What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would love to see more historical fiction, a professional and personal favorite of mine, set in locales and time frames not previously seen. Classic whodunits would also be very welcome at my office. Strong female leads, dialogue that gets the narrator’s point across without extraneous language, something that keeps me turning the pages.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Serial killer thrillers that are more gore than suspense; 9/11 thrillers. Novels whose subject and genre are not ones I’ve ever represented. Myinterests are mysteries, women’s fiction, and literary fiction, both contemporary and historical.
How do you work with self-published authors?
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with self-published authors. Not that I wouldn’t welcome the chance. It’s just that nothing has come over the transom.
What do you want to change about publishing?
Response times. I realize editors are very busy, but it would just be nice to have quicker turnaround times. When I take on a new client, I can’t wait to hear what chosen editors think of this new voice in fiction.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I’m not sure how unique it is, but I work alone. Obviously this keeps me very busy, but I like it that way. When clients need to discuss their work, they get me. I’m very hands-on in my business. I line-edit every manuscript I take on; sometimes it’s weeks of going back and forth with an author until both of us are satisfied with the result. Only then do I submit the manuscript for consideration.
What were the most valuable lessons you learned when you managed an independent bookstore?
In the 10 years I was an independent bookseller, working on that side of the book business prepared me for working on this side of the book business. I got to see firsthand the process of what sold: which books sold well and those that struggled to sell. How the timing of published books directly related to whether or not a debut author would have the opportunity to stand out in a crowded market and if established authors would continue to hold the readers they had acquired from past published books. I could watch a book buyer circulate throughout the store, picking up this or that book, before finally making a selection, always wondering what it was about a particular book that drew him or her in.
Why did you become a literary agent?
I wanted to share in the process of bringing good books to market by working directly with authors and utilizing what I had learned during my years as a bookseller. At that time, many independent bookstores were feeling the pinch from online retailers, and even though I lived and worked in an area that revered the independent bookseller and had successfully fought the influx of big-box stores, I could see that there were changes to the business coming. The original owners of three independent stores were retiring, thinking of selling the stores to a new generation of owners. The timing was right for me to move on as well. An opportunity to work at an established literary agency came to me. Five years later, I felt I had the background I needed, and 17 years ago, I went out on my own.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love the fact that there are always talented, enthusiastic new authors to work with. It’s what keeps me in this business. In just the past few weeks, I’ve taken on three new authors, and I’m very excited to get their works in front of editors and see what they think. The three authors’ books are: a historical novel about Maxfield Parrish, his art, and his women; a contemporary, urban love story set in New York; and a historical murder mystery featuring a blind investigator and his female assistant. Each novel is in the process of its final edit, and I’m hoping to have them out to editors in the coming weeks.
Jill Grosjean is the founder of the Jill Grosjean Literary Agency, based in Sag Harbor, New York. She has been a literary agent for 22 years, the last 17 as the head of her own agency. Previously, Jill managed an independent bookstore. She also worked at an advertising agency and in publishing. Her clients include Macavity Award winner Tim Maleeny, New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick, Barry Award nominee Felicia Donovan, and William Faulkner Award for Fiction winner Greg Garrett.