Heather Cashman is a scientist, writer, avid reader, and author cheerleader. She cheers on her clients and their projects at Storm Literary Agency where she's an Associate Literary Agent and Agent Mentor.
Heather grew up with a with a book in one hand and a microscope in the other. She loves science and has a degree in biochemistry. Her fascination with science and the world around her is one of the reasons she enjoys working with nonfiction authors and their manuscripts. She also enjoys reading and writing syfy and likes to use her science knowledge to build unique and compelling worlds.
Before joining Storm Literary Agency, Heather interned for three years at The Bent Agency and Entangled Publishing. She’s helped authors from the pre-query stage to acquisitions, and she’s also worked as a freelance editor and consultant for traditional and non-traditional publishing.
The Nonfiction Ninjas were excited to have the chance to ask Heather a few questions.
Why did you become a literary agent?
I loved editing and seeing my client and mentee manuscripts getting picked up and sometimes even getting six-figure deals. It was thrilling! I also love pitching from my days with Pitch Wars. SO FUN! And working with authors and editors is extremely enjoyable and makes me happy. It's like not working when I'm at work.
What excites you most about working in publishing?
Getting back edits that surpass my wildest imagination. Which is pretty wild.
What are you looking for in nonfiction projects?
I really enjoy a variety of topics and formats. The more creative the better. I enjoy narrative or straight nonfiction. I especially like books that teach in a fun and new way, especially books that would do amazing things or become something other than a book. Like Odd Dot has a book about bees and beehives that becomes a beehive!
Are there specific topics that interest you?
My biochemistry background leans me more toward STEM projects, I'm also fascinated with people and places and times in history. I love to learn!
What trends are you seeing in the industry?
Biographies are a really hard sell right now. Things need to be more out of the box, and it helps if they have a crossover appeal into the commercial side as well as school and library.
Who is your ideal client?
Someone who is Hardworking, creative, fun, easy to communicate with, appreciates me, and understands the ins and outs of the industry.
Are you more interested in PB, MG, YA, or all three?
All three for sure. Today's kids are very self motivated and love to learn.
What do you want to see in a nonfiction proposal?
The standard proposal with a pitch, bio, outline, platform, and sample chapters as well as bibliography. If you have extra ideas for backmatter, games, activities, so much the better.
What are some of your favorite kidlit nonfiction books?
Flower Talk: How Plants use Color to Communicate by Sara Levine, Ill. Masah D'Yans
Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII by P. O'Connell Pearson
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by Willian Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
What advice can you give to people who want to break into the nonfiction market?
Do your research. I get proposals all the time for subjects and people that have already been done. It's okay to do something again, but it has to have a different twist or spin that makes it different information than what's already out there. And if you can research what's been sold on Publisher's Marketplace, that's important too. Imprints don't like to compete, so it's difficult to sell duplicates or overlaps.
And last but not least – are you a dog person or a cat person? And do you have a pet?
I'm a dog person with a cat. My sweet puppy who loved me as much as I loved her died a few years ago, and the kids went to college and left kitty behind. Yes, lots of sad sighs. But I still love her and care for her as if she were a dog even though she's very indifferent--unless I'm serving her. But I still brush her every morning with a real hairbrush that she stole from my husband.
If you think your work might be a good fit for Heather, please follow her submission guidelines.
8/3/2020 07:12:51 pm
Great interview with Heather Cashman. I did not know she has a degree in biochemistry - that is super cool!
Donna B McKinney
8/3/2020 07:54:42 pm
What a great combo -- an agent who is also a scientist!
8/3/2020 08:44:11 pm
What do you think of a fiction story that has nonfiction backmatter to teach about that animal? (ocean life)
Carmela McCain Simmons
8/3/2020 10:27:37 pm
Thank you, Heather, for your words of encouragement. Science rocks!
8/3/2020 10:33:35 pm
Fascinating post about a really fascinating person! Thanks for sharing so much information and inspiration. 😊
8/4/2020 03:30:01 am
I love getting invite into what agents are thinking!
8/4/2020 05:42:13 am
Great interview. It’s fun getting to know you.
8/4/2020 06:41:10 am
I hope nonfiction bios pick up again. They’re my favorite and kids need those true stories too!
8/4/2020 07:09:52 am
great interview. Love the story about the kitty brush...
8/4/2020 07:37:24 am
I'm still holding out for my picture book biographies! Thanks for the great interview.
8/4/2020 07:42:26 am
Always great to read interviews in order to narrow down what the agent wants right now.
8/6/2020 06:29:22 pm
Thank you for your words of wisdom, Heather!
8/9/2020 06:47:28 am
Thanks for a great post and for sharing your NF interests!
8/9/2020 11:36:25 am
Love the interview, but my heart sinks hearing about PB biographies being tough to sell right now. :(
8/10/2020 10:38:50 pm
Thank you all so much! It is wonderful to learn about Heather and her background. I love her cat-brush tale! Our cat stole my daughter's doll brush and refuses to be brushed with anything else. Gotta love those cats.
8/25/2020 07:33:52 pm
Great to "meet" another kid lit person with a biochemistry degree!
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We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.