Agent Stefanie Lieberman Speaks Out
Please welcome Stefanie Lieberman from Janklow & Nesbit Associates to our blog. She is here to give authors a new perspective from the other side.
Please tell us a little bit about you, such as why did you become an agent?
I was one of those kids who spent every waking minute with her nose in a book. You couldn’t tear me away most of the time: I would read on the bus on the way to school, even though it would make me completely sick; I would ignore repeated requests to join my family for dinner, even though I really like to eat dinner! I became a literary agent because I’m no less in love with good stories now as an adult than I was as a child— and because I can barely contain my excitement when I find a manuscript I suspect other people will want to gobble up as much as I do.
Describe the genre of the most recent release you are part of, and is this the only genre you represent?
My next releases are commercial fiction, historical romance and urban fantasy, but my professional interests span the fiction gamut. I’m particularly energized by
any manuscript that straddles the commercial and literary gap effectively, with a strong, compelling voice and a muscular, well-conceived plot.
For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter; synopsis; a snappy tweet; etc.
At base, I just want to see a well-written query letter that gives me a clear idea of the style and the substance of the submission. I don’t need a snappy tweet, and I don’t need the author to summarize the book in one line or distill many thousands of words into a single sentence designed to “hook” the reader. I think coming up with a good “hook” is really tough and very few people manage to do it elegantly – and my shoulders tend to creep up when I see too many ideas crammed into one awkward, never-ending sentence. That said, you must be able to reel me in by the second or third (pithy!) paragraph of your query. I guess, for me, it’s a fine line between too little and too much.
What is the biggest no no you see in submissions that makes you reject them?
This is a hugely difficult question to answer, because I don’t think there’s any one thing that moves a manuscript into my rejection pile. I suppose I do feel myself turning off when it seems like the author is writing several different books at once. If you’ve gone through numerous drafts with different critique partners, but you’ve failed to weed out an old subplot or extraneous information that is no longer relevant to the story, then my attention will absolutely wander. When I read a new submission, I don’t want to see obvious cracks that could have been mended and polished to a shine.
Where can authors find your query guidelines?
Readers can go to Janklow & Nesbit’s agency website at http://www.janklowandnesbit.com/submissions. Please don’t forget to indicate in the subject line that your submission is for me.
Stefanie Lieberman is Senior Counsel and a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates. She joined J&N in 2005 after practicing intellectual property law at The Guggenheim Museum, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and boutique entertainment firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz. Stefanie holds a BA in Humanities from Yale University and a JD from Northwestern University School of Law.
As an agent, Stefanie draws on both her legal expertise and her understanding of the publishing and film industries to represent writers of all types of commercial fiction.