Friday, April 2, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Elizabeth Evans

I decided to hold this interview for a day, just so you wouldn’t think it was a joke:) So today I give you the one-hundred-percent authentic Elizabeth Evans of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

EE: I discovered agenting through my MFA program at the University of San Francisco. My first workshop instructor was good friends with a local agent, and she suggested that I should work for her friend as an intern. I started interning for Kimberley Cameron at Kimberley Cameron & Associates for three hours a week, and by the time I graduated I was a full time agent. I felt very lucky to have found a great publishing job on the West Coast.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

EE: Three words: never give up! The publishing business is so much about perseverance. We are all told no, we all receive rejections, agents and authors alike. It's important that I feel passionate about the projects I take on, because I want to work with writers for several books over the course of their careers. When I truly believe in a writer's talent, it motivates me to keep going. Publishers can tell me no, but they can't tell me I'm wrong!

From the agent-author relationship, I expect respect and honesty. Clear communication is important.


KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

EE: This will be a fun year for me--I have a very diverse list of books coming out! Rebecca Cantrell's second mystery novel in the Hannah Vogel series, A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES, comes out in early June. In my opinion, it is even better than her first novel, A TRACE OF SMOKE. It is set in 1933 Berlin, and the suspense kicks in on the first page. If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend it.

I also have a YA cell phone novel (the text is delivered in a series of text messages, tweets, web links, photos, and video) called iDRAKULA from my client Bekka Black. It's a retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the digital rollout is so cool. Kids can subscribe to get it on their cell phones, and the print version will follow in October.

Also in October, my client Liza Campbell's debut literary novel, THE DISSEMBLERS, comes out. I can't tell you how much I love this book. The writing is painfully beautiful, and I am so, so proud of it. I get shivers just thinking about it.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

EE: These days I am most interested in narrative nonfiction, especially memoir, travel and adventure writing, current affairs, journalism and pop science.

I definitely do not represent fantasy, poetry, and children's picture books. I'm also backing off from fiction, although that's subject to change. You can always find a detailed description of what I'm seeking on our company website: www.jvnla.com.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

EE: I prefer a polite, concise query letter. If you address it to me and mention why you're querying me/how you found me, briefly describe your novel and its themes, and then tell me a little about yourself--you can't go wrong!

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

EE: What I would most love to find right now is an adventure memoir or narrative nonfiction along the lines of THE LOST CITY OF Z, THREE CUPS OF TEA, or DON'T LETS GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT. I'm looking for unusual and memorable stories. I recently discovered and fell in love with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. So, I suppose narrative nonfiction that incorporates fascinating aspects of nature, travel, wilderness, gems, whale skeletons or dinosaur bones would be very appealing right now.

KV: What's the best way to query you?

EE: According to the guidelines on our website at www.jvnla.com. I prefer to receive a polite query letter with a full proposal attached to the e-mail.

Thanks again, Ms. Evans, for these responses. And I hope some of you readers have a manuscript, or are working on one, that she might enjoy. I wish I did. That one line--“Publishers can tell me no, but they can’t tell me I’m wrong!”--really resonated with me, as that’s how I feel about my own books, especially Bob. And wouldn’t it be fascinating to write something about whale skeletons or dinosaur bones? (All right, all right, you got me--I had something of an obsession with dinosaurs as a kid.)

Queries away, suggestions below!

7 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Thanks for sharing this interview Krista, it's always interesting to hear about all aspects of the industry, even if this particular agent doesn't really apply to me.

Shameless promotion:

Please visit my blog and comment today. I have a post by guest blogger Justine Dell where she shares an ACTUAL query letter of hers that found success.

She is a wonderful lady, always willing to help another writer and I would really like her to get the recognition she deserves.

Thanks!

Tahereh said...

awesome interview, krista, as usual.

thanks for sharing these -- you're doing the literary world a great favor. :D

Krista V. said...

Thanks for the reminder about Justine's guest post on your blog, Matthew.

Tahereh, thanks for stopping by again. You know, your agent's interview is coming up in a few weeks - maybe I'll have to bug you about doing a shout-out on your blog:)

JustineDell said...

Famous words "Never give up". I'm gonna have that tattooed somewhere ;-)

Thanks for the interviews!

~JD

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, JustineDell!

Callie Forester said...

It's always nice to hear from an agent's POV...even if this particular one doesn't apply to me. Still interesting. her new books coming out sound cool,especially the bram stroker one. Neat idea! Thanks for posting this :)

Krista V. said...

Yeah, Callie, I thought that cell phone novel sounded very YA:) And it's always nice to get a feel for an agent's voice, since they're always so interested in ours.