Get to Know Literary Agent Jennifer Chen Tran, Who Just Moved to Fuse Literary

Jennifer Chen Tran, who formerly ran her own agency called Penumbra Literary LLC, just became part of Fuse Literary. With that in mind, please get to know a little more about Jennifer and see if she’s a good fit for your query. (Find her on Twitter.)

Jennifer obtained her Juris Doctor from Northeastern School of Law in Boston, MA, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, with a minor in Legal Studies. Originally a visual arts major turned English major, Jennifer appreciates creativity in all its incarnations. She was also Managing Editor of Student Life, Washington University’s Independent Student Paper and studied comparative literature with Emma Kafalenos while she was an undergraduate.

How did you become an agent?

I have a legal background and graduated from law school in 2008. It was an interesting time to enter the legal market and I tried to become a government attorney. Although there weren’t positions available to me, I always had an interest in publishing and was an English Major in college. I was able to secure a one-year fellowship with The New Press where I learned the ins-and-outs of publishing contracts, permissions etc. From there, I interned at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth literary agency and learned more about the role of a literary agent. I opened my own literary agency, Penumbra Literary in mid-2012 and haven’t looked back. As an entrepreneurial person, I wanted to start my own company and also leaned on a few more seasoned agents for advice. Now I’ve made the transition to Fuse Literary and couldn’t be happier.


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Tell us about something you’ve sold that was released recently.

I was very excited to sell Broken Homes and Gardens by Rebecca Kelley last year. It was just released by Blank Slate Press in late April of this year. The book is a fresh take on relationships and love. We’re calling it When Harry Met Sally for the millennial generation. It is set in Portland, Oregon, which is also the home of the author, and charts the course of the friendship and romantic ups-and-downs between Joanna and Malcolm, both twenty-somethings trying to navigate where friendship mixes with love and lust. The book has generated some buzz and I’m working with a film agent to sell dramatic rights. I’m very excited about it and hope you put it on your summer reading list!

You just made a move to Fuse Literary. Tell us about the move.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to join another literary agency to better take advantage of opportunities available to my authors, such as subsidiary rights and dramatic rights. As much as I consider myself a hard-working and pro-active agent, I realized that working with a team would truly benefit my clients. I had my eye on Fuse Literary and was impressed by their hybrid, smart outlook on publishing in today’s landscape. When another agent at Fuse stepped down from her agenting role, I reached out to Laurie and Gordon. Things happened rather quickly behind the scenes and we just officially announced my move on Monday, May 27th. The timing was perfect both professionally and personally and I am so happy to find a new home at Fuse.

(What should you do after rejection?)


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Help writers understand what kind of fiction and nonfiction projects you take queries for. Any you open to subs right now?

I’m open to submissions right now, so please feel free to query me at queryjennifer [at]  For both fiction and nonfiction, I request a query letter. For fiction, please send the first 20 pages copied and pasted into the body of the e-mail. I’m looking to acquire literary fiction, commercial fiction, women’s fiction, upmarket fiction, contemporary romance, mature Young Adult, New Adult, suspense/ thriller and select graphic novels (adult, YA or MG). As a second-generation Taiwanese-American, I am particularly interested in voices from underrepresented and marginalized communities, strong and conflicted female characters, war and post-war fiction, and writers who are adept at creating a developed sense of place. I also admire writers who have an ear for dialogue and who are not afraid to take emotional risks.

For nonfiction please copy and paste the sales proposal into the body of the e-mail. In non-fiction, I’m looking to acquire memoir (but you must have a sizable platform), narrative non-fiction in the areas of adventure, biography, business, current affairs, medical, history, how-to, pop-culture, psychology, social entrepreneurism, social justice, travel, and lifestyle books (home, design, fashion, food). I believe in creating books that will have a positive impact on the world, and that inform and entertain.

Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet/pitch you?

In the Fall, I’ll be at the Seventh Annual San Francisco Writing for Change Conference on September 12, 2015 and Tahoe WordWave a Festival of Story on October 9 through 11, 2015. You can keep up to date on any future events that I’ll be attending on the Fuse Literary website under the tab “Conferences” or visit my individual agent website at and click under “Events.”

(Which writers conference is the BEST to attend?)

Any final pieces of advice for writers seeking an agent?

Make sure your query letter sings, is in the proper format (i.e. don’t send me a query letter in iambic pentameter, please), and explains how you would position and market the book. Typos matter in terms of making an initial impression, so make sure you proofread. Also, don’t query an agent in areas that he or she doesn’t represent. That will get you an automatic pass. On the more encouraging end, don’t give up and always continue to work on improving your craft. Having a social media presence is almost always a must, so make sure I can find good things about you on the internet, whether that be essays you may have published or even your witty Twitter account. Remember that this is a business, like anything else, professionalism, courtesy, and respect will serve you well.

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