Agent Interview: Nina Leon

In case you missed the announcement, February on Path2pub is our ALL ABOUT QUERYING month where query critiques, querying tips, and agent interviews will abound. As a site dedicated to guiding writers through the publication journey, we’ve put together awesome agent interviews for you!

Today we’re introducing Nina Leon of the High Spot Literary!

Path2pub: Welcome to Path2pub, Nina! How did you become an agent?

NL: I have a writing background, but very quickly realised that I wanted to be on the publishing side of the industry. I read an honours degree in publishing before assessing (reading) manuscripts for Pan Macmillan. After Macmillan, I interned at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency with Whitney Ross as my mentor. My time at IGLA taught me so much about the industry and very quickly convinced me that being an agent was the best fit for me. I’m now a Junior Agent at High Spot Literary where I build and maintain my list of wonderful clients.

Path2pub: What genres do you represent and why did you decide ‘these are what I want to help bring to the world’?

NL: I represent all genres with a particular interest in fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy; it offers readers the opportunity to step out of the real world and into something magical and fantastic. I think, now more than ever, that escapism in literature is incredibly powerful.

Path2pub: What instantly catches your eye in a query letter/manuscript?

NL: An original and unique hook is key. When a trend becomes popular, the market can become flooded with it, which makes it harder for projects to stand out or be acquired. I also look for a clear and well-structured query letter, strong comp titles, and a gripping synopsis. Feel free to throw in your social media handle because I’m probably going to stalk you online if I like your query. I’m also always grateful when writers mention why they chose to query me. Showing that you’ve done research will earn you points. Please avoid the ‘I’ve attached the required material’ and just left it at that…without a query letter.

Path2pub: These are extremely helpful! What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?

NL: It comes down to instinct at the end of the day. I can tell very early on if the writing or storytelling is on the weaker side. Those weaknesses can often come in the form of unrealistic dialogue, vague and overly long descriptions, and characters that fall a bit flat. If there is any form of arrogance or rudeness in a query, it’s an instant ‘no’ from me. I won’t even read the submission.

Path2pub: Often writers wonder what could be weak about their query. This shows where one could start looking from! How hands-on are you editorially?

NL: I love the editorial process! It can be such a fun and a wonderful way to bond with your client. You’re working together to ensure you have the strongest MS possible, which means there is a lot of creativity, brainstorming, and excitement. If you couldn’t tell already, I’m an editorial heavy agent. I think my writing background is a contributing factor, and I genuinely love the creative process.

Path2pub: Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?

NL: I’ve signed four clients since I started as a Junior Agent in August last year. You can never really set a solid goal for how many clients you want to sign in a year because there’s no guarantee of the types of queries you’re going to receive. You might be flooded with incredibly strong queries, or you might experience the opposite.

Path2pub: So true. What are some books you think everyone should read?

NL: It would be impossible to list all my recommendations because there are so many of them. But I would say anything by Stephen Fry. I have endless love for anything he writes.

Path2pub: If a writer could write a book specifically for you, what would you want it to be about?

NL: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I’m very lucky to have found clients who write everything I could ever want in a story. I know that’s cheating, but it’s true. Their stories have escapism, magic, love, adventure, and a whole lot of bravery.

Path2pub: You have amazing chemistry with your clients; it’s awesome! What advice do you have for querying writers?

NL: Research is key. Look for agents who represent the type of story you’ve written, and focus on tailoring your query to them. If you’ve chosen to query them because you like an author that they represent, mention that. Show them that you’ve done your research. Make sure your MS is as strong as you can make it. Have friends read it, or put it aside for a while so that you can gain perspective before you edit it again. Write the strongest and neatest query letter you can. An agent will probably make a decision within the space of ten seconds, so you really need to grip them early on.

Path2pub: So many helpful nuggets! What are your non-publishing related hobbies?

NL: I love hiking!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Nina Leon is a Junior Agent at High Spot Literary. She represents YA/NA/MG across all genres with a particular interest in fantasy. You can check out Nina’s wishlist and submission details here.

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Published by path2pub

From The Trenches To The Shelves

6 thoughts on “Agent Interview: Nina Leon

  1. Amazing interview, and true there are so many nuggets to unpack from this! I particularly appreciate the breakdown of advice for querying writers!


  2. Amazing interview! One of my favorite parts of this site. I’m definitely having an easier time making a list of agents to query once my new MS is set.


  3. Saw this from twitter and am glad I checked it out. What resonates with me most is the breakdown of elements in query and manuscripts that make Nina knows they aren’t for her: such as the weak writing and unrealistic dialogue. These interviews are highly enlightening, thank you for sharing them!


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