Q&A with Literary Agent Jaida Temperly of New Leaf Literary & Media

April 21, 2016 | By | 3 Replies More

From the agency website –

At New Leaf Literary & Media we believe in total client representation, before and beyond the sale. By providing editorial direction and working together to develop promotional plans that enhance and support the publisher’s outreach, we ensure that our clients have the tools they need to excel in the market. With comprehensive foreign and film departments in-house, we are able to collaborate with clients to truly maximize the value of their work on a global and multimedia level. Most importantly, we believe in open and direct communication with our clients throughout the entire process. As the publishing industry continues to evolve, New Leaf Literary & Media is committed to staying informed and educated to best meet our clients’ needs.

Prior to joining New Leaf Literary and working alongside well-known agents Joanna Volpe, Suzie Townsend, Peter Knapp, among others, Jaida grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, studied classical ballet, and briefly attended medical school. She loves art history, traveling, logic puzzles, horticulture, and numerous other topics that come in handy for Trivia Night and crossword puzzles. Jaida is actively building both her Children’s and Adult list.


Thank you, Jaida, for joining us here at WomenWritersWomen[‘s]Books and taking the time to answer our readers’ questions. We’re very grateful and thrilled to have you.


Jaida PhotoHow do you evaluate a query? What do your eyes skip to?

I always look at comp (comparative) titles. If they match the sample pages, it tells me the author knows their writing and the current market. Plus, it’s an easy way to instantaneously deduce tone and structure.

What makes you want to read more? Any lines or elements that put you off?

Even if a query isn’t my taste, if it’s well-written, I will ALWAYS read the sample pages, because it might be a fit for a colleague. I often think of query letters as resumes – the format, detail, and organization tells a lot about the person. So if you take the time to format it properly, I’ll take the time to read.

In terms of what puts me off, some personal pet peeves include:

  • Not addressing me at all or incorrectly addressing me (Dear Mr. Temperly).
  • Sexist/racist/condescending tone.
  • Comparing yourself to literary outliers – Rick Riordan, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyers – or to literary legends – Dickens, Alcott, Travers, etc. In other words, know your market!

Is there a standard form you prefer for the letter? Say bio at the end, word count at the top, etc.

I do recommend putting your bio at the end of the query, simply because the point of your query is to attract me to your writing — not your accolades.

And while it’s not mandatory, I personally appreciate the genre, title, comp titles, and word count stated at the beginning, simply because I then know what to expect as you transition into your pitch. But it’s not a big deal either way – as long as those details are all included somewhere!

Do you assume writers are querying multiple agents or do you prefer that they explicitly state this?

I automatically assume – and strongly suggest – that writers be querying multiple agents. It’s a tough business and rough market. And the last thing you want to do is “put all your eggs in one basket” with one agent, so to speak :-).

If you request a manuscript, should the writer tell you if it is out with other agents already? Should they name them? What if when you ask, you are the first, should they let you know when future requests come in?

This really depends…

Once the author sends me their full manuscript, I ask that they “keep me in the loop” on the status of the manuscript with other agents. Meaning, if you get an offer – please tell me. Because one of the worst moves an author can make is accept an offer from another agent, without giving other requesting agents a chance to read and make an offer. This not only prevents the agent from pitching their agency and editorial vision for the project – but it also prevents the author from having multiple agency options. There are of course exceptions – but it’s important to evaluate your options.

In terms of an agent asking for offering agent names…this ultimately comes down to agency policy.


What weight do you give a potential client’s credentials across genres? Do you prefer MFAs for literary fiction? Is your preference the same for commercial fic? What about children’s book authors?

Client credentials are nice if you have them – but won’t sway me one way or another. I’m really looking at your work, your style, and you as a person!

How important is setting? What settings do you think work best?

This ultimately comes down to the story and the writer’s style – but I love a good setting because I’m an incredibly visual person. I like knowing if their air smells like lilacs and moldy socks. I like knowing if the afternoon light is golden or grey. But the important point to remember is that the setting details should ultimately contribute to the plot – not weigh it down or work against it. For example, can you imagine if Azkaban was described as a shimmering castle surrounded by apple orchards and bubbling brooks? It doesn’t work.

What are some common problems you see in the work of beginning writers?

Too much narration/description of character actions. It slows the pacing and pulls the reader out of the story. Some narration is good – but I don’t need to know about every eyebrow raise, quirked smile, tear-filled eye, heaving chests, etc.

Would you let a book you loved go if you are already heavy in that genre?

If there was absolutely no way we could make it work, then yes, I would pass. I don’t want authors to be cannibalizing one another within the same agency. (Disclaimer: In my experience, this is rare situation and would be a very serious in-house conversation first.)

Conversely, would you lower your standards for a book with promise in a genre you were light in?

I wouldn’t consider this as “lowering my standards.” The point of signing a client is that I want to work with the author long-term – i.e., I dig them, their writing, and their ideas as a whole. So I’m willing to invest in them, regardless.

What does your typical day look like?

I wish I knew! It’s always changing. But inevitably, it includes lots of emails, phone calls with clients, meetings with editors, an industry or client event, and reading at night. Here’s a post I did for Pub Crawl when I was an assistant that basically sums it all up.

As a side note, I recently read this article in Forbes about organizing the work week via “Theme Days” to increase focus and productivity. The concept is genius and I’m excited to try it out.

What is your standard response time for queries, partial manuscripts, and full manuscripts?

Queries – 2 weeks / Requested Material – 8 weeks.

*You can find our full submission details on New Leaf’s agency website.


How involved do you like to get in the early development of a client’s story?

In general, I’m an editorially-minded agent. But the extent of how involved I get ultimately depends on my client’s working style. Some clients prefer to work on their own until they have a full, rough manuscript. Others prefer to brainstorm ideas via email, spitball ideas on the phone, or have me read partials for feedback. I dig whatever route is easiest for them 🙂

How many drafts do you usually do with your clients before it’s ready for submission to editors?

This totally depends. Sometimes it’s one round; sometimes it’s multiple. But ultimately, it’s finding a balance of polishing the idea and not over-editing the creativity out of the project.

Which do you think is more valuable for an author – an editor who is passionate but offers a lower advance or an editor who offers more but doesn’t have the same reputation for aggressively promoting her books?

This depends, too. At first glance, my recommendation is to always go with the editor who’s passionate about your project – because word-of-mouth moves more books than money ever will. But if an author is in a position where there are multiple editors offering, I recommend they set up a phone call with them and their agent. Sometimes you can gauge an editor’s energy/vision better via a conversation than email, ya know? So just make sure to ask All The Questions and thoroughly discuss the options with your agent before accepting an offer.

Does the promotional plan/budget come into play when negotiating a book deal?

Yes. But this again really depends on the book, project, editor, house, etc. But it’s definitely a factor we review!

What advice do you give a debut author to prepare them for their launch?

Enjoy every minute. It’s going to be crazy/exciting/stressful but you only get one “First Book” launch. So savor it!

And finally…

Tea or Coffee?

All the Coffee of All The Times. #addict

Hotel or Camping? 


Central Park or Times Square?                  

Central Park.

Yankees or Mets?    

Milwaukee Brewers.

Flowers or Chocolates?



We can’t thank you enough, Jaida, for dropping in. Welcome to the WWWB family!


Jaida is actively expanding both her Adult and Children’s list. For all fiction, she has an affinity for magical realism, historical fiction, upmarket fiction, and literary fiction, as well as stories with a strong mystery and/or anthropological undertones. She also has a particular love for stories that are quirky and fantastical. Prior to joining New Leaf Literary, Jaida grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, studied classical ballet, and briefly attended medical school. She loves art history, traveling, logic puzzles, horticulture, archaeology, and numerous other topics that come in handy for Trivia Night and crossword puzzles. You can follow Jaida on Twitter and find her Pinterest #mswl (manuscript wish list) here.

New Leaf accepts only email queries.

Do not query more than one agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.

How to Query:

  • Send query to query [at] newleafliterary [dot] com. Please do not query via phone.
  • The word “Query” must be in the subject line, plus the agent’s name
  • ie – Subject: Query, Suzie Townsend
  • You may include up to 5 double-spaced sample pages within the body of the email
  • NO ATTACHMENTS, unless specifically requested
  • Include all necessary contact information
  • You will receive an auto-response confirming receipt of your query
  • We only respond if we are interested in seeing your work

If we have requested your proposal and/or manuscript (partial or full) please do not contact us for updates any time before eight weeks.

Please DO contact us if we are considering your work and you have received an offer from another agent or an editor.

Interviewed by –

MM Finck

MM Finck

MM Finck is a writer, essayist, and book reviewer. Her women’s fiction  is represented by Katie Shea Boutillier of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is a regular contributor WWWB as well as overseeing the Author and Literary Agent Interview segments. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the 2016 contest chair for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Rising Star writing contest for unpublished authors. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications.

When she isn’t editing her novel-in-progress, #LOVEIN140, she can be found cheering herself hoarse over a soccer match (USWNT! – three-time world champions!!!!), belting out Broadway tunes (badly and with the wrong words), learning to play piano (truly pitifully), and trying to squeeze more than twenty-four hours out of every day. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Say hi.  http://www.mmfinck.com


Tags: , , ,

Category: Agents

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Zan Marie says:

    Thanks, MM for another wonderful agent post!

  2. Great interview. Thanks for sharing!

  3. MM Finck says:

    Thank you, Jaida!! xx
    WWWB Interviews & Agent’s Corner

Leave a Reply