Working with Literary Agents

Endorsed by the OAH Graduate Student Committee

Friday, March 31, 2023, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Media and Communications; Professional Development


Award-winning agents and historians discuss how they work together to shape projects for both trade publishers and university presses. They will address how to find an work with an agent, how to craft a project which will appeal to a trade publisher, what the agent-author relationship looks like, and much more.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Sandra Dijkstra has a Ph.D. in French Literature from UCSD, her dissertation, Flora Tristan: Feminism in the Age of George Sand, having been re-published by Verso as part of their Feminist Classics Series. Dijkstra taught at several universities, including UVA, UCI, UCLA, and UCSD. Then, just over 40 years ago, she chose to go another route, and founded the the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, based in San Diego. Within her first decade of agenting, Newsweek dubbed her "the best agent in the West," Esquire chose her as one of the nation's "top five literary agents," and the Los Angeles Times proclaimed her an "über-agent" and "the most powerful literary agent on the West Coast." She proudly represents a wide array of authors whose books have made their mark, including award-winning historians such as Eric Foner, Steve Hahn, Erika Lee, Mae Ngai, Lisa McGirr, Mary Dudziak, Steve Ross, Edward Berenson, JP Daughton, Ellen Dubois, Lillian Faderman, and many more. She also represents bestselling novelists such as Amy Tan, Lisa See, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chitra Divakaruni, and Shobha Rao, and key journalists at the LATimes, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and ProPublica. “Quality that sells” AND BOOKS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE, these are the Dijkstra Agency’s trademark, and we champion books that make a difference.

Proposal Submitter Only: Elise Capron, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Panelist: Lucy Cleland, Literary Agent

Panelist: Dan Gerstle, senior editor, Liveright/WW Norton

Panelist: Lisa M. McGirr, Harvard University
Lisa McGirr is a Professor of History at Harvard University, and specializes in the history of the 20th century United States. Her research and teaching interests bridge the fields of social and political history and focus, in particular, on collective action, state building, reform movements, and politics. She has researched on the American penal state, transnational social movements, and the intersection of religion and politics in the twentieth-century United States. Her most recent book the War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State (W.W. Norton, 2016) has won wide acclaim for excavating the significant but neglected state-building legacies of national Prohibition. Her award winning first book, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right investigates the social and regional basis of grass-roots conservative politics in the post-World War II United States. She teaches a wide variety of courses on the history of the United States in the 20th century.

Panelist: Adina Popescu Berk, Yale University Press

Commentator: Manisha Sinha, University of Connecticut