Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 5, 2018

ASK JENNIE – Submission Question

JENNIE DUNHAM – DUNHAM LITERARY, INC.

Jennie Dunham has been a literary agent in New York, New York since May 1992. In August 2000 she founded Dunham Literary, Inc.

Jennie represents literary fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. Her clients have had both critical and commercial success. Books she has represented have appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers in adult hardcover fiction, children’s books, and children’s book series. Her clients have won numerous awards including: New York Times Best Illustrated Book, The Schneider Family Award, Boston Globe Horn Book Honor, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.

Jennie Dunham represents picture books writers and illustrators, chapter books, middle grade, young adult and for adults literary fiction and non-fiction.

HERE IS JENNIE’S ANSWER TO THE QUESTION BELOW:

Question:

Let’s say I submit Book A to you and you pass on it. Let’s say I write Book B (similar genre/style); how long should I wait to submit Book B? Or is a pass on Book A indicative to how you’ll probably feel about Book B?

Answer:

This is a really good question, and there isn’t one answer. It depends on the response you got. I’ll explain.

If you send me a query letter and I don’t request your manuscript to read, it’s fine to send another query in a relatively short time. I’d wait about a month. You don’t know why I didn’t request your manuscript, and it could have been for any number of reasons. Perhaps I thought the premise wasn’t fresh enough. Perhaps I have another manuscript I’m submitting that is too similar. Perhaps I thought your credentials as a writer weren’t strong enough. Perhaps I’m just busy with other clients and know I don’t have the time necessary to take on a new client at the moment. Since you don’t know, you can try me again. I will add, however, that it’s quite possible that you’ll get another pass from me because my reason has a good chance of being the same as before.

If you sent a query letter for Book A, and I requested either sample pages or the whole manuscript, I’ve had the chance to evaluate your writing. Whether or not you query me again depends on my response to Book A. If I know I want to read your next manuscript, I’ll say something along the lines of: “I’d be happy to read your next book length project if you haven’t made other arrangements.” That means, I don’t want to see a short story, article, or poem because these are shorter than a book. I want to see a whole book. Also, I don’t want to hear from you if you already found an agent. I work on an exclusive basis with clients and only want to hear from you if you are still looking for an agent. Many writers need practice by writing more than one full manuscript before hitting their stride with a manuscript that will sell, and my interest in the next project should be seen as an encouraging sign.

If I didn’t specifically say that I’d like to read your next manuscript, I probably have passed on you as a writer. But, if you want to check to make sure, I’d wait at least six months before querying again. It’s possible that you were working on Book B while Book A was on submission with me. Presumably, you’d tell me in your cover letter when you sent the manuscript for Book A that you were working on Book B already. If so, I could have requested it if it sounded more promising than Book A. If I knew about Book B and didn’t request it, it’s likely I’ll pass. There is the chance that it slipped my mind.

If I read a sample or your whole manuscript, look at the response I sent you. If it says that the story is quiet or that the narrative doesn’t have enough conflict or drive, my response means that in my opinion you need to work on the skills of plot such as structure and pacing. If my response says that I don’t feel that the characters are developed enough, it means that I think you need to work on your characters’ actions, emotions, and motivations in the story. These are all parts of the craft that you can work on and develop, so if you approach me again saying you’ve worked on those for your next manuscript, there’s a chance I’ll want to read your next project.
If my letter says that I’m not enthusiastic enough about the voice, you have the least likely chance that I’ll want to read another manuscript and be excited about it. Publishing is truly a subjective business, and a voice that is exciting to one reader may not appeal to another reader. You’re welcome to try me with Book B, but I highly recommend that you also reach out to other agents. I find that I’m the best advocate for an author when I love the voice because I can call up editors and say that to them which gets them excited. If I can’t say that, they can tell, and it makes them less eager to read it. In my opinion this is an important part of the equation when any author and agent decide to work together.

Remember, a pass from me does not mean that I think your project won’t sell or that your writing is bad. It is really only that I don’t feel passionate enough about your manuscript to be your best advocate. Every author deserves an enthusiastic agent, and there are many literary agents.


She started her career at John Brockman Associates and then Mildred Marmur Associates. She was employed by Russell & Volkening for 6 years before she left to found Dunham Literary, Inc. Jennie’s been a member of AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) since 1993. She served on the Program Committee and was Program Committee Director for several years. She was also a member of the Electronic Committee.

She graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Anthropology and has a master’s degree in Social Work from New York University (although she only practices with characters on the page).

What She’s Seeking

  1. ​First and foremost, voice.
  2. A strong story.
  3. Memorable characters.
  4. Unusual premises.
  5. Heart and heartbreak.

Books She’s Represented

Children’s Books

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ pop-up by Robert Sabuda
ADELE & SIMON by Barbara McClintock
BAD KITTY by Nick Bruel
THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES by Jody Feldman
WAITING FOR NORMAL by Leslie Connor
LEARNING NOT TO DROWN by Anna Shinoda

Books for Adults

WORM by Mark Bowden
A SHADOW ALL OF LIGHT by Fred Chappell
GANGSTERLAND by Tod Goldberg
FORWARD FROM HERE by Reeve Lindbergh
IN MY MOTHER’S HOUSE by Margaret McMullan

Don’t miss this opportunity. If you have a question or two that you would like to ask Jennie, send them to kathy.temean(at)gmail.com.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Opps… I barely wait a day before sending an agent another query letter, never mind a month.

    Like

  2. What a great answer to this question! So helpful for submitters. Can tell Jennie has an MS in social work because she’s able to put herself in the submitter’s mindset. 🙂

    Like

  3. Thanks for introducing us to Jennie.

    Like

  4. Kathy, up to what date can people submit to Jennie? I’m assuming there’s a deadline?

    Liked by 1 person


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