Agent Advice: Greg Daniel of Daniel Literary Group

This installment features Greg Daniel of Daniel Literary Group. He is Seeking: religious and inspirational works of both fiction and nonfiction. He also accepts nonfiction that has no religious angle.
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“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Greg Daniel of Daniel Literary Group) 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 Greg Daniel of Daniel Literary Group. Greg specializes in religious and inspirational works of both fiction and nonfiction. He also accepts nonfiction that has no religious angle. Send submissions to submissions[at]danielliterarygroup[dot]com.

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How did you become an agent?

GD: I’ve spent about 12 years in publishing, eight of which were at Thomas Nelson Publishers, where most recently I was VP and Associate Publisher. I’ve always known that one day I would open my own literary agency. I loved the notion of being with authors throughout their publishing careers, helping them navigate the publishing waters, and guiding them in such matters as branding and editorial direction. So in April 2007, I made the leap to agenting. I’ve never looked back. It’s been a real joy.

GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?

GD: Last week I sold inspirational fiction author Denise Hildreth’s next two novels to Tyndale. Denise is a wonderfully fun southern author who has had some nice success.

GLA: You say you’re open to any type of nonfiction submission, and a lot of fiction, but almost all of your recent sales have some angle of religion or inspirational to them. That said, are you still interested in queries that have no religious angle?

GD: Currently about 85% of the books I’ve sold have had some element of religion or inspiration, but I’ve also sold such nonfiction books as narrative history, pop culture, and business. I am open to nonfiction of almost any sort, that being my true specialty. I’d love to see more non-religious nonfiction. I’m extremely selective about the fiction I represent, and currently it consists primarily of inspirational fiction.

GLA: You seem to be right in the thick of inspirational and Christian publishing in what you do. Can you tell us how the Christian publishing world is changing?

GD: As Christian bookstores, especially the independents, struggle a bit and as general market stores keep increasing the size of their religion departments, it is opening up opportunities for a broader spectrum of Christian books to be published, not just the strictly evangelical books that Christian publishing used to be primarily confined to. There is a more ecumenical approach and spirit in Christian publishing these days.

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GLA: Talk to me about a good platform for writing religious nonfiction. Besides being a preacher, what are other elements you’d like to see in proposals?

GD: Actually, being a preacher or pastor is not at all a prerequisite for writing religious nonfiction. I think I have only a couple authors who are pastors of some sort. Platform in religious nonfiction can be everything from pastoring a megachurch to having a wildly successful blog to being a notable scholar or thought leader. But it is important to have a platform and for that platform to be ever expanding.

GLA: What are the most common ways you see writers going wrong when they submit a query to you?

GD: Many nonfiction authors have almost no platform whatsoever. It is near impossible to publish nonfiction without a platform or recognized expertise in an area. Fiction authors err in sending manuscripts and queries that seem as if they’re first drafts - lacking the multiple drafts of rewriting that are necessary to truly hone and perfect their work.

GLA: Let’s say you sit down to read a Christian/inspirational fiction partial. What are some cliché openings that you see right there on page 1 or in chapter 1? What do you see way too much?

GD: I don’t think I see a whole lot of difference between the cliché openings of inspirational fiction and the cliché openings of every other kind of fiction. I must see 5-10 queries a day that begin their first chapter with a description of the sky or weather. Doesn’t matter what kind of fiction it is.

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

GD: The next conference I’ll be speaking at is the Southern Christian Writers’ Conference.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?

GD: Read deeply and widely in the area you want to be a writer. It seems that so often I receive queries where not only are the authors not at a point where they should be approaching agents yet, but they also appear to not even be astute readers of the categories they’re writing in. In addition to writing, writing, and rewriting in order to be a better writer, I’m a firm believer that the more intelligently you read, the better writer you’ll become.

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