Literary Agent Interview: Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates

Quick note: As of summer 2013, Jennifer is no longer agenting
Enjoy the interview (and the others post on this site), but do not
research Jennifer or query her.

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“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

This installment features Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates. Prior to joining Spencerhill in 2006, Jennifer received a B.A. in Religious Studies from Ithaca College and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University. Trained as a psychotherapist, Jennifer enjoys using her clinical skills as an agent, coaching clients on issues surrounding increasing creativity and balancing the demands of work and life. Actively acquiring since 2006, Jennifer has sold more than 150 books.

She is seeking: romance (category, contemporary, historical, erotic, and paranormal), romantic suspense, historical fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and urban fantasy. She also accepts young adult but does not accept children’s work or science fiction at this time.

 

 

GLA: How did you become an agent?

JS: I think it was fate, actually. I was doing some writing of my own and taking some time job wise to think through my next steps—that’s when I met Karen Solem, my mentor and the president of Spencerhill.  She was looking for an assistant and someone to learn the ropes. The door had opened at just the right time, and I took to the job like a duck to water!

I often say that all of my degrees (I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology) and job experience seemed at odds with each other until I became an agent where they came together perfectly.

GLA: What’s something you’ve sold that comes out now/soon that you’re excited about?

JS: This is tough—I am excited about all the books I work with. I’ll focus on the debuts coming up: In the beginning of 2011, there are three books hitting the shelves that I just love.

Caris Roane’s debut, Ascension (St. Martin’s Press), is a very sexy paranormal romance set in dimensional worlds that absolutely knocked my socks off. The world Caris has built is utterly compelling and her characters are unforgettable.

Stephanie Dray’s debut, Lily of the Nile (Berkley) is historical women’s fiction about the real life daughter of Cleopatra. Cleopatra Selene will capture the hearts and minds of readers of all ages. Rich with historical detail and magical realism, Dray is an amazing storyteller; her writing had me from the first paragraph!

Finally, in February, Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris will be released by Kensington. Endorsed by Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs [and] inspired by the real life courtship of her own grandparents, McMorris has penned an utterly page turning novel set during the tumultuous era of WWII. I was totally swept up in her book and guarantee readers will remember this book long after they turn the last page.

GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting? 

JS: I would just love to find an incredible story about ordinary women and their families. I always like a good twist too—something that makes you stop in your tracks. I want to read a story that makes me want to pass it on to the other women in my life.

 

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The biggest literary agent database anywhere
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GLA: In a recent interview you did over at RWA-WF (The Women’s Fiction Chapter for Romance Writers of America), you also said you like to see category romance writers target their queries to specific publishing lines.  Do you feel the same holds true for writers of other genres?

JS: If you feel your writing is at the level that is competitive enough to sell, then you really need to know your market. It shows that you are serious and a professional, and that this isn’t just a hobby for you. This is a business for the agent too, and I want to take on clients that know the market and how their work fits.

GLA: One of the areas you seek is young adult. That is a healthy market—and has been for quite some time. However, what do you see for the future? Will it always be so hot? 

JS: It’s hot; it’s just that the competition is huge. Especially in the paranormal romance genre.

I think that the YA market will continue to grow in the future, and we will see more variety and dimension in the work that is offered to this market. Authors who are targeting this market really need to bring the groundbreaking stories in order to be competitive due to the saturation factor in the paranormal genre. The window is still open; it’s just not open as wide.

(Look over our growing list of young adult literary agents.)

GLA: One of the top areas you seem to be looking for is women’s fiction.  That said, what is the biggest mistake you see women’s fiction writers making? 

JS: Not spending the time on the manuscript to dig deep and take the story to the next level.

GLA: According to your agency profile, you live on a working farm. Very cool! Please tell us a little bit about that.

JS: I live on a dairy farm—it is a major contrast to my life as an agent but not for me, personally. I have always needed to be close to nature, and living on a farm gives me peace and somewhere to ponder life—and a dusty dirt road to walk my dog.

This is a highly stressful industry, and I give 300 percent to my clients. If I don’t take care of myself, I just can’t be as effective for my clients.  People seem to think this is a rather romantic notion, living on a working farm—but let me just tell you—it’s not romantic living next to a cow pasture! Come August the smell … Ugh!

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet and pitch you? 

JS: Next up is the New Jersey [Romance Writers] conference in October.  Don’t be shy—introduce yourself.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet? 

JS: Take the time to work on your process. It takes bestselling authors sometimes years to create a compelling and marketable story.

Authors can get caught up in all the things that they can’t control—the next contract, advances, competition, promotion, social networking, editors leaving, etc., but unless an author spends time focusing on and practicing their craft, they will never truly reach their highest level in their work.

In this technologically advanced age, publishing seems to be on hyper drive and out of control. Try not to get caught up in that false sense of urgency that creates.

Take the time for your work. Practice your craft. Allow for process to take place on a deep level—and this is something you can control!

 

This guest column by Ricki Schultz,
freelance writer and coordinator of
The Write-Brained Network. You can
Visit her blog
or follow her on Twitter.

 


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