“Many publishers are now excited by books that don’t fit into one specific box, and those are generally the books I love most.” -Stephanie Delman
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 28th Annual A&E Conference, taking place September 17-19, 2021, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Stephanie Delman
Stephanie Delman joined Sanford J. Greenburger Associates in early 2012, and has since developed her list with a focus on adult fiction: literary/upmarket, psychologically propulsive suspense, near-historical and non-Eurocentric historical fiction, light horror, and novels that play with genre and dip a toe into the speculative, magical, and/or surreal. Some of Stephanie’s buzzwords in fiction: hauntings, migrations, intergenerational trauma, inheritance, hunger, devotion, curses, competition, cultural commentary, wit, and whimsy. Stephanie also represents a limited selection of narrative nonfiction projects by authors with established platforms and diverse perspectives. In both fiction and nonfiction, Stephanie favors authenticity, underrepresented voices, and feminist narratives. A graduate of Johns Hopkins’ Writing Seminars program, Stephanie considers herself a “hands-on” agent and is eager to work with debut authors who are serious about their craft. Her clients include NYT bestseller Zakiya Dalila Harris (THE OTHER BLACK GIRL), Barnes & Noble Discover author Julia Fine (WHAT SHOULD BE WILD and THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE), national bestseller Serena Burdick (THE GIRLS WITH NO NAMES), NEA fellows Jami Nakamura Lin (THE NIGHT PARADE) and Theodore Wheeler (KINGS OF BROKEN THINGS), as well as Jenny Tinghui Zhang, Amy Feltman, Monet P. Thomas, Alison Wisdom, Katie M. Flynn, and many more.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Stephanie Delman: I am transparent, high-energy, and deeply dedicated to my clients. I’ll never take on so many clients that I can’t respond to someone within 2-3 days; I’m also happy to adapt to my clients’ preferred method of communication, whether that’s phone or email. I ask a lot of questions during the editorial process, and I like to answer a lot of questions, too, whether they’re about the publishing process, our submission strategy, career goals and expectations, etc. Collaboration is key, and that close collaboration leads to trusted partnerships, and, often, close friendships.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
SD: Energy, trust, and a willingness to do the work. When I sign a new client, that’s only the beginning; we’ll work on editorial revisions, often several drafts, before it’s time to submit to publishers. Along the way, I expect that my clients will trust me (not that they’ll make 100% of my edits! But that they’ll be open to discussion); and I look for people who will be as transparent and dedicated as I am.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
SD: If you’re lucky enough to receive multiple offers of representation, choose the agent who really GETS your book; who shares your vision and understands what you’re trying to accomplish. Everything else is secondary. Also! Try to publish short fiction or excerpts in reputable magazines/journals. It’s not necessary, but it’s helpful, and that’s often where agents go to look for new clients.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
SD: I’m grateful that the publishing industry has taken such strides toward equity and inclusion, and that it continues to grow in this regard. We’re at a place where publishers are finally beginning to elevate historically marginalized voices, empowering underrepresented communities to tell their own stories. There’s still a long way to go before the field is truly equitable, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve been seeing. Also, there is more support for genre-bending/genre-defying work; books that might have been deemed “too weird” or “unmarketable” a few years ago are finding their champions. Many publishers are now excited by books that don’t fit into one specific box, and those are generally the books I love most.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and want everyone to know about?
SD: Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel THE OTHER BLACK GIRL (Atria/June 1, 2021), which was a GMA Book Club pick and an instant New York Times bestseller! Also, Austin’s own Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s debut FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY, an epic historical adventure set in the 1880s American west, which is forthcoming from Flatiron in April 2022 and has been blurbed by Ann Patchett, C Pam Zhang, Megha Majumdar, and many more.
Click here for more information on the 2021 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (September 17-19) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.