Saturday, April 6, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Emily Gref

Emily Gref is an Agent at Lowenstein Associates, as well as the contracts and royalties manager. She also handles foreign and subrights. Her interests are wide and varied. In Young Adult and Middle Grade she is looking for all genres, but has a weak spot for fairy tale, folklore, and mythology retellings. Emily is also interested in fantasy and science fiction, as well as literary and commercial women’s fiction.

In non-fiction she is looking for strong narratives and books by recognized experts with a wide-reaching platform. Books that lend themselves well to digital platforms are especially of interest. Non-fiction projects she’d like to take on include narratives about linguistics, anthropology and history. She is also open to biographies with a strong voice and unique hook. 

You can follow her on twitter at @Skycornerless.

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.

And now Emily Gref faces the 7 Questions: 

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Even having gone on countless interviews and lunches, I still have trouble with this question! The answer is always changing, too – how can you pick just three? And ‘favorite’, that’s a tough category, because different books have different values. So, here is what I’ll do:

My favorite classic novel: EMMA by Jane Austen
One of my favorites from childhood: GONE-AWAY LAKE by Elizabeth Enright
One of my favorite adult novels: JONATHAN STRANGE and MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

This is a sight easier – Doctor Who, The Last Unicorn, and Arrested Development (in no particular order). I actually didn't grow up with a TV, so I’m not really much of a TV or movie buff… I’m catching up, though! There are only so many cultural references that can go over your head before you have to take charge of the situation. All the recent remakes (Star Trek, I’m looking at you) help a lot, too.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Someone who is passionate about their work and dedicated to their career. Nobody wants a client that’s just finished one book, is proud of it, and doesn't really have ideas for more. When an agent signs a client, we’re looking to help develop a career, one that will help support both of us. So I’m definitely looking for clients that have many stories in them, and are willing and eager to put in all the work to bring those stories to publication. And it is a LOT of work!! Writing is not for the faint of heart.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

 Outside of what everyone is looking for (fresh voice, strong writing, new twist) I’d really like to see a query for a project that explores a place or moment in time that hasn’t been explored before, from the perspective of someone that is not your average protagonist. I’m really on the lookout for diverse characters and stories, and if there are sci-fi/fantasy elements involved, so much the better!

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

 I feel like it’s an obvious answer, but my favorite thing about being an agent is reading a new project – either from a querier or a client, or even just something newly published that inspires me – and getting really excited about the writer and the story, and feeling so lucky that this is my job. My least favorite part about this is the other side of that coin – having to reject the thousands of writers that come to me with projects that either just aren’t ready or just aren’t right for me. Even when I have to resort to form letters to handle the volume, it doesn’t make it any easier – these are all projects that have been given so much time and love and attention by their writers, and it stinks.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)
Do your research. ‘Write what you know’ is such a vague maxim, and one that can be limiting, but this doesn't apply just to reading up on Paris or the terminology of horseback-riding for your French equestrian adventure novel. Do your research on the market – comp  titles are important to know for querying purposes, but also if the market is glutted with centaurs, who is going to put down money for your book? Do your research on the agents – why bother submitting to someone who isn't going to be a good fit? Do your research on the industry, so you know what any potential agent is talking about if/when you get that call. It’s a lot of work – as much if not more than actual writing! – but publishing is a business, and it’s important to be knowledgeable.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Megan Whalen Turner, because I really, REALLY need to know when to put ‘turn into a raving fangirl’ into my calendar for her next book. And to steal all her secrets for creating such intricate plots and compelling characters, obviously.


  1. Emily is already on my list to query for my upper middle grade fantasy. Glad to hear that she's looking for diverse characters. And I'd love to meet Megan Whalen Turner too.

  2. I love the answer for question three. I have tons of ideas. I hope to become a full time author just so I get enough time to sit down and write them down!


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