CritiqueMatch is a platform where writers and beta readers connect and exchange work for free! New: You can also buy a critique or beta-reading service from our top-rated users!

Apr 12, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Maggie Cooper

A warm welcome to Maggie Cooper, literary agent at Aevitas Creative Management! Based outside of Boston, Maggie has been with Aevitas since 2018. Prior to agenting, she worked at small and academic presses, as a writing teacher, and as a bookseller. 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.

CritiqueMatch: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued? 
Maggie: Before I was an agent, I was a high school and middle school English teacher—and while I loved working with kids, during my MFA I discovered that I also love working with adult writers. As it turns out, hustling my way into publishing in my late 20s turned out to be great practice for the hustle involved in being an agent, and my prior experiences, both in the classroom and my MFA program, have proved enormously formative to my work. During my pivot to publishing, I also had the chance to work as a bookseller—an experience that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in the business of books. 

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers? 
Maggie: One of the reasons that I became an agent is because I love working with writers to make their projects stronger, and that means I am very hands-on during the editorial process. Most of my clients do multiple rounds of revisions before we go on submission, and while that requires some elbow grease on both of our parts, I’ve never regretted the time and effort involved. It’s competitive out there, and the stronger the manuscript, the more likely we are to find a publishing home for the project. 

CM: Once you make an offer of representation, what happens next?
Maggie: Once a writer and I choose to work together, I’ll typically write an editorial letter, looking closely at the manuscript, pointing out strengths and offering the writer a whole series of questions to guide their revision. These letters are usually several pages long—and sometimes longer—so once the writer has a chance to read and think, we’ll set up a phone call to talk through their thoughts and possible changes to the manuscript. I’ve been telling writers that they should think of my notes not as a set of instructions, but as something more like a treasure map—I can point out landmarks and offer impressions, but 90% of the time, it’s through their digging that they are able to identify what the book really needs.  

It’s important to me, too, to have a conversation about expectations early in the relationship—what are the writer’s hopes for this project? How do they prefer to communicate? What do they and I envision in terms of timeline and editorial process? Often this happens even before we decide to work together, but if it doesn’t, these are things I want to know sooner rather than later.

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in romance in the last three years? 
Maggie: I am beyond delighted by the recent blossoming of queer romance in mainstream publishing spaces (thank you, Red, White, and Royal Blue!), and I’m looking forward to continuing to see more and more queer characters at the center of stories in which queerness is a source of joy—both in romance and in fiction more broadly.  

CM: What makes a good synopsis? 
Maggie: Writing an excellent synopsis is not easy! Your goals should be (1) to tell your reader what the book is about in just enough (but not too much) detail, (2) capture the tone of the project, and (3) make your reader want to read the book. All this means that you need to be clear, evocative, and inviting—it’s a tall order. One common difficulty I see writers encountering is getting bogged down with too much information: remember, we don’t need to be introduced to every character or know every twist and turn in the plot. However, on the flip side, your synopsis should not just cover the book’s set-up; as an agent, I need to know what the main conflict of the book is going to be, and while you certainly don’t need to tell me everything that’s going to happen, I personally don’t mind spoilers if they are going to help me to get a sense of the manuscript. 

In addition to all the great resources specific to writing queries, you might look to book reviews as a guide in thinking about synopsis-writing; the good people at outlets like Kirkus and PW pack a huge amount into just one or two paragraphs, and we all can learn from them.

CM: Can you name any virtual events you will attend or that you recommend for writers in the querying trenches? 
Maggie: I have been working with the amazing Boston-based nonprofit GrubStreet since 2014—first, attending workshops there before pursuing my MFA, and then teaching classes. I’m looking forward to their annual Muse & the Marketplace event, which has gone virtual for 2021, and offers writers a great opportunity to hone their craft, learn more about publishing, and connect with agents and editors. Grub also runs regular classes about querying—and offers some great scholarships for writers whose resources may be limited.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Maggie: How about a few? I devoured Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld’s brilliant alternate biography of how Hillary’s life might have gone had she not married Bill—which has so many smart things to say about ambition, feminism, politics, and the ways we do and don’t live up to our ideals. And while it may not be explicitly about a person we already know, Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age renders an equally expert portrait of characters that I recognized in all their hopes and flaws and missteps. In terms of style, both Sittenfeld’s and Reid’s writing reminds me of why I love novels—both books are great fun to read, even while they’re asking us to look at truths that might make us uncomfortable.  

More books! If you love Carmen Maria Machado’s writing the way I do, you have to read Lindsay Drager’s heartbreaking, playful, gorgeous, evocative work, most recently The Archive of Alternate Endings. On the romcom side, I can’t wait for Meryl Wilsner’s follow-up to Something to Talk About, which was a glorious queer coworkers-to-lovers slow burn. 

Finally, I’m a nerd for craft books—recently, Jane Alison’s Meander, Spiral, Explode challenged me to think about plot in new ways that I think would be particularly useful for literary writers, and Matthew Salesses’ Craft in the Real World is at the top of my TBR list! 

CM: Share a fun fact about yourself.
Maggie: I am a very enthusiastic home cook and baker, so if you follow me on Twitter, you can expect recipe recommendations and lots of food content alongside the books. This also means that if you’re going to describe cooking and eating in your novel, you have to get it right—I once convinced one of my writers to rewrite a scene because I was so distracted by my worry that the characters’ pancakes were going to get cold that I couldn’t focus on the conversation they were having! 


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • I represent primarily adult fiction, and occasionally memoirs, personal and critical essays, and nonfiction about art, culture, and queer topics.
  • In fiction, I’m looking for: 
    • Capacious, genre-bending literary fiction 
    • Historical novels with vibrant, memorable characters whose concerns feel relevant to our current moment 
    • Beautifully told queer stories 
    • Smart, feminist romance with a distinctive voice and sense of humor
    • Novels about food, books, historic houses, boarding schools, and museums 
    • Imaginative retellings, epistolary novels, and well-earned happy endings
  • Across genres, I’m always looking for work by writers who’ve historically been excluded from publishing, stories of joy, and writing that moves us toward a kinder and more just future. 
What you’re not interested in:
  • Although I am often drawn to fiction that incorporates speculative or genre elements, I almost never represent true science fiction and fantasy—I love it, but it’s just not my agenting lane. 
  • I tend to shy away from stories of addiction and abuse—both important topics, but not ones that I feel well qualified to work with myself.  
  • I don’t work on thrillers or crime novels—and while there are exceptions, typically if a novel involves a lot of gunshots or dead bodies, it’s not for me. 

2 Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)
  • Andrew J. Graff’s Raft of Stars, March 2021, Ecco
  • Jessica Martin’s For the Love of the Bard, Summer 2022, Berkley 


Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

  • Do identify a few books that you see your book sitting alongside on reader’s bookshelves. While there are plenty of problems with the way publishing relies on so-called comp titles, if you tell me that there has never before been a book like yours published, then I suspect you haven’t been reading enough. 
  • Don’t forget that you’re introducing yourself as well as your novel—I’m looking for great writing, but I’m also looking for writers I want to work with over the course of many years. Let your query show me that you’re a lovely, hardworking, and competent person who I’ll be excited to get to know!


Submission Guidelines:
Query Maggie by clicking the “Contact Maggie” button found under her profile: