Monday, January 19, 2009

Secret Agent Unveiled: SARAH DAVIES

A round of applause for our feisty and ever so helpful Sarah Davies of the the Greenhouse!

Sarah's Bio:

Sarah Davies runs the Greenhouse, a full-service literary agency exclusively for authors of fiction (though not picture books) for children and young adults. Greenhouse launched in January 2008 and has already developed and sold a number of debut authors. With offices in Virginia (just outside Washington DC) and London, the agency represents both American and British authors and sells direct to both markets. Foreign rights are handled by sister-company Rights People – a specialist children’s rights-selling business with a fast-growing reputation for selling literary properties around the world.

Sarah has more than 25 years’ experience of children’s publishing, moving to the USA from London in 2007. She started her career at Collins (before it was HarperCollins), followed by a spell at Transworld/Random House. In 1994 she joined Macmillan Children’s Books in London as Fiction Editor, rising through the editorial ranks to Publishing Director and member of the management board, where she was involved in all aspects of business strategy and development for an award-winning list which published 200+ titles per year, from novelty/preschool books to sophisticated teen fiction. She held this position until 2007 when she left to start Greenhouse.

Sarah has worked with and published many leading authors on both sides of the Atlantic. Americans include Judy Blume, Meg Cabot, Sharon Creech, Carl Hiaasen, Karen Cushman, David Baldacci, Sarah Mlynowski, and Gary Paulsen. Brits include Philip Pullman, Peter Dickinson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Eva Ibbotson, and Frances Hardinge. She also has considerable experience in contract negotiation, marketing and rights, as well as a strong understanding of digital developments. Excellent publishing contacts in both the USA and Britain - and homes in both countries - give her a uniquely transatlantic vision. She makes regular trips to New York and London, and in 2007 was a member of the judging panel for SCBWI UK’s first-ever writing competition, which resulted in the anthology ‘Undiscovered Voices’.

Married to an American, Sarah has twin sons who are more-or-less grown-up now, but who taught her much of what she knows about children and reading. She attends major international book fairs and trade events and loves meeting new authors and nurturing fresh talent. She says, ‘Everything I’d most like you to know about Greenhouse is embodied in its name. You’ll find my Ten Top Tips for writing children’s fiction, and lots more info, on the Greenhouse website.

What Sarah is currently looking for:

  • Smart, high-concept tween fiction with a strong voice and lots of commercial appeal.

  • Strong middle-grade fiction, with adventurous storylines – perhaps with supernatural/spooky plots, if really original. Boy protagonists, international settings, historical/magical threads are all interesting. Strong characters that leap off the page.
  • Teen novels that are arresting, dark, superbly well written and linger in the mind and heart.
  • Other fiction I would love to find: A great story set in the Middle East with authentic characters (a KITE RUNNER for young people). A big and important novel with themes that engage and challenge the intellect; this could be futuristic or perhaps have political or racial issues woven into the storyline. A ‘novel for our times’!
And there you have it -- another successful Secret Agent round under our proverbial belts! Many thanks, Sarah, for your time and effort.

Stay tuned! I know you're all dying to know who the winners are. They'll be announced shortly.


  1. You are enjoying being evil aren't you? I want to see if my picks win!


  2. WOW! What an impressive resume', and what a wonderful person you are, Miss Davies, for taking the time it involved from your busy scheule to read and comment on all of our entries here.

    Many, many thanks, and one day you will be hearing from me! Just have to finish the *#($_$# story!

  3. Thanks Authoress and Sarah. This was a great learning experience and I appreciate the time you both put in, and all the critters, too.

  4. I can't wait to see who won!

    I know I'm not on the list, but there are three I'm really rooting for!

    Good luck authors!

  5. Thank you Sarah and Authoress! I loved reading (and commenting) on the entries and comments.

  6. Excellent contest! Thank you Authoress and Ms. Davies -- it's been fun.

  7. Thanks Miss Davies for your time and knowledge! It was great to read all your comments.

  8. Thanks you so much to the both of you for sponsoring this. I learned quite a bit. Congrats to the winners!!

  9. Thanks, Authoress and Sarah. You both rock. Both of your comments on my post have helped me re write a much better version of my first chapter. Thanks for the great opportunity you gave us. It was a great buzz. Thank you everyone else that posted too.

    Congratulations to all the winners

  10. Dumb question, but what is a high concept novel? I've seen it mentioned on a number of agent websites, but I still haven't figured out what it is. Does anyone have any examples for me, especially YA?


  11. To Stina Lindenblatt

  12. Thanks Julie. That article was extremely helpful. Now I know not to bother with agents who request only high-concept YA...unless I can figure out if mine has a compelling high-concept hook. Any idea if you're supposed to mention the high concept hook in the query or if it's just implied from the minisynopsis?

  13. Yes, It's the most important part of the query.You usually start the summary or pitch paragraph with the hook. It allows the agent to start thinking of who would buy your novel. If you can't figure it out, neither can they. So they'll pass.

  14. Sorry, Julie, I wasn't very clear. I realize you start your query with a hook. Obviously. But what about the high concept hook like: Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves or What happens if Peter Pan grows up? (both taken from Knight Agency's article). To me, you'd want to word them better than that.

  15. Well, I put mine as a separate sentence above the paragraph. I sent it out to an agent and had a reply before I personalized the second query. I think you want it to stand out. It should be waving here! here! Pick ME! The next sentence and smooth it in.

  16. Oooh. No wonder you're an expert on the topic. Your novel is high-concept. I don't suppose you can give me a hint which entry was yours? What was your hook?

    I've had several hits from my query letter, but my hook is within the first paragraph and it isn't high concept. You can check it out next week on Sarah Jensen's blog since I included my query at the beginning. I had a specific question for everyone, and you need to see the query in order to answer it.

    Thanks for all your help. I'm off now to dwell on a possible high-concept hook...if there is indeed one.

  17. I was #40 Violent Purple
    My hook is--Mom's a Faerie, Dad's an Elf, and their six children never knew.

  18. Julie, I love your hook. Though I never would have linked it to your entry. At first I thought it was the pixie one that won the contest.

    Thanks again for your insights to my burning questions.

  19. Wonderful opportunity to connect up with Agents and get their expert thoughts

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