Today, we have an interview with agent Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Jill has been attending Killer Nashville since 2010 and has been a staunch supporter of the conference ever since. She has a strong Internet and media background and nearly 15 years of publishing experience. After writing ad copy and features for published books for years she knows how to find the “hook” and sell it. Jill is interested in commercial fiction, with an emphasis on mysteries, thrillers and horror, women’s commercial fiction and historical fiction. She’s also looking for nonfiction by authors who are getting their work published regularly in magazines and who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience. As for nonfiction, she’s looking for projects in the areas of self-help, inspirational, cookbooks, memoir (she especially loves travel and foodie memoirs), health & nutrition, pop culture, humor and music.
It’s a pleasure to have her here with us.
Jill, thanks for joining us today. Could you start by telling us how you first heard about Killer Nashville?
I was looking for a conference that specialized in mystery and thriller authors because I knew that was what I wanted to focus on. So I did an Internet search and found Killer Nashville. The funny part was, I thought I’d like to represent some southern authors. An especially appealing part of Killer Nashville was that it’s in the South; the southern voice is unique. Lots of great writers come from there.
You’ve signed authors from the conference every year since you started attending. How many Killer Nashville authors do you represent now?
Ten that I’m actually dealing with, a few others I’m talking with but haven’t actually signed. And there are a few I didn’t meet there but who go every year now.
What keeps you coming back?
I keep meeting incredibly talented writers! I know people who attend Killer Nashville are really serious about craft. There’s so much good, hands-on learning and so much networking that goes on there. These are things I ask my author to do anyway, and to find a conference that’s already doing it is amazing.
What characteristics do you look for in the writers you represent?
Obviously, the first thing is the ability to write a good story. But beyond that, a lot of my authors are really voice-driven, with unusual stories and situations. Stories that are not typical.
You don’t currently represent any cozies, and your bio asks that people not send you anything with unicorns in it. Would you ever consider representing a book in one of those genres?
In general, I’m not drawn to those things, but I’m always open to them. If the right fantasy came along, I would totally jump on it.
Tell us a little bit about being an agent. What’s it like?
It’s a very hectic life, but I love it—especially because now I can start reading something and know right away whether it’s for me. I get really excited when I find a project I love. And I get to be hands-on with a wide variety of projects.
Did you ever consider becoming a writer rather than an agent?
I’ve always been a writer. Not long ago, I met some old high school friends, and they said, “Don’t you miss being a writer?” But I feel like this is even better than being a writer, because I get to be involved with so many books. I get to have a little ownership in all of them—and in my authors, too, so yeah, it’s definitely better.
How do you feel about the round table format some conferences are starting to use, as opposed to the more traditional, “speed-dating” style pitches?
I really like them, and all the other agents and editors did too. I feel like the authors get a lot out of it. Some people can pitch really well, but until you see the pages, you can’t really tell. Authors need to be prepared, and the round tables help them do that.
Is there anything you’d like to say to aspiring writers?
I would just add that agents go to these conferences to find great clients. We’re looking for talent and projects. We’re as excited to be there are they are, so they should never feel nervous about talking to us. That’s why we’re there!
JILL MARR is an acquiring agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in History. She has a strong Internet and media background and nearly 15 years of publishing experience. She wrote features and ads for Pages, the literary magazine for people who love books, and continues to write book ads for publishing houses, magazine pieces and promotional features for television. After writing ad copy and features for published books for years, she knows how to find the “hook” and sell it. Jill is interested in commercial fiction, with an emphasis on mysteries, thrillers and horror, women’s commercial fiction and historical fiction. She is also looking for nonfiction by authors who are getting their work published regularly in magazines and who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience. Jill is looking for nonfiction projects in the areas of self-help, inspirational, cookbooks, memoir (she especially loves travel and foodie memoirs), health & nutrition, pop culture, humor and music. Please note that Jill is specifically not interested in: YA, children’s books, sci-fi, romance or anything involving unicorns.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.)