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Mar 8, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Amy Elizabeth Bishop

A warm welcome to literary agent Amy Elizabeth Bishop! Amy Elizabeth Bishop joined DG&B in 2015 after interning for them in 2014. Her list includes titles such as The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (a Reese's Book Club selection and NYT bestseller), The Silence of Bones by June Hur (a Junior Library Guild selection and Edgar Award nominee), and Living Brave by Shannon Dingle (forthcoming Summer 2021). Before diving into the world of publishing, she graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Creative Writing. Though she grew up upstate, she currently resides in Astoria, Queens. You can find her on Twitter at @amylizbishop.

CritiqueMatch: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time? 
Amy: Just a little under 50, at last count, but all in different stages—some are actively in development, some are on submission, some are under contract, and some are determining what they want to write next. In the early years, I think a lot of my list was figuring out what I could read a lot of, sell effectively, and enjoy working on. So I was trying a lot of different genres and age ranges, and pursuing things that I loved to read for pleasure. These days, I’ve made a sharper demarcation between what I love to read for pleasure and what I rep—for example, I love reading SFF, but my track record has not been amazing when it comes to selling it, which leads me to suspect that it’s maybe not the most viable genre for me. I also love a good Karin Slaughter novel for fun, but I absolutely cannot read dozens of crime fiction queries (the potential for offensive, violent material is…very high). I think my taste is much more defined now – I know what I’m looking for; I know what I’m good at selling; I have a better sense of what’s going to work or not. That being said, though, I always love being surprised by a manuscript. I just took on a hybrid work that admittedly might be a difficult sell—which I told the author—but the writing and message just blew me away. I couldn’t not sign the author up and try with it.

CM: Once you make an offer of representation, what happens next? 
Amy: So, I usually make the offer of rep over the phone, after the author and I have had a chance to chat about their book, my editorial vision for it, and where they see their career going, etc. After that, the author typically needs to go back to other agents who have the manuscript or proposal to inform them that they have an offer of rep. If the author comes back to me with good news that they want to sign with me, I send them a draft of our agency agreement to review and answer any questions they have. Once agency agreements are signed, I often have a recap phone call with a fiction author to talk about the macro changes I want to see, do any brainstorming needed, and set them off on the revising path. For nonfiction authors, I send along our nonfiction proposal guidelines and a sample proposal so they can retool their proposal.

CM: Can you share some of your query statistics? 
Amy: In the month of January, I #received 293 queries, asked for #8 fulls and #5 partials. I’m confessedly still working on sending rejections.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers? 
Amy: As any of my authors can probably tell you, I’m pretty hands-on! If I take a project on, it’s often because I do have a strong vision for the work. It’s not uncommon for me to do three or four passes with a project before sending it out on submission. That being said, I want to note that I really am looking for projects as polished and close to done as possible. My notes are ideally more in the vein of, “You could flesh X out more” or “Can we tease out this character motivation a little more,” versus “The pacing in the middle is dragging” or “You need to cut a POV.” I tell authors that when they’ve taken the manuscript as far as they can themselves and/or with critique partners or beta readers, then that’s likely a good time to submit. But chances are good that submitting a first draft is going to make for a tough querying road.

CM: Can you name any virtual events you will attend or that you recommend for writers in the querying trenches? 
Amy: If you are a marginalized creator, I cannot talk #DVpit (and recently #DVCon) up enough—it’s headed up by the incredible powerhouse Beth Phelan. I do #DVpit every year and was part of the first #DVCon this year, which was an amazing experience. Pitch Wars is another big pitching event that still attracts a lot of attention in the industry and involves mentorship and revision before agents even see the work. I also always love the Muse & Marketplace conference put on by Boston’s GrubStreet every year, usually in April/May and I’ll be there again this year.  

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently? 
Amy: Memoir is a big one here—unless you come with a big platform (social media numbers, writing credentials, bylines, etc.), terrific writing, or an extremely fresh story, it’s an area that’s very difficult to sell into these days. (And sometimes, even with all those factors, it might not work.) There’s also been some discussion for a couple of years now that the YA fantasy space has been getting crowded. That all being said—a brilliantly written and told story in a genre that’s “saturated” is still likely to find a home.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Amy: I read Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House recently and was just…totally blown away. It’s the kind of book that I’m left wondering how it worked, but completely convinced that it did. Machado just demonstrates this incredible control over the structure of the book that keeps it moving along and cohesive, even as she plays with form and structure. And she’s just an absolutely brilliant writer.

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Amy: That all we do is read all day! My regular work hours are usually spent on e-mail, doing more administrative work (answering e-mails from clients or editors; vetting contracts; putting together submission lists; sending submissions; talking with editors or authors, etc.,) and very rarely do I get to sit down with edits or reading until after I’ve closed my laptop for the day. I would say the majority of us do the bulk of our reading and editing after we’ve shut e-mail down for the night and on the weekends.

CM: What are some opportunities that were created for authors/agents/publishers from technological advancements/disruption? 
Amy: One of the big ones for authors I think, has been increased access. Conferences can often be really expensive with the cost of travel, hotel, and food added onto the conference fees, and I would guess that the remote conference format has opened up this possibility to more authors who might not have been able to travel to the conference for a variety of logistical reasons. I know personally I’ve loved being able to go to my author’s book launch events—usually, unless the client is NY based, I’m not able to go to their launch event, so it’s been fabulous to take part virtually.


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Upmarket/literary fiction, literary suspense, book club fiction, and generally, fiction across the board from BIPOC authors. 
  • In nonfiction, she’s interested in history (with a special place for untold or overlooked stories about women or people of color), science, current affairs, cultural criticism, investigative deep dives, and prescriptive work for a millennial audience.
What you’re not interested in:
    • I am not the best fit for political/legal thrillers, crime fiction, memoir, SFF, or picture books.

    2 Client Examples
    (This list includes affiliate links)
    Park Row Books - 2020
    Feiwel & Friends - 2020

    Query Tips

    Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

    • Proofread, proofread, proofread before you hit “send.” 
    • Do your research before submitting to agents. Act as professional as you would for a job interview when querying—would you tell HR that you’re submitting a job application because they looked “cute online”?  
    • Reach out to your writing community for support, encouragement, feedback, and joy. It can be a tough process. Carve out the joy for yourself.
    • Don’t get artsy with fonts or colors; 12-pt, black TNR, Arial, Calibri, or some other serif font, please. 
    • Don’t be disparaging or negative about your query or my chances of looking at your query in your query letter. 
    • Don’t call the agency for querying tips or to ask if you can pitch. There’s a wealth of resources online and most agencies have submission guidelines on their website.
    • Don’t argue with an agent or insult them if they turn you down. It’s not going to change their mind. 

    Submission Guidelines:
    For fiction, authors can e-mail me a query and the first 25 pages of their manuscript at Everything should be in the body of the e-mail. For nonfiction, authors should send a query in the body of the e-mail and their proposal as a Microsoft Word attachment. More information can be found here: