The WRITING EQUATION

December 18, 2006

INTERVIEW with JENNIFER DECHIARA–Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, 12/18/2006

Filed under: INTERVIEWS with AGENTS, EDITORS & AUTHORS — plussignpro @ 4:37 pm

Before starting the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in 2001, DeChiara was a literary agent with Perkins, Rubie & Associates and the Peter Rubie Literary Agency, a freelance book editor at Simon & Schuster and Random House, and a writing consultant for several major New York City corporations. Her agency represents both children’s and adult literature in a wide range of ages and categories, has a foreign sales director and foreign agents in every country in the world, and has film agents in Hollywood and New York to handle its film, television, and stage properties. Stephen Fraser, former senior editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, joined the agency in 2005 and represents both children’s and adult literature. The agency is committed to discovering new talent and furthering the careers of established authors.

Q: YOU HAVE BEEN AN EDITOR, WRITER, ACTOR, EVEN A BALLERINA. THE BENEFITS OF YOUR EDITORIAL EXPERIENCE IS OBVIOUS, BUT HOW MUCH OF AN EDGE HAS YOUR WRITING AND ACTING BACKGROUNDS GIVEN YOU OVER OTHER AGENTS IN MAKING SALES FOR YOUR CLIENTS?

DECHIARA: I think my writing background definitely helps me to be a better agent because I can help a client fine-tune their project and be the best writer they can be. In addition, I know firsthand the frustrations and the difficulties my clients face and feel that I can help them weather those storms. Does my acting background help me to make sales for my clients? Probably not specifically, but I feel that everything I’ve ever done in my life has made me the person I am and has given me the experiences I draw on to deal with every facet of my life.

Q: WHAT DROVE YOU TO BECOME AN AGENT?

DECHIARA: Agenting for me was an accidental career (it’s a long story that I’ve promised Writer’s Digest someday), but it is my passion and the reason I feel I was put on this earth, as corny as that may sound.  I love discovering talent and feeling that I’ve had a hand in putting great books into the world, but the best part of it for me is making someone’s dreams come true.

Q: WHAT IS THE TYPICAL TIMEFRAME OR NUMBER OF PUBLISHERS CONTACTED BEFORE A BOOK IS SOLD?

DECHIARA: There is no typical timeframe and number of publishers before a book is sold. It varies from project to project.

Q: THE ULTIMATE DREAM OF MANY WRITERS IS TO HAVE THEIR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES. HOW MUCH ARE LITERARY AGENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR BOOKS BECOMING MOVIES COMPARED TO PUBLISHERS?

DECHIARA: The agency always retains dramatic rights so that we can sell those rights for our clients.  Most agencies operate the same way and are solely responsible for books becoming movies.

Q: WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS FOR A WRITER TO FIND, AND THEN APPROACH, LITERARY AGENTS?

DECHIARA: Writers can find literary agents many different ways. They should check writers’ guides in libraries and bookstores for agents who represent the kinds of books they write. They can also check book acknowledgments because writers usually thank their agents by name there. Finally, they should go to writers’ conferences to try to meet the agent(s) of their choice one on one. 

After finding appropriate agents, writers should find out how these particular agents want to be contacted, if at all, and follow their instructions. Writers’ guides usually list contact preferences–either email, phone, regular mail, etc.

Q: WITH THE ADVENT OF REALITY ENTERTAINMENT AND MEMIORS AND CREATIVE NONFICTION, HAS IT BECOME HARDER TO PLACE FICTION NOVELS?

DECHIARA: I don’t think the popularity of reality entertainment, memoirs, and creative non-fiction will ever replace a great novel, in my opinion.  Yes, it’s harder to place fiction, but that’s always been the case.

Q: WHEN YOU DECIDE ON REPRESENTING A MANUSCRIPT, WHAT ARE THE MAIN THINGS YOU LOOK FOR?

DECHIARA: What I look for first and foremost is a writer’s voice. You can flesh out a character or restructure a book, but you can’t give a writer that special spark, that indefinable something that makes his book stand out among the rest. It’s hard to put into words, but once I find it, it’s unmistakable.

Q: WHAT ARE THE KEY SECRETS TO SUCCESS IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

DECHIARA: The secret to success in publishing is realizing that there are no secrets. Writers must be willing to work hard on their art and just as hard in learning about the business of publishing. They must be able to take constructive criticism and be willing to learn about and be responsible for their own book promotion. But, most important, they must hang on to their dreams and never give up.

Q: ANY FUTURE PLANS, OR UPCOMING EVENTS?

DECHIARA: I have a few conferences scheduled for 2007, but no exact dates yet. They will be posted on the agency’s website soon. My future plans include expanding the agency, taking on more agents and writers, and exploring new creative ventures–one of them is co-producing a Broadway musical!

* Jennifer DeChiara may be reached through her website at http://www.jdlit.com, via email at JennDec@aol.com, or through mail and phone at:

Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency
31 East 32nd Street, Suite 300
New York, NY 10016
(212) 481-8484

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