Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 16, 2021

Agent of the Month: Interview with Erin Clyburn Part One

Erin Clyburn – Associate Literary Agent

Critiquing four first page for July – See guidelines below.

Erin joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency as Associate Literary Agent in 2019 after an internship and apprenticeship with a boutique literary agency. She has worked as a copy editor and recipe editor in the magazine industry and was general manager and director of collection development for Turtleback Books. She received her BA in English Literature from Mississippi State University and her MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. When not working, Erin loves hiking, cooking, traveling, painting, and trying to keep her three rabbits, Felix, Agnes, and Valentino, from chewing up every baseboard in the house.



  • Creepy and scary stories
  • Contemporary with big hearts, humor, and unforgettable voices
  • Mystery, especially with scavenger hunt or puzzle-solving elements
  • Grounded stories with magical or speculative elements


  • Horror
  • Dark contemporary
  • Queer and BIPOC rom-coms
  • Thriller
  • Mystery
  • Magical realism
  • Grounded stories with magical or speculative elements
  • Lush, literary stories


  • Upmarket and book club fiction with great hooks and writing that leans literary
  • Sharp women’s fiction
  • Domestic and psychological thrillers, especially by BIPOC authors
  • Mystery
  • Humorous and satirical novels, with ensemble casts or stellar protagonists
  • Horror of all stripes, especially horror plus other genres, like mystery horror or romantic horror
  • Multigenerational family sagas (I would love one by a BIPOC author set in the South)
  • Grounded stories with magical or speculative elements
  • Southern Gothic


  • Narrative nonfiction or memoir about sports or adventure (Alone on the Wall, Wild)
  • Pop science (Oliver Sacks, Mary Roach)
  • High-interest nonfiction, particularly histories and stories about fascinating people and issues that haven’t been told before (The Radium Girls, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks)
  • Cookbooks and culinary histories
  • Science- or culture-focused memoirs and narrative nonfiction (My Brain on Fire, Educated, Full Body Burden)


  • My favorite books—MG, YA, and adult—are those that are set in our world but with elements of weird: Karen Thompson Walker’s The Dreamers and The Age of Miracles, Marisha Pessl’s Neverworld Wake, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas, Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, The Riverman by Aaron Starmer. Please send me your weirds!
  • I love stories about food, stories with lots of food, good descriptions of food, etc.
  • An Alabamian, I would love to see diverse Southern voices writing stories set in the South.
  • Across the board, I am looking for projects from underrepresented writers.


  • Picture books
  • Chapter books
  • Children’s nonfiction
  • Romance
  • Westerns
  • Fantasy or science fiction (except in the cases above, basically our world with a magical/weird twist)
  • Political, crime, or military thrillers
  • Short stories


Queries should be submitted through QueryManager: http://QueryMe.Online/ErinClyburn. Please only query one JDLA agent at a time. Emailed queries will be deleted unread, as will queries sent through Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. For fiction, please include your query letter, synopsis, and first 20 pages of your manuscript. For nonfiction, please send your query, proposal, and the first 20 pages.



What made you decide to become an agent?

I spent five years as sales manager and collection development manager for a book distribution company for the school and library market, and another five as a copy editor in the magazine industry. I had received my MA in Children’s Literature and was looking for a way to marry all of this experience into one career: editing, forecasting trends, sales, and reading books. Agenting offered that.

How did you get the job with Jennifer De Chiara?

I had spent just1xcd2 over a year interning with a smaller boutique agency, and was ready to move to an agency where I could really grow with support in a variety of genres. I reached out to a number of agencies for informational interviews, and after a great call with Jennifer, she invited me to join her agency.

Did you take any time off between graduating from Mississippi State University and going for your MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University?

I took one year off in between. I worked as a copy editor for a magazine and spent some time traveling around Europe before diving back into school.

Do you think getting a BA in English at MSU has helped you as an agent?

I do, but I think that help really boils down to the fact that I read widely and was exposed to a wide variety of other readers’ perspectives. All of the literature and creative writing classes helped me to figure out where my own interests lie and taught me how to read critically.

What are your thoughts about prologues? Any tips on how to best use them?

In general, if I’m reading a submission with a prologue, I tend to skip the prologue. Not that a prologue can never work, but with most submissions, the story really starts at chapter one and the author has used the prologue as a way to communicate backstory that would function better peppered into the story elsewhere. I think prologues work best when they are short and punchy, just a couple of sentences that really hook you.

What would you like to see from a writer sending you a query letter?

I’m looking for the metadata (title, word count, audience, genre, etc.) and for a concise pitch that gets to the external and internal stakes of the story.

How important is the query letter?

It’s important in that it’s the first introduction I have to the work, and a well-written query letter makes me more excited to dive into the opening pages. If a writer didn’t try at all with their query, I often won’t read the accompanying pages. But that’s not to say that everything rides on the query letter. I have signed clients whose query letters were just okay, but their manuscripts were stellar. All it really needs to do is communicate the requisite information.

Should the writer try to be funny in their query to you or is it alright to be more business like? Do you prefer short?

I love a voicy query letter as long as the metadata and pitch are there. If the query reflects the voice in the manuscript, that’s great, but businesslike is also totally fine.

Do writers need to mention some comps in their query letter?

I love to see comps. It isn’t a dealbreaker to leave them out, but I love them. They don’t even have to be books; I also like seeing comps to TV, movies, music, etc. Comps help get me in the right headspace to read the opening pages. And good book comps show me that the writer knows the market and has read and researched in their genre, which is really important.

Have you ever read something that is not for you, but you feel another agent at your agency might like and pass it on?

Yes. I will forward a query if it’s a really stellar query but not for me for one reason or another.

Do you feel it is better for an author to focus on one age group and genre?

I don’t mind if my clients write for a variety of audiences and genres, though it can definitely be easier to sell in the same genre/audience if that’s where your first sale was.

Would you be interested in representing a writer/illustrator?

I am not open to illustrator submissions at this time, but I hope to expand into picture books in the future.

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

It all depends on when I lose interest. Sometimes I only read a paragraph. But if I’m hooked, I’ll keep reading. For a few of my clients, I read their entire full manuscripts in one sitting.




In the subject line, please write “JULY 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, 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 2021 JUNE FIRST PAGE – 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. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and including you in the running.

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: JULY 23rd. – noon EST


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: