2023 Agents Symposium

What you need to know

Are you curious how to get your book published? Or how to find a literary agent? Have you struggled with how to query agents?

The 2023 Agents Symposium is a curated year-long experience that will bring writers into a virtual space to connect with and learn from ten literary agents who are at the top of their game.

The ten participating literary agents represent a wide array of genres and categories. They have a cumulative 100+ years of experience in the publishing industry and they work at established literary agencies and with an impressive roster of clients.

The breadth of topics to be covered will give writers an inside look at publishing today, from what agents do, to what literary agents are looking for, to how they approach each project and each book deal, to how they help their clients build lasting careers, and everything in-between.

This year of virtual programming offers writers a deep dive into traditional publishing and an up close look at and access to the gatekeepers who are often essential partners on a writer’s journey.

Each of the ten Agents Symposium monthly programs will take place on a Saturday morning on Zoom (10:00 AM to 11:30 AM CT) and will include a 30-minute presentation by one of our ten featured agents, a moderated conversation with a WLT staff member, and a Q&A with attendees. Specific dates and topics are detailed below. 


“Before the Agent Search” with Maggie Cooper of Aevitas Creative Management

Saturday, February 25 from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM CST

In this presentation, we’ll discuss what writers can do to set themselves up for a successful agent search. We’ll consider when to start querying, how to build your list of prospective agents, and what kind of materials you should plan to share. Throughout, we’ll share strategies for preparing to navigate the logistical, creative, and emotional aspects of the process, so that you can begin your agent search feeling grounded and informed.


“The Ins and Outs of Approaching Agents” with Eric Smith of P.S. Literary

Saturday, March 25 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM CT

In this presentation, we’ll spend some time demystifying the querying process. We’ll unpack how to approach literary agents, including what you should do when querying, what you absolutely shouldn’t, and why putting yourself and your work out there doesn’t need to be as stressful or intimidating as you think. Because, at the end of the day, the agents you’ll be querying are in it to make books happen, they want to discover new writers, so we’ll also spend a bit of time talking about that.


“How to Set Yourself Apart in the Agent Search” with Carrie Howland of Howland Literary

Saturday, April 29 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM CT

In this presentation, we’ll discuss tips for setting yourself apart when querying literary agents. Every agent receives countless queries daily. What are the things an agent looks for, that catches their eye or makes them say “yes, I want to read something?” From crafting a compeling hook to building an impressive bio, you’ll learn in this session what you can be doing today to distinguish yourself tomorrow.


“Between Signing & Submission: The Agent/Author Relationship” with Seth Fishman of The Gernert Company

Saturday, May 20 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM CT

In this presentation, we’ll dive into what happens after you’ve signed with a literary agent. We’ll cover everything from what to expect after you’ve both said “yes!” to working together to what you can look forward to as you ready your work with an eye towards submitting to publishers, including the revision process and more.


“Comparison Titles: The Company You Will Keep” with Cherise Fisher of Wendy Sherman Associates

Saturday, June 24 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM CT

In this presentation, we’ll discuss why it is vitally important for authors of both fiction and nonfiction to have a keen sense of how their book fits alongside other titles. We will review why you must never ever tell a publisher “No book like mine has ever been written!;” how to distinguish between comparative and competitive titles, and how to use comparison titles to position your book for success.


“Understanding Publishing Contracts” with Lauren E. Abramo of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret

Saturday, July 15 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM CT

In this presentation we’ll review the most important document in the publishing journey (besides the book itself!): the author contract. From financial terms to legal obligations to the editorial process to the distribution of rights, it’s both a roadmap to the publishing experience and an outline of worst-case scenarios. While contracts vary from publisher to publisher and deal to deal, this presentation will walk you through the basics so you know what to expect when you sign on that dotted line.


“The Submission Process: Finding a Publishing Partner” with Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services


In this presentation, we’ll spend time discussing what happens when your book is ready to go on submission to editors inside publishing houses. We’ll walk you through the range of what happens after you hand over your completed manuscript to your agent, including how your agent works to ensure your manuscript finds the perfect home and what you can expect during this process.


“From Acquisition to Publication” with Chad Luibl of Janklow & Nesbit


In this presentation, we’ll look at all aspects of the publishing journey beginning with acquisition all the way to publication day. We’ll walk you through what you can expect once your manuscript has been acquired by an editor at a publishing house, including everything from editing to self-promotion, and all the key decisions in between that (hooray! pop the champagne!) lead to a successful book launch. (What’s a “successful book launch?” Great question! We’ll talk about that, too.)


“Publication Day and Beyond” with Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group


In this presentation, we’ll dive into what happens after the big publication day. Your book is on the shelves, now what? We’ll talk about publicity & marketing, sales, and more. Plus, when is it time to start working on the next project (and talking about the next project with your agent and editor) and other ways to put your time and energy to best use once your book has officially launched.


“Building a Writing Career” with Julie Stevenson of Massie & McQuilkin


In this presentation, we’ll dive into what it means to build a sustainable and satisfying writing career. Of course, a successful career is not one-size fits all, it looks different for everyone. And building one that lasts takes time, dedication, fortitude, a clear understanding of the publishing world, and often some luck. This presentation will offer guidance and perspective on what it takes to go from publishing one book to building a career.

Note: Each webinar will be recorded and all registrants will be given access to the recording after the program. If you can’t make it for the live webinar, you won’t miss a thing!

Lauren E. Abramo joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2005 after getting degrees in English at 

NYU and Irish Studies at NUI Galway. As VP and Subsidiary Rights Director for the agency she maintains a small client list and sells foreign and audio rights. She’s eagerly looking for middle grade (contemporary, fantasy, and adventure), contemporary YA, and smart, accessible adult fiction in a variety of categories, including literary, romance, thrillers, and women’s fiction. She’s also interested in adult narrative nonfiction, especially pop culture, psychology, pop science, reportage, media, humor, and contemporary culture, primarily where those areas intersect with social justice. In all categories she’s especially interested in underrepresented voices. Born in New York City and raised not far outside it, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Memoir, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative), Suspense, Romance, Middle Grade, Young Adult

Maggie Cooper is an agent with Aevitas Creative Management, representing fiction and select nonfiction animated by imagination, empathy, and joy. She is actively seeking genre-bending literary fiction; beautifully told queer stories; and smart, feminist vacation reads. Her other passions include unclassifiable book projects, food and cookbooks, and well earned happy endings—particularly for characters underrepresented in mainstream publishing.

After working in the worlds of small presses, academic publishing, and literary journals, Maggie came to Aevitas in 2018. Based in Boston, she holds a degree in English from Yale University, attended the Clarion Writers Workshop, and earned her MFA in fiction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she served as an editor for The Greensboro Review.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Short fiction collections, Romance, Graphic Novels or Memoirs

Head of the Los Angeles office, Seth Fishman is a Vice President and agent at The Gernert Company, which he joined in 2010 after beginning his career as an agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. Born in Midland, Texas, he graduated from Princeton University and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. His interests are wide-ranging, but in particular he’s looking for the new voice, the original idea, the entirely breathtaking creative angle in both fiction and nonfiction. He represents adult and kids books, as well as illustrated. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children, and is the author of the award-winning picture book, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, along with Bad Drawer and several other picture books.

Actively seeking: Literary Fiction, Thriller/Action Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Graphic novels or memoirs, Picture Book

Cherise Fisher began her career in publishing more than 25 years ago. Over the course of her career as an acquiring editor at Simon & Schuster and Editor in Chief of Plume (an imprint of Penguin Random House), she has edited and published several national bestselling and award winning authors. As an agent, she is interested in working with novelists who have multiple compulsively readable yarns in their head (both historical and contemporary), memoirists who showcase the diversity of human experience, and non-fiction writers who seek to provoke, inspire, and educate. Her intention is that all the books she helps bring into the world are relevant, enduring, and help readers maximize their life.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative, Practical, How-to, Cookery), Memoir, Historical Fiction

Mark Gottlieb is a highly ranked literary agent, both in overall deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his client list of authors. Mark Gottlieb is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at Trident Media Group. Through his work at Trident Media Group, Mark Gottlieb continues to represent numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as major award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold books to film and TV production companies. He previously ran the agency’s audiobook department, in addition to working in foreign rights. In his free time, Mark Gottlieb tutors free English language classes to adults from low-income immigrant families, via the Literacy Volunteers program at Family Centers, a nonprofit organization offering education, health and human services. He is also the Founder and President of the Stamford Literature, Arts & Culture Salon (SLACS). Mark Gottlieb is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres and looks forward to bringing new and established authors to the curious minds of their future readers.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative, Practical, How-to, Cookery), Mystery, Thriller/Action Adventure, Suspense, Science Fiction / Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Graphic novels or memoirs, Middle Grade, Young Adult

Carrie Howland founded Howland Literary, LLC in 2018, after thirteen years as an agent, most recently at Empire Literary. Carrie holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Albion College, where she was the Poetry Editor of The Albion Review. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and magazines. She attends several conferences, both nationally and internationally, throughout the year. In her spare time, Carrie volunteers as a foster for a local dog rescue and is an active member of the Junior League. Her passions include music, pop culture, and the Midwest. She has been featured in several publications discussing her work as an agent including Poets & Writers, SCWBI insight, Akashic Books, and Slice Magazine.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Short fiction collections, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative, Practical, How-to, Cookery), Essay collections, Mystery, Thriller/Action Adventure, Suspense, Romance

Chad Luibl (Janklow & Nesbit) received a BA in English at Lynchburg University before moving to Eastern Europe to teach English for several years. While in Krakow, Poland, he got his MA in European Studies at Jagiellonian University, with a focus in Comparative Literature. He went on to get his MFA in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was also the coordinator of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, an intern in the Literature Department at the National Endowment for the Arts, and an editor at Blackbird and Broad Street literary journals.

Chad comes from the workshop model of creative writing and has a hands-on editorial approach to agenting. He is interested in narrative nonfiction with a strong emotional pull from journalists and writers who challenge the status quo. For fiction, he is particularly drawn to novels that are more character or plot-driven, thrillers that are as inventive as they are suspenseful, speculative and historical fiction that offer a nuanced perspective on place, and graphic novels that push the boundaries of the genre.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Literary Fiction, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative), Memoir, Mystery, Thriller / Action Adventure, Suspense, Historical Fiction, Horror, Graphic novels or memoirs, Picture Book

Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from Elizabeth, New Jersey. As an agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on New York Times bestselling and award-winning books. His recent novels include the YALSA Best Books for Young Readers selection Don’t Read the Comments (Inkyard Press, 2020), You Can Go Your Own Way (Inkyard Press, 2021), and the anthology Battle of the Bands (Candlewick, 2021), co-edited with award-winning author Lauren Gibaldi. His latest book, Jagged Little Pill: The Novel, was written with Alanis Morissette, Academy award-winner Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard, and is an adaptation of the Grammy and Tony award winning musical.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative, Practical, How-to, Cookery), Essay collections, Memoir, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult

Julie Stevenson is a literary agent with Massie & McQuilkin in New York. She represents literary and upmarket fiction, suspense, memoir, graphic novels, narrative nonfiction, young adult fiction and children’s picture books. She is drawn to storytelling with unforgettable characters, an authorial command of voice, and a strong sense of narrative tension. She looks for work that both entertains and explores the depths of human experience, particularly the many facets of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, and regional backgrounds. She’s agented books that have won the Pulitzer Prize, the MWA Edgar Award, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Caldecott Honor. Before she became an agent, Julie worked in the editorial departments of Tin House and Publishers Weekly. She received her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

Actively seeking: General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, General Nonfiction (Creative and/or Narrative), Suspense, Historical Fiction, Graphic novels or memoirs, Young Adult

Saba Sulaiman is an agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, a boutique agency located in Milford, CT. She holds a BA in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she studied modern Persian literature. Being an immigrant who is constantly negotiating her own identity and sense of belonging in a place she now calls “home,” she is committed to championing books by writers from marginalized communities with compelling stories to tell; stories that demonstrate the true range of perspectives that exist in this world, and address urgent and often underexplored issues in both fiction and non-fiction with veracity and heart. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @agentsaba and learn more about her at sabasulaiman.com.

Actively seeking: Literary Fiction, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Picture Book

Check out the answers below to some Frequently Asked Questions and be sure to watch the Agents Symposium informational webinar here

Is the Agents Symposium replacing the Agents & Editors Conference? 

No, both events will happen biennially in alternating years, starting with the 2023 Agents Symposium followed by the 2024 Agents & Editors Conference and so on. 

Are there any in-person programs associated with the Agents Symposium? 

The Agents Symposium is a fully virtual program – all of the presentations, special events, meet-ups, and consultations will take place as live webinars on Zoom.

Does this mean there are no in-person events in 2023? 

We will have in-person events every month in 2023, both in the Austin area and across the state. In January 2023, we’ll be announcing a full schedule for the first half of the year. 

What if I can’t make it to one of the live webinars for the Agents Symposium? 

All of the monthly presentations and special events will be recorded and shared with registrants afterwards and each registrant will have the full year to view the recordings so you won’t miss a thing. 

When can I register for the individual monthly programs? 

As of right now, registration is only available for the full Agents Symposium package. In January, registration will open for the individual monthly programs. 

Will there be scholarships available for the Agents Symposium? 

The WLT is committed to making the 2023 Agents Symposium programming accessible to writers from all backgrounds. 20 seats in each of the 10 monthly programs have been set aside for scholarship recipients to attend free of charge. Please fill out this application no later than 3 days prior to the event you’re requesting free registration to. (Example: For the February 25 session, this form should be completed no later than February 22). We do not ask for any corroborating documents; we only ask that you help us understand your situation. 

What if I already have an agent – would this be valuable to me? 

Absolutely. The Agents Symposium will give you an up close and in depth look at publishing today, including tips on how to navigate your own agent/author relationship, the ways you can support your agent and ways you might want to ask for support, and is a great forum for finding answers to those questions you might not feel comfortable asking your agent directly.

Have a question about the Agents Symposium that’s not answered here? Send us an email at wlt@writersleague.org or call us at 512-499-8914.