Tuesday, June 13, 2017

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin

When Alyssa Eisner Henkin became an editorial assistant in 1999 she was just happy to have coworkers who loved Anne of Green Gables as much as she did. Little did she know, over the next decade children's publishing would become the fastest-growing genre in reading and entertainment.

Alyssa candidly admits that she did not foresee the magnitude of this when she became an agent. "I joined Trident because I wanted to be an entrepreneur, to have a more direct impact on authors' careers, and to use both my creative and business acumen". While at Trident, Alyssa has been able to take advantage of changing formats and venues for her clients. "Most companies consider the international market to be secondary," says Alyssa, "but at Trident, we view foreign as a 'must' market, and my clients are pleased to find their books selling around the world."
"Through all of the growth and change", Alyssa emphasizes, "there is no doubt that the key elements of storytelling have remained the same. The book that cannot be put down will continue to hold value, whether as a groundbreaking app, or as a beloved and tattered paperback that still reigns your bookshelf." Alyssa considers it a great privilege to represent books that readers cannot put down.

She is actively seeking new clients and represents all forms of literature for young people. Query letters should be submitted via email to ahenkin@tridentmediagroup.com. The first five pages of text for a longer work, or the full manuscript for a picture book text should be submitted below the query letter in the text body of the email, not as an attachment. Art samples or dummy texts should be inserted as links in the body of the query letter.

In middle grade and young adult fiction and memoir, Alyssa craves tight plotting, lyrical prose, rich regional flavors, and unexpected conclusions. She especially enjoys mysteries, period pieces, contemporary school-settings, issues of social justice, family sagas, eerie magical realism, and retellings of classics.

In nonfiction, history and STEM/STEAM themes are always intriguing. Alyssa would also love to find a series with the interactive spirit of a trivia game.

Above all, Alyssa digs deep when she sees potential, from editing, to title brainstorming, to securing the best publisher, to devising new marketing ideas and making ancillary sales across all forms of media. "There's no greater professional joy than championing a book that you believe in and watching the world delight in it."

And now Alyssa Eisner Henkin faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

The Group by Mary McCarthy
In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

Steel Magnolias
Little Miss Sunshine

Television shows:
The Wonder Years
Mad Men
Downton Abbey

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Someone who is diligent about revisions, who is innovative and dares to take chances in his or her work, who has the patience and confidence to stand by those daring choices, and who is most passionate about craft but willing to wear a savvy marketing hat or scarf from time to time.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I would love to see more fun nonfiction projects with series potential: I’m searching for The Magic School Bus for the smartphone-addicted kid generation. I’m looking for middle grade that has the plot nuance of The Mixed Up Files… with a diverse cast of characters and a setting  that oozes kid-appeal and lends itself  to innovative world-building .  Wolf Hollow is one I just fell in love with recently, so I’d love to see more period pieces with super high plot-stakes that feel truly relevant to today’s kids. Now that my sons are 7 and almost 3, I’m channeling them and actively seeking more illustrated work, things like The 13 Story Treehouse on down to smartly-packaged-picture books with interactive elements that prompt family bonding, like in Tickle Monster and The Elf on The Shelf.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

I love learning little-known facts from submission that pop up in my inbox.

I love the thrill in an editor’s voice when he or she is hooked on a project as much as the sheer delight in a client’s voice when he or she decides on the perfect editor and or scores a place on the bestseller list or wins an award!

My biggest frustration is the glut of books that are published to copy trends rather than buck them. It reminds me of the first-graders on the soccer field when a dozen kids swarm around one ball and nobody scores a goal. I much prefer to dribble my books up the sidelines!

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

It’s important to read a lot of frontlist titles so you understand the comp titles when editors describe what they are seeking to acquire. However, it’s also crucial to stay true to your own vision for your story and not try to fit a square peg into a round hole; it has to feel right.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

It would have to be at tea party with Maud Hart Lovelace, L.M. Montgomery, Beverly Cleary and Sydney Taylor, and maybe I’d throw in Jackie Kennedy. The first 4 ladies are kind of the reasons I sought a career in children’s publishing.  As for Jackie, I’m a huge Kennedy buff and she was an editor after all!



  1. Great interview. Loved learning more about Alyssa and what she's looking for in submissions.

  2. Super interview Robert! I always learn so much more from a good interview than a regular bio:)


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