Agent Spotlight: Jemiscoe Chambers-Black
Dec. 4, 2020
We are thrilled to feature agent Jemiscoe Chambers-Black of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Read about her manuscript wish list and enter to win a Golden Query Pass (your query goes to the head of her line).
Tell us about your background and how you became an agent.
Before becoming an agent, I was an Assistant Director for film and television for over a decade. It was a lot of fun, and I have many stories I’ll keep forever—like the one where I met my husband. But any free time I had was spent with my head in a book. That love for reading and writing evolved, and soon, I returned to school to earn my MFA in English and Creative Writing. During one of our many workshops, an agent from DeFiore and Company attended. While other students asked her how to get an agent, I inquired about how to become one. Her advice? Get an internship. It wasn’t necessarily unexpected, and it wasn’t easy to earn either.
It was challenging to find, apply, and land a remote internship, but I eventually did. I did that, freelance edited, and worked as an assistant editor-in-chief for a literary magazine. In June of this year, all of that work came to fruition—I joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency as an Associate Agent.
What type of books are you looking for?
All of them! Haha! I am looking for illustrators, and MG, YA, and adult authors.
For illustrators, I like portfolios that don’t just include character development—even though I love this—but also have scene work (whimsical or dark and atmospheric), bold colors, diversity, and a mixture of sketches and full-color images. However, surprise me.
For MG, I want whimsy and humor. Even if the story covers harder themes, I think the MG novels I connect to the most have a perfect balance. As far as genres within this age group, I am open to contemporary, fantasy, action-adventure, mystery, horror, graphic novels, and novel-in-verse.
For YA, I lean more toward romance and Rom-coms, but I am also open to contemporary, fantasy, suspense, gothic-type horror, graphic novels, novels-in-verse, and did I say romance. I gravitate toward character-driven storylines, ones that make you laugh-out-loud or cry or do both throughout the entirety of the novel.
Regardless of the genre, I love beautiful language, a strong, unique voice, and a solid premise that feels different, or if it has been done before, comes from a different angle.
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, so to get an idea of everything I’m open to, check out https://jemiscoe.com/mswl/
How do you describe your agenting style?
I am an editorial agent. I look to dig in and help a client polish their manuscript or portfolio to its best possible version.
Whether an illustrator or author, my dream client-agent relationship is communicative, collaborative, and honest. I am extremely transparent. I write pitch letters and share them with my client. I create sub lists and share those too. And when editors respond, I also share, if they so choose.
I strive to create an environment where my clients are comfortable to reach out and talk about anything concerning their career and publishing. I want them to know that I believe in them and that they are a top priority.
What are common mistakes you see in queries and first pages? What advice would you give to querying authors?
Beyond authors querying before their submission is ready, another big common mistake is an overly long prologue or even a prologue, to begin with. I would say 99% of the time, a prologue is not needed. They often read like exposition dumps, a place to drag the manuscript’s pacing down with a character’s backstory, all told in narrative summary.
Please, do not do this!
If you must include a prologue, make sure it has a hook and that it connects to the main story and conflict of your main character(s). A well-written prologue usually takes place with a character in scene, perhaps a moment when they were younger, a moment where something happens, a catalyst that makes them who they are at the top of the first chapter.
They should also be short!
However, ask yourself this before submitting and having a prologue take up the majority of your sample pages: Is the information provided in the prologue important or relevant to do so upfront, or can I offer it in parts throughout the bulk of the story?
What excites you about a manuscript?
Across all age groups and genres, I want writing to grab me from the very beginning, the very first sentence, and not let me go until the very end.
During my MFA days, one of my mentors, Jo Knowles, said that she is constantly looking for that one beautiful page that brings what the book is about to its knees. Years later, that sentiment still holds precedence.
I am always on the hunt for a book that not only thoroughly engages me but one that has that “beautiful page.” When I come across a manuscript like this, I have to force myself to finish reading because I get so excited I want to get the author on the phone as soon as possible to offer representation. I never do this; I always finish, but I make sure to mark the spot in the manuscript so that during the call, I can tell them that by page [insert page number here], I was hooked and wanted to offer.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
My love and respect for authors start at home. My mother was/is a writer. Now granted, she is a screenwriter, starting out first in features and moving into television. Still, there are many overlapping elements between someone who writes for film and television and someone who writes prose.
I remember how a tumultuous relationship with an agent can chip away at a writer’s confidence and how it can make it difficult to find work. More than that, my mother started her writing journey in the ‘90s when marginalized creators in television was not a norm. She was oftentimes the only person of color or woman in the room. My sister has now followed in her footsteps, and while diversity has become a little better, it is not where it should be.
Their frustrations, their hurts, but also their celebrations for success became my own. I channel that into my agenting. I am in awe of their talent and perseverance, and I use that respect with my own clients and even to the authors that fill my query box.
Where can people find you online, and how can people query you?
For authors, please send your query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. And for illustrators, send your letter, attach your artwork or send the link to your portfolio, but in the space for the writing sample, write n/a. You can query me at: https://querymanager.com/query/Jemiscoe
You can also learn about our agency’s submission guidelines by visiting: https://www.andreabrownlit.com/how-to-submit1.html
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