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Kobo Writing Life Podcast

The Kobo Writing Life Podcast brings you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We feature interviews with bestselling authors and industry experts, who share practical advice you can use to improve your writing and sell more books. Hosted by KWL's very own Chrissy Munroe and Stephanie McGrath, you'll also get the latest news and updates about Kobo and the KWL platform. Self-publish today at

Sep 12, 2016

Recorded at Kobo's headquarters, this episode features Toronto-based literary agent Sarah Heller, from the Helen Heller Agency. Why did Sarah become an agent? What are some benefits to being an agent in Toronto? What are some key tips for authors planning to query an agent? Tune in as Sarah and US Manager Christine Munroe discuss all of this and more.

  • Sarah has a background is in fine arts, but her mother (Helen) started the agency in 1988 so she grew up with publishing in the background. Sarah joined the agency 11 years ago.

  • Growing up she always loved reading, was surrounded by books, and all of that fell into place when she started agenting.

  • Why Sarah loves working in Toronto; it offers the benefit of being easily accessible to other international publishing centres, New York, and London, but is separate enough that there’s a vibrant Toronto/Canadian writing and publishing community.

  • Why she loves being an agent. She can wear many hats – introduce people and projects to one another, dig into the creative process with edits, negotiate contracts.

  • “With the advent of being able to publish quickly online…it’s a very viable way of publishing your book and doing well with it financially and critically.”

  • She helps her authors make best use of all of their work. Many authors have projects stowed away that haven’t been published, or have gone out of print, so there’s great new potential in digital publication.

  • Their agency manages a KWL account and helps authors publish digitally to Kobo. “The landscape is so fluid that you can publish a book online…that can then retroactively be picked up by a publisher if that’s ultimately what an author wants… There are also cases of certain territories not having access to a book that now they do.”

  • They want to take advantage of all opportunities to help their authors advance their careers.

  • How to stand out when querying an agent:

  • Get the name of the person you’re addressing your query to. Never, “Dear Sir or Madam” (no “sirs” at their agency, for example!).

  • Research what kind of books the agency handles – and does not handle.

  • Brief and to the point query letter, synopsis and your background.

  • No gimmicks necessary.


Sarah Heller has developed an internationally and New York Times bestselling list. She specializes in establishing new authors with a focus on front list commercial YA and adult fiction. Sarah received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from York University, and is a graduate of the Advertising Design program of the Ontario College of Art and Design.