An Agent’s Profile: Meet Alli
An Agent’s Profile: Meet Alli
Portrait by Ed Brydon
What is unique to me is my working style and the way in which my former education and my professional experience has formed me as an agent.
I have over 10 years of editorial experience crafting picture books, and really studying that seamless blend of art and text. I earned my MFA in Poetry in 2005 from Sarah Lawrence College, after studying formal and free verse poetry nonstop for two years. I bring this expertise in the economy of language, the smoothness of verse, and the lyric of metaphor and imagism that is so essential to children’s literature. So I’m also a writer, and with that I understand the delicacy and hard work an artist brings to their craft.
As an agent, I come to the table with a deep background on what will sell in the marketplace. I have years of experience as an editor who was very focused on making sure my books were published into a marketplace that had a good spot on the shelf for them. Sterling Publishing, where I was an editor for many years, is a publisher owned by Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the US. As an editor there, I got an amazing education on making sure a book was editorially viable as well as viable in the marketplace. This deep sales-based knowledge has helped me in becoming the agent I am today.
I’m a nurturer and facilitator. I crave symbiosis and equality and harmony, and I bring that to my professional life. I know that every problem has a solution, and I always aim to resolve any issues swiftly and with great care and thought. If you are my artist or author, you are in good, capable, caring hands—and we will likely also wind up as friends!
What matters to me is making the perfect match—one that is somewhat perfect and transcendent—between artist and publisher. One that cannot exist anywhere else. One that will lead to the realization of the best children’s book at that place and time for both parties.
There is a lot that leads up to that moment: for one, it’s the years of development work the artist goes through to evolve their skill and style and voice. If it’s an author-illustrated project, it’s many days, weeks, or months crafting that story and artwork into a dummy that gives the concept the best fighting chance of finding a good publishing home.
And on the other side, it’s the years spent building relationships with editors, designers, art directors, and publishers—learning what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, what makes them feel, what speaks to their aesthetic—to lead them to the right project for their list. Many hours of meetings, and socializing, and trade shows, and parties that seem (and are!) glamorous, but are also incredibly hard work.
All of these factors have the potential to lead to that beautiful and symbiotic happening between artist and publisher, and that’s why I became an agent: to help both parties realize the greatness they are meant to, and in the process facilitate a great book that will enrich the lives of young readers. It all comes down to the book!
I think I’m a great agent because I listen. Listening with purpose and intent helps me to understand exactly what a publisher might want and make good suggestions based on their needs. I also listen to what an artist is saying—as well as help work through any sticky areas, any troubling confidence issues, any scheduling flaws—and really hear what their vision is to help them carry that out.
I care about helping an artist make a living doing what they love. I care about helping a publisher make a great book; about the kids who will eventually read that book; about our amazing industry on the whole—an industry that works tirelessly and with great purpose to get life-changing, comforting, funny-bone-tickling, meaningful literature into the hands of young readers and their parents. We are an industry that has a lot of power to influence a generation in a positive way, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to be a part of that.
I’m attracted to artists who have a unique story to tell, but one that has a universal message that will light up a child’s life. The artists on my list are all special to me and special for the work they put out into the world. I’m excited to be working with those featured throughout this blog.
Proud moments include:
Some things I love, besides kid’s books are: lazy Sunday mornings; Piñon coffee from New Mexico; Murakami novels, Calvino novellas, Lorca poetry, and anything that is tinged with the sublime; Oxford commas and semicolons; a great font; music that’s lyrically and aurally layered; tasting menus; Mom’s meatballs and Dad’s waffles; impromptu plans; long-lasting friendships; long days on the beach in my hometown; downhill skiing really fast; uphill hiking really slowly; picnicking on a soft lawn; Game of Thrones; conversations about art with the hubby who’s a photographer; my own little focus group at home—Alex, age 4, and Rhys, age 1— and hanging out at the local playground with them; traveling; coming home after traveling…