Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 10, 2020

AGENT OF THE MONTH: Chelsea Eberly – Interview Part One

I am very happy to announce that Chelsea Eberly is kicking off 2020 by being our Agent of the Month. Scroll to bottom for how to submit a first page and maybe win a critique with Chelsea.

Chelsea Eberly began her publishing career as an editor of Kindergarten and Pre-K reading textbooks at McGraw-Hill, which gave her a solid respect for everything the School/Library market does, but she always knew that children’s book publishing was her true passion. After attending the Columbia Publishing Course, she joined Random House Books for Young Readers, where she rose to become a Senior Editor. she’s had the pleasure of publishing multiple award-winning and New York Times bestselling books, editing authors such as Tamora Pierce, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Matt de la Peña, Mark Siegel, Julia Walton, and Jessica Cluess to name only a few.

Now as an agent with Greenhouse, she brings her deep understanding of how publishers think and vast editorial experience to my role as an expert advocate for my clients. She loves to help her clients think Big Picture about their career goals, and then work with them to develop the strategy that will allow them to achieve their dreams. Basically, she loves books and the people who make them. Chelsea says, “There’s nothing better than falling in love with a story and then telling everyone you know that they HAVE to read this book! If I love something, you will hear about it, and I bring that energy and enthusiasm to my clients’ work on a daily basis.”

“My taste is upmarket and decidedly commercial. Bring on multiple hooks and best-in-class storytelling!”

Chelsea represents authors of middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, and women’s fiction, as well as writer-illustrators of picture books. As a former Senior Editor at Penguin Random House, she edited award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors such as Tamora Pierce, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Matt de la Peña, Mark Siegel, Julia Walton, and Jessica Cluess to name only a few. She has a deep understanding of how publishers think and is an expert advocate for her clients. Chelsea is also a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree, which recognizes “the rising stars of the US publishing industry.”

A Midwesterner turned New Yorker, Chelsea regularly presents at writing conferences across the country and enjoys teaching craft. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseberly and discover more about her taste on her Publishers Marketplace page.

What Chelsea is seeking: High-concept, commercial reads that will stand out in the crowded US market with depth and heart. She is actively building her list and is primarily interested in fantasy, magical realism, contemporary fiction (particularly romance, thrillers, and humor), and graphic novels—though please surprise her with an excellent read that she didn’t know she needed. She has a soft spot for literary when there’s a strong plot propelling the reader forward. Chelsea would love to see projects from underrepresented voices. She is also interested in reads that thoughtfully address mental health and learning disabilities as part of the story but not necessarily the main focus. She is open to non-fiction with a unique point of view and/or a platform-driven project.

In MG, she is eager to represent: An unforgettable voice and an uplifting take on the problems that middle-school readers face, especially if the story is told from a specific point of view that can act as a mirror, window, or sliding glass door into diverse experiences. She loves when authors tackle Big Truths in a heartfelt way. She is also on the lookout for memorable characters in action-packed fantasy adventures and humorous voices that can grow to become series juggernauts.

In YA, she would love to find: A great love story, a unique fantasy world, and a heart-pounding mystery/thriller. She loves when authors are thoughtful about structure and voice; e.g. a ticking-clock timeline, a closed setting, a journal-entry format, Death as a unique narrator, and so forth. Ambitious projects with multiple commercial hooks and an empowering sensibility with feminist and social justice angles are a plus. She falls head over heels for any story that can surprise her.

In the Graphic Novel medium, she looks for: Middle Grade and YA contemporary, fantasy, fractured fairy tales, unique retellings, and select historical/non-fiction projects if they have clear hooks. She loves when authors are mining their own experiences in an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical way. Hit her with side-busting humor or box-of-tissues feels. She has a soft spot for cats.

In Picture Books, she is highly selective, looking for writer-illustrators who can create a strong character, a clear conflict, and write with a humorous voice and/or a surprising twist at the end. Chelsea loves creators who understand the sense of community that being read a book aloud delivers. She is open to non-fiction if the story has multiple hooks and an evergreen, contemporary delivery.

In adult women’s fiction, Chelsea is extremely picky. She loves upmarket contemporary fiction with a feminist angle, a strong romantic thread, and/or a domestic thriller/mystery. Think QUEENIE, ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE, WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, AYESHA AT LAST, BIG LITTLE LIES, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING as examples of her taste.


I noticed you attended to Columbia Publishing Course. Is this something most editors/agents do? How long is the course?

You’ll find that many editors and agents do come out of the Columbia Publishing Course or NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. Columbia’s program is a six-week intensive, where you live and breathe book and magazine publishing. It’s truly intense and highly competitive, but also a lot of fun for those of us who are passionate about publishing.

Coming from the Midwest, I found it extremely helpful to live in the dorms while I found an apartment in New York City, and some of my best friends today are people I met during that course. But it is not a requirement. Many editors and agents who were more local didn’t need to go that route, and more power to them!

How many years did you spend as an editor?

I was an editor at Random House Books for Young Readers for over eleven years. Before that, I was a textbook editor at McGraw-Hill for about two years.

What sparked you to jump from editor over to the agent side?

I love editing, but I found that I was doing less and less of it the higher I climbed the ranks. (Or, I should say, I was squeezing editing into my nights and weekends.) I began to feel removed from the parts of the job that brought me the most joy: spotting talent, editing, working closely with authors to achieve their best book, and supporting their careers without any conflict of interest.

I find that as an agent, I can build a list that truly represents me rather than the list that my imprint needs me to acquire. There were a lot of books that I would have loved to buy, but they just weren’t right for my imprint. Now, I don’t have that limitation. I can matchmake the books I love with the perfect editor at whatever imprint is the right fit. At my going away party, my RH colleagues gave me a lovely card that said “House of Eberly” on the front, and I do feel like I’m building a list of brilliant creators in the way that a publisher launching an imprint would do as well.

I also love public speaking and teaching, and I wasn’t finding time for that as an editor. I’m excited to do more conferences. I’ll be speaking at SCBWI’s national conference in New York this February, and I’m thrilled!

Do you have a limit on the number of clients you will represent?

I’m sure I will find my limit, but right now I’m focusing on building my client list.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

Great question! This is constantly evolving, so please check out my #MSWL. In general, I’d love to see more middle grade in my inbox. I am particularly interested in seeing more BIPOC/LGBTQ authors who are #ownvoices, so feel free to mention that in your query if you are comfortable sharing that information. I would like to represent a diverse client list and advocate for stories that have historically been marginalized.

To get super-specific, I would love to see YA romance that celebrates Black culture and is an uplifting read; a Latinx YA romance centered around a quinceañera; a MG adventure with the cultural specificity and fresh contemporary voice of Sayantani DasGupta’s THE SERPENT’S SECRET; a MG with a voice as strong and a plot as exciting as Jason Reynold’s GHOST; an enemies to lovers YA with the amazing banter and sizzling romance of RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE; a YA thriller with the closed set and brilliant feminism of WILDER GIRLS; a MG dealing with Big Truths like DEAR SWEET PEA; a MG or YA with a great Southern voice; and a MG or YA that has a well-handled diabetic main character, where diabetes doesn’t have to be the focus or issue of the book.

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

I lean toward commercial. I want my clients’ books to reach the most readers possible. But I do want my clients to be ambitious in their storytelling. I firmly believe that the books that rise to the top of the bestseller list are often those best-in-class, award-winning reads that also have commercial hooks.

Do you think it is okay for an author to write middle grade novels, and YA novels? Or do you feel it is better to focus on one age group and genre?

It’s okay for an author to write middle grade and YA novels, but there should be a strategy. I would suggest focusing on whichever will establish you to the greatest success before switching to another age group and genre. You’ll want to have this conversation with your agent so that you both are aligned with your vision.

What do you like to see in a submission?

Voice and ambition. I love when I fall for a voice and want to spend time with that character in that world. That’s a guaranteed way to keep me reading. I also admire authors who are thinking ambitiously about structure and genre. For example, the multiple POVs of ONE OF US IS LYING or the epistolary nature of THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR. The authors who feel like they know the genre they’re trying to publish into and have their hands firmly guiding the tiller.

How important is the query letter?

The query letter is very important. It’s your one shot to hook me.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

I love when an author has a great elevator pitch in their query. This is a one- or two-sentence quick pitch about the book that can often include relevant comp titles for the genre—titles that show a great understanding of the works their competing against in the current marketplace. For example, THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS elevator pitch could be: An uplifting contemporary middle grade about a girl who uses an egg drop competition and the scientific process to “solve” her mother’s depression. Hand to readers who love THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH and THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH.

I also love when authors tell me about their specific connection to the work. Why was this the story that you had to write? Why are you the perfect author for this particular book?


Company Website:


In the subject line, please write “JANUARY 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2020 January – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: January 23rd.

RESULTS: January 31st.

Talk tomorrow,


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