Joshua Bilmes

I accept queries through Query Manager at:

Take a look at my blog for full information on my query guidelines and what I’m currently looking for. That is the place to go to for all submission-related questions. One important thing I’ll emphasize here is that I want your query to include information about both you and your manuscript. Here’s a link to a Publisher’s Weekly column about how someone sold their book by mentioning their college in a query letter. There’s always something worth saying about yourself.

And to tell you about me:

Joshua (@jabbermaster) is the President of JABberwocky Literary Agency, which he founded in 1994. He has been an agent for over 35 years, having made his professional debut at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency in 1986.

His path to owning his own literary agency started in high school, when he sent monthly letters to the editor of Analog, the leading science fiction magazine, critiquing each issue. These letters led Betsy Mitchell, the magazine’s associate editor, to offer Bilmes the chance to do freelance readers reports and other work for her when she joined Baen Books shortly after its inception. Joshua Bilmes and the publishing industry took an immediate liking to one another, and he started at Scott Meredith soon after graduating from the University of Michigan with a BA in History.

While his path to becoming an agent went through the science fiction genre, his interests were and are far broader. In the mystery genre, the Hardy Boys led to the Three Investigators, and from there to Agatha Christie, Perry Mason, the 87th Precinct and John LeCarre. He became a Variety junkie during high school and read it every week for as long as there was a weekly Variety. His college degree in history introduced him to The New Republic, and he now also reads The New Yorker. He keeps up on pop culture with Rolling Stone and spends fifteen hours a week reading newspapers. There’s always time for a good movie, and sports on TV (tennis and Australian Rules football) are often his background music.

A debut mystery novel, MARY’S GRAVE by Malcolm McClintick, was Bilmes’ first sale. By the end of the 1980s he had commenced work with Charlaine Harris, Elizabeth Moon, Simon Green, Tanya Huff and other current mainstays of the JABberwocky list. While at Scott Meredith, Bilmes also helped out with the accounts of major agency clients like Carl Sagan and P.G. Wodehouse. After Scott Meredith passed away in 1993, Bilmes was promoted to Vice President, gaining important managerial experience.

In 1994, Bilmes struck out on his own to establish JABberwocky Literary Agency, which in recent years has become the world’s leading literary agency for science fiction and fantasy, with Brandon Sanderson, Charlaine Harris, Peter V. Brett, Jack Campbell, and Grady Hendrix among the top-selling clients.

Brandon Sanderson is the top-selling fantasy writer of his generation, with over 18 million copies sold. He has written #1 NY Times bestsellers in multiple categories for adults and young adults, including the Stormlight Archive, Mistborn, Reckoners and Skyward series.  Bilmes discovered Sanderson after meeting him at a Nebula Awards banquet, and was immediately taken with the freshness and rigor of his many magic systems — a standout quality in a genre whose best authors are often known for only one world or magic system.

Charlaine Harris started working with Bilmes after she had finished Real Murders, the first book in the ten book Aurora Teagarden series, which later spawned a long-running series of movies for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. With HBO’s True Blood based on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels and NBC’s Midnight, Texas also based on a series by Charlaine Harris, she’s one of the only authors to inspire three different television shows. An unprecedented nine Sookie Stackhouse novels appeared at once on the NY Times list in 2009, spurring global sales of over 37 million copies.

Peter V. Brett has been #3 on the Sunday Times of London bestseller list, #4 on the Der Speigel list in Germany, and #13 on the NY Times list.  He’s sold over 3.5 million books in his Demon Cycle series, and is published in 20 languages. Bilmes worked with Peter V. Brett for several years, helping Brett to turn the earliest ideas for the series into the hugely successful THE WARDED MAN.

Jack Campbell is a pseudonym for John G. Hemry, a retired US Naval Officer who first met Bilmes at a convention.  He called JABberwocky upon receiving an offer for his first novel.  Bilmes helped Hemry navigate the transition to writing the Lost Fleet series under the Jack Campbell pen name.  The series hit the NY Times bestseller list, and over 3.3 million Lost Fleet books have been sold, in more than a dozen languages.

Grady Hendrix is a critically-acclaimed horror writer, journalist, and one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival. A former film critic for the New York Sun, Grady has also written for Slate, the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Playboy, and Variety. His most recent novels, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (Quirk, 2020) and The Final Girl Support Group (Berkely, 2021) were New York Times bestsellers, and his non-fiction Paperbacks From Hell won him the Bram Stoker Award. 

In recent years, JABberwocky has grown significantly. In 2012, the agency moved to an actual office after 18 years as a home-based company, and two years later moved again into midtown Manhattan, steps from Times Square and Grand Central. JABberwocky now has four agents, two dedicated foreign rights agents, a COO, and a growing e-book program with over 400 titles. From mysteries to middle grade, far flung fantasy to contemporary YA, the agency sells work in a broad range of categories for a diverse client roster. For all its success with top-selling authors, the agency has always been welcoming to debut authors, with at least a half dozen first sales in 2020, as well as the publication of Nick Martell’s stunning debut fantasy, The Kingdom of Liars.

Joshua’s open for queries, but often has a long response time. He also scouts for new talent at several conventions every year.

Other relevant links: Joshua’s Real Blog

I’m excluding work by my own clients here, but…

Favorite fantasy: LITTLE BIG by John Crowley
Favorite sf novel: HYPERION by Dan Simmons and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels
Favorite mystery: THE SECRET OF THE OLD MILL by Franklin W. Dixon, because it was the first

Favorite director: Stanley Kubrick
Favorite movie not directed by Kubrick: Jerry Maguire
Other Favorites: Goodfellas, lots of Tom Cruise, Bull Durham, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman: The Movie
Favorite movie theatre: Loews Astor Plaza (1974-2004) Obituary
Favorite film composer: John Williams

Favorite football team: Michigan Wolverines, and the Jaguars for as long as Tom Brady is QBing
Favorite NL team: NY Mets
Favorite AL team: Toronto Blue Jays
Current Tennis Players to Watch: Felix Auger-Aliassime

Favorite Metropolitan Area to Visit Bookstores: was Washington DC, in a post-Borders age nowhere, really, which is hard to get my head around
Borders Visited: 238. After L.E. Modesitt’s 310ish, this may be 2nd place for most visited by someone who never worked for the company. All gone now.
Favorite bookstore hang-up: Snooty indies with crappy sf sections

Favorite Song: Hotel California
Favorite Ringtone: What’s a “Ringtone”?

Favorite Pizza: Sunnyside Pizza
Favorite Mexican: De Mole in Woodside
Favorite Italian: Manetta’s
Favorite College Thing I Finally Stop Doing Very Often: Eating at Uno’s as there got to be fewer and fewer of them. But I still do love an individual deep dish veggie pizza so long as no one shows me the calories count.
Favorite Food Shopping: Going to NYC green markets to buy chocolate chip cookies, brownies, pumpkin chocolate chip loaves, cream cheese chocolate chip loaves — all the good healthful things that don’t have any calories. But also, green market strawberries and blueberries in season are better than what you get in the grocery store. And crimson crisp apples are way too hard to find and way under appreciated.