Agent Savannah Brooks
Agent Savannah Brooks packs a wallop! Whether she is making a book deal or teaching a boxing class, Savannah is always making an impact. She joined the Jennifer De Chiara team in 2018 as an associate agent and has been working to develop a powerhouse list of middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction authors.
She revived her MFA from Hamline University and her area of concentration was creative nonfiction. That shows you how much she loves nonfiction!!! She also has a BS in marketing that comes in mighty handy when she is pitching her client's work.
Nonfiction Ninjas were excited to visit with the talented Ms. Brooks.
Why did you become a literary agent?
I got my undergraduate degree in marketing, but after spending about seven months in the corporate world, I knew it wasn't for me. I decided to get my MFA in creative writing, and while I was doing so, I began pursuing a career in publishing as well. Originally, I wanted to be an editor, so I focused on editorial internships and positions at publishing houses, but after a while it became obvious I'd have to leave my beloved Minneapolis and head to New York, which I didn't want to do. In the meantime, I had gotten an internship with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, and it showed me that being an agent is the best of both worlds: I get to edit manuscripts and I also get to work with and for incredible authors and editors. After interning for a year and a half, I was brought on board as an associate agent.
What excites you most about working in publishing?
When I was growing up in the 90s and 2000s, I didn't have any books that really focused on big topics like mental health, body positivity/autonomy, gender and sexuality, multiculturalism, identity, and non-nuclear family structure. I didn't have any books that gave me insight into how other kids lived—and it definitely showed when it came to my early understanding of the world. Working in publishing—especially in kid lit—is exciting because we get to give kids a more holistic understanding of the world around them, which will hopefully lead to them living more interconnected and empathetic lives.
What are you looking for in nonfiction projects?
I represent nonfiction picture book and middle grade projects, and for both, I'm really looking for the empowering, the bizarre, the unbelievable. I'm a big nerd all around, so anything that can teach me something that I'll immediately turn around and tell a friend—that's a manuscript I want to see. I love weird animals, uncommon sports, mythology and folklore, science, and incredible history and its players. I also love illustrated nonfiction, so if you think your project could be paired with beautiful, sweeping illustrations, send it my way.
Are there specific topics that interest you?
I think any topic could interest me if it's done right. As with my fiction, my nonfiction projects need to have a deeper theme running through them, whether it's opening a kid's eyes to a new culture or telling them they can go into a field where they don't often see people who look like themselves. Overall, though, the weirder and more intricate, the better.
What trends are you seeing in the industry?
The biggest trend is just that nonfiction kid lit is steadily on the rise for sales. Especially with COVID, there's been an uptick in parents buying educational books.
Who is your ideal client?
My ideal client is someone who's obsessed with their topic, loves to research, wants to inspire kids. and thinks about their career as a whole. The business side of my brain is always thinking about how to build a platform and how to use that platform to reach out to kids who want and need to hear what my authors have to say, so I want to partner with someone who's thinking about it as well. I'm also really interested in representing BIPOC writers. In pretty much all aspects of nonfiction and the fields they correlate to, we have a drought of BIPOC voices. I want the books I put out in the world to reach the kids who feel they aren't represented.
Are you more interested in PB, MG, YA, or all three?
I currently represent PB and both upper and lower MG. I'm open to seeing YA projects, I just haven't found one that speaks to me.
What do you want to see in a nonfiction proposal?
Along with all the normal information, I want a clear understanding of why the author is the person to write this manuscript, how this manuscript fits in with a projected career (a writing career but also whatever other career the author has that might inform their writing), and how the project might inspire kids. I'm also pretty particular about the writing level and style—I want it to be accessible but not speaking down, and humor is often your friend when it comes to my tastes. Anyone who can really capture the strange ways in which middle schoolers speak definitely has an in.
What are some of your favorite kidlit nonfiction books?
This question always stumps me, and I never have any good answers. I read way too much to have favorites.
And last but not least – are you a dog person or a cat person? And do you have a pet?
I have to say I'm both. I love dogs because they're so loving and happy, and I love cats because they're so grumpy and standoffish. I don't have either, though. I have two fancy rats, Hector and Boris, who are not really loving or happy or grumpy or standoffish; they spend most of their time eating, grooming, napping in their hammock, chittering in my ear, trying to sneak upstairs, and finding good hiding spots in the bookshelf, which is equally endearing.
9/1/2020 04:41:16 pm
Your energy and enthusiasm are contagious. It’s helpful to see what you want in a proposal. And thanks for expanding past the cat-dog question. I’d like to find more fellow bird people!
9/1/2020 05:09:52 pm
Savannah, I LOVE that you want to give kids a holistic view about the world around them! A number of your preferences resonated with me.
9/2/2020 04:46:18 am
HI Savannah and NF Ninjas, I have some PBs that fall into some of Savanah's categories. I'm excited also about projects need to have a deeper theme running through them, whether it's opening a kid's eyes to a new culture or telling them they can go into a field where they don't often see people who look like themselves.
9/2/2020 06:26:00 am
Great insights, thanks!
9/2/2020 07:37:01 am
Savannah would be a dream agent! I loved the interview. Thanks for putting this great information out there.
9/2/2020 08:11:49 am
I love that we're getting to know agents who specialize in nonfiction -- it's so nice for it not to be the poor stepchild anymore! And I also love that some of them do fiction as well. Savannah certainly sounds like a dream agent! Hi to the upper midwest!
Deborah Holt Williams
9/2/2020 12:34:37 pm
Thank you for being open to nonfiction picture books! And I love it that you have pet rats. Wishing you all the best in your agenting career.
9/2/2020 05:17:07 pm
Thanks for a fun interview. Rats in a hammock is a delightful image.
9/2/2020 06:33:32 pm
Thank you for highlighting these amazing NF agents!!
9/3/2020 08:15:07 pm
Thanks for a great interview! Savannah, I love that you're looking for PB's that give a child a full view of the world, of families, and of themselves. Looking forward to reading more about you! :)
9/5/2020 04:24:38 am
It’s nice to read about agents and Savannah sounds so passionate about the kidlit industry! Thanks for shining a light on her, NFNinjas!
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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.