Today, we have literary agent Melissa Jeglinski from The Knight Agency on the blog! Welcome, Melissa, and thanks for being here!
Me: How did you become an agent?
Melissa: I worked in publishing for seventeen years as an editor with Harlequin. I really loved my job but was burned out by the city environment. I decided to make a huge change and move south. I had a great deal of respect for Deidre Knight and her agency and since they were in Georgia, I gave her a call. We really clicked and she offered me a place as an agent with The Knight Agency. It was a great match that has allowed me to work with so many different writers and projects. I’m really grateful that I took the leap.
Me: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?
Melissa: The author/agent relationship is part business and part personal. You are signing an agent to represent your work so they have to be great at their job but you also want to like them personally. You are asking them to work with your “baby” so to speak so you want them to respect that project and respect you as well. I always have to personally like any client I sign, that’s why I never know I’m going to offer representation until we have a phone call and a chance to chat.
Once an author signs with an agent they should be working on revising that project and getting it ready to shop. The agent should have a list of houses/editors they think would be the right fit and keep them informed of how they will “shop” that work and how much information they will provide to their client. I always send my clients my “pitch list” of the editors I’m sending their work to. I update them regularly on editor responses. And I also check with my clients as to whether or not they want all the feedback or just the ultimate decision. Some clients don’t want to hear anything negative while they are working on their next project. Some want to know everything. While I am shopping that project I signed the client on for, I’m working with them on their next project as I firmly believe they should always be on to the next thing. I don’t believe in all the eggs in one basket.
Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?
Melissa: I would love to see more Middle Grade fiction with a plot other than the MC getting a special power or going off on a wild adventure. Something quirky but emotional or perhaps a historical setting, even something sort of creepy would be great. I’d love to see a historical Young Adult novel or some YA Horror—true horror like Stephen King scare-me-to-death-and-give-me-nightmares horror. I’d also be open to some historical fiction set in early 20th century as I’m a huge Downton Abbey fan.
I’m seeing a little too much contemporary romance without a unique twist or setting. There is a lot of that out in the market right now and you’ve got to stand out to get noticed. I’m always looking for cozy mysteries but not seeing enough unique premises.
Me: As an agent, you see a lot of manuscripts from beginning writers. If there was one area you could tell a writer to focus on, to work toward improvement in, what would it be?
Melissa: I wish writers would think about where their book should really begin. Often I can see the best opening being well into the second chapter. I like to see something that isn’t filled with backstory or reads like a mini synopsis. Tell those elements as you get more involved in the story. Start with action or reaction, not the process of getting to the action. And make sure there is a nice balance of dialogue and narrative. Opening with long sections of introspection make for a slow start when what I want is an immediate invitation.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
Melissa: I’m very open to submissions. If a writer feels they have a project that is suited to the genres I’m looking for I invite them to send their query and first ten pages of their manuscript to Melissa dot Jeglinski at Knightagency dot net. Paste everything in the body of the email as I will not open attachments. I respond to all queries within two weeks. Please note that I do represent Romance (contemporary, historical, inspirational, erotica), YA, MG, Women’s Fiction and Mysteries. I do not represent science fiction, fantasy, poetry or picture books.