An Interview with Agent Chelsea Lindman
Before becoming a full-time agent, Chelsea Lindman was an editor at Europa editions and Director of Foreign Rights for The Nicholas Ellison Agency. Her primary interests include playful literary fiction, upmarket crime fiction, and forward thinking or boundary-pushing non-fiction.
Chelsea’s fiction clients include Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award Winner Kristopher Jansma (The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards), LA Times Book Prize Finalist Ariel S. Winter (The Twenty-Year Death), Richard Bausch Fiction Prize Winner Jesse Goolsby (I’d Walk With My Friends If I Could Find Them). Her non-fiction clients include web phenom Cole Stryker (Epic Win for Anonymous, Overlook Press), and Harvard PhD candidate Jason Silverstein (How To Care Better, forthcoming with Simon & Schuster). Most importantly, Chelsea is interested in working with clients that are looking to build lasting relationships.
Chelsea will be one of our Featured Agents at the Writers’ League of Texas’ 2015 Agents and Editors Conference.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Chelsea Lindman: I’m interested in building a lasting relationship with each client. I work with each client to develop his/her work so that it’s in the best shape possible for submission, which can include editorial feedback, brainstorming, recommending outside readers and editors, etc. Once the book sells to a publisher, I remain active with each client, though the focus moves from working to sell their work to branding them as an author. There’s a lot of up-front investment in each client, so a lasting and fruitful relationship is important to me.
Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?
CL: Do the leg work. This shows me that you’re interested in being a professional writer. As much as I enjoy being at the start of a writer’s book-publishing path, I shouldn’t be the writer’s first introduction to the literary world. I’m not saying each potential client needs to be a professional writer before we start working together—that’s what I’m there to help with! But if a potential client is plugged into a literary community— such as a writers group, aware of other writers in their field, has been to readings, read a literary journal, or even been published in one—it will set them apart as someone who is serious about his or her craft.
Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
CL: It’s unfortunate when I receive a submission, start reading, and then receive a follow up from the writer telling me, “Sorry, I went back and re-worked some things. Please trash my previous draft and read this one.” That’s not a good foot for a writer to start out on.
Scribe: You often hear that it’s the first ten pages—or even the first page—that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?
CL: If the first page has me nodding in agreement, or makes me laugh, I’ll definitely read on. If I find myself wanting to share a phrase or sentence from within those first ten pages with a friend, I’ll usually pursue the writer.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
CL: Keep in mind that agents need authors. We work for you.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.
CL: I remember the first time I finished reading the manuscript for Kristopher Jansma’s The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (Viking). I was sort of dazed after I finished the last page, but I gathered up the full printed manuscript and walked around our floor looking for someone to share it with. It was late on a Friday, so the building was pretty empty. I swear, I walked in circles for a half hour looking for someone to tell this book about. I finally came across a colleague, who was on her way out for the weekend, and started gushing (I’m sure the poor girl missed her train because of me). A good book does that to you, makes you want to connect with someone about it. It was then that I knew I had to work with this book and author.
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