“Keep writing! Publishing is a slow process at every stage–even after you get an agent, after you land a book deal, there will be long periods of waiting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your career is to keep writing and keep moving forward to the next project.”
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Jennifer Johnson-Blalock
Jennifer joined Liza Dawson Associates as an associate agent in 2015, having previously interned at LDA in 2013 before working as an agent’s assistant at Trident Media Group. Jennifer graduated with honors from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in English and earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Before interning at LDA, she practiced entertainment law and taught high school English and debate.
Jennifer is acquiring both narrative and prescriptive nonfiction from seasoned writers with strong platforms. She also seeks commercial and upmarket fiction, especially thrillers/mysteries, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, young adult, and middle grade.
Jennifer Johnson-Blalock: Ideally, I think the agent/author relationship is a partnership in which we’re working together to build an author’s career. Every relationship is a bit different due to varying communication styles, but essentially, I try to assist with both short-term problem solving and long-term planning to create the maximum chance for success for the author–as well as just being a reliable person in the author’s corner. I often find that my role is to provide the business/market perspective to balance the author’s creative instincts and aid in decision making.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
JJB: Primarily, a great book! If I fall in love with the manuscript, that’s most of the battle won. I also want to know that the author is working on other projects that sound intriguing, though, and I love authors who really use their resources to learn about the industry and have reasonable expectations based on their research.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
JJB: In the long run, I think it’s important. Increasingly, readers want to feel connected to writers, and in addition to publicity gains, I think social media can also be a great place for writers to find support from one another. When I receive a query, though, social media presence is only vital to me if its nonfiction; with those projects, platform is one of my biggest considerations.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
JJB: Keep writing! Publishing is a slow process at every stage–even after you get an agent, after you land a book deal, there will be long periods of waiting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your career is to keep writing and keep moving forward to the next project.
Click here and here to read our 2016 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.
Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.