Thursday, January 29, 2015

4 Agent Danielle Burby of HSG on Women with Swords and More

Danielle graduated from Hamilton College with honors and a double major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  Before finding her home at HSG, she interned at Writers House, Clarion Books, Faye Bender Literary Agency, Dunow Carlson and Lerner, John Wiley and Sons, and SquareOne Publishers (along with stints as a waitress and a farmers’ market vendor).

Her passion lies in YA, Women’s Fiction, and mysteries. She gravitates toward stories with a strong voice and particularly enjoys complex female characters, narratives that explore social issues, and coming-of-age stories. Genres that appeal to her include contemporary YA, medieval fantasy, historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and upmarket Women’s Fiction. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it.

Danielle was involved in way too many singing groups in college and is always up for karaoke. She also enjoys both tea and coffee, managing to defy the naysayers who claim they’re an either-or thing. She is, however, distinctly a chocolate person. You can follow her on twitter at @danielleburby.

1. What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?

Growing up, a favorite author of mine was Tamora Pierce and I would love love love to represent a similar author. The best Tamora Pierce series is, in my opinion, the Protector of the Small quartet. Kristin Cashore is another author I adore--Graceling is my favorite of her novels. Medieval-style fantasy with a female protagonist is definitely a weakness of mine--give her a sword and a heroic quest and I melt. Another novel that evokes real nostalgia for me is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Yes, there's a definite theme here. I'm also an enormous Jane Austen fan. I love her witty and cutting insights into human nature, as well as her brilliant characters. I'm also a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I will read anything and everything that she writes because her voice is just so incredibly magnetic and she infuses real depth into the most simple things. An adult author I cannot stop reading is Liane Moriarty because she is so clever, her characters are brilliant, and her writing makes me laugh. Recent favorites include The Cuckoos Calling, We Were Liars, The Husband's Secret, Lies We Tell Ourselves, Before I Fall,  Brown Girl Dreaming, Big Little Lies, All Our Yesterdays, and Fangirl. My favorite author of all time is Virginia Woolf. I'm definitely a girl's girl when it comes to my taste in literature.

2. What are some things you love to see in a query?

When I'm reading queries, I immediately sit up and take notice when the introduction shows that an author has done her or his research and is reaching out to me for a specific reason. I like to know why someone thinks we'd make a good fit. A snappy and compelling description of the book is also a must! When authors ask for advice on how to write that section of a query letter, I always recommend taking a look at the jacket copy of published novels and using that technique as a model. If that section of the query letter is done well, it can give me a sense of the author's voice, in addition to a feel for the plot, characters, and atmosphere. That said, I don't want to see a full synopsis! One or two paragraphs about the project should give me the information that I need.

3. Are you an editorial agent?

I am incredibly hands-on when it comes to editing my client's manuscripts to get them ready for submission. Editors expect increasingly high-quality and polished projects--especially from debut authors--so I believe it is an essential part of my job to help my clients edit manuscripts on the big picture level (plot, character development, pacing, etc.). I'll never send out a submission until the author and I both feel confident that the manuscript is as strong as we can make it. After the project sells, I keep an eye on the editorial process, but let the author and editor work things out unless I'm needed. Editing is actually one of my favorite parts of the job and is the best way for me to get a sense of my clients, both as artists and of their long-term career goals, which helps me to advise them. The editing process also helps me learn about what kind of communication each individual client needs from me.

4. What do you like to do for fun?

I like to spend time in nature--hiking is a lot of fun. I enjoy seeing theater and taking advantage of NYC specific things like Shake Shack and walking around Central Park. I'm always looking for new recipes to cook. I go to coffee shops with friends as often as I can. One of my favorite ways to relax is to spend hours teaching myself songs on my keyboard, but I have to be pretty sure that nobody will hear me! 


  1. This is a great interview! The advice about using jacket copy as a guide for query letter synopsis is really helpful.

    I had the pleasure of meeting with Danielle during a writer's conference at Rosemont College this past fall and it was nice to see her familiar face on your blog.

    I have been meaning to read Liane Moriarty for some time. Now I just have to decide which one!

    1. I'm also a huge fan of Kristin Cashore. Her stories and writing have been such an inspiration for my own novel. I've heard many great things about Tamora Pierce, but never read any of her novels. I'll have to check out the Protector of the Small quartet. I just read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. So good. Her writing is so real. I'd love to read Big Little Lies next.

      Really great advice about use a book jacket for the query. I did that recently and it really helped me get out of my own head and figure out what my story was really about.

  2. Wonderful interview with lots of good hints and advice!

  3. Thanks for this terrific, informative interview. Very helpful.


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