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.
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“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.

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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.

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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.

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