Today, we have Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency on the blog. Welcome, Jessica!
Me: How did you become an agent?
Jessica: While I was in college, I started reading a lot of indie books (mainly because they were super inexpensive and I was flat-out broke). I discovered all of these amazing authors and stories which spurred me to start a review blog. I then found that I love talking to authors and readers about books that I love. While I’ve wanted to do something in traditional publishing, I didn’t really have the desire to be an editor. I discovered that a literary agent is someone who has that reach into the big world of publishing, but always has their authors as their first priority. That was very appealing to me and why I decided I wanted to become an agent.
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?
Jessica: I know many people have said this already, but the author/agent relationship is almost like a marriage. An author has to have trust in their agent because not only are they allowing their agent to offer input on their manuscript, but they also trust that agent with their writing career. A good agent should have their client’s best interests always at the fore-front of their mind, but they also need to know when to compromise. Even though an agent may feel that one decision is better than another, ultimately they need to support what the author wants. Ultimately an author should know that they have someone who is their cheerleader, buffer, shoulder to cry on, and whatever else they need, because an agent only wants success and happiness for their clients.
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?
Jessica: I would love to see more historical romance! I’ve been begging for some on my twitter lately and have not seen very much in my inbox. In general, I’m a big romance lover and love getting some awesome romance queries. I get so many queries for fantasy, and while I like fantasy, I don’t really represent anything in that genre.
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?
Jessica: Personally, a lot of the manuscripts I see from beginning writers have these amazing story ideas, but their first few pages are such a letdown. One big piece of advice is to not overload the reader with background info on the first few pages. Some of the best books I’ve read have background information dispersed throughout the book on a need to know basis. If the character’s Mother’s Uncle isn’t a main focus of the story, his history doesn’t need to be in the first three pages. Hook a reader with plot, character, and setting.
Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
Jessica: Always address your query letters. Please don’t send them out in batches with a general “hello” greeting.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
Jessica: I am always open to submissions and love seeing new ones! I try to respond within 3-4 weeks. Email me at: Jessica@dijkstraagency.com
You can follow Jessica on Twitter here.