Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 23, 2021

Agent of the Month: Interview with Erin Clyburn – Part Two

Erin Clyburn – Associate Literary Agent

Critiquing four first page for July

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.



Do you let people know if you are not interested?

Yes, I respond to all queries.

Lately, there seems to be various age groups for MG and YA novels. Is it acceptable to just say middle grade and leave it up to you and the editor to decide how to classify the book?

If an author said their book was middle grade, I would expect it to be middle grade. I think there’s an important distinction between the themes MG and YA address. However, if an author pitches their book one way and I think it fits better for another audience, that’s not a dealbreaker either. We’ll just pitch it differently to editors.

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

It really all depends on that connection with the opening pages (20, in my case), which can be subjective, so that’s hard to say. Sometimes when I pass on a query a writer will respond and ask if they can send later pages because the book “gets going” later on. If this is true of your book, it probably starts in the wrong place.

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material? And query letters?

I try to get to query letters really quickly, within a few days of receipt. But if they land in my maybe pile, it’ll take a bit longer. Requested full manuscripts can take 2-3 months for me to get back, sometimes longer if I’m busy with client work.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

I’d urge writers to do your best, but to not stress over the minutiae. If you include the right info in your query letter and have put the best manuscript pages forward that you possibly can, don’t stress about the rest. If you misspell my name, if you had a typo in your pages, if your pitch is too long or too short by a bit—it’s fine. An agent isn’t going to reject your work because of a typo. Be thorough, but don’t sweat the small stuff. If you write a thoughtful query, you’re already ahead of the many authors who don’t include one because they thought they were above it. The worst thing you can do is think you’re above any of an agent’s asks. If you say “my book doesn’t have any comps because a book has never been written like mine before,” or “N/A” when I ask for a synopsis, or “I don’t know what a query letter is” in the query field, that’s an immediate turnoff, and probably an immediate decline.

Any pet peeves?

See above. A writer thinking they are better than an agent’s asks. If you won’t fill out a form in QueryManager, or write a synopsis for your book, it tells me you aren’t willing to work with people. It gives me little faith you’d be able to collaborate with an editor, a marketing team, or any one of the many people you’ll need to work with to bring your book to life.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, I’m an editorial agent. We always do at least two rounds of developmental and line edits before going out on submission.

How many editors do you go to before giving up on a manuscript?

I have only been sending manuscripts on submission for a little over a year now in my agenting career, and I haven’t given up on one yet. But the time to stop, I feel, is when you’ve spent time revising based on editor feedback and you’ve fully exhausted those who you think are potential fits for the book.

What happens if you don’t sell a book?

Like I tell my clients coping with long sub waits, the best thing to do is move on to the next project. Turn your focus to the next book. That first book might not sell, but the second book might. There are so many factors outside an author’s control that influence whether or not a book sells. All you can do is focus on what’s in your control, which is your own work.

Since you don’t take on picture book clients, what would you do if one of your novel writers wrote a picture and wanted to get it published?

I have a great love of picture books (most of the papers I wrote in my master’s program were on picture books), so I’d try to sell it. But if an author wrote something totally out of my wheelhouse, we’d likely try to work with another agent to sell that project.

What do you think of digital books?

Are they always included in the contract, now-a-days? Yes, ebook rights are always part of the contract. Personally, I don’t read ebooks. If I read a published book, it’s a physical book or audiobook. Probably because I spend so much time reading submissions digitally, it’s nice to have some separation.

What about audio books? Are you seeing an increase of interest with publishers?

I am a huge audiobook fiend. (I was an Audies judge for about five years.) In the market I definitely feel there’s increased interest in audiobooks, which is great to see.

Have you noticed any new trends building in the industry?

It’s fascinating to see trends build in the industry, but as an agent, I honestly don’t think about what’s trending


Talk tomorrow,


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