A surefire way to determine an agent is the best fit for your manuscript/writing career is by learning everything you can about them. Such information is great when choosing who to query and 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 awesome agent interviews for you!
Today we’re introducing Jenissa Graham from BookEnds Literary Agency!
Path2pub: How did you become an agent?
JG: I started my publishing journey at Writers House, first as an intern and then full time in the Subrights department as the Global Licensing and Media Rights Assistant. After a while, I missed the early stages of the book journey (reading through queries, reading revised manuscripts, writing pitch letters, etc.), and I knew eventually I’d want to return to that part of the job. When I learned BookEnds Literary had a position for an Associate Agent and Subright Manager, I knew it was the opportunity I was looking for because I didn’t have to choose between Subrights and Agenting. I could do both!
Path2pub: That’s awesome! What genres do you represent and why did you decide ‘these are what I want to help bring to the world’?
JG: Across middle grade and YA/NA, I’m looking to represent contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, mystery/suspense, and thrillers. The preteen to early adult years are pivotal in what shapes us. So many choices, experiences, and moments between those stages in my life brought me to where I am today, and I’m eager to represent books that also highlight that. In adult, I’m only open to psychological thrillers and mystery/suspense.
Also, many of us know the lack of diverse voices in Publishing. Growing up, I wanted to see more characters that looked like me or from different cultures and now I get to represent that.
Path2pub: What instantly catches your eye in a query letter/manuscript?
JG: The writing! I try to get a sense of the writer’s voice in the opening lines.
Path2pub: What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?
JG: I don’t think there’s something *at once*. Unless it’s something I blatantly said I’m not looking for, I carefully read through my queries to see if the query letter or sample pages evoke some kind of emotion or inclination to keep reading. If it didn’t, that just means I’m not the best advocate for it.
Path2pub: Thank you for sharing that! How hands-on are you editorially?
JG: I think I take on pretty hands on approach. As soon as I request more pages (either a partial or full), I’m taking notes while I consider the project. During the offer call, I make it clear my vision for the book and discuss some of my editorial suggestions. If we sign together then I break down my letter into categories where I will both gush about my favorite elements of the book while also suggesting where we can enhance it. I offer creative calls to all my clients because sometimes you just need to talk through scenes rather than type it.
Path2pub: Creative calls are great and I concur that talking through scenes is super helpful. Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?
JG: No set number. As I build my list, I’m looking for the stories that transformed me after reading and if I know I’ll be heartbroken (dramatic, yes) if I missed out on.
Path2pub: What is your favorite trope?
JG: Consequences of choices!
Path2pub: What are some books you think everyone should read?
JG: Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
Path2pub: Thank you for sharing those! If a writer could write a book specifically for you, what would you want it to be about?
JG: A speculative fiction or story told from the POV of the antagonist where I’m questioning my own beliefs/morals.
Path2pub: What advice do you have for querying writers?
JG: Start from a one line pitch and then expand from there. The hook is going to have my attention immediately, and as you expand into the subplots and elements, show me how/why your book is unique from all the other queries I read. I want to know what that thing is in your story that separates it from everyone else.
Path2pub: Great advice! What are your non-publishing related hobbies?
JG: Music, trying new foods/recipes, and tarot.
Jenissa Graham is an Associate Agent and Subrights Manager at BookEnds Literary Agency. She represents MG, YA, and select Adult projects across a wide-range of genres. Jenissa is a first-generation Jamaican and dedicated to increasing the BIPOC space in Publishing. She is always on the lookout for new underrepresented authors, so if you think your project may be the right fit, please consider querying her through Query Manager: QueryManager.com/JGraham
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