James McGowan Reads A Little of Everything

  • By: James McGowan | Date: Aug 04 2022

It’s time to get to know literary agent James McGowan, from agenting superpowers to favorite songs to something of a wishlist!


What is your agenting superpower?

This is probably going to sound ridiculous, but I’m a worrier. For the longest time, too, I was stressed about the fact that I am a worrier (it’s a vicious cycle). But I’ve come to accept that as something that makes me great at my job. I’ve worried-out plans for every eventuality—and in publishing, there are a lot of eventualities. I sometimes sweat the small stuff, because small stuff does matter to me. I’ve started to embrace my worrying as a sign that I’m becoming prepared, on my behalf, my colleagues’ behalf, and my clients behalf.


What do people often get wrong about you/what would they be surprised to know? 

This question took me unreasonably long to answer. The truth is, I don’t think there is anything anyone would be surprised to know, especially if they watch the YouTube channel or follow me on social media. What you see is what you get. Wait… so maybe people would be surprised to know that yes, I do actually find everything funny.


What are 5 songs on your playlist (that represent you, that you always recommend, that you listen to on repeat, etc.)?

I have a playlist on my Spotify called “Easy” which is named as such because I never have to skip a song. However, it’s the most confusing playlist to anyone not in my head, featuring everything from country to pop, from the 60’s through today. There are songs from Chris Stapleton and Jo Dee Messina, but also Jon Batiste, Surfaces, The Revivalists, H.E.R., Brooks & Dunn, Hall & Oates, Fleetwood Mac and yes, the Phineas and Ferb theme song, expertly crafted by Bowling for Soup. What of it?


What are 5 books on your reading list (that represent you, that you always recommend, that you would read over and over again, etc.) and why?

There’s a notes app in my phone that I reference my definitive opinions because I clam up every time I’m asked this. This is a mix of all time and newfound favorites that I’ll always recommend. Anyway, books on my reading list:

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The Witch Elm by Tana French

True Biz by Sara Nović

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Lightfall by Tim Probert

It’s the End of the World and I’m in my Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds

Nigel & the Moon by Antwan Eady & Gracey Zhang

The Lights on Wonder Rock by David Litchfield


What does your reading list say about you? What does it say about your MSWL? 

Probably that my list is all over the place, if anything. HA! Seriously, though. I feel I’m most commonly known for picture books, but I read super widely, and I’m always excited to work on new things. My reading list is usually pretty indicative of and influential on what I’ll be looking for next in my inbox.


What would you like querying authors to know about you?

That I get it. I’ve done the querying thing, and been on submission, and published a book. I’ve struggled with marketing myself. I fully understand the process and the complicated feelings of ambition vs. difficulty of the process. I try to respect that experience in all interactions with authors and illustrators.

Also, I am supposed to incorporate a picture in this fun post, so I decided I’d like all querying authors to know that I am, in fact, a dog person. However, I’ve never had a dog of my own so I have adopted Other People’s Dogs into my life. Please enjoy the following collage of me with said other dogs.