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Apr 1, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Jennifer Rofé

A warm welcome to Jennifer Rofé, senior literary agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Some of Jennifer's clients include New York Times bestseller Meg Medina, author of the Newbery Medal winner MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS; Sid Fleischman Humor Award winner Crystal Allen, author of the middle grade series The Magnificent Mya Tibbs; and Amber Ren, illustrator of the New York Times bestseller Because by Mo Willems and the forthcoming Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste.

Jennifer has been on the faculty of many conferences including the Big Sur Writer's Workshop and numerous SCBWI conferences, and she is especially known for her The "So What?" Factor presentation. Jennifer earned a BA in English and a minor in Social and Ethnic Relations with a focus on multicultural literature from UC Davis and has a background in secondary education.

CritiqueMatch: Share a fun fact about you.
Jennifer: I am very good at dream interpretation. I have friends and family members who call me so that I can help them interpret their dreams. (But please don’t send me queries for stories that take place in dream worlds. I tend not to connect with them.)

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Jennifer: I was interested in working in the animation space, but in college I interned for Disney, and I did not enjoy it. So I shifted focus and found myself drawn to both journalism and teaching. After a brief stint in trade journalism, I decided I might pursue educational publishing, and so I should probably have experience in education. I earned my teaching degree and became a middle-school teacher, which I enjoyed and was good at. But it wasn’t quite what I wanted for a long-term career. I caught wind of agenting through a children’s literature conference at a local indie bookstore. I heard Andrea Brown speak about her job, and it was like being struck by lightning. I knew in that moment that agenting is what I was going to do. And here I still am.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Jennifer: I never reveal how many clients I have. The number can be interpreted in different ways – It’s too many! It’s not enough! – but the short answer is that I only take on what I can successfully manage, which sometimes means having to say no to projects I love (in which case, I share them with my colleagues!). But my list has changed. I’ve realized over time that I have the most success with (and most fun with!) middle grade writers, author-illustrators, and illustrators. At the end of 2020, I decided to limit what I’m seeking to these categories. I do still take on the occasional YA author and picture book author, though. And I do represent authors who write across categories. 

CM: Once you make an offer of representation, what happens next?
Jennifer: I sit on pins and needles waiting to see if the person accepts. And if they do, I send them the agency contract. Once it’s signed, we get cracking! For authors, that means editorial work and revision. For author-illustrators and illustrators, that means first making sure their website and portfolio are in good order. Before it’s ever announced that I’m representing an illustrator, we spend time reviewing and reworking their portfolio, making sure their website is well-organized and successfully reflects their artistic voice and vision. 

CM: Can you share some of your query statistics? 
Jennifer: I don’t actually track them. I receive hundreds of queries every month. Of those, I might request fulls for two manuscripts. Of those, I might not actually offer representation to anyone. So far this year (as of mid-February), I’ve offered representation to one author-illustrator and one illustrator, and both accepted. 

The best piece of agenting advice I’ve ever received came from editor Christy Ottaviano on my very first trip to New York to meet with editors. She said to me, “Don’t do the spaghetti method.” And so I never have. I’m slow and careful about how I build my list.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers? 
Jennifer: Quite. But I know my limitations. I work to help my clients get their manuscripts to a place where they’re strong enough for submission and, hopefully, acquisitions. I can recognize that there are elements of a manuscript that could be improved but that these existing issues aren’t deal-breakers. Meaning, if an editor rejects a manuscript because of those specific issues, then they don’t connect with the story or have a vision for it, and so they’re not the right editor for it. 

CM: What areas of the market do you think are in high demand right now?
Jennifer: Graphic novels. Nearly everybody wants them. 

CM: Can you share a client success story, from their query/introduction to you all the way to publication?
Jennifer: Here’s a favorite: A few years ago, I tweeted that I like a character who is right, though nobody believes her. This tweet caught the eye of Cassandra Hartt, and so she queried me for her young adult manuscript The Sea is Salt and So Am I, which has a protagonist who is deeply flawed and also right, though nobody takes her seriously. My then-assistant (Kayla Cichello, who is now an agent with Upstart Crow) read Cassandra’s sample pages and told me I absolutely needed to read them. I did and I requested the full, and Kayla and I promptly became obsessed with Cassandra’s story. We went through several rounds of revision (Kayla’s and my obsession growing deeper with each one) before we felt the story was in a solid enough place to share with editors. Ultimately, Kate Meltzer at Roaring Brook acquired it, and the book releases in June of this year. 

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Jennifer: On the #kidlit side, I recently read Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles, which is about toxic masculinity. It is nuanced and powerful and should be placed in the hands of every teen. On the adult side, I’m currently listening to the audio of Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, and it is weird and funny, and I am eager to see how this story will play out. And I also can’t stop thinking about the picture book Find Fergus by my client Mike Boldt because my two-year-old won’t let me stop thinking about it. She loves Fergus, and we read his story every day.  


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • All genres in Middle Grade—literary, commercial, contemporary, magical, fantastical, historical, and everything in between.
  • Author-Illustrators -- In picture books, I like funny, character-driven projects; beautifully imagined and written stories; and milestone moments with a twist.
  • Illustrators -- I seek unique voices and perspectives that have a voice so strong that it’s immediately recognizable as belonging to the creator. 
What you’re not interested in:
  • I am currently not accepting queries for writers who write only in the YA or PB spaces. If you write across genres, please query me for one of the above. 

2 Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)
Candlewick - 2021
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins - 2021

Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

  • Always follow submission guidelines and personalize your query so that an agent understands why you’ve chosen them for your work.
  • And do keep agents updated if you receive an offer of representation.
  • Don’t worry if you’ve made an irrelevant error in your query – such as a misspelling or a grammar mistake. This should not impact how an agent connects to your work (and if it does, do you want to work with that agent?).  
  • And unless it was specifically requested by an agent and you’re open to it, don’t exclusively submit your query to an agent. Considering that it can take several weeks for agents to work through queries, you’re delaying opportunities with other agents by exclusively submitting. 

Submission Link: