Skip to main content

Literary Agent Advice: Elise Capron of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

This is an interview with Elise Capron of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. A graduate of Emerson College, Elise holds a BFA in writing, literature and publishing. She has been with the Dijkstra Agency since late 2003.

She is looking for adult literary fiction, multicultural fiction, debut novels, story collections, and, on the non-fiction side, trade-friendly cultural and/or environmental history.

Elise-Capron-agent

How did you become an agent?

I had always been interested in publishing and writing, and did several internships during my college years (including at the Dijkstra Agency). I was particularly interested in the agenting side of things because I enjoyed working with a small team and being able to do a lot of creative work directly with writers. I was lucky enough to get a position at SDLA right as I was graduating college, and have been here ever since!

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

I’m particularly fond of one of my non-fiction books that has just published: Meera Subramanian’s A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis, from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka, published by PublicAffairs. Meera is a brilliant journalist, and brings her story-telling and investigative talents together with fascinating environmental science and personal stories in this gorgeous and important book.

One of your recent sales, Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning, received a lot of positive buzz in 2014. What’s that like to see a project of your client’s be met with such positive reviews?

It’s thrilling! The best thing one can hope for is to see your client’s book get the attention it deserves, and, then, to continue to build on that success over a long, rewarding career.

Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?

Really compelling, fresh ideas. I latch onto a proposal or manuscript immediately when I feel like the writer is doing something truly new.

Literary fiction is one of your specialties. What makes a work literary to you and what are some recent titles in the genre that you love and wish you could have represented?

“Literary” fiction generally means that the narrative arc is driven more by character than plot. There is plenty of crossover out there, of course!

Some recent literary novels I've enjoyed (but didn't represent) include The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters; Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese; The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (published in 2012); Threats by Amelia Gray; and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve also been revisiting some literary classics lately, such as Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which is such a brilliant and moving novel.

What makes a manuscript stand out on a first read?

A distinctive and confident narrative voice. I want to feel myself sink into that voice and the novel’s world in the first five pages.

What misconceptions do you think people have about agents?

That we spend our office time reading! Most agents only get to read manuscripts on their evenings and weekends. During the work days, we’re busy taking care of all the other business that goes into managing our authors’ careers.

What’s something about you that writers would be surprised to hear?

I am often asked whether I still enjoy personal reading when I read so many manuscripts. Of course I do! After editing manuscripts on a Saturday, there’s little I enjoy more than immediately picking up a published novel and diving into that world. Working on a manuscript and reading a finished book are very different experiences, and take different kinds of thinking. And by keeping up with enjoyable personal reading, I can also stay in tune with what’s working in the commercial market.

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

My next conference will be Words & Music in New Orleans, taking place over Halloween weekend this year! After that, I’ll be at my home town’s conference, the SDSU Writers Conference held in San Diego in January.

Best piece of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

Spend time educating yourself on where you fit in in the publishing world: Define your genre, your audience, your identity as a writer. The more confidence you can convey on this front, the better.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.07.16 PM

This interview conducted by Gail Werner, a freelance writer 
and committee member of the Midwest Writers Workshop. 
You can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

New York Times bestselling author Kate White discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 615

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a desire poem.

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top writing advice websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Love the Art. Work the Business. | Nikesha Elise Williams

Nikesha Elise Williams: On the Power of Self-Publishing

In this indie author profile, novelist Nikesha Elise Williams shares her path to self publishing and the creative marketing strategy that's led to her success.

Change of Plans

Change of Plans

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, there's been a sudden and unforeseen change of plans.

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

Author Ashley M. Coleman gives you her top five tricks for writing about the music industry—even if you're not an industry expert.

10 Tips on Covering Events as a Freelance Journalist

10 Tips on Covering Events as a Freelance Journalist

From planning ahead to staying late, Alison Hill shares 10 tips for journalists while covering events as a freelancer.

From Script

Character Studies, Writing the Immigrant Experience, and Six Adaptation Steps Before You Adapt a Book (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, navigate different character study approaches in your writing, and tracking emotional journeys.

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Author Lora Senf discusses how one chilling text message led her to writing her new middle grade horror novel, The Clackity.