Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Dana Murphy

“I’m often asked: ‘How do I create a voice that agents want?’ But at the heart of finding your voice is authenticity. It’s not about writing what you think agents want to read but finding the one agent who gets you and your book.”

-Dana Murphy

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Dana Murphy

Dana Murphy is a literary agent with The Book Group, focusing on literary fiction and voice-driven nonfiction. After studying critical film theory and sociology at NYU, Dana began her literary career as an assistant at the Book Group in 2012 and started building her own list in 2015. She is interested in adult and YA fiction that feels surprising and immersive and smart narrative nonfiction about pop culture, social issues, and critical theory. She is always looking for a sense of humor, diverse and underrepresented perspectives, and characters that stick in your thoughts long after the story is finished.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Dana Murphy: Personalized. I purposely keep a pretty small client list and do my best to let each client inform our working relationship. Overall, I’d say I definitely lean on the personal side of professional relationships – I take my job very seriously and, because of the nature of the work, I care very deeply for each of my authors. Beyond just loving the work and the writing, I need to be an advocate for the author, and that usually works better when I like them as a person just as much as I like their words.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

DM: First and foremost, always voice. That’s not to say there is a one-size-fits-all voice that I’m interested in, but I’m always looking for life behind the words. This is intangible and can sometimes be discouraging for authors to hear. I’m often asked: “How do I create a voice that agents want?” But at the heart of finding your voice is authenticity. It’s not about writing what you think agents want to read but finding the one agent who gets you and your book. I promise, if you’re writing something that your heart isn’t invested in, any agent reading it will see that.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

DM: When querying, research agents and follow their submission rules! Every agency has different policies, which can be annoying and sometimes feel arbitrary, but they are essential for me to effectively do my job. There is nothing that turns me off quicker than an author whose behavior belies that they don’t respect our processes, whether that be calling when we explicitly state not to, or mass-emailing non-specific “Dear Agent” queries.  You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and your behavior during the querying process is usually a good indicator to how you will behave as a client. Entitlement and indigence are not a good look. Do some research about each agent you’re querying, know a little about their list, think about how your book would be a good fit for them, and include that in your query.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on? 

DM: I feel like that can describe many of my projects! I’m often found saying “Oh, I’m not interested in XYZ” and then turning around and signing something of that ilk the next week. But that is often tied up in what I mentioned earlier: voice. If I find an undeniable voice, I can find myself interested in anything.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

DM:  The first book I sold, Danya Kukafka’s Girl in Snow, was published last summer and has continued to be a thrilling experience. The author is a close friend — we met when I hired her as my intern. Even though the book hasn’t been in the market long, I’ve been working on it with her for nearly 5 years.  It was a project close to both of our hearts, my first sale and her debut novel, and we were consistently (and still!) learning as we go. She’s now an international best seller, we’ve sold the book in over a dozen foreign territories, and the TV rights have been optioned. We couldn’t have anticipated any of this when we first decided to work together and brave the new professional world side by side.  We went into this without expectations, just hoping someone wanted to publish the book, and it’s been so rewarding to go through the good (and bad!) with her.

Thanks, Dana!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

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Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Eric Myers

“Even if all you want to do is sit and write, these days you have to be prepared to engage with the public at large, and to take charge of your own book promotion.”

-Eric Myers

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Eric Myers

Eric Myers entered publishing as an author, with three books published by St. Martin’s Press. He has been an agent since 2002, having worked at The Spieler Agency and Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret before establishing Myers Literary Management. His clients include Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library), Sam Staggs (All About “All About Eve,” Closeup On “Sunset Boulevard”), Seth Rudetsky (My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan), Miriam Davis (The Axeman of New Orleans), and Patrice Banks (The Girls’ Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide), among many others. He specializes in YA, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, and most non-fiction, including memoir that comes with a strong platform.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Eric Myers: As an author myself, I try to be supportive as well as sensitive to an author’s needs.  I am constantly attempting to put myself in my client’s place. But a little tough love is sometimes required as well, and it’s important to know when and when not to use it.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

EM: I look for a manuscript that is already at least 95 percent perfect; one which shows me that a writer really knows what he or she is doing and is ready for Prime Time.  It helps if the author is social-media savvy, has a feeling for self-promotion, and is willing and able to go out there and do everything possible to get copies of their book sold.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

EM: Writing is no longer a solitary profession. Even if all you want to do is sit and write, these days you have to be prepared to engage with the public at large, and to take charge of your own book promotion.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on? 

EM: One of my most unusual projects is a forthcoming memoir called Girl Electric by Alisa Jones, who was diagnosed with adult-onset epilepsy at 40.  I’ll bet you don’t think an epilepsy memoir can actually be laugh-out-loud funny. Think again! You can find out this November, when it is published by Imagine/Charlesbridge.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

EM: My client Lydia Kang, a physician based in Omaha, has already written several great YA and adult novels.  She joined forces with her journalist friend Nate Pedersen to write Quackery, which was published last year by Workman.  It’s an amazing compendium of all the horrendous quack cures that have been tried out on patients over the centuries. Darkly funny, it is peppered with great visuals, including outrageous old advertisements for every kind of snake-oil scam you can imagine.  It became one of Workman’s biggest hits of the year.

Thanks, Eric!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Terra Chalberg

“Writing a fantastic book is important, but so is being able to talk about it with clarity, finding and connecting with its readers, and working well with others while upholding a vision for your career.”

-Terra Chalberg

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Terra Chalberg

Terra Chalberg began her publishing career in 2002 at Scribner after graduating from UCLA and working in film development. As an agent, she represents a range of fiction and nonfiction writers, including Victoria Fedden, author of This Is Not My Beautiful Life; Margaux Fragoso, author of the New York Times and international bestseller Tiger, Tiger; Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group; Lori Ostlund, author of Barnes & Noble Discover selection, finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize After the Parade; Andrew Porter, Flannery O’Connor Award-winner and author of the Indie Next List pick In Between Days; Melissa Radke, author of Eat Cake. Be Brave.; Alex Taylor, author of Kentucky Literary Award-finalist The Marble Orchard; and Glenn Taylor, NBCC Award Finalist in Fiction and author of A Hanging at Cinder Bottom.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Terra Chalberg: I tailor the job to the author and what she needs at any given part of the process, which can change book to book as well. There are periods when my authors and I are in constant, close communication (e.g. project development and sale), and periods when I take a backseat but am hands-on/involved as needed. Because part of the job is problem solving and liaising, I can best serve the client when author, editor, and, eventually, publicist all keep me in the loop. The more we work as a team, the better the results.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

TC: Reserves of enthusiasm and optimism; the ability to revise based on feedback but with creative license and authority. I appreciate someone who is willing to put all he’s got into promoting himself and his brand, but I also understand it doesn’t always come naturally, so effort counts for a lot in my book.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

TC: Putting aside the craft, a writing career is like any other in that there are components of the career that don’t involve the actual work but are still part of the job, like cultivating relationships with readers and other writers, and planning for long-term success. Writing a fantastic book is important, but so is being able to talk about it with clarity, finding and connecting with its readers, and working well with others while upholding a vision for your career.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on? 

TC: Yes. One of my first clients, Margaux Fragoso, who has since passed away, wrote a memoir called Tiger, Tiger. Her nuanced approach to the material and her beautiful command of language humanized a pedophile in a way our society refuses to do. It’s controversial, haunting, and a crucial contribution to the world. I hadn’t been looking out for a writer whose topic was her experience with a sexual predator, but I recognized its unique qualities and potential to educate readers.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

TC: Melissa Radke—born and bred in East Texas—is a phenomenal writer, speaker, and entertainer whose book of hilarious, heartfelt personal stories called Eat Cake. Be Brave. is coming in July from Grand Central Publishing. The book’s title is inspired by one of the many Facebook videos that has given Melissa her huge social media following; she made the video on the eve of her forty-first birthday to remind herself and everyone else that we are all whole, good, and unique, and that we need to love ourselves as we are, even when (and especially when) the world is not being kind.

Thanks, Terra!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Susan Velazquez

“A great idea is nothing without great execution. Great writing isn’t much without a great idea driving it forward.”

-Susan Velazquez

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Susan Velazquez

Susan Velazquez is the assistant to Eddie Schneider and Joshua Bilmes and manages audio rights at JABberwocky Literary. She was born and raised outside of Dallas and studied Creative Writing at SUNY Oswego. Susan generally gravitates towards any story that details a complicated family dynamic, illustrates a transformative coming-of-age experience, or features multicultural characters or unique voices. In non-fiction, she is interested in memoirs, pop culture, and history. In science fiction and fantasy, she is looking for richly built worlds to become immersed in and stories that explore what humanity is like–or could be like.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Susan Velazquez:  I would describe my approach as “part-Jedi trainer, part-cheerleader.” Part of my job is to guide authors through the publishing business and help them understand all the possible avenues for their creativity, which can include books, film/TV, merchandise and licensing, etc. The other part, which is my favorite, is to help authors shape their ideas into the best possible version. I am happy to provide editorial feedback, but I never try to steer the story one way or the other. Our authors have amazing stories to tell and I want to do everything I can to help share them with the world.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

SV: Excellent writing skills and boundless creativity. If a writer has both of these, the world is theirs. A great idea is nothing without great execution. Great writing isn’t much without a great idea driving it forward.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

SV: Show your character’s personality on the page! One of the quickest ways I fall in love with a story is if I fall in love with the characters. There’s so many ways to express a character’s personality: in their dialogue, their inner monologue, or their driving motivations. Characters should feel as human as possible because it makes it easier to develop an emotional connection to them and thus, the rest of the story.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

TC:  I’m currently working with one of our newest clients, Joy Lanzendorfer, on a historical family saga set in California that spans the Gold Rush, the Great Depression in Hollywood, and the beginning of World War II. Joy has created these beautifully complicated women who are trying to chase a version of the American Dream, no matter the cost. They are not always likable, but it’s mesmerizing to watch them go after what they want. She’s a wonderful, talented writer and I’m so excited to help bring this book (and her other future books!) to life.

Thanks, Susan!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Kristina Moore

“Plot points in fiction or narrative argument in nonfiction can be improved through editorial work, but the fundamentals of writing have to be there from the start.”

-Kristina Moore

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Kristina Moore

Kristina Moore joined The Wylie Agency in 2009. She specializes in literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, and is particularly interested in reportage, history, biography, science, sports writing, and arts and cultural criticism. She also represents authors’ estates. She graduated from Harvard College and began her career as an editor at SCOTUSBlog.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Kristina Moore: We seek to represent authors for the life of their careers, and in all aspects of their creative work—books, magazine, film/TV, speaking engagements. We’re not looking to represent one commercial hit, but rather to represent the highest quality writing in both fiction and nonfiction, and to find authors who are in dialogue with other important work. We’re advocates and cheerleaders, business managers and tacticians; we’re not editors, except in rare cases where the author has asked for our guidance.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

KM: The strength of the writing and voice—plot points in fiction or narrative argument in nonfiction can be improved through editorial work, but the fundamentals of writing have to be there from the start.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

KM: Don’t try to chase a trend or write “the next Gone Girl”—you really do have to write what you know.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on? 

KM: I recently sold a collection of sci-fi short stories, even though I don’t work in the sci-fi genre and short stories are generally a tough sell, because the literary quality of the writing was so unique, and the author was a supremely interesting young woman.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

KM:  Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends received such an amazing critical reception, and it is a true privilege to bring her work to US readers. She’s only 26 and we’ve just sold her second novel.

Thanks, Kristina!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Arielle Datz

“Read! Consider it research for your career.”

-Arielle Datz

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Arielle Datz

Arielle Datz started as an intern at Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner in 2011. She then worked in the foreign rights department at WME, followed by 2 years at the Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency. She returned to DCLA in 2015. She is looking for fiction (mostly adult, but is open to young adult and middle grade), both literary and commercial. In nonfiction, she is looking for essays, unconventional memoir, pop culture, and sociology.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Arielle Datz: I am as involved as the author wants me to be. I have a strong editorial eye, so I am very involved pre-book sale, and once a book is with an editor at a publisher I take a step back unless my input is needed. I see myself as a guide for the author through the labyrinth of the publishing world.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

AD: A strong voice with a story (or stories!) to tell.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

AD: Read! Consider it research for your career. Read books within your genre, and stay up to date on what is successful in mainstream publishing.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

AD: If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio–the story set me ablaze from the beginning, and then it turned out that we work tremendously well as a team. She has a keen sense of voice and her characters weasel their way into my brain, such that I can’t stop thinking about them.

Thanks, Arielle!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Sharon Pelletier

“Understanding your own commitment to writing and to your current manuscript will help you identify which agents to submit to and what questions to ask them when they get in touch and/or offer representation (and it will help prepare you to answer their questions!).”

-Sharon Pelletier

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Sharon Pelletier

Sharon Pelletier joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2013 after working for Europa Editions and Barnes & Noble. At DG&B, in addition to growing her own client list, Sharon oversees digital projects and social media. While her interests are broad, Sharon is especially seeking upmarket fiction, including unexpected suspense fiction; smart, complex women’s fiction; and hearty, unforgettable book club fiction. On the nonfiction side Sharon is eager for compelling, fierce narrative nonfiction by journalists and experts, and emerging voices with a growing platform who can speak to pop culture, feminism, sports, social justice, and/or religion. In all categories, she particularly encourages submissions from marginalized writers.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Sharon Pelletier: I am very editorial and love working with an author on both story development and craft, depending of course on the needs of the given manuscript. I am always ready to answer questions at any point in the process, whether it’s “what happens next?” or “omg I’m a terrible writer, aren’t I?!” This job is half coach, half cheerleader! I can’t be any more specific than that because my approach varies from client to client, book to book, depending on what the author most needs to be supported and empowered to do their best work ever at this stage in their writing life.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

SP: Voice and dedication.

Voice speaks to the art side of what you need to be a traditionally published author. Of course I have to fall in love with the manuscript I read, but beyond that, I am looking for clients to work with for their career, not just for one exciting project. Trends come and go, some story hooks are stronger than others; irresistible voice in your work is a sign that the next book will be good, and the one after that. And it’s a hint that you’ve read widely and honed your craft, but also have the confidence to let your voice out on the page rather than aping your favorite writers or leaning on workshop tics.

And dedication speaks to the business side. Even under the best of circumstances with all luck going the way it should, publishing a book is a long slow process with disappointment and discouraging feedback along the way. Not to mention building a career! If you’re dedicated, then you want this for more than just the razzle dazzle some might imagine goes along with being a published author. And dedication means you’re willing to spend the necessary time and energy on revisions (with me, with your editor) and then keep working to get better and better with each book, learning and adapting as the industry evolves. (I have to do that too, by the way!)

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

SP: Know why you’re writing.

Doing the soul-searching to figure out why you write—not just your goals for your career, but why you sit down every day at your computer and why you’re telling this story—will be your ballast through the best of times and the worst of times in the process of finding an agent, getting published (or self-pubbing), and growing a readership. Understanding your own commitment to writing and to your current manuscript will help you identify which agents to submit to and what questions to ask them when they get in touch and/or offer representation (and it will help prepare you to answer their questions!). Checking in with the why of this story can help you when you’re implementing your agent’s editorial feedback and perhaps making tough choices in the process. In the best case scenario, keep your career goals in mind if choosing between offers from more than one publisher, and touch base with those goals again when you’re deciding what to write next.

And in a more disappointing outcome, knowing why writing is important to you and why you’re writing this book will help keep you motivated when you’re getting rejections from editors (or agents!), if a book does poorly, if you get a bad review. Writer’s block or computer crash, bestseller list or Nobel prize—you always have your writing, so don’t forget why you’re doing it in the first place!

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on? 

SP: Several! The best example is probably a book called Love, Teach, based on a blog of the same name for first-year teachers (by a Texas teacher, in fact!). I wouldn’t have said I was looking to do a book in the education space or even a practical how-to project, but this proposal had the perfect blend of voice, concept, and platform that is so critical for nonfiction. After some work on the proposal and a carefully researched submission list, drawing on the experience of my colleagues with more experience in practical nonfiction, before I knew it I was fielding multiple offers! The result is going to be a wonderful guide to help prevent burn-out for young careers—and this experience was also a good reminder that trying something new and unfamiliar can be intimidating but it can also be a lot of fun, and rewarding if you’re willing to put the work in.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

SP: Well of course I have to brag on Austin’s own Amy Gentry! In her debut thriller Good as Gone, a daughter returns home 10 years after she went missing, and her mother has to face the truth of what happened to her while she was missing—and if she really is who she claims to be. Good as Gone came out in 2016 and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an EW Must-List pick, and an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and as well as Buzzfeed, Refinery 29, Bustle, The Skimm, Dallas Morning News, Austin Chronicle, and many more! And Amy’s work is a great example of VOICE that grabs you from page one. Her second book is called Last Women Standing and will be out in January 2019—it’s the daring feminist revenge thriller you’ve been waiting for!

Thanks, Sharon!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.