Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Laura Zats of Headwater Literary

Laura Zats is a literary agent with Headwater Literary.

(Note: Concerning the 10-minute “pitch” appointments at the event, Laura’s agency handles these opportunities in a specific way. In her own words: “Headwater, as a policy doesn’t do traditional pitch sessions, but we DO perform consultations, where we meet with anyone and answer questions & give feedback, rather than just give a yes/no.”)

For over a decade, Laura has worked with books in every way from bookselling to editing to self-publishing. A literary agent since 2014, she finds the most joy in working closely with authors to build their long-term careers in ways that contribute positively to their financial and mental health, as well as the greater community. Since 2016, Laura has hosted Print Run, a publishing podcast, with Erik Hane and is increasingly passionate about teaching, mentorship, and the role books play in the fight for social justice.

In her spare time, Laura plays tabletop role-playing games, cooks elaborate meals, follows long-distance dogsled racing, and drinks a lot of tea. Connect with her on twitter @LZats.


  • YA
  • Science fiction/fantasy
  • Romance
  • Select mystery
  • Literary fiction with speculative elements
  • Select contemporary and historical fiction

“I am actively looking to flesh out the adult side of my list but am always excited to read YA. I particularly love to work on books that appeal to readers of different genres or subgenres—if you’re pitching something that crosses multiple areas of my list, I want to see it!”


I’m interested in reading about standout characters I’ve never met before, clever twists on familiar themes, and compassionate writing. I’m also very interested in seeing marginalized creators take on “tired” tropes.

Unfortunately, 2020 has killed my interest in dystopia/big government stories, but I’m very much open to anything else. This is a category where I don’t quite know what I want until I see it, so take the above and run with it!

Favorite recent reads: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power, GROWN by Tiffany D. Jackson


I gravitate towards tropes that build conflict from the roles and expectations a character brings with them at the start of the book—think enemies (or rivals) to lovers, fake relationship, and coworkers. Put another way, I like the tension to come from forces outside the relationship versus forces inside the relationship (like accidental pregnancy, love triangle, miscommunication, etc.)

I’m not a good fit for Christian romance.

I work with a lot of LGBTQ+ romance and am always excited to add more to my list in all subgenres! I particularly would love to see more f/f and would love more nb or trans characters.

Favorite recent reads: THE LADY’S GUIDE TO CELESTIAL MECHANICS by Olivia Waite, THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan


I am a life-long cozy mystery fan and am always looking for anything that hits Jessica Fletcher and/or Miss Marple notes. I am particularly looking for cozy series or standalone books that bring something fresh to the genre beyond a distinctive setting. For example, I’d love to see projects that play with romance or speculative fiction tropes as much as traditional mystery tropes, or that feature a BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ protagonist.

I will consider historical and contemporary mysteries, as well as speculative ones, as long as they hit the requirements listed above.

I am not looking for police/law enforcement heroes or love interests. I am also not looking for thrillers, even domestic thrillers.

Favorite recent reads: ARSENIC AND ADOBO by Mia P. Manansala, DEATH IN CASTLE DARK by Veronica Bond, the Below Stairs series by Jennifer Ashley, and anything by Elly Griffiths


SF/F will always be my first love, and as such, I’m very open to all subgenres, as well as horror. However, submitted projects must pass the Bechdel and/or the Mako Mori test.

Forever loves for me are heists/cons, fantasy that taps into gaming culture/fandom, witches, and reluctant, flawed heroes. I prefer to see traditional settings and tropes twisted on their heads. I’m drawn to seeing progressive, community-focused politics in my SFF and would love to have more decolonized worlds come across my desk.

I am less interested in dystopian/big gov stories, superheroes, steampunk, military SFF, and traditional Tolkien-esque high fantasy, but still willing to look at these books if they’re doing something new.

Favorite recent reads: GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir, RETURN OF THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, MAGIC FOR LIARS by Sarah Gailey, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar


The primary distinction between literary fiction with speculative elements and general SFF is usually a matter of sales, not content. I’m separating this section out only in the event that you, the reader, haven’t considered querying agents who rep SFF!

I’m looking for a wide range of speculative elements here—from something as fantastical as the Cthulhu monsters in LOVECRAFT COUNTRY to something as subtle as the earth’s slowing rotation backdrop in THE AGE OF MIRACLES.


Historical with LGBTQ+ main characters (like THE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters, THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

Historical and contemporary fiction that isn’t speculative but either feels adjacent to SFF (like LITTLE by Edward Carey) or appeals to related fandoms (like A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN by Sherry Thomas)


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