Meet the Agents: Jennifer Chen Tran (Glass Literary Management)

“I hope that this is a sign of positive things to come, for too long authors of color, neurodiverse authors, marginalized authors, LGBTQIA+ authors have not been getting the attention they rightfully deserve.”  Jennifer Chen Tran, Glass Literary Management

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 Jennifer Chen Tran

Jennifer Chen Tran is a literary agent at Glass Literary Management. With over a dozen years of experience in the publishing industry, Jennifer is passionate about nurturing and championing the creative lives of the authors and artists she is honored to represent. She works with a wide range of award-winning talent, including entrepreneurs, journalists, physicians, thought leaders, James Beard nominated chefs, and graphic novelists, among others. Jennifer is an editorial agent who believes in the art and magic of collaboration. She works with her authors from concept to publication, helping to polish each creator’s work so that it can best shine in a competitive marketplace.

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

Jennifer Chen Tran: I consider myself an editorial agent. I will work closely with my client to edit their manuscript or their book proposal to make it as strong as possible before going on submission. Because the marketplace is so competitive, it’s important that my clients and I work together to best position the project for success and in my experience, that usually means quite a bit of developmental work. I really enjoy collaborating with my clients, it honestly doesn’t feel like work! In addition, I try to be as transparent as possible during our relationship—meaning that I will keep them informed of where we are in the submissions process, answer any questions they may have, and serve as a guide throughout the publishing process.

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

JCT: For fiction, it’s the voice and interesting characters that will usually capture my attention. Authors who explore themes that I’m personally interested in, such as identity, politics, belonging, and found family—I love challenging and unlikeable characters, especially complex women. On the non-fiction side, I look for a fresh approach to a topic, such as stories of lesser-known figures, stories that focus on sub-cultures, social and environmental justice, but just as important as the topic is whether the author is the right person to write about the topic, whether now is the right time for the project, and, of course, I would need to see a compelling book proposal. I’m a very intuitive person, so often the decision about whether to work with an author is based on my intuition, but I also analyze whether the author would be a good fit for my overall list and whether I have the vision to know how to sell the project at a high-level.

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

JCT: Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. In our instant-gratification culture it can be hard to learn how to enjoy the process, celebrate the small wins, and be present. I also always tell authors not to compare themselves to other authors; everyone has their own path to publication and it may look different than your fellow author friends’ paths, and that’s OK.

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

JCT: I think the publishing industry is finally putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to representation and uplifting underrepresented and marginalized voices—which wasn’t always the case. I hope that this is a sign of positive things to come, for too long authors of color, neurodiverse authors, marginalized authors, LGBTQIA+ authors have not been getting the attention they rightfully deserve.

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

JCT: I’m so excited about my author Thuy Pham’s upcoming narratively-driven cookbook, Mama Dut, which will be published by Ecco/ Harper Collins in 2025. Thuy is an incredible human being who has been through so much adversity, has candidly opened up about her mental health challenges, and has shared how her path to veganism was a homecoming of sorts, back to her roots, back to her family, and back to a sense of belonging that she struggled to find growing up in the greater Portland area. My colleague and I sold her cookbook last year in a multi-house auction last year, and I couldn’t be prouder of Thuy.

Thanks, Jennifer!

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.