SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Jen Nadol from The Unter Agency
Good morning, everyone!
Today I am very excited to introduce you to Jen Nadol, an agent with The Unter Agency.
Jen Nadol has worked in publishing for over ten years, first as a Young Adult author with novels published by Bloomsbury USA and Simon and Schuster. After a one year internship with Entangled Publishing, she joined The Unter Agency as an Associate Agent.
The Unter Agency, based in the US, specialises in quality fiction and nonfiction, with a particular interest in memoir, food/cooking, nature/environment, pop culture, travel/adventure, true crime, sports, politics and health/fitness. They also represent all types of children's literature (picture books, middle grade and young adult), though Jen is not currently considering picture books.
Jen represents MG, YA and adult fiction, and across the board she gravitates toward commercial-leaning contemporary stories with immersive plots, authentic characters and sharp writing.
Check out some highlights from our interview with Jen below.
Jen Nadol, The Unter Agency“I’m looking – in the query and pages - for some kind of spark. Something different.”
Good morning Jen, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. We would love to know more about what you’re looking for in submissions, your favourite books, and advice for querying authors.
Q. What’s at the top of your fiction wish-list? What authors do you love? What kind of books?
I represent MG, YA and adult fiction and, across the board, gravitate toward commercial-leaning contemporary stories with immersive plots, authentic characters and sharp writing.
In the adult sphere, thrillers, mysteries and dark women’s fiction are among my favourites (i.e. Tana French, Gillian Flynn, Carolyn Kepnes). I also love smart, fun women’s fiction, well-researched historicals (a la Beverly Swerling’s 'City of Dreams' or Philippa Gregory’s books). Stephen King is one of my all-time favourites and horror/paranormal in this vein is up my alley as well as Alan Glynn/Andy Weir type Sci-Fi that explores a “what if” of science/technology.
My tastes in YA run along these same lines, but with characters very much in a YA setting/POV. Some of my YA favourites include 'Elsewhere' by Gabrielle Zevin, 'We Were Liars' by E. Lockhart, 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas, anything by Ellen Hopkins, 'The 5th Wave' series by Rick Yancey and Lauren Oliver’s 'Before I Fall'.
I’m pretty picky with middle-grade, likely because my tastes don’t translate well to this age-group. Some favourites include Rebecca Stead’s work and Jonathan Stroud’s 'Lockwood & Co.' series. I’m not the best fit for stories that fall on the younger end of the spectrum.
As far as what I don’t like…never say never (because incredible writing or a truly unique story trumps all), but I’m not a big fantasy fan so stories with dragons, epic quests, space operas, elves/fairies, royalty (unless in the real world), etc. probably aren’t for me. Similarly, I rarely fall for animal characters or fairy tale retellings (though I’ve open to stories based on non-Western myth). Things that might be described as farcical/quirky or set in the recent past (without a compelling plot reason for it) are rarely a fit either.
Like everyone in publishing, I’m eager for stories that haven’t been told before. That can be underrepresented voices, super-fresh takes on familiar stories/tropes or, as always, writing that knocks my socks off (I tend to enjoy “less is more” prose and voices that grab me with their intimacy/immediacy). Authenticity shows so, to me, having roots and/or deep familiarity in the people/issues you’re writing about matters.
I do not take on picture book or chapter book clients (though will represent them for existing clients)
Q. What do you love when it comes to non-fiction? What topics fire you up? Which genres leave you cold?
I love memoirs and narrative non-fiction, anything that explores behaviour, mental illness, addiction/recovery, how the brain works (both from a scientific or psychological viewpoint), how people change over time, different ways of living/thinking/defining or finding success/happiness would all be of interest. I adore Brandon Stanton’s work (Humans of New York, etc.) and would love to find “the next” anything that could compare to his titles.
I’m not a great fit for anything super-academic, political or historical and gravitate toward things rooted in people and the way they function versus events or places.
With any non-fiction, it’s important to know how your project differs from what’s already out there. Publishers are often looking for some combination of author platform, relevance and unique approach/voice/topic – if I can’t identify that in your pitch, I probably won’t have luck placing your work.
Q. What are you looking for in the opening pages of a novel? What really excites you?
A great, distinct voice and a compelling situation that I’m dropped into, with backstory unfolding naturally as the pages progress. The reader doesn’t need to know everything in the first chapter – start with something interesting, give us just enough to be sufficiently intrigued that we have to follow your character through to the next chapter and the next to learn more.
Beyond that, I’m looking – in the query and pages - for some kind of spark. Something different. It could be a perspective we haven’t seen enough of or writing that leaps off the page or a killer hook or a plot that promises (and then delivers!) unpredictability. The market is so competitive that a manuscript has to be more than “good” to sell.
The full interview can be found on Jen’s AgentMatch profile.
In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!