Interview with Agent Melissa Jeglinski
By Kerry Schafer
I'm always excited to meet another member of The Knight Agency, which happens to be home base for me. I had a fabulous time with Lucienne Diver last year at Colorado Gold, and this year I'm looking forward to meeting Melissa Jeglinski in person.
Let's begin with a short bio:
"A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008. With over two decades experience in the publishing industry, Melissa has fostered her clients to National prominence including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of RWA and AAR. Melissa is currently seeking projects in the following areas: Romance (contemporary, category, historical, inspirational) Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women’s Fiction and Mystery."
Me: Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to answer questions! Let’s start with genres that interest you. If the Perfect Manuscript landed in your inbox tomorrow, what would it look like?
Melissa: Oh, that’s a tough one because I want so many things. But it would most likely be a contemporary romance that is so different from anything I’ve read lately. It will have a strong heroine with a unique past. She will not be returning to her hometown or have inherited anything. She will have a cat instead of a dog. The hero will be more than just the nice guy next door and still super sexy. Maybe he’s got all the kids but is doing well as a single dad so that’s not why he needs the heroine in his life. The writing is smooth, storyline is steamy, great cast of secondary characters. It has a happy ending, of course, but I’d love to cry while reading it as well. I’ve never not offered on a project that made me cry.
Me: What other types of projects are you looking for right now?
Melissa: I love romance but I’m specifically looking for: contemporary, inspirational, category, western. Middle Grade, really open to any genre except fantasy. Cozy mysteries with a unique setting.
Me: How agents relate to the rapidly changing publishing landscape is a hot topic for a lot of writers. Where do you stand on this? Have you ever signed somebody who has been publishing independently? Any thoughts on “Hybrid Writers” and how you, as an agent, would fit with that model?
Melissa: I’m open to working with Hybrid Writers as long we are communicating with one another about what’s going on. I have been lied to about what clients were doing outside of their contracted work through me and when trust is lost, it’s very difficult to regain. I am not currently interested in taking on a self-published author’s subrights because it doesn’t offer a great payoff for the time required. If they were to come to me with a new project, I’d be very open to taking a look but right now, I’m not wanting to place a previously published work.
Me: A really great agent/writer relationship is about so much more than genre and writing - what other qualities are you looking for in your Ideal Client?
Melissa: The agent/client relationship needs to be professional but also pleasant. So I need to genuinely like my clients and they should feel the same way about me. Our relationship works best when the client feels like they can really talk to me and ask questions and when they don’t get upset when I offer constructive criticism. Most of all, honesty is key. They have to keep me in the loop with every project, with deadlines, issues with their editor. I am honest about feedback, sales, etc.
Me: Since agents are Human Beings (Yes, it’s a little known fact, but I think we can talk about it here) you all seem to operate a little bit differently. Can you talk about how you interact with your clients? For example, do you do a lot of editing, or expect that your writers will take care of that themselves? Are you a phone person or do you stick mostly to email? Is there a fair bit of chatter between you and your authors, or do you stick to As Needed communication only?
Melissa: I’m a fairly hands-on agent. With my editorial background, I can’t not offer editorial advice and they should want that from me, otherwise we wouldn’t be the right fit. I am probably best via email as I can respond quicker that way but I do set up phone chats when needed. I welcome communication from my clients but they understand that I can’t always respond ASAP and that weekends are my time and I will get back to them first thing Monday morning.
Me: Do you have time to read for pleasure? If so, could you tell us about a book you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed?
Melissa: Honestly, I haven’t read for pleasure in so long but I just picked up LIFE IS SHORT by Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein, TLC’s Little Couple. I enjoy a good biography because they’re not something I represent and I like to read outside my wheelhouse so I’m not comparing it to clients’ work or what is waiting in my submissions box.
Me: What’s the best way for writers to approach you at conference? Scheduled pitch appointments only, or are you open to “elevator pitches” in other appropriate locations and situations? (Note to agent-seeking writers: Appropriate locations excludes the bathroom. Really. Don’t do this. Appropriate situations excludes barging in on a conversation an agent is having with another writer, or when she is clearly busy)
Melissa: I’m definitely open to people coming to talk to me at a conference. If they see me sitting alone or maybe in a big group, feel free to join us. If I want to be left alone, I’ll be up in my room, not somewhere public. I go to conferences to meet potential clients so I’m always wanting to hear what writers are working on. I’ll ask you what you're writing, so don’t feel you have to have a perfect pitch ready. I like it to be a natural part of the conversation; I know pitch appointments can be really tough for some people.
Me: Last, but also very important. Coffee, Tea, or Something Other? And will we find you hanging out at the bar?
Melissa: Coffee, definitely coffee. Of course you will find me hanging out at the bar—the best place to meet new people.
So there you have it, conference goers! When you see Melissa Jeglinski at the bar, feel free to start a conversation! Especially if you've got the manuscript for a romance that can make her cry but still find its way to a happy ending.