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  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH COLLEEN OEFELEIN AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Colleen Oefelein here. She is an associate literary agent at The JenniferDe Chiara Literary Agency

UPDATE ON 2/2/2021: Colleen Oefelein was fired by The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency on 1/26/2021 for posting on the social media platforms Gab and Parler. You can read more about it in this Newsweek article

Hi­ Colleen! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Colleen:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

Hi Natalie! Thank you so much for having me in the agent spotlight. I’m a fairly new agent with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (since February 2018), and I’m actively and very excitedly building my list. Prior to working with New York’s Jennifer De Chiara, I was an associate agent, agent assistant, and PR manager with Inklings Literary Agency, which was where I began my publishing career as an intern several years ago. Prior to that, I was an Air Force officer and engineer working space launch. I hold a BS from Penn State in Chemical Engineering with a focus in Biotechnology, and I also hold a BS in German. As a published YA author, I can greatly appreciate the journey to publication and always look for opportunities to mentor pre-published authors. As an agent, I host several online and conference workshops such as Rejection Correction, Pitch Perfect, “Reel” Inspiration, and Undreary Your Query. I’ve recently signed my first clients to the agency and am preparing their manuscripts for submission.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency is a New York City-based full-service literary agency founded in 2001 and named one of the top 25 literary agencies in the country by Writer’s Digest. The agency represents children’s literature for all ages – picture books and middle-grade and young adult novels – but also represents high-quality adult fiction and non-fiction in a wide range of genres. JDLA is proud to represent illustrators, as well as screenwriters for both television and film, including Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writers and illustrators. What sets JDLA apart from other agencies is our holistic approach to managing every aspect of an author’s career to make the most of their project's potential.
  • A designated Foreign Rights team, with co-agents in every country and an established presence at Book Expo and book fairs throughout the world.
  • A designated Film/TV/Media agent based in Hollywood.
  • An affiliated Presentation Service and Media trainer to help authors communicate with clarity, precision, and greater impact.
  • An affiliated Speakers Services agent who coordinates booking speaking engagements.
  • Strong affiliations with top merchandising agents to handle merchandising opportunities as they arise.
JDLA is truly a full-service literary agency, and we regularly help our authors in everything from creating book ideas to editing and promoting their books. We are proud to represent established authors and help advance their careers, but we are committed to discovering talented new writers and making their literary dreams a reality.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent authors of picture books, middle grade, young adult, and adult books in a range of genres:
Picture Book: I’m looking for fun, funny, adventurous, or touching stories with that magical mix of novel simplicity and a surprise ending that will have my 6-year-old asking to read over and over. My favorites are The Kissing Hand, The Good for Nothing Button, Parts, the There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a... series, the Llama Llama series, and the Pigeon series.
Middle Grade: I’m looking for mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, low fantasy, paranormal, all with a thread of subtle or not-so-subtle humor.
Young Adult and Adult:  In general, send me unusual re-tellings and heart-rending love stories, harsh and sobering contemporary, romantic suspense, romance in all subgenres (except erotic), mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, comedy, low fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, and anything fast-paced.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

In general I love to see anything high-concept, fast-paced, and in deep POV.

In YA, I badly want a Faust retelling, and a retelling of a more obscure fable, fairy tale, or lesser-known cultural myth. Also in YA, a mystery/suspense/thriller based on or inspired by the David Grunwald murder (one that smartly navigates the culture of teen cannabis use and violence). I’d also love to see a suspense or thriller that involves identity policing. In YA SciFi, urban fantasy, or dystopian, a story that calls to mind THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN;

 In MG and YA, I’d love to see a non-didactic, fresh perspective from a main character who struggles to fit in to or feels ostracized from his/her marginalized community;

In MG, YA, or Adult:  anything by or based on an Alaska Native POV; and a thriller or mystery involving painted rocks.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

At the moment, I’m not interested nonfiction, literary fiction, atmospheric novels, westerns, vampires, werewolves, faeries, dragons, politics, video games, or shifter romance.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

The author-agency relationship is first and foremost a business relationship with the express intent of selling a literary work. However, publishing a book is a life’s dream, and oftentimes there’s a lot of emotion involved (for agents too). For me, this is a career-long commitment, and so I take some time to get to know an author’s personality in real life and on social media, and I like to discuss the author’s career goals, share editing suggestions, and/or bounce story ideas to determine if this is an author-agent relationship that could work long term.

When it comes to finding a book I want to represent, I’m pragmatic. Is the book currently marketable, and am I enthusiastic enough about it to make the sale? Those are the two questions on my mind. If my answer is yes to both, I get to know the author. :-)

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I would consider myself an editorial agent. For debut authors, my process is this: prior to offering representation, I ask the author how willing they’d be to make any big-picture edits I’d like to see. Once we’ve signed the contract, I email the author a list of big-picture editing suggestions (which we’d have already discussed), which may be plot tweaks, sub plot tweaks, and/or character edits. Once the big-picture edits are finished, I read the MS again and highlight any remaining story issues. Following that comes line editing.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

Before submitting their query, authors should read my bio and list of genres I accept at https://www.jdlit.com/colleen-oefelein and if they think I may be the right agent for them, they should send their query, synopsis, first 10 pages, and a one-sentence pitch to me through Query Manager, which is an online form located here: http://QueryMe.Online/colleenoefelein

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

In general, I dislike a query that’s arrogant, wordy, or convoluted. Though I’m not a query snob, I do like a query letter that’s fairly formulaic:

  1. An intro with the title, readership (picture book, middle grade, young adult, or adult), the genre, and the word count rounded to the nearest thousand.
  2. An opening hook that either teases me with a one-sentence plot summary, meaningful comp titles, or a nugget of character irony that makes me want to jump straight to the pages.
  3. A 3-5 sentence plot summary. This should be concise, voicey, and it should not give away the ending, but rather tease with cliffhanger that makes me want to speed-read the synopsis.
  4. A 1-3 sentence bio is nice but not required.
Openings: I don’t like a bored main character in an opening. A bored main character makes me a bored reader. In addition, I don’t like an opening sentence that describes the weather unless the weather is about to cause some shenanigans. Info dumps and passive voice are also things I skip over in an opening.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

For queries, my response time is 6 weeks. If an author doesn’t receive a response from me within 6 weeks, they can consider it a pass. However, I try to answer all queries. 
For requested pages, my normal response time is 12 weeks.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Yes, I’m open to both, though books by authors who have self-published may be a harder sale to a big publisher. I need to feel extra enthusiastic about those, because if the sales numbers for those self-published books aren’t high, it will be challenging to garner an offer for that author’s other work. 
My advice to authors is to consider their career objectives prior to self-publishing. If an author wants to be published traditionally, I recommend publishing traditionally first.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

As long as editors prioritize agent-submitted work over author-submitted work, and as long as authors seek assistance in contract negotiations and sub-rights sales, I don’t see the role of literary agents changing significantly.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I recently signed three new clients to The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency: Tia Barber is a fresh voice in swoon-worthy and page-turning paranormal and mob romance, Kelly Hopkins is a #TeenPit co-founder, a #PitchWars mentor, and a prolific author of gritty and fearless YA, and Marina Anisimova, a genius picture book author, is an immigrant who navigates the absurdity of stereotypes through forest animal humor.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

A Journey To Publication by Colleen Oefelein: http://www.cmmccoy.com/blog/a-journey-to-publication/

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Before submitting their query, authors should read my bio and list of genres I accept at https://www.jdlit.com/colleen-oefelein and if they think I may be the right agent for them, they should send their query, synopsis, first 10 pages, and a one-sentence pitch to me through Query Manager, which is an online form located here: http://QueryMe.Online/colleenoefelein

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

My best piece of advice to authors is this: Don’t quit.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Colleen.

­Colleen is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through July 14th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Profile Details:
Last Updated: 2/2/2021
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes
Last Reviewed by Agent? N/A


Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

43 comments:

nashvillecats2 said...

Thanks for a mosr enlightening interview with Colleen. Great to read Natalie.

Yvonne.

C. D. Monson said...

Great post!

And, I second the Pigeon series. I love that kooky bird.

Loni Townsend said...

Great interview! Sometimes, I wished I wrote romance. I think the closest I came was not killing the love interest at the end of the book. :)

Michelle Mason said...

Thanks for sharing! It's always helpful to hear directly from agents.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Well, no one likes a bored character!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Interesting interview. Thanks, Natalie and Colleen.

MeganC said...

Great interview! Sounds like she knows what she’s talked by about when it comes to queries. I would love a query critique. meganclements4 at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Mandy W said...

Thanks for the interview! I love her last piece of advice!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

You bet I'm entering! This interview was excellent. Anyone would be lucky to have Colleen as their agent. She seems very knowledgeable and hands on.

P.D. Pabst said...

What a great article! I've been watching Colleen's career for a while. She is a talented writer and will flourish as an agent, I'm just certain! I'd be thrilled if I got a query critique from her! I also tweeted about the article. Thanks for the opportunity.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I really enjoyed this interview with Colleen. All the way through it was full of helpful advice.

Snuffalupagus said...

Love the diversity of genres Colleen represents! Very informative read.

Sandy Brehl said...

Thanks for the interview- very helpful.

Angie Quantrell said...

It's very nice to meet you! Thanks for the great interview!

Lauri Fortino said...

I love to hear about agents who are actively building their lists! Great learning a bit about Colleen Oefelein; she sounds like a very interesting person.

Randi said...

I enjoyed learning what Colleen likes in a query letter. RLMrvos@gmail.com

Abraham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abraham said...

Thank you for this great interview!
I also shared on Facebook and Twitter.
abraham at thegentlemanbat.com

Unknown said...

This was a great interview! Shared on Twitter.

Laurie Batzel lbatc2@gmail.com

Amanda Kolke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda Kolke said...

Lovely interview. Thank you for the chance to win a critique.

Amandakolke at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

I love these spotlights! Thanks for putting them together.

I also retweeted your post for an extra entry in the critique.

Natalie Aguirre said...

This comment is from Deborah Obrien: I am so impressed by everything Colleen has accomplished. She is a great role model. And thanks to Colleen for her military service. debobrien060@gmail.com

Steph Lau said...

Thanks for sharing this interview!

Unknown said...

Loved the interview! Thanks.
RobertLCeres@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

So glad I stumbled upon this interview. Ausgezeichnet! (couldn't resist--vacationing in Germany at the moment). Jennifer Richter J_Richter@verizon.net

Ella said...

Thank you so much! Great interview!
ela.mishne@gmail.com

Vercingetorix said...

I can't remember ever reading a more eclectic wish list. makes me regret I don't have anything involving painted rocks.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! I was rejected by Colleen this very afternoon, but I respect her opinion greatly and would love a chance to see what she thinks I could improve :)

carter_ariana@hotmail.com

estrickland89 said...

so glad I found this interview. Now I know what to avoid in my opening. Thank you so much!

elisastryker@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Fascinating interview! Loved to see a closer perspective from an agent (and now I know what to do/not to do when querying her!)
Retweeted for an extra entry :)
Thank you for putting this together!

rbrick135@gmail.com

Patchi said...

I love reading agent perspectives. Thanks for another insightful interview!

Monty Harper said...

My writing partner and I are getting ready to start querying our first novel. Excited and nervous! This blog is a treasure trove. Thanks for all the great information!

Unknown said...

Wonderful information. I appreciate the transparency on the editing process! :)

Patrick
guindon.patrick@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Thanks for another great interview!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

Thanks so much for sharing these tips with us! I have just started the querying process and this information is invaluable.

Email: Nicole at FeedYourFictionAddiction dot com

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

I also shared via Twitter. Thanks!

https://twitter.com/NicoleMHewitt/status/1016800976068579328

SaraT said...

Great interview. I would love a query critique - I seem to be missing the mark with my submissions. sdtbridge (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

gail said...

Great interview. It's always so nice to get the inside scoop. Thanks!

Maddie Rodriguez said...

This was an awesome interview :) I love the don't quit advice. Shared on Twitter.

E-mail: rodriguez.maddison0@gmail.com

Ella said...

Thank you, it was a great interview!

email: ela.mishne@gmail.com

Jenny Weddel said...

Thank you so much!

Rachel Tomlinson said...

What a fascinating bio!!! And I can hear the passion for the authors Colleen works with... a query critique would be an amazing opportunity!

Also RT from @RachLTomlinson for an extra entry. I’m also a new follower

Rachel_hard87@yahoo.com.au