SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Stephen Fraser from The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Stephen Fraser from The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Good morning, everyone!

We are excited to bring you another wonderful Spotlight On interview, this time with Stephen Fraser.

Stephen is an executive agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. He represents both children’s and adult books in a wide range of genres, and is currently looking for:
Good, original writing; picture books with delicious words; middle grade stories that endure, that have strong characters and plots; young adult novels that have identifiable teens and hopeful, interesting stories for the soon-to-be adult.

You can find Stephen on Twitter to see what he is up to.

Stephen Fraser

“Let your writing speak for itself. If you have written a good story, nothing can prevent it from finding its proper home.”

Hi Stephen, thanks for speaking with us today!

Q. What brought you to agenting?

I had worked as an editor at seven different publishers for about 25 years, including Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. One of the agents I worked with was expanding her company, and when I decided to leave HarperCollins, she asked me if I wanted to work with her. I had never thought of agenting before, but it has proven to be a good career step for me. One of the things an agent needs is a solid knowledge of the industry and its players and I already had that.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about being an agent?

I love to be able to tell an author that there is an offer on the table for their manuscript, particularly a first time author. And I like discovering a new talent.

Q. What makes for a successful author-agent relationship? How can both parties get the most out of the relationship?

There needs to be a level of trust. I don’t mind input from clients about publishers that might be a good place for submission. And I expect clients to stay in touch every six weeks or so.  Some clients want to chat on the phone sometimes; some need hand-holding and some do not. The relationship is different with every client.

Q. What’s at the top of your fiction wish-list?

I am always looking for good middle-grade fiction. Those are the strongest and most loyal readers, so they need solid stories with good characters. Language to me is the key element, books that are beautifully and thoughtfully written. And of course, I love finding good picture book manuscripts. The key is to write a text that invites an illustrator to create a visual narrative; it needs to be imagistic yet understated; and you need to want to read it aloud over and over again.

Q. What’s at the top of your non-fiction wish-list?

Finding a bit of history that hasn’t been tackled before in a children’s book helps make a nonfiction book stand out for me, outstanding characters that can become role models for young readers. Or fascinating bits of science that have child-appeal.  The important nonfiction writing is what is called ‘narrative nonfiction.’ There needs to be a good story.

Q. Is there any genre you’d rather not receive?

I don’t like books that are snarky or gross. I don’t generally like dystopian literature. I think books for children need at least an element of hope.

Q. What do you want to see in a query letter? And what do you hate?

 A query letter is like a resume. All that it does is get your foot in the door. I like to know what the genre is, the word count, if the author has been published before (please name the publisher). Contact information, of course. Beyond that, I just need to read the manuscript. The writing should speak for itself. What I don’t like is if something addresses the query “to whom it may concern” or “dear agent.” And I don’t like if author apologizes. If you don’t have the poise to send off your manuscript with confidence, don’t submit it.

Q. Same question when it comes to the synopsis. What should writers do? What should they avoid?

A synopsis is simply for the editor to read in order to get a sense of the entire story arc. It shouldn’t be an entire outline of the novel, a couple of paragraphs only.

Q. What are you looking for in the opening pages of a novel? What really excites you?

From years of experience, I can usually tell a lot from the first few sentences: Do I want to read more from this author? What kind of writer are they? It is always the language that gets me. Certainly the story concept is important, but can the writer carry it off? I need to hear a fresh voice that begs for an audience.

Q. Any final words of advice for authors in the writing or querying process?

Let your writing speak for itself. If you have written a good story, nothing can prevent it from finding its proper home.

The full interview will be uploaded to Stephen’s AgentMatch profile.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!

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