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Agent Advice: Janet Benrey of Benrey Literary

This installment features Janet Benrey, founder of Benrey Literary in New Bern, N.C. Janet founded Benrey Literary in 2006. Previously with Hartline Literary Agency, Janet worked several jobs that have had two common themes: marketing and publishing. A published novelist, she's co-written seven cozy mysteries with her husband. She is seeking: For fiction, she is currently seeking contemporary women’s fiction for both markets, romance for both markets, and suspense/thriller for the secular market. She does not handle science fiction, fantasy or erotica. For nonfiction, she's looking for Christian Living books and self-help books for both markets. She's also keeping her eyes open for a unique project that captures her interest.

“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Janet Benrey of Benrey Literary) 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 Janet Benrey, founder of Benrey Literary in New Bern, N.C. Janet founded Benrey Literary in 2006. Previously with Hartline Literary Agency, Janet worked several jobs that have had two common themes: marketing and publishing. A published novelist, she's co-written seven cozy mysteries with her husband.

She is seeking: For fiction, she is currently seeking contemporary women’s fiction for both markets, romance for both markets, and suspense/thriller for the secular market. She does not handle science fiction, fantasy or erotica. For nonfiction, she's looking for Christian Living books and self-help books for both markets. She's also keeping her eyes open for a unique project that captures her interest.

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

JB: Just this week, my client, Brenda Minton, received an offer from Harlequin's Steeple Hill Love Inspired for her second book, Making It Right.

GLA: When writers send you a nonfiction book proposal, what are the most common things you see lacking?

JB: Nonfiction proposals should be fairly easy to write. There's a lot of information available to writers on how to write the greatest, the most compelling, the "no-fail" nonfiction proposal, so I'm often surprised when authors fail to mention their reasons and credentials for writing the work. Like publishers, I often jump to the credentials section of the proposal before getting to the meat of the proposal. I need to know why an author is qualified to write what they're writing and how their work differs from what has already been published on the topic they've chosen.

GLA: One of your specialties is "Christian Living." Can you help define this and give a few book examples?

JB: The Christian Living category of books represents a huge umbrella that covers a multitude of topics. Christian Living works can include books on issues of importance to women, men and teenagers; Christian Living books can be about parenting, marriage, family life, divorce, breast cancer, healing, health, faith journies, spiritual challenges, leadership and devotionals. (One) series that I've contracted is for three books with a theme of taking faith to the next level. These were written by a pastor of a large church and the audience will be members of churches across the country who are interested in working through a study program that deals with parenting and other topics.

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GLA: You handle different genre work—mystery, romance, Christian. When an author queries you, should they say their submission is simply a "mystery" or a "romance"? Or do they need to be more specific, saying it's a "cozy" or a "Christian romance" or a "sensuous contemporary"?

JB: Please tell me in which genre you're writing. An amazing number of authors fail to do this, leaving me to scratch my head. Please be specific. For example: This is a (insert word count) cozy mystery written for the Christian market. This is a (insert word count) contemporary/historical Christian romance. This does two things. It tells me that you read in your chosen genre and that you have a grasp of the requirements of the marketplace.

GLA: Bottom line—what attracts you to a work? 

JB: Voice. Ain't got voice, ain't gonna sell. Voice is craft. Voice is dialogue. Voice is creating a fictional dream. Voice is the narrator you chose for your story. Voice is doing everything well. Voice is point of view. Voice is the sound of the novel

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