It's been 4 years since I featured an interview with literary agent Jessica Regel on this blog, so I thought now was as good a time as ever to touch base with her and ask what's subjects and genres she's seeking right this very minute. Seeing as how she is currently seeking new clients, she was happy to talk with us. Jessica is a literary agent at Jean V. Naggar Literary in New York City (and as of 2013 is now with Foundry Literary + Media). Read what kinds of books she seeks below!
Interested more in the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency?
- Read an interview with JVNL agent Jennifer Weltz.
- See a profile of JVNL agent Laura Biagi.
- Read an interview with JVNL agent Elizabeth Evans.
GLA: Tell us about something you repped that came out recently.
Jessica Regel: Dial/Penguin published The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress this past December. This book is pure entertainment -- incredibly fun and incredibly smart. It also has a great one-line pitch: "a Steampunk Charlie’s Angels without the Charlie." What drew me to this book is that it has three dynamic, strong (but not bitchy) female characters. Strong female characters are definitely a theme in the books I represent. You can find them in my adult fiction, such as Cloaks & Veils by J.C. Carleson, and, of course, in the MG and YA I represent. Actually, a YA book I just sold to Egmont (Burn Out) has one of the best female characters I’ve ever read—Tora, one of the last survivors on earth, is holed up in an underground shelter protecting the bio-weapons her father created from landing in the wrong hands. You can’t get much cooler (or stronger) than that!
GLA: I see that most of your recent sales on publishers marketplace are Young Adult. Is YA still your bread & butter genre? If so, what are you looking for in the YA submissions you receive? What are you seeing too much of?
Jessica Regel: Yes, over the last few years YA has become my bread and butter. It’s a genre that I love to read for pleasure and it’s also a relatively stable genre in the market.
I’m always on the lookout for new voices in YA fiction and nonfiction. Specifically, I’m looking for high concept contemporary stories (dying for a funny John Hughes-ish/Easy A high school story), love stories, magical realism, horror (but not gory), and sophisticated thrillers.
I still see a lot of vampires, werewolves, and zombies. I also see a lot of what I call “powers and prophecies” pitches and dystopian novels. While I won’t automatically reject a book that involves these elements, it is much, much harder to get my attention with these pitches because the market is flooded. For these books to stand out the author needs to have an incredible voice and a strong grasp on what makes their book stand out from what’s already been published in the genre.
GLA: Outside of YA, what is on your wish list outside of "good writing"? Upmarket fiction? MG for boys? Etc.
Jessica Regel: I’d love to see a boy book that is fast paced—so either a thriller or a suspense novel. Something like Fight Club or Gone Girl for boys would be very cool.
For adult fiction, last year I sold a phenomenal women’s fiction novel to Riverhead—Margot by Jillian Cantor, which tells the story of Margot Frank, Anne Frank’s older sister. Margot also kept a diary in the annex, but her diary was never found, and this book imagines what Margot’s life would’ve been like if she had survived. It’s gorgeously written, but also has a really strong hook. This is the type of women’s fiction that I’m dying for!
I love general fiction with genre elements, magical realism, tear-jerkers, sister stories, big family stories, or humor.
In nonfiction, I’m looking for humor, pop culture, or memoir. To be a bit more specific, I’m looking for “fun” memoirs. Writers, please don’t pitch me your misery memoir. The nonfiction I handle is never very serious. I go more for entertainment/lifestyle projects.
(Look over a growing list of agents who represent memoir.)
GLA: When we crossed paths at a previous writers conference, you mentioned that your past includes living in Morocco and also playing the cello. Do these elements influence what you look for in a book or gravitate toward in terms of favorite topics?
Jessica Regel: My experiences in Morocco, and also in Miami, have definitely influenced my tastes. I’m always on the look out for multicultural narrators and stories. I would really love to find a fresh contemporary Moroccan novel. Something like Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea. And books from Hispanic narrators, especially in the MG and YA genres, are always in high demand.
GLA: You've been agenting for almost 10 years now. You've got a great perspective on the industry. What do writers need to know about being a writer nowadays that perhaps was not a concern a decade ago.
Jessica Regel: I’m sure writers have been hearing this for years, I know I have, but the quiet, steady mid-list book is dying. It’s extremely difficult to sell a quiet, well-written book. Each project I go out with needs to have that one-line movie pitch. It’s all about the hook—paired with phenomenal writing.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
Jessica Regel: Yours, of course! The 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference this April in NYC.
GLA: Best way to submit to you?
(Updated: E-query her at jregel [at] foundrymedia.com and put "Query" in the subject line.)
GLA: What do you not want to be pitched?
Jessica Regel: I’m not looking to acquire any new picture book clients. I also don’t handle much practical or “serious” nonfiction. Elizabeth Evans in my office has a fantastic nonfiction list and writers should reach out to her directly with these projects. The same can be said of literary fiction. Alice Tasman would be the agent from my office to submit to if that’s your genre. I also don’t represent genre fiction, so no cozy mysteries, sci-fi, romance, westerns, etc. Not to be confused with general fiction with genre elements. Such as The Sparrow or Time Travelers Wife. That’s exactly the type of book I’m looking for.
GLA: Favorite movie?
Jessica Regel: One of my favorite films is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As I’ve stated above, I love smart, (dare I say sentimental? No, nostalgic is probably a better description!) love stories with a science fiction or fantasy element. The Time Traveler’s Wife is still one of my favorite novels that falls under that category. If you’ve written a YA Time Traveler’s Wife please send it my way!
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- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
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- June 24, 2017: The Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:
- If Your First Manuscript Doesn't Sell, Start on Another
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- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- How to Deal With Writing Critiques & Revision Notes.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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