Agent Interview: Jen Nadol

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A surefire way to determine an agent is the best fit for your manuscript/writing career is by learning all you can about them. Such information is great when choosing who to query, and when those offers of rep come in, for deciding who you’d love to work long term with. As a site dedicated to guiding writers through the publication journey, we’ve put together these agent interviews for you!

Today we’re introducing Jen Nadol from the Unter Agency!

Path2pub: How did you become an agent?

JN: I was an author first, publishing three YA novels with Bloomsbury and Simon & Schuster, but after a couple manuscripts didn’t sell, I started looking for ways to pivot my experience. I did an internship with Entangled, a digital romance publisher, and loved the editorial work, but a full-time editor role in NYC wasn’t a realistic option. So, I pivoted again, joining Jennifer Unter at her eponymous agency, to learn agenting. It was – and continues to be – a perfect match, blending the creative and business sides of the industry. I love it!

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

JN: I represent adult, YA and MG, both fiction and non-fic.

In fiction, my taste leans to commercial or commercial/literary stories, most often darker contemporary, thrillers, mysteries, magical realism, horror. I also love pacey rom-coms and women’s fiction with great character development. I’m not the best fit for fantasy (of any type) or younger middle-grade. I like some “science-y” SciFi (e.g., Andy Weir, Alan Glynn), but not SFF. I don’t represent picture books (except for existing clients) or chapter books. As a general rule, if there’s a dragon, “chosen one” or animal protagonist in the story or you’d describe it as satirical/offbeat/quirky, it’s probably not for me.

In non-fiction, I like memoir, narrative non-fiction, works that delve into the human psyche/behavior but am open to considering just about anything – surprise me! That said, I’m not a good fit for anything super political, military, historical or academic

My agent-tastes largely align with my reader-tastes, where I feel like I have the most value to offer. When I pitch a project to an editor, it needs to be not just a great, well-written story, but also one with a hook…a unique spot in the marketplace. It’s hard to show an editor what that hook is if I don’t know the market intimately. 

I don’t do picture books because I don’t understand the form – its really hard!

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

JN: Great writing/voice.

Path2pub: What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?

JN: A plot that feels too well-worn, characters that are too familiar, writing that is clunky or unpolished

Path2pub: How hands-on are you editorially?

JN: Very. I love working with clients to patch plot holes or deepen emotional resonance or build out ideas/characters/plotlines to make the story stronger. And I think taking the time to do so is critical to a project’s success. As publishing continues to merge and consolidate, opportunities shrink. Once an editor passes on a project, that entire imprint is off the table; so, a manuscript has maybe 20 or so chances to find a “yes”, less for something more niche. I want every project to be as developed and polished and amazing as the author and I can make it before we send it out.

Path2pub: This is very insightful. Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?

JN: I don’t. I’m actively building my list, but mindfully and with an eye toward quality and longevity over quantity

Path2pub: What is your favorite trope?

JN: Idk, I don’t think I have one.

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

JN: My clients’, of course!

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

JN: Oh boy, this is super-specific but I’d love to see a deep-dive into online dating that looks at it with a psychologist’s or anthropologist’s or documentarian’s eye (or all three combined) – a sort of Humans of New York with a laser focus on this facet of human behavior, profiles vs reality, etc – and draws accessible conclusions about people and attraction.

Path2pub: Awesome. What advice do you have for querying writers?

JN: Take your time. Polish your manuscript. Then set it aside and, weeks later, polish it again. Make sure the plot has urgency and stakes and emotional resonance. Tighten your prose. Find critique partners. You’ve spent a ton of time writing the thing; spend a little more giving it it’s best chance to find representation.

Give similar attention to your query. Ensure your story pitch is clear, compelling and well-written, focused on key plot/character elements rather than themes or why you wrote it or who it will appeal to, etc.

CHARACTER needs to do WHAT? by WHEN? or else STAKES! At the same time, WHAT SUBPLOTS ARE HAPPENING? is a basic framework to ensure key elements are included. 

If you’re querying a non-fiction project, ensure its measurably different from what’s already on the market and that you’re building some type of platform. 

Path2pub: This is invaluable advice! What are your non-publishing related hobbies?

JN: I’m a solo parent of three kids – what is this thing “hobbies” of which you speak?

Haha, thank you so much for stopping by, Jen!

Jen Nadol has worked in publishing for over ten years, first as a Young Adult author with novels published by Bloomsbury USA and Simon and Schuster. She joined The Unter Agency as an Associate Agent in 2018. Jen is originally from Reading, PA, graduated from American University with a BA in literature and has lived in Washington D.C., Boston, NYC, and now, an old farmhouse north of the city with her three sons. To query Jen, writers should send a query letter and first 5 pages in the body of an email here.

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From The Trenches To The Shelves

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