Book Broker – an interview with Ariana Philips

Book Broker—an interview with literary agent Ariana Philips

Agent: Ariana Philips


Preferred genres: Literary and commercial fiction, including upmarket women’s fiction, stories with complex family dynamics, historical hooks, smart romantic comedies; narrative nonfiction, specifically pop-culture, history and science, illustrated gift books, true crime, sports, and cookbooks; contemporary YA.

Bio: Ariana Philips began at JVNLA as an intern in 2011 and joined the agency full-time in the summer of 2012. She handles audio, permissions, and electronic rights, and assists with the submission of JVNLA's titles for translation. She is actively building her own client list and her interests include adult literary and commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, and the latest and greatest in culinary talent. Born and raised in New York City, Ariana attended Iona College, where she graduated with honors in English and Communications.

1) What stands out in a good submission?

A succinct, enticing, and well-written query letter that makes me want to request the manuscript right away. In general, a great hook, a clear plot, and memorable and authentic characters.

2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?

Typos or grammatical errors, a high word count, and no world-building. For nonfiction, a lack of platform, and a vague promotion and marketing section.

3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?

Make sure your manuscript or proposal is as polished as you can possibly make it before submitting it to agents. Read submission guidelines and do your homework so you’re only submitting to agents who are interested in your type of book. Most importantly, be professional and respectful.

4) What are the three most overused opening scenes that you encounter in submissions?

Morning routines, waking or being woken up, too much dialogue with no context for the conversation, and lengthy character descriptions.

5) For writers without prior publications, what can they say in their "about me" query paragraph to catch your attention? Does it help to know if the manuscript has gone through workshopping or developmental editing?

Honestly, for fiction, I tend to read the author's bio last. The writing and story are more important to me, but it's helpful to know if you've attended any conferences or writing workshops. I don't need to know that you've been writing since you were a little kid. Keep it short and do not apologize for a lack of bio. However, nonfiction is different because you're writing as an authority on your subject and that requires a platform and credentials. This includes social media, speaking engagements, and your educational background or work experience.

6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?

Better salaries for entry-level jobs.

7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?

I know I’m late to the game but I recently read Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six. Reid does a fantastic job transporting the reader to an iconic era with realistic characters and a unique format. It was a fun read.

8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?

Yes, I'm excited about Erica Cirino's Poisonous Seas: Swallowing Earth's Microplastic Pollution, where she takes readers to the front lines of Earth's plastic pollution crisis. Poisonous Seas is the perfect combination of beautiful writing and a thought-provoking topic that is carefully researched. Erica throws herself into her research and I live vicariously through her writing and adventures as she travels the world to examine our impact on planet Earth and give a voice to nonhumans. You can learn more about Erica and her adventures here:

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