Meet the Agents: Natalie Edwards (Trellis Literary)

“Narrators that are bitter or jaded often don’t appeal to me; I think there’s a way to write about serious issues and difficult experiences in a way that allows hope to be the throughline.”  Natalie Edwards, Trellis Literary

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 Natalie Edwards

Natalie Edwards joined Trellis Literary after nearly two years at Janklow & Nesbit Associates. Prior to that, she worked at Curtis Brown, Ltd. At Trellis, Natalie supports Allison Hunter while actively building a list of her own. In terms of fiction, she is seeking commercial, upmarket, and literary projects. She enjoys narratives of queerness and diaspora (i.e., Patsy), hidden histories, complex friendship stories (i.e. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow), workplace satires/sendups of #girlbosses, and anything that offers biting social commentary and disrupts conventional wisdom. In the nonfiction space, she is looking for issue-driven hybrid memoirs (think H is for Hawk or In the Darkroom), which combine personal stories with research/reportage; journalistic narrative nonfiction like Say Nothing or Bad Blood; and cultural histories about music, film, food, art, and sports.

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

Natalie Edwards: I’m a fairly editorial agent, so I really like to dig deep with an author through multiple drafts of a manuscript or proposal, tailoring my approach to that author’s work style and bandwidth—do they need me to set deadlines for them? Do they prefer to brainstorm over email or on a phone/Zoom call? Do they have a demanding day job or young children? I think it’s important to be mindful of folks’ life circumstances as much as I can, since hardly any writers I meet write full-time, and I try to be as aware as possible of my own biases when evaluating writers’ work.

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

NE: The three things that come to mind for me are energy, purpose, and a compelling voice. Narrators that are bitter or jaded often don’t appeal to me; I think there’s a way to write about serious issues and difficult experiences in a way that allows hope to be the throughline: what is the lesson we can learn, the action we can take? I look for talented writers who want to be true collaborators with me as their agent, and who have the trust and patience to know I’ll represent their work well. Communication and mutual accountability are really important to me. I also love to see debut authors who are actively supportive of other writers (especially other debut authors) online and in person in their writing communities.

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

I think a big piece of advice I give to writers in general and to my own clients is to remember that every writer’s publication journey is different. Some authors get offers from eight agents, others from just one. Some are published by the Big 5, others by midsize publishers and indies. Twitter might lead you to believe that every recent book deal happened in an overnight six-figure auction, but that is very much the exception, not the rule. Offers can come after one week, one month, or even one year. Some splashy debuts only sell a thousand or so copies, and sometimes a writer’s breakout book is their third or fourth (and beyond) publication. Even as the publishing industry is an opaque one and it can be hard to tell what’s true, don’t let the internet convince you that there’s only one way to be a successful writer.

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

NE: Publishing has gotten a lot more intersectional in its thinking since I started interning in the industry almost ten years ago, even though we still have a long way to go on that front. It heartens me to see not only more authors of all identities getting published, but also more professionals of all identities getting hired within the industry itself, across all companies and departments. Speaking for myself as a queer person, I’m really excited about the ways in which queerness has started to become part of the natural fabric of so many of the books selling and coming out these days, and I want that to be true for all marginalized identities that haven’t been centered in enough narratives in the past.

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

NE: I loved working on Jessie Ren Marshall’s brilliant story collection, Women! In! Peril!, which was an Indies Introduce Pick and Indie Next Pick, and came out from Bloomsbury on April 2. It’s the first book I represented that has been published, and the stories in it are very much illustrative of my range of tastes in fiction: speculative, queer, funny, voicey, and emotionally resonant. Also, it’s just so much fun to read. If you loved Shit Cassandra Saw and Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare, you should definitely check out Jessie’s book!

Thanks, Natalie!

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.