Friday, August 3, 2012

Interview with an Agent: Linda Epstein

Look, it’s another installment of “Interview with an Agent”! I’m on fire! :) Today’s interview features Linda Epstein of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I think you're going to like this one...

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

LE: I’ve been agenting since last Fall (2011) and had been reading manuscripts for other agents for two years prior to that. I’d always been a huge reader and writer but life took me in a number of other directions for a number of reasons. I realized a few years ago that if I really wanted a career in publishing, which had been my dream when I first got out of college, that now was the time. So I went for it!

I’ve added up my years of being a freelance writer and editor with some work in a bookstore plus a few years of being the oldest unpaid intern in Manhattan to finally get to be a literary agent. I’ve worked very hard to get to this beginning point and it’s fully my intention to soar.

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

LE: I’m very hands-on and very communicative. My clients know I’m going to be poking and prodding at their manuscripts, reading it many times, editing, line editing, questioning them. And also, they know they can count on me to give them the truth. So if I think something isn’t working I’ll let them know.

I also keep them apprised of what’s going on when I’m submitting their manuscripts to editors, every step of the way. They know they can count on me for emotional support, hand holding, and bad jokes. They also know they can call or e-mail me any time and they’ll hear back from me right away. I guess my agenting philosophy is we’re in this together, we’re a team.

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

LE: As a new agent I don’t have a long list of books to brag about. Yet! But I’m delighted to say I have a fantastic YA book coming out in Summer 2013 called OPENLY STRAIGHT (Arthur A. Levine) by Lambda Award winning author Bill Konigsberg.

The first thing that drew me to work with Bill is his incredible mastery of voice. Bill captures an authentic teen voice like nobody’s business. He’s just such a talented writer. Then he spins his story with humor, introspection, and poignancy. And he writes dead-on funny dialogue. The icing on the cake for me is that this story features a gay main character, and I have a particular commitment to representing books that include, are about, or are geared toward people in the LGBT community.

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

LE: I represent MG, YA and adult fiction and very select non-fiction. I’m mostly interested in literary fiction, upscale commercial fiction, anything with a feminist bent, fantasy, science fiction, steam punk, historical fiction, and LGBT fiction.

I’m not really interested in picture books, romance, thrillers, mysteries, horror, Western or Christian fiction.

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

LE: Put it this way, if you don’t follow my submission guidelines I just delete the query. I also don’t care for it when people are either too smarmy or too cocky. Query letters are business letters. I want writers to give me the facts in a way that piques my interest. That’s it. Nothing tricky or weird.

Oh, and just because a writer reads my blog or is friends with me on Facebook or follows me on Twitter doesn’t mean they actually know me or are my real-life friend, so don’t be too familiar. That just feels creepy.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

LE: I’m looking for really good writing. I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas that are poorly executed, which is so disappointing. I’m looking for something really original; or even something unoriginal but told in a unique way!

I’m tired of getting queries for things I don’t represent and I don’t really need to see any more demons or magical amulets at the moment.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

LE: Queries should be e-mailed to and put "Query" in the subject line of your email and the first twenty pages in the body of your e-mail. The query should include ea one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis. For non-fiction books, the entire proposal should be attached to the query as a Word document and should include a sample chapter.

Thanks again, Ms. Epstein, for these fantastic answers. I’m sure a lot of writers will relate to the roundabout path you took to agenting and appreciate your hands-on approach.

Good luck to all you queriers, and have a great weekend!


Rhonda Saunders said...

Publishing is so competitive--fun and smart and honest aren't enough. Linda is all those things, of course, but she's also got insane work ethic. When she says "we're in this together" she means it.

Shelley Koon said...

Great interview!

S. Mozer said...

As a client of Linda's I can tell you that she describes her personal agenting philosophy accurately and she lives it. Linda's an amazing agent to work with. I am so lucky to have her in my corner.

JeffO said...

Thanks, Krista, that was great! Appreciate the interview.

Charlie Holmberg said...

Thanks for the interview, always great to learn about fantasy-repping agents! ;)

Julie DeGuia said...

Thanks for another great interview Krista! Linda sounds like a good one! :-)

Leslie S. Rose said...

Cracked up at the "oldest unpaid intern in Manhattan" line. Hooray for Linda stepping into agent shoes.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Good point, Rhonda. And thanks for adding your seal of approval. A client's recommendation is the best kind of recommendation.

Thanks, Shelley! And thanks for reading!

Thanks for stopping by, S. Mozer! I really love it when clients drop in and leave their endorsements in the comments. As I mentioned above, there's really no better recommendation.

You're welcome, Jeff!

Happy to add another agent to your to-query list, Charlie:)

She does, doesn't she, Julie? Thanks for stopping by!

I liked that line, too, Leslie, mostly because I can see myself in that same place someday... :)

Melissa Sarno said...

Thanks for posting these interviews. Linda sounds fantastic and I hope to query her when I'm ready :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Good luck, Melissa! Glad you found the interview helpful.

Jessica Hutchison said...

Thanks for posting this interview Krista. I was just about to query Ms. Epstein and this helps a lot :)

Stephsco said...

I love reading about agents; just collecting info until I am ready for that...someday! Glad there are agents looking for diverse stories. I know those books exist, I'm just hoping more of them get endcap space in bookstores and more promo from publishers. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Ooh, good timing, Jessica! Good luck with that query!

I hear you, Stephsco. Writing the right story is such a tightrope walk between uniqueness and familiarity. Your manuscript has to be unique enough to stand out but not so unique that it's too far out there for a publisher to take a risk on. So tricky.