Meet the Agents: Duvall Osteen (United Talent Agency)

“I love working in an industry where people believe in possibility, and opportunity. There are a lot of smart people working to create opportunities for people to create, tell, and share stories, and at the end of the day, that feels pretty radical.”  Duvall Osteen, United Talent Agency

Every other year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings 20-25 literary agents and book editors to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 30th A&E Conference, taking place June 21 – 23, 2024, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our visiting agents and editors here.

An Interview with Duvall Osteen

Duvall Osteen represents a diverse list of debut, award-winning, bestselling, and notable authors. Before joining United Talent Agency, she spent 11 years as an agent at Aragi Inc., focusing on literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and graphic novels. Her literary interests include writing rooted in place, especially the global South, multigenerational storytelling, crime, and literary suspense. In both fiction and non-fiction, she gravitates towards books across genres with big, original, astute, immersive voices. She is a passionate advocate for her authors, and tailors her approach to representation based on their needs. Above all, she prioritizes close editorial relationships. Duvall was raised in the South, and is based in Manhattan, where she lives with her family. She holds a Master of Arts in Southern Cultural Studies from the University of Mississippi.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author? 

Duvall Osteen: I’m a pretty hands-on agent! Everyone’s career is going to look different, and that means I need to be nimble and responsive, so that I can tailor my approach to each client. Some people want more hands on editing, and more clarity about each process (editorial, submission, publication). Other folks prefer to be on a “need to know” basis. One of the most fun parts of the job is getting to have robust relationships with so many brilliant people, who all have different needs at different times.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author? 

DO: Great writing! Part of that is subjective, of course. But I think there’s something universal about confidence on the sentence level, creativity in a voice, and an understanding of place in a story.

Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?

DO: Be ruthless in your own taste and judicious with your time. Always be reading, but don’t force yourself to read things that don’t resonate with you. Identify what isn’t working, then move on.

Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?

DO: I love working in an industry where people believe in possibility, and opportunity. There are a lot of smart people working to create opportunities for people to create, tell, and share stories, and at the end of the day, that feels pretty radical.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about? 

DO: Well, I can’t get specific about that, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as reading a brilliant novel for the first time. That only accounts for a small part of the work that I do, but it’s still exhilarating.

Thanks, Duvall!

Click here for more information on the 2024 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 21-23) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.