Literary Agent Interview: Jan Miller of Dupree/Miller & Associates

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Jan Miller of Dupree/Miller & 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 190 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.

Based in Dallas, Jan Miller strives to bring innovative and impactful books to the masses. She is passionate and has worked with personal development giants including Dr. Phil, Tony Robbins and the late Dr. Stephen Covey. See her agency website.

She represents: nonfiction: motivational, psychology, inspiration, business, finance, politics, health & fitness and spirituality.

(Find more nonfiction literary agents.)

 

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GLA: How and why did you become a literary agent?

JM: It wasn’t planned. I let life guide me which has allowed my business to evolve and prosper in ways that were unthinkable to me when I first got involved in the field. After college, I moved to Dallas and was a buyer at a massive sporting goods retail chain when I met Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the time, he was under contract to write a book for Simon & Schuster and I proposed he sell his work in sporting goods stores. This turned out to be an extraordinary success. During this time, I met Dan Green, the president of Simon & Schuster, who mentioned I’d be a great agent. He said, “If you have an idea, call me.” And the rest is history.

GLA: Tell us about some notable books you’ve recently sold and why you’re excited for the world to read them.

JM: Some books published this year were:

We are beyond excited about all of our 2013 authors published. Check out our website for the latest of the books we’ve published. Publishing over 80 titles a year, we are grateful that 2014 is slated to be a blockbuster year.

(Find out why agents stop reading your first chapter.)

GLA: Besides “good writing” and “voice,” what are you currently looking for and not receiving? What’s on your wish list and why?

JM: Voice. Is. Everything. Bottom line, we are looking for content and strong prose. We are constantly trying to be ahead of the curve in terms of discovering new literary talent, which explains why I wouldn’t say we’re looking for just anything. The marketplace is challenging as you know right now. At the same time though, it’s these challenges that make our day-to-day work so invigorating. I absolutely love it. In order to stay current, we are constantly on the lookout for that fresh voice with hopefully the potential to start a movement. It is in the power of these emerging writers and their determined voices to change the direction of their community, their culture and their generation.

GLA: How did you become Dr. Phil’s literary agent and what have you learned from him?

JM: I don’t remember if he called me or I called him; however, his influence and passion has been a tremendous gift in my life. He was the one who taught me never to be afraid to change your business model and is a lifelong friend who I am still learning from today.

GLA: You also worked with the late Dr. Stephen Covey. Describe your first meeting.

JM: 25 years ago, I was at Random House for a meeting when an editor handed me the manuscript for 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They said “we don’t like it, but you might.” So, I read it and I immediately called Dr. Covey. Just days after, I was on a flight to Provo, Utah to meet Stephen. He had just recently left Brigham Young University (BYU) where he was a professor and was off to start Covey leadership. I excitedly told him, “I can sell your book.” He said to me, “I believe you.”

 

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The biggest literary agent database anywhere
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GLA: What talents set you a part as an agent?

JM: I am a conduit, with a passion for creating and identifying emerging trends that have the potential to determine our culture. I have been blessed to work with so many unbelievable individuals who have the power to influence the way others think and act. I have been given an extraordinary gift to listen, participate and connect. It is a privilege to be a part of this industry.

GLA: For new writers submitting query letters, what do they need to impress you?

JM: Being able to really articulate what you want to say in a short query is difficult yet extremely important. We need to see something that jumps out at us as different, passionate and expressive. On a daily basis, our team reads and considers several submissions, so it is those ideas that promise change and innovation that catch our eye.

GLA: Before writers submit anything to your agency, what are some main “don’ts” they should avoid?

JM: We request that an author doesn’t send an entire manuscript, gifts, candy or fancy packages, etc. It’s sweet, but not necessary!

GLA: When you tackle a pile of book proposals, what are you hoping to find that will stand out?

JM: The author’s platform, credibility and distinctive content all play a significant role in determining the promise of a book proposal. When the author proves he can communicate his ideas clearly and definitively through something as concise as a proposal, we are confident of his potential to tackle the next steps.

GLA: How can a writer develop a strong following?

JM: When an author can effectively mirror his ideas with what his audience is asking for and develop ways to communicate those concepts clearly, a writer’s community has the potential to become exponentially larger. Whether the targeted audience consists of just enough people to fill a small dining room or one large enough to fill a stadium, the way an author manages blogs, lectures or conference appearances advances his potential to develop stronger communities.

GLA: Will you attend any upcoming writer’s conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

JM: Determining which conferences to attend is always difficult for our team. While we would love to go to several a year, we have decided to build our own writer’s conference due to our access and wide reach across genres.

(Find a writers conference near you and pitch publishing pros.)

GLA: Is there something personal about you that writers would be surprised to discover?

JM: I love animals, especially dogs. I can definitely see myself as a veterinarian. I’m also athletic and mad for sports. I absolutely adore my husband, Jeff.

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

JM: Be motivated by rejection, not stopped. Enthusiasm and passion are gifts, use them every day.

 

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This agent interview is by Dave Mendonca, Toronto
freelance writer and co-author, BASKETBALL TALK:
THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. Connect with him on Twitter.


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