Friday, November 19, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Jennifer Unter

Today, I’m thankful for PBS’s Super Why. I’m pretty sure it’s the reason my three-year-old knows all his letters (and has since he was two), and you know, it’s actually kind of engaging. Not that I watch it. Too much… :)

Morning, all! Today, I give you Jennifer Unter of The Unter Agency. (Warning: She’s pretty fabulous, so if you don't want to add another agent to your list, you should probably stop reading now.) Enjoy!

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

JU: I have been agenting for ten years. I initially started in publishing at Henry Holt as an editorial assistant, and while I loved editing books and working with writers, I found myself more excited about the idea of coming up with projects and making deals.

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

JU: My philosophy, if I have one, is to have an open, honest relationship with my authors. I expect to be able to tell them when things aren’t working or need tweaking, and I expect them to be able to come to me with any problems they are having at the publishing house. I am always available to my authors and expect the relationship to be one of mutual trust and respect.

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

JU: A few things that are coming out (or have just come out):

- THE SECRET OF KA and THIRST 3 by Christopher Pike. Christopher’s work is fluid and exciting and it draws you right into the story. I love YA fantasy/adventure because the authors can really be imaginative and teens are drawn to that.

- LIVING SKINNY IN FAT GENES by Felicia Stoler. This is a great diet book because it is not “faddish” or fleeting--it’s real, healthy advice and America needs help in this area.

- THE VIRGIN WIDOW by Anne O’Brien. This is great historical fiction that takes you into the War of the Roses. It’s escapist, sexy and she’s a wonderful writer.

- THE SEA OF BATH by Bob Logan. This is a very imaginative picture book about a captain on a boat in a bathtub. My three-year-old son loves it and gets a kick out of all the great illustrations.

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

JU: I do a lot of food/cookbooks/food issue books (Nina Planck, Nicolette Niman, Aaron Sanchez) and children’s books (Barbara Bottner, Sue Fliess). I also have a number of women’s fiction titles (Katharine Fisher Britton, Jill Mansell), memoir (Maria Finn), mystery (Esri Allbritten) among others. I also like to do history, biography and environmental titles.

I don’t do a lot of genre fiction.

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

JU: A pet peeve is when writers call me Sir, or have no idea what kinds of books I do. When someone mentions a book I do or the kinds of books I do, I am always more likely to read their query.

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

JU: I’m really not looking for anything in particular--just good writing, a good story or a good idea. I know a lot of publishers are looking for middle-grade boy adventure novels, so I’m looking for those, too!

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

JU: Via e-mail.

KV: How do you feel about a writer's including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

JU: I don’t really love it, but sometimes I do read it. So, sometimes it works out for the writer! And, sometimes I just don’t read them anyway. Sorry for the non-answer, but that’s how I feel!

Thanks again for these answers, Ms. Unter. I always love it when I recognize one of the authors in an agent’s list, but interestingly, the name I recognized this time isn’t a full-time writer. Aaron Sanchez is also a chef and a sometimes judge on the Food Network’s Chopped! How cool!

Anyway, good luck to all you queriers. (I may be joining you shortly…) And have a fantastic weekend!


smallsnail said...

Thanks Krista, great interview! Just a note - on their site it says that they are a no response is a "no" agency. If you don't hear back within three months, assume it's a pass. I have seen similar statements on other sites though, and still received form rejections.

Jenilyn Collings said...

My 3 year old is watching Super Why right now! It's definitely one of the better kids shows--and they love books, too!

Thanks for the interview!

lotusgirl said...

Thanks for the interview, Krista. It's nice to get to know you a little Ms. Unter.

Carol Riggs said...

Thanks for the interview, Krista and Ms. Unter! I love it when agents have been editorial assistants or have worked with a publisher before; it's great experience, and one I'd like to have in an agent.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Bigblackcat97, thanks for that info. (And thanks for hopping over from QT for a visit!)

Yeah, Jeni, I'd definitely put Super Why near the top of my best-kid-shows list.

You are very welcome, lotusgirl. Thanks for always leaving a comment!

Carol, I totally agree - I'd love to have an editorially minded agent.

Esri Rose said...

Jennifer is a great agent. My favorite thing about her (other than the fact that she sells my books) is her willingness to discuss anything. Oh, and the fact that she always gets back to me quickly. And her legal background, which gives her more than usual insight on contract negotiations. Nice interview, Krista!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Esri Rose, thanks for your endorsement! The fact that Jennifer has a background in law is a definite plus.

Kelly Bryson said...

Hey Krista- Great interview with Ms. Unter. I feel like I'm in that gray area between genre fiction and literary fiction, so she's on the list! Have a great weekend- Kelly

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great, Kelly! And you have a good weekend, too.

Sue Fliess said...

Jennifer rocks! Feel so lucky to have found her...

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Sue, thanks for your commendation! I love it when clients drop by!

Myrna Foster said...

She sounds great! Thanks for another interview!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Myrna, you're welcome! She does sound great, doesn't she?

LorcaDamon said...

Thanks for the great in-depth interview! Lots of vital information, as usual.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, LorcaDamon. Thanks for the comment!

LTM said...

Krista--I've used your interviews for the past few months, and I have to say, they are so helpful. Thanks so much! :o)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're very welcome, LTM! Glad they've helped.