Agent Spotlight: Mark Gottlieb

Today we welcome agent Mark Gottlieb from the Trident Media Group Literary Agency. Be sure to enter into the giveaway to win a GOLDEN TICKET to the head of his query line.

Tell us about your background and how you became an agent.

I grew up around books and authors all my life as both my parents work in book publishing. The literary agency where I work is owned and operated by my family, so it was always expected that I would one day work there. So unlike many others who might accidentally fall into book publishing, I actually sought out an undergraduate degree in book publishing from Emerson College in Boston. From there my company bio provides my professional journey to today.

What is on your wish list these days?

I am finding that I am very selective when it comes to young adult and middle grade books, but what appeals to me most is emotionally-driven narratives that carry an important social message for readers. Such books might fall into the John Green school of writing. I am also looking for science-fiction and fantasy in those age reading groups as well. 

In terms of working with picture books my preference tends to be that the illustrator also be the writer of the story and perhaps have some recognition to their name. I am very much so open to graphic novels as well.

What are some characteristics of a good client for you, and what are red flags?

A good client will have done their homework before approaching the Trident Media Group literary agency. I should hope that they would have really nailed their query letter and hook. Obviously it is important that the manuscript read well but it is also of help to me if the author comes with any award recognition to their name or status as a best-selling author. 

From there, the client would know to place their faith in the process in believing that although they might not hear from me all the time, it does not necessarily mean that I'm not pulling the strings behind the curtains. A good client would also know that they would be very central to the process of marketing and promoting the book around publication time.

I don't mind red flags in people so much, so long as they bolster that with a high level of work and a successful publication. Then I'm willing to put up with most anything. 

Are you an editorial agent? How would you characterize your working relationships with your clients?

Every client is different and every manuscript is unique in terms of what the need might be for editorial guidance. For instance, in working with some manuscripts I have written 10 or 12-page editorial letters, while in other cases I have nearly provided a few bulleted notes for the client to keep in the back of their mind while reading through the manuscript again. Some manuscripts do indeed come in and read very tightly and don't need much work at all. 

What are the one or two biggest mistakes you see in queries?

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in query letters is an author that writes to me about what sounds like an amazing manuscript, but when I requested the author tells me that the manuscript is either in idea state only or not fully-written. That doesn't help me at all as fiction can really only be evaluated on a full manuscript. 

The other common mistake I see is that authors tend to write excessively long query letters where they have a tendency to include the entire synopsis and sometimes even the first chapter or so of a manuscript. I can see how this sort of mistake might happen as authors by their nature are storytellers, but the query letter should be concise and fit on one page.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators seeking to be published? 

My advice to an aspiring author or illustrator would be to really spend time working on that query letter and honing in on the manuscript as much as possible, before approaching a literary agent. Also see what can be done in terms of collecting prepublication praise, awards or any other relevant writing experience and credentials. Attending a writers workshops and conferences is also very helpful to authors.

How should people submit to you?

For submissions, we prefer to be contacted at the Trident Media Group literary agency via our website, where you will find a submissions/contact us page:

Mark Gottlieb attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature & publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s VP. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was EA to Trident’s Chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on in Overall Deals and other categories. 


  1. Love that publishing runs in the family!

  2. I love learning how agents found their way to their side of the desk. Thank you for sharing
    -his- story with us.

    1. Thanks, I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the interview. Most folks do stumble into book publishing from the humanities as a sort of accidental profession.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, it is good to hear that you felt that there was some good advice in there. There's lots more good information on book publishing and literary agents on our website at

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this incredibly helpful information. Appreciate it!

  5. Thanks for sharing Mark's background and approach to agenting. I didn't know the he grew up in the world of publishing. That sounds great!

  6. Thank you for introducing us to Mark. :)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Thanks for sharing this helpful information!

  9. Thank you for the introduction to Mark and the opportunity to query him as an agent. Like the idea of a family owned business.

  10. Thank you so much for this great blog post!

  11. Thanks for this opportunity, and introduction about yourself and advice.

  12. Thank you for sharing your advice, it's really helpful!

  13. Mark,I love when an agent cares about managing and growing a client's career, and has the experience and agency resources to make magic. I hope to meet you in January when you visit San Diego. Thank you for these "sample pages" to get to know you a bit better.


Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise