Book Broker – an interview with Jessica Errera
Agent: Jessica Errera
Preferred genres: book club, women’s fiction, romance/rom-com, YA/MG, the occasional suspense/thriller or historical.
Bio: Jessica has been with JRA since 2014. She is looking for commercial women’s fiction with a fresh and fun hook, all genres of YA (especially diverse stories), contemporary romance, thrillers and suspense, the occasional historical fiction, and anything that might be read in a day on the beach. Jessica is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a former intern at Algonquin Books.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Unique voice, good pacing, and a hook I haven’t seen before (bonus points for turning a well-known trope on its head)!
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
Typos are the obvious sign, but in terms of craft I see a lot of starting in the wrong place, showing instead of telling, lack of tension, and underdeveloped world-building.
3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly! Equate your query with a cover letter on a job application—it should be professional, polished, and meet all necessary requirements, but still show off your personality.
4) What are the three most overused openings that you encounter in submissions?
These don’t bother me, but I see a lot of (a) jokes about being a Tar Heel (or Blue Devil), (b) “I saw on twitter that…” and (c) a generic “I believe you might be a good fit for my work.”
5) Approximately how many query letters do you receive per year? Of those, how many will you respond to with a request for a full manuscript? And of those, how many are likely to receive an offer of representation?
I would estimate 3-5 queries a day, which equates to hundreds of queries a year. I request full manuscripts about 10% of the time, and offer on less than half of those. That said, I will often leave the door open if an author is willing to revise and resubmit.
6) What is the average length of time it takes to place a manuscript with a publisher, and what is your strategy for a client whose manuscript isn't selling?
This varies greatly! In general I’ve noticed that YA takes much longer than adult but, of course, some projects are snapped up overnight! If a manuscript isn’t inspiring any editors to make an offer, I like to see if there’s commonality in the feedback. If so, we have a roadmap to revise and try again. If not, perhaps it’s time to set that one aside (for now!) and work on book two in the interim.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
The best book I read for pleasure lately was NOTHING TO SEE HERE by Kevin Wilson. I was completely captivated by the bizarre premise that, somehow, seems totally normal! Wilson asks a lot of the reader in terms of suspending disbelief and yet, when you’re in it, the world he’s built feels 100% natural.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Yes! I am beyond excited for Miel Moreland’s YA debut IT GOES LIKE THIS, which publishes 5/18/21 from Feiwel & Friends. It’s about a teen pop band that has broken up (somewhat messily), but agrees to one last benefit concert to help save their hometown—I like to call it a queer take on Jem & the Holograms, with elements of fanfiction thrown in. You can find out more at: mielmoreland.com/books