New Client Alert – Laura Bontje

  • By: James McGowan | Date: Jan 28 2022

Name: Laura Bontje
What you write: Picture books
Agent: James McGowan
Why BookEnds? I’ve followed the BookEnds blog and YouTube series for a long time, so I already felt a connection to the agency. I also get the sense from the videos that the agents all find their work fun, and I think that’s so important when working in a creative field!

What book do you wish you had written, and why?

Oh, there are so many—I even used to have a Goodreads list called “Books I Wish I’d Written”! In the picture book space, I’d have to go with The Antlered Ship, written by Dashka Slater and beautifully illustrated by The Fan Brothers. It’s a poignant, adventurous story with rich vocabulary and lyrical prose, and I love the way it draws kids back to read it again and again.

If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?  

Playing with my kids or watching British mystery shows.

Where can readers find you on the web and social media?


Twitter: @LauraBontje

Facebook: @LauraBontjeEditing

What’s the last book you read?

The Insiders, by Mark Oshiro—a beautiful, heartfelt middle grade story. 

If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?

Without a doubt, the English countryside. Perhaps Dartmoor for a more atmospheric story and East Sussex for something lighter.

What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?

I took a playwriting course in university, and one of the lessons that always stuck with me was about motivation: the author has a reason for making a character do something, but the character needs a reason to do it too.

What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?

Have your query letter read by someone who has read your book and by someone who hasn’t. You want to make sure it’s an accurate reflection of your story, but you also want to make sure that the pitch itself is strong enough to hook someone. 

Above all, hang in there! As they say, it only takes one “yes.”

What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents?

I asked the standard questions that you’ll find on lists online, but what made more of an impression was how agents handled what I didn’t ask. I was particularly impressed by the way that James asked questions of his own, shared a clear and specific vision for my work, and offered additional information about BookEnds’ processes beyond those that I’d asked about.

But when it came down to it, it was all about the fit. James was already at the top of my query list, and the ease of our conversation confirmed that for me. I knew immediately that I’d found my agent.

How did you know your book was ready to submit?

I’m an editor, so I followed the same process I suggest to my clients! I revised the book as much as I could on my own, then brought in some outside critiques. The most important part was giving myself space from my original drafts: I needed time to let the feedback sit so I could mull over what to incorporate (and how). When I felt like I’d gotten down to little fiddly adjustments rather than meaningful changes, I started querying.

6 responses to “New Client Alert – Laura Bontje”

  1. A hearty “congratulation” to Ms. Bontje.

  2. Post Script: the author’s web site link above is broken.

    I am working on a picture book for adults, chiefly for people who love the USA southwest and the American Indians who lived 800 in the canyon I now live in. It did not occur to me to seek representation with Book Ends Literary. 🙂 Perhaps I shall do so.

  3. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Laura, congratulations on finding the perfect agent! I’ve known James since he was an intern at BookEnds and he really impressed me then, and even more now that he’s found his perfect niche in this business. I’ve been with BookEnds for over 20 years, and signing with Jessica Faust was just about the smartest move I could have made. I wish you much luck and many sales when you start signing those contracts, because they WILL follow. You’ve signed with a wonderful agency.