Skip to main content

Literary Agent Interview: Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency

This installment features Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. Prior to his career as a literary agent, Jeff was a litigator for many years at two large New York-based corporate law firms; a communications consultant working in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo; and an editor of Living Buddhism magazine. He is seeking: Jeff’s interests are varied: he represents nonfiction works, especially memoirs, histories, biographies, international current events and sports. He also represents fiction works, particularly in the young adult, thriller and international fiction categories.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency) 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.

(Looking to attend a writers' conference? Start here.)

This installment features Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. Prior to his career as a literary agent, Jeff was a litigator for many years at two large New York-based corporate law firms; a communications consultant working in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo; and an editor of Living Buddhism magazine. Feel free to check out the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency Facebook page.

He is seeking: Jeff’s interests are varied: he represents nonfiction works, especially memoirs, histories, biographies, international current events and sports. He also represents fiction works, particularly in the young adult, thriller and international fiction categories.

Image placeholder title

GLA: How and why did you become an agent?

JO: I had worked in the past as a writer, editor, communications consultant and an attorney, and I found that literary agenting brings together all of my loves -- including my editing, marketing and negotiating skills.

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

JO: I'm very excited about a number of upcoming projects, though none are to be imminently released as I've been agenting for less than a year.

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

JO: I'd particularly love to see some more excellent, non-fiction sports writing.

GLA: How much does a writer’s platform impact whether or not you agree to represent his/her manuscript?

JO: A writer's platform is important to me, especially for non-fiction writers. Publishers want to know that the authors I represent have the authority to tackle the subjects they write about.

(How successful should a blog be before agents/editors will take notice?)

GLA: What draws you to a good thriller? Strong protagonists? Dark themes? A killer hook? All of the above?

JO: What I most love in a good thriller is page-turning action coupled with sparkling writing. I see a lot of imaginative thrillers that aren't particularly well-written, as well as well-written thrillers that bore me.

GLA: If I asked you for your top 3 tips on writing for YA, you would say ______ ?

JO: Sharp writing, romance and unique settings.

GLA: Tell us a little bit more about your interest in international fiction categories. Do you notice any trends in what you tend to represent in here?

JO: The Asian market continues to grow, and so I'm very interested in Asian-themed thrillers and YA.

(Can you re-query an agent after she's rejected you in the past?)

GLA: What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?

JO: For a former corporate lawyer, I'm a pretty nice guy. That, and I like swimming in the Hudson River.

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

JO: I'll be at ThrillerFest in New York City [July 2013].

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

JO: A good query is essential to capturing my interest. It should be well-written, concise and demonstrate that the writer understands his or her market.

Image placeholder title

This agent interview is by Brittany Roshelle Davis, a
freelance writer and aspiring author. You can visit her
blog, The Write Stuff, or follow her on Facebook.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 614

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 summer poem.

Give Your Characters a Psych Eval

Give Your Fictional Characters a Psych Eval

TV writer, producer, and novelist Joshua Senter explains why characters can do absolutely anything, but it's important to give them a psych eval to understand what can lead them there.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: Vacation Reads (Podcast, Episode 6)

In the sixth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about what makes for a good vacation read, plus a conversation with authors Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser and our first ever WD Book Club selection from debut author Grace D. Li.

Trend Chaser

Trend Chaser

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, an attempt to join an online trend has gone wrong.