Interview with Agent Nephele Tempest from the Knight Agency
Please welcome Nephele Tempest to our blog. She is here to give our readers a new perspective from the other side. Please tell my readers a little bit about you, such as why did you become an agent?
Nephele– I came to agenting somewhat accidentally and through a circuitous route. Right out of college, I went into publishing, starting as an editorial assistant at an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Although I learned a great deal about how books are published, it was not a good fit for me and I moved on to try my hand in several other fields. I worked retail, then spent time as a paralegal while considering law school, and when I decided against that, moved on to a position as a financial advisor. I finally combined that last job with my love of writing and got a job in the marketing communications department for a mutual funds firm in New York. I spent a number of years there and at a subsequent firm, writing about finance, working on the corporate website, brochures, mailings, and so on.
Fast forward to the year following 9/11, and I was frustrated and a bit bored with my job. The stock market was sluggish and I had run out of new ways to talk about financial products, so I decided to make a change and move to Los Angeles. Once there, I worked as a freelancer for a time, until one day Deidre Knight, who I knew from an online writing group, mentioned she was looking to open a west coast office and asked if I’d be interested. She was aware of my early background and that I had kept up with book trends simply through my love of reading. I was intrigued, and after some discussion and several months reading slush for the agency on a freelance basis, I joined TKA. Being a literary agent taps into all the different skills I acquired from my various job experiences – publishing knowledge, sales, finance, contracts, etc. It’s a wonderful fit for me.
Please tell our readers about the agency you represent.
Nephele- The Knight Agency started as a small boutique agency in Georgia, founded by Deidre Knight. Her sister Pamela Harty joined her as the second agent, and then I joined a few years later. The agency has grown considerably since, with agents all over the country and even abroad, but I think we still have a boutique feel. We, as agents, talk with each other frequently about what editors are looking for, the state of the industry, what we’re reading, how best to market our clients, and so many other aspects of our business, and many of our clients also help and encourage each other, which I love.
Describe the genre of the most recent release, and is it the only genre you represent?
Nephele- My most recent client releases include Nalini Singh’s SILVER SILENCE, a paranormal romance; Nalini Singh’s CHERISH HARD, a contemporary romance; and Brooklyn Ann’s FORBIDDEN SONG, also a contemporary romance. These just happen to be the most current projects. While I love romance (including romantic suspense and historical romance as well as the above), I also represent women’s fiction, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction, as well as young adult and middle grade fiction.
What is your weekly routine like?
Nephele- Part of what I love about my job is that every day can be different, but there are certainly some things I do most every week. I generally scan through email first thing in the morning over my coffee, and respond to anything that I can get done quickly or that requires an immediate response. Then I tackle whatever big thing is on my to-do list for the day. That might be reading a contract, writing a pitch letter for a new book I’m getting ready to submit, calling an editor to discuss some issue, or typing up notes on a manuscript for a client. I try to leave reading for afternoons and evenings. Client projects generally take priority, but occasionally I will have a fast read for a submission or because a fellow agent wants a second opinion on something. Evenings I work on reading submissions – primarily queries and partial manuscripts. Unless I have a very quiet week, I tend to read full manuscript submissions over the weekend, when I have more time and fewer distractions. Sprinkled between all of those tasks, I also write blog posts, the occasional piece for the agency newsletter, chat with clients over questions or what our next step will be with their work, attend conferences, teach online classes, confer with my coworkers about various shifts in the industry, and so on.
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
Nephele- I credit my mother for my love of reading. She always took the time to read with me when I was little, even after I could already read to myself, and we made weekly pilgrimages to my local library. I don’t remember ever going into a bookstore as a child and leaving without a new book; she’d always get me at least one. My mother placed great emphasis on the fact that if you could read well, you could always find the answers to any questions you had, learn whatever you needed to know, and entertain yourself if you were bored.
For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter; synopsis; a snappy tweet; etc.
Nephele- First and foremost, I look for projects in genres that I represent and that sound intriguing to me. I can’t always say what about a story itself will capture my attention, but I try to Tweet about books I read and enjoy and I have a Goodreads account where I track books I’m reading outside of client work. But I try to take each project a step at a time. If you’re querying or pitching, I look at the concept. Is this story something I feel like reading? Is it a fresh take on the genre or does it sound like a hundred other queries I’ve received? If it’s a query, is the writing clean and engaging? Did the writer take the time to proofread their letter and follow submission guidelines?
Once I’ve got actual pages in front of me, I want to get engaged in the material pretty quickly. That doesn’t mean every detail needs to be in the first paragraph, but I want to know enough to engage my attention. Who is the protagonist? What is the situation? Why should I care? The key is to keep caring as I read. The more invested I become, the more likely I am to keep going. If I’m bored too early, or for too long, the writer will lose me.
While I love engaging on social media, submissions are really based on the material. So unless I’m participating in one of the Twitter Pitch days, where I’m specifically looking for submissions that, way, the best means of getting my attention is to write a really good query letter and follow our submission guidelines. I don’t respond to random pitches on social media or in blog comments, etc.
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
Nephele- Publishing is a crowded and competitive market, and it can take time to break through, even for good writers. Keep trying, keep reading and learning your genre, keep striving to put your best ideas and best work forward, and eventually you will make it. There is a measure of luck in this business, but you need to be there and ready to work when luck shines your way.
How can our readers find your query guidelines?
Nephele- Readers can find our agency guidelines at The Knight Agency’s website: http://knightagency.net/submission-guidelines/
More About Nephele Tempest
Nephele Tempest joined The Knight Agency www.knightagency.net in January, 2005, opening the Los Angeles office. As an agent, she works with a number of talented writers, assisting them to hone their skills and build their careers. Her prior work experiences in sales, marketing, and writing provide her with insights into multiple aspects of the publishing industry. Nephele belongs to the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and to Romance Writers of America (RWA). She is currently seeking works in the following genres: upmarket fiction, women’s fiction, fantasy, science fiction, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, historical fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction. She can be found online at http://nepheletempest.com and on both Twitter and Instagram @NepheleTempest