Claire Draper is a new literary agent at The Bent Agency. After studying Queer Diversity in Children’s Literature at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study for her BA, Claire continued her pursuit of great books for young readers by interning at Rare Bird Lit and the Children’s Book Council, and eventually joined InkWell Management. In early 2019, she moved to the Bent Agency as an agent of graphic novels and a mix of fiction and nonfiction for children of all ages.
Draper is seeking young adult fiction and middle-grade fiction, graphic novels for all ages, body positive or feminist memoirs and collections of feminist essays. She is particularly interested in books with queer protagonists that are not necessarily issue-driven books.
How did you become a literary agent?
I’ve wanted to be a part of books for years, so my intention with going to college was to eventually be a part of publishing. I interned at InkWell Management while studying Diversity in Children’s Literature at NYU and ended up loving InkWell so much that when it was time to join publishing long term, I came back to the place that had taught me so much. I signed my first client a little over a year later from a #PitMad entry, and officially became an agent.
Are you open for submissions? If so help writers understand what kind of fiction and nonfiction projects you take queries for.
For YA and MG fiction, I love action and adventure and far-off places with challenges that make the protagonist grow as person for you to love and admire. I also love contemporary fiction for young readers where the main character has average, everyday challenges and the reader sees how they overcome them. I love a book with heart that causes an outpouring of emotions, especially when a book makes me feel so much I want to throw it across the room in protest (think Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe or We Are Okay). I am especially interested in neurodiverse protagonists. Don’t send books with suicide ideation, particularly when it’s a queer protagonist.
For graphic novels, I like a diverse cast of characters placed in nearly any genre or location, but would like to see something that hasn’t been done over and over again. I prefer art that is challenging the classic “comic book” style. I'm open to queries for all ages, fiction and nonfiction, for graphic novels. Don’t send books with gratuitous violence.
For body positive and/or feminist memoirs and collections of essays, I want this for audiences of all ages and from persons with multiple intersections of identity. I'm particularly interested in memoirs from disabled people, neurodiverse people and/or people with mental illness. I love books with humor or a narrator with a bone to pick.
Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not getting?
I always have more interest when it’s a good opening. Tell me you’ve done your research by opening with how you found me and why I stuck out to you as someone worth querying. And ultimately, I am looking for more queer stories and more mental health stories. Those to me are a big part of my life, and I really want to read more manuscripts with characters that have these as a part of their story.
What are you tired of seeing?
I am not quite a fan of stories where the diversity is all in the background or existing in secondary characters. Of course, it needs to be in those places, but I really want to see it in the main character and their story line.
What makes a manuscript stand out on a first read?
Tugging on my heart strings always stands out to me over anything else. If it’s not making me sob or want to throw the book, it’s not pulling at my emotions enough.
What do many emerging novelists often get wrong and how can they correct it?
Revising. As has been said before by many greater than myself, writing is mostly revising. You’re going to have to do a lot of revising in the editorial process both with your agent and your editor, so get comfortable doing it on your own first. The draft you send out to agents should be your best foot forward. Much like writing an essay for a teacher, reading, rereading and writing multiple drafts is incredibly important to creating your best work.
Do you have any tips for querying authors?
Do your research. There’s nothing more flattering than someone who took the time to find out that their writing and my taste really align. And proofread! If your query letter isn’t beautifully written, I can’t be sure that your manuscript will be either.
What things should writers avoid when sending you submissions?
In the same way you wouldn’t want a form rejection, don’t send a form query. Some of the details can be the same (bio, summary of the manuscript) but catering your letter to each agent will go a long way towards getting your query read. You’ve spent a lot of time on your manuscript; spend a lot of time on your query letter, as it is a representation of you and your work.
What genres or types of novels are selling the most?
Contemporary stories dealing with activism in some way and dark fantasy with strong female protagonists are doing really well in terms of what people are reading.
What markets do you believe are oversaturated or are not selling as well?
I think we’re stepping away from the dystopian stories, just because it’s already been done so well.
What misconceptions do you think people have about agents?
I think people tend not to realize how important an agent is to your writing career. Agents want you to succeed and are going to their best to get you there. Once the book is sold to an editor, there’s still tons of work to be done, even long after the book is published.
What questions should an author ask an agent when they call to offer representation?
How do they envision pitching your book? What imprints do they have in mind for submitting your book? What revisions do they want you to make to your book before it goes to editors? They should have a vision for your book and your career if they’re serious about taking you on as a client.
Do you have a dream client?
My dream client is one whose work accomplishes more than just creating entertainment for the reader, but also changes the world, if even just a little bit.
Is there something personal about you writers would be surprised to know?
I’m pretty much an open book, but most people are interested to hear that I love crafting in my free time. If there’s a how-to article on Pinterest, I’ve already read it and made it.
And finally, any last piece of advice for writers seeking an agent?
I can’t say this enough, but doing your research and proofreading are the big ones. But also try to get your work published in magazines or other small publications. Agents want to know that your work has been read and received well by other people. If another publication liked your work, it bodes well for trying to get an editor to love your work as much as they do. Try getting short stories published elsewhere in the process of trying to find an agent would be my last bit of advice.
How to Submit: email@example.com
If you'd like to query Claire, send an email with your query letter and sample. Include the title of your project in the subject line of your email. Then paste the first 10 pages of your book in the body of your email (not as an attachment, please). If you’re submitting a picture book, please include the complete text; for illustrations, please also include a link to your website if available, or two or three PDFs or JPEGs of your work. For graphic novels, please paste the first 10 pages of your script in the body of your email, as well as the first five pages of your dummy. The dummy doesn’t need to be entirely finished, but if it’s not, please include up to three samples of your finished work, or a link to your online portfolio.