Advice From My Literary Agent

Advice from My Literary Agent, Interview with Jenn Mishler, Literary Counsel by Teri Harman, @TeriHarman, #LiteraryAgents

If you are planning to be an author and publish traditionally, you’re going to need a literary agent. Agents are the go-between from author to publisher and a good agent has your best interests at heart.

I’m lucky enough to have a rockstar duo of agents that have helped me get where I am today: Jenn Mishler and Fran Black of LITERARY COUNSEL, in New York City.

I asked the fabulous Jenn Mishler for some words of wisdom for writers. Quick back story: Jenn picked up the manuscript for BLOOD MOON and fell in love with it. For that, I can’t thank her enough!

Jenn Mishler

TERI: Hi, Jenn! Tell us a little about you – how and why did you become a literary agent?

JENN: First of all, I am very excited to be here! Thank you for wanting to interview little ole me!

I actually started out with the intent of working as an editor. On the advice of a wise former professor, I looked at literary agents as a good place to get my feet wet in the ever-evolving publishing industry. So I wrote to a few agents, Fran included and she wrote back! 

I interned for Fran for a summer and decided this was want I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I quickly became a part of the Literary Counsel family and am very excited to say that I have been a part of the ever-expanding world of the agency. 

I really love what I do here. Most people don’t know this, but I commute to New York three days a week from Philadelphia because I really love this job. I greatly enjoy working with the current clients we have and their faith in me is what gets me up in the morning!

TERI: Now that is dedication! What are you looking for in queries and new clients?

JENN: I am primarily focused on young adult manuscripts because I love YA! I do read some “older” manuscripts, but usually that’s because it comes from an author the company represents. 

When it comes to new clients, I always want to know if they are open to edits and my opinion. I also like to see if a potential client is writing anything else. 

TERI: Social media is changing the way writers work. Do you look for clients with established social media platforms?

JENN: Having established social media platforms is not the main thing I look for when signing new authors. However, it certainly helps. If a client doesn’t have a website/blog or Twitter/Facebook, I strongly encourage them to. If we can blog, tweet, post and update our site, you can too!

TERI: What mistakes do you see most often? Best advice for queries?

JENN: I see a lot of mistakes when it comes to querying: the first three chapters aren’t sent as as attachment, our names are misspelled, and when I pass on a manuscript that I’m not interested in, a lot of people write back snarky remarks. 

I think that is the worst mistake an author can make in regards to Literary Counsel. If we pass on one of your manuscripts, there is a chance we would like to see another manuscript you have. 

I think the best advice is to know the agents you are submitting to and follow their guidelines. Also, make sure your query is perfect! It’s the first thing we read and if that has mistakes in it, I will pass on your manuscript without even reading! 

TERI: I agree with you on being careful how you respond. Fran rejected my first MS, but we kept in touch and built a good relationship. Which paid off later when I had a second MS ready.

Are you accepting new queries at this time?

JENN: I accept queries on the first and second of each month unless otherwise noted. Please check out the About Us Page and How To Submit Page on our site!  I try to update what we are looking for as much as possible.

TERI: And because we are all book enthusiasts, what are three of your most favorite books?

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (I love, love, love the movie as well!)
Redwall by Brian Jacques
And the runner up is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Teri! 

TERI: Thank you, Jenn! 

You can follow Jenn and Literary Counsel on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Best of luck to all you writers out there looking to query agents. It took me five years to get an agent, so I feel for ya! Hang in there!


10 thoughts on “Advice From My Literary Agent

  1. Great interview! And I'm still amazed at Jenn for commuting that far. *Note to self, stop complaining about measly commute* 🙂 And this…"When I pass on a manuscript that I'm not interested in, a lot of people write back snarky remarks." Writers, DON'T DO THIS! Ever! If you want to be a professional writer, you have to act professional. This also applies to social media.

  2. In the last two years I have received two responses (both rejections) out of close to 100 queries sent. Maybe I'm just querying the wrong people. Understandably, agents expect politeness from the writers, but there needs to be some politeness on their end as well.Hitting reply and saying "I'm not interested" does not take much time and it makes me much more willing to think about agents as a viable alternative.

  3. Unfortunately, that is very typical. I was also surprised by how few agents respond when not interested. But understand that most agents receive hundreds, some thousands of queries. They are not being rude, just careful with their time.Good luck with your future queries!

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