“There’s […] a real sense of solidarity and urgency in the work that we do, especially given the political challenges we face today with book banning, the war on truth, the devaluing of libraries… I can’t say I knew this was the job of an activist when I first started ten years ago, but that reality has become clear, and I feel privileged to be in a position to help elevate voices whom, I believe, make the world a better place.” –Chad Luibl, Janklow & Nesbit
The 2023 Agents Symposium is a year-long program of monthly events with literary agents – taking writers step by step along the journey to publication. We’re happy to share Q&As with some of our featured agents here. To register for Chad Luibl’s presentation on September 30th called “From Acquisition to Publication,” click here.
An Interview with Chad Luibl
Chad Luibl received a BA in English at Lynchburg University before moving to Eastern Europe to teach English for several years. While in Krakow, Poland, he got his MA in European Studies at Jagiellonian University, with a focus in Comparative Literature. He went on to get his MFA in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was also the coordinator of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, an intern in the Literature Department at the National Endowment for the Arts, and an editor at Blackbird and Broad Street literary journals. Chad comes from the workshop model of creative writing and has a hands-on editorial approach to agenting. He is interested in narrative nonfiction with a strong emotional pull from journalists and writers who challenge the status quo. For fiction, he is particularly drawn to novels that are more character or plot-driven, thrillers that are as inventive as they are suspenseful, speculative and historical fiction that offer a nuanced perspective on place, and graphic novels that push the boundaries of the genre.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Chad Luibl: I consider myself a “hands on” agent, meaning that I’m quite involved in the editorial process before I go out on submission with a book. Most books I’ve worked on go through several rounds of edits before landing on an editor’s desk. The best and most successful projects I’ve had are always some form of collaboration, and relationships with authors are built on respect and transparency, frequent communication, and genuine enthusiasm for their work.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
CL: I know it sounds overly simple and easy, but it comes down to confident writing. For me, that means a voice I find irresistible, characters who leap off the page, swift pacing, and just a general sense that the writer knows exactly where they’re taking the reader.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
CL: Mostly it’s about revisions. I tell authors to exhaust themselves revising before submitting their work to agents. Send your book to a bunch of readers and make sure it’s as bulletproof as possible: if there’s consistency in your readers’ feedback and you sense a pattern about what’s problematic, then you’ve got more work to do. But if your readers’ feedback is all over the place and nobody can agree, then you are probably closer to being done. Also, make sure that the first 20 pages have a hook, meaning a conflict and tension is there, or a question that the reader needs to solve — however subtle that may be. I say this because agents receive dozens of books per month and it’s often difficult to know what to prioritize, so that opening really does need to be intriguing and arresting.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
CL: I feel encouraged that the industry is (slowly but surely) becoming more equitable, and more diverse, and that there’s always new, energizing talent changing the publishing landscape for the better. I’m lucky to work alongside such smart and compassionate people. And there’s also a real sense of solidarity and urgency in the work that we do, especially given the political challenges we face today with book banning, the war on truth, the devaluing of libraries… I can’t say I knew this was the job of an activist when I first started ten years ago, but that reality has become clear, and I feel privileged to be in a position to help elevate voices whom, I believe, make the world a better place.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about?
CL: Gah, there are too many books that excite me, so I’ll just mention what’s most recent! In April this year I helped publish Rachel Beanland’s sophomore novel, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE, which is a reimagining of the Richmond Theater Fire of 1811, and a work of feminist historical fiction, and one of the most gripping books I’ve ever read.
This summer I also have two literary horror novels publishing — MAEVE FLY by CJ Leede, and FEVER HOUSE by Keith Rosson — and they’re the kind of books I would’ve skipped recess to read as a kid when I was first falling in love with Stephen King. Tons of fun, provocative, cathartic, genre-bending, un-put-downable….
Another space that is growing tremendously right now is graphic memoir, and there are several I’ve worked on that I always recommend: AND NOW I SPILL THE FAMILY SECRETS by Margaret Kimball, which published in 2021 from HarperOne; and coming next year, CONTINENTAL DRIFTER by Kathy MacLeod.
But honestly, the answer to this question could go on for pages and pages!
Click here for more information on the 2023 Agents Symposium, an event that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.