Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 24, 2020

Agent of the Month: Chelsea Eberly – Interview Part Three

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.


What is your typical response time to email/phone calls with your clients?

I like to respond within 48 hours. It’s always a good rule of thumb to over-communicate than to be silent. Even if the message within the first 24 hours is “I got your email and need to think on this before coming back to you.”

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

I like email, but sometimes a phone call is what’s needed for the situation, and often there’s nothing better than hopping on the phone to hash something out.

What happens if you don’t sell a book? Would you drop the writer if he or she wanted to self-publish that one book?

I would have a conversation with the author about next steps. Self-publishing is right for certain projects and genres, but not all, and my job is to advise my client to the best of my ability.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

There’s no set number, every project is different. The feedback from editors may be very telling that a revision is needed or that a project is unlikely to land at this time. That’s a conversation that would need to be had and we’d decide together to put something in the drawer or not.

Do you ever send a manuscript to the UK office for them to consider?

I work very closely with Sarah Davies, the founder and president of Greenhouse Literary, and I definitely send her manuscripts if I want her opinion or if I think she might be the better fit, and vice versa. I’ve been lucky to work in supportive environments throughout my career, and Sarah and the entire team at the UK office are incredibly supportive.

What do you think of digital books? Are they part of every sale these days?

Digital is a part of every sale these days. Gone are the days where we worried that print was dead because of the rise of the ebook, but digital is still a robust piece of the pie and a format that reaches many readers, and price-sensitive readers in particular.

Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

Our sister company, Rights People, is the pre-eminent foreign rights agency. So we’re uniquely positioned to capitalize on foreign rights. We also have film agents that we work with to exercise those rights to great success.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

I love that graphic novels are booming right now. I’m a big fan of the medium and love to see the outstanding storytelling coming from those creators. I’d love to see more graphic novel proposals in my submissions inbox.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, secure an agent, and get published?

Read voraciously. Read in your genre, but be sure to read outside of your genre as well. Find critique partners and be open to revising. You should never be querying your first or second draft.

Starting in September, I challenged myself to tweet one writing and/or publishing tip a day for a full year, so follow me at @chelseberly and the hashtag #EberlyAdvice for more words of wisdom!

Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

Yes, definitely! Please reach out if you are a conference or workshop coordinator. I’m always looking to meet more authors and illustrators.


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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