Agent Interview: Jemiscoe “Jem” Chambers-Black

We’re excited to have gotten a chance to ask Jemiscoe “Jem” Chambers-Black, a participating agent in this year’s #LatinxPitch, some questions regarding what she’s on the lookout for and what an agent typically needs to see in pitches to have them click that “like” button.

Thanks so much for your time Jem!

Q: Tell us a little bit about your experience last year with #LatinxPitch and any successes you might have had connecting to writers or illustrators because of it.

A: I have participated in LatinxPitch, but it didn’t result in me signing any clients. However, some of those author’s manuscripts that I read went on to sign with other agents, and seeing that was awesome!

Q: Why do you participate in and what do you like about Twitter pitch events? What do you like about #LatinxPitch in particular?

A: Twitter pitch events can be a lot of fun. For agents, we get to read pitches and let a creator know that we have an initial interest in their manuscript’s premise/portfolio. From the creators’ side, they get exposure. It also allows an author or illustrator to choose whether or not they want to query a particular agent. But there are certain pitch events that I keep a lookout for, and #LatinxPitch is one of them. When I became an agent, I never hid my purpose of amplifying marginalized voices. We’ve all seen the percentages of who, on average, gets published, and those percentages still don’t reflect the United States demographics. In saying that, I look to organizations like #LatinxPitch that help put a spotlight on creators who are deserving and have been deserving of agents’ and editors’ attention. It serves as a virtual meetup and makes it easier for us all to connect, and I really am grateful for that.

Q: What tips can you offer to writers or illustrators that might be planning to participate in the next #LatinxPitch event?

A: Like I said, Twitter events are fun and can get you exposure, but before you participate, make sure that your manuscript/portfolio is ready should any publishing professional request it. Having an awesome pitch is only the beginning, and to be honest, not the most important. If you don’t have a complete and polished manuscript, your pitch won’t matter. And for illustrators, if the art pieces you pitched with are your only samples, my first thoughts will most likely be that you aren’t ready for representation. Take your time because, in most instances, this is your one-on-one moment with an agent or editor. We are paying attention to you, so make sure you’re ready for that spotlight and that your work reflects that readiness.

Q: What Tweets normally catch your attention during pitch events? What do you think makes a Tweet stand out?

A: A creator should know that their value or the value of their writing, story, or artwork has nothing to do with the attention of an agent or editor during any Twitter pitch event. From our side, a creator’s pitch might not even show up in our thread even if we do a search. Because I’m on the west coast, I wake up at 5 AM during those events, and my coffee-needing brain struggles to wade through the extensive thread of people saying they will retweet and the actual pitches. 

However, to answer your question, the pitches that grab my attention are where the author doesn’t forget to post about the main character, their main conflict, the stakes, and the obstacle the character faces. You’d be surprised how many creators forget to give a central conflict and set the stakes. Without these main elements, I have no idea if I’m interested. For illustrators, make sure you’re sharing a range of what you can do. If you want to work on different age groups, showcase it. If you have artwork that features day or night scenes, show one of each. If you draw animals and humans, again, show one of each. Versatility is key here. 

Q:  What will you be on the lookout for this year? Tell us a little bit about your current manuscript wish list.

A: This year I am on the lookout for more MG and adult work. In the MG space, I’m looking for contemporary, fantasy, horror, and graphic novels. And in the adult space, I’m looking for romance, women’s fiction, and/or literary fiction. That doesn’t mean I am not open to everything in between, but that is what I have less of in my inbox. I love grounded fantasy, and I will admit I’m looking for that in MG and YA. I am always open to illustrators, and I am always down to look at portfolios with a great range. 

About the agent: Before Jemiscoe “Jem” Chambers-Black joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2020, she was an assistant director for film and television. Her love for books prevailed, and she went back to school to study English Literature and creative writing in fiction and earned her MFA. She represents illustrators, picture book authors (by referral only), MG, YA, and adult authors. In picture books, she enjoys laugh-out-louds, tight rhyming, and heartfelt books that deal with family, friendships, and emotional literacy.

You can find out more about Jem on the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website.

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