SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Quressa Robinson from Nelson Literary Agency USA
Today I’m introducing you to the lovely Quressa from Nelson Literary Agency.
Quressa has been a literary agent for four years, and joined Nelson Literary Agency in 2017. She is based in New York, and was named an influential gatekeeper in Book and Film Globe's inaugural Publishing Power 30 list.
Quressa previously worked as an Instructor and Writing Consultant for Columbia University (where she also received her MFA in Creative Writing). She taught courses for The Manuscript Academy and she has a Certificate in Book Publishing from New York University. She represents authors of adult, YA, and middle grade fiction novels, including sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. She’s always looking for work from BIPOC and other marginalised writers. Quressa kindly took some time to provide us with an incredible and in-depth interview.
Read below for some highlights - including what Quressa is looking for, the recent titles she’s enjoyed, and more. Or head over to AgentMatch, for the full interview here.
"I don’t like it when people are disparaging other genres or tropes. Just because you’re doing something different with it, doesn’t mean you have to say such and such trope is bad, or get mad about love triangles or enemies to lovers or any of that, because you never know, those might be my favourite tropes. There’s no need to be negative about anything... Focus on why your project would be the right fit for me, and that’s it. Nothing negative."
Hi Quressa! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. We can’t wait to learn more about your reading taste, what you‘re looking for in your submission pile, and what makes a query letter stand out.
Q. What’s at the top of your fiction wish list?
In terms of fiction, even though my list is pretty full, I’m always looking for YA fantasy, but I’m going to be a little bit more selective in that area because I do have a lot of solid clients who are doing that right now. In fantasy in general, so adult fiction and middle grade as well, I pretty much like all genres and sub-genres of fantasy except for light fantasy. I think the only thing is that urban fantasy on the adult side is still pretty difficult in this market. I’m looking for magic and fantastical worlds.
I’m looking for a lot more rom-coms in YA and adult fiction. I’ve recently started branching out into adult romance, so it could be a straight romance or it could be a more general fiction story with romantic undertones or sub-plots.
I’m looking for science fiction, mostly on the adult side, and more contemporary fiction, especially for YA. I’m also looking for darker, horror titles, particularly on the adult and YA side, but maybe some horror for middle grade as well. I’d like to see quieter, coming of age stories, especially from BIPOC as there isn’t as much out there as there could be. I’m always looking for work from BIPOC and other marginalised authors.
Q. What recent fiction titles have you enjoyed?
Like a lot of publishing professionals, I’ve had a hard time reading these last few years. But recently, I just finished reading Talia Hibbert’s The Roommate Risk and I liked that a lot. I’m trying to read The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow because I liked The Ten Thousand Doors of January. On the YA side, I read The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, but that was last year, and I really enjoyed that. I think that’s pretty much it. It’s hard for me to remember what I’ve read after I’ve finished reading it.
Q. What do you like when it comes to non-fiction?
In non-fiction I’m even more selective. I’ve only taken on one non-fiction client in the four years I’ve been an agent. It’s pretty difficult, unless you have a huge platform, to do anything in non-fiction in the areas I’m interested in. I’m looking for social-economic critique, pop culture, and stuff like that. Again, primarily BIPOC. It’s also very difficult to find a story that is resonant, and timely and seems like it would work for a wide readership. But I would love it if I could find someone to do that.
Q. Is there any genre you’d rather not receive?
I’m not really a mystery or thriller person unless there’s a strong speculative element. I’m not really in the mood for anything that’s about subjugating people. People think that I want slavery stuff, but I don’t. I want books about joy and more modern issues. I don’t necessarily need Black pain on the page, or for it to be all about Black pain. I like things that are more multifaceted and have layers to them. I’m not very into prescriptive stuff or self-help, so that wouldn’t be best for me.
Q. What do you want to see in a query letter? And what don’t you want to see in one?
This is something I get asked a lot, and it’s hard to really, at least for me, describe what a good query letter is. I kind of know it when I see it. But I think it’s about brevity. I want it to be short and sweet, because I see a lot in a day, in a month. So, the faster you can get to it, the better it is for me because generally, I’m just scanning through quickly. If I can pick up on key things as I’m reading through, then I know if I want to go back and read it more closely, and that’s helpful. So that means getting to who the characters are, what the conflict is. Some minor things about the world and what the genre is. Getting through those key things quickly, and selling it to me.
I don’t get this as often, but I don’t like it when people are disparaging other genres or tropes. Just because you’re doing something different with it, doesn’t mean you have to say such and such trope is bad, or get mad about love triangles or enemies to lovers or any of that, because you never know, those might be my favourite tropes. There’s no need to be negative about anything. You don’t need to say this is better than Twilight or whatever thing you think is not great. Just focus on your stuff. I would say to keep your eyes on the page. Focus on why your project would be the right fit for me, and that’s it. Nothing negative.
If you’re in need of some support and advice in regards to your query letter and synopsis, please do check out our resources on our website here; we have lots of information to help guide you on your way. Or, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review! Login to access the service here.