite, though Jessica’s rants are always hilarious to me. I will say that they’re a blast to film. Jessica and I have a lot of hilarious false starts that we edit out, which usually end in someone hysterically laughing. And then things click, we put on our quasi-serious faces, and we film our video. We hope they’re both informative and fun, and if anyone reading this has suggestions on what we might talk about, please get in touch!
You have a pretty eclectic mix of what you are looking for: Adult, YA and then a big drop down in age to picture books. Why specifically picture books at the exclusion of most other kidlit?
This is a great question! I recognize that looking for only picture books at this time is a bit unorthodox for a kidlit agent, but as a picture book writer myself, they’re something I am drawn to. I don’t have that same connection to Middle Grade, and I don’t feel I’d be the best champion for those kinds of books.
For me, there is something about a hilarious picture book that can’t be topped. I fell in love with them sort of by accident, buying random books I’d see on the shelf, or pop up on my social media timelines and buying them for my nephews. Now, they’ve become a passion of mine!
For more specifics on what I’m looking for, please visit our submissions page: www.bookendsliterary.com/submissions, or follow me on Twitter for #MSWL updates: www.twitter.com/jamerrson
Will you be opening up to graphic novels anytime soon?
I don’t currently see myself opening to graphic novels anytime soon, but it’s not something I’d rule out at all.
You also mention that you are looking for YA from a boy’s perspective. Are you interested in picture books with a boy POV as well?
Absolutely! I’d be happy to see male POV across every genre I’m looking for, but most especially in picture books and YA. While I don’t think a male POV is missing from picture books, I think we as an industry can do a bit more to get young boys and young men interested in reading, and the younger the better! I don’t believe in “boy books” and “girl books,” but I know there are many people who do and that we can break that mindset. (I also think we have the ability to give young boys positive role models and examples of how men should act.)
With that said, I would be very happy to be considered for all picture books and YA, male and female POV.
You mentioned that you like humorous picture books such as Elise Parsley or Jason Carter Eaton and RL Stine’s Little Shop of Monsters. What about lyrical picture books? Nonfiction?
Yes, it’s quite easy to make me laugh… but absolutely. I’m happy to consider lyrical and non-fiction picture books, though I am far more selective in those respects.
Do you pay attention to word count when deciding on a picture book manuscript? Is there a type of picture book that just isn’t your thing? Are you okay with potty humor?
I do pay attention to word count, and I think all picture book agents do. Something too long (on the fiction side) is definitely a bit concerning. With that said, if I read a query or sample and really love it, there’s nothing stopping me from requesting more. I am always happy to work with an author to make the best book possible.
I’m not really one for potty humor, but like I said… it’s quite easy to make me laugh. I’m also not one for picture books written like scripts. If you’re unsure, though, send a query!
You’ve mentioned your love of the TV series Friends. If you could be best buds with any of the characters on that show, who would you choose and why?
Phoebe. Always Phoebe. She is hilarious and quirky and by far the best personality on the show. I will fight about this.
What’s your dream vacation? Name an ice cream flavor/dessert that you would like to create. What magical potion do you wish existed?
Dream vacation: Ireland.
Ice cream flavor: the best ice cream flavor has already been created and that is cookies n’ cream.
Magical Potion: not a potion, but teleportation? Can some smart scientist do this already? I hate commuting.
If you could be any literary character for a day, who would you want to be? Why?
Percy Jackson, cause that’s about the most fun I’ve ever had reading a series, so it’s got to be fun to live it. Besides all the monsters trying to kill you, of course.
I remember learning the “now you must wait one year for a sequel” rule very early on and hating it.
What is your communication style like? Are you hands on in the editorial process? Do you want to work with your clients in the idea stage or wait for the fully fleshed out manuscript before getting involved?
I’m communicative, transparent, and very hands-on. I think it’s important to be involved in the idea stage, so that my clients are always working on the best possible project and putting their best foot forward.
I tend to be involved in the idea stage, and then step back until I receive a final draft. Then I’ll give revision notes and go back and forth with the author as needed.
What attributes does your ideal client possess?
Honesty, Dedication, and Resilience. I think those are the three things everyone in publishing needs in order to make a career.
Any parting words of wisdom, or advice on what you want or don’t want to see in a query?
Do your research, and keep at it. There is a wealth of information, and most agents are vocal of what they’re looking for/want to see. For instance: this video:
Also, we’re always giving advice on our website: www.bookendsliterary.com or our Twitter page, www.twitter.com/bookendslit
For me, in a query, I’m not that picky. Make sure there is a solid blurb about the book, and give me a little about you. I’m happy to read them!
How can interested parties submit their work to you?
Please submit all queries to: https://querymanager.com/query/jmcgowan
Thanks for having me, Johnell!
6 thoughts on “Interview with Agent James McGowan”
This interview was fun to read! Thank you!
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Heads up, everyone, one of my Prose Shop CPs also interviewed James. You can find his interview here: http://justincolonbooks.com/interview-with-james-mcgowan-of-bookends-literary-agency/
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What a wonderful interview!
James’ personality really shows in his responses. Thank you both, Johnell and James – I’m excited to do more research into submitting to James!
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Yay, Susie! Go for it. Thank you for commenting.