Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Elise Capron

Hello my fantabulous readers!

Today I am treating you all to an interview I did with the unbelievably awesome Elise Capron of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency!

Capron PR pic

I will let you guys in on a little secret I discovered about Elise a while back…

*whispers* She’s part unicorn.

*drops mic*

When she’s not prancing about with adorable woodland creatures, she is a top notch lit agent that makes me smile on the regular. I highly recommend following and enjoying the adorability and talent that is Miss. Capron.

But keep that unicorniness on the DL. Our little secret, yeah? Ace.

1. Tell us about you as an agent! What made you become one? What kinds of stories do you rep?

I was lucky enough to land a job as the brilliant agent/Unicorn-in-Chief Sandy Dijkstra’s assistant nine years ago, and became a baby agent a year later. These days I still work very closely with Sandy on development and sales of her clients’ projects (she’s the best teammate a girl could have—so amazing to see her Primo Agent Brain in action!), and I also maintain my own active list of authors.

I represent a range of fiction and non-fiction. While I started out focused entirely on literary novels and story collections, I’ve found that my interests have expanded widely over the years. I still adore serious, character-driven literary fiction, without a doubt, and would currently LOVE to find a new novel. Tiphanie Yanique’s collection, HOW TO ESCAPE FROMA LEPER COLONY (published by Graywolf–her new novel will be out in another year with Riverhead, title to come!), and Courtney Brkic’s novel, THE FIRST RULE OF SWIMMING (Little Brown), which will be published this May, define my sensibility when it comes to literature. I want unique, captivating narrative voices and compelling, fresh stories. I want something I haven’t heard before. And I never mind a light sprinkle of magical realism. Where I’ve really branched out, interest-wise, has been in the non-fiction realm. Some of my recent sales include: a book on the history of rain (sold to Crown) by award-winning journalist Cynthia Barnett; FORGED (Oxford), about the world and meaning of art forgers, by conceptual artist and journalist Jonathon Keats; and even a book on the history of the noose (Public Affairs), by historian Jack Shuler. I’d love to find more interesting narrative history by up-and-coming journalists and historians. Compelling, well-told true stories float my boat these days!

What I love about agenting is that it’s my job to sell material about which I’m truly passionate. Not many folks can say that! And it’s the truth: If I’m not genuinely excited about a manuscript or concept, I’m simply not going to sell it well, so I have to trust my unicorn-radar when deciding what to take on. I also love working with and connecting with writers, who are the most passionate, creative, and interesting people I know. It’s an exciting, ever-changing field to be in, and there are new challenges every day.

2. What is something you are working on that has you just all kinds of wicked excited?

One of my client’s daughter’s calls me, quite adorably, her mom’s “Secret Agent” (she even drew a picture of me, once, wearing a detective hat and holding a magnifying glass). So, because I am a Secret Agent AND a unicorn (we unicorns are known for keeping mum), I can’t divulge too much of what I’m working on right now. But I can tell you that the books I’m SQUEE about right now include a girl runner, some rats, a whole lot of beer, and this family you’ve probably never heard of who happen to have a kid named Blanket. Come to whatever conclusions you like about that!

3. Do you have any books that you passed on that you may or may not be smacking yourself over?  How often does that sort of thing happen?

Absolutely, this happens every once in a while. And I imagine that it’s happened at least a time or two to just about every other agent out there. I’ve passed on books that I’ve later seen pubbed by major houses and win awards. However, what writers have to remember—and what I have to remind myself when this happens—is that the author-agent relationship is always about the best MATCH, and about shared VISION. For example, if I don’t clearly see the path for a particular book, that means, for me, that I am not the right agent for that book. I firmly believe that each author deserves the agent who best understands their unique position in the publishing spectrum and who knows best how to place them there. All of this is to say that while it’s sometimes a bummer to feel like I might have missed out on something, I also acknowledge that I might not have been the most appropriate match for them in the first place. And I’ll keep cheering that writer on, whether or not I was the agent to get them there!

4. How difficult is it to balance your agenting duties with your unicorn responsibilities? I imagine this to be difficult… 😉

I’ll be honest–It can be pretty hard at times. My schedule can get truly packed when it comes to protecting the forest and my pixie and sprite friends. They’re so needy. Thankfully I live 1,000 years and can teleport around the forest (just once a day, but still—beats sitting in SoCal traffic), so I’ve still got plenty of time to spend selling books, and I can get to meetings pretty quickly. As an aside, I would like to take this opportunity to dispel the notion that I’m only lured from my office with virginal maidens. No, no. A good manuscript will work much better. Promise.

5. What is your very favorite part of being an agent? What part makes you cry sad panda tears?

I have two absolute favorite moments, as an agent: Coming across a project in the submissions pile that sparks my passion, when I just KNOW it’s a book I have to represent. And, of course, holding a finished book in my hands. Publishing can be a long process when you look at the full picture—from initial concept and rough pages, to selling the manuscript, to getting it into perfect shape, to seeing jacket art, to finished book—and so that moment when it’s real, when it’s something you can hold and put on your bookshelf with pride, is very special. I feel deeply connected to the books I represent, and terribly proud of all my authors. It takes guts to be a writer, and I so admire anyone committed to this profession.

I cry sad panda tears when I have to reject projects, especially those that I know have merit but which just aren’t right for me or for the Dijkstra Agency. It is emotionally draining, and it never gets any easier.

6.  What classic story do you wish had landed on your desk for your repping approval?

Oh gosh, that’s so HARD. ALICE IN WONDERLAND? PETER PAN? LOLITA? (That’s kind of a creepy combination of books I just put together. What does that say about me? Yikes.) How can one pick? If I really dig to the core of my unicorn heart, though, it would be this: It’s probably only a “classic story” to her cult-ish fans, but I can’t NOT pick GEEK LOVE by Katherine Dunn. It’s a classic story in the sense of being a rather epic family saga, but set in a bizarre circus world. A wonderful and strange book. Ms. Dunn is pretty wonderful and strange, herself.

7. If you could give a piece of advice to everyone who is about to send you a query, what would it be?

Do five extra minutes of research before you write any agent. Mention a book I’ve represented (even better if you’ve read and enjoyed it, but that’s not necessary, of course), or something I’ve said in an interview that caught your eye (cough cough—INTERVIEW—cough cough), or something about my agency that you admire and/or why you feel you’d be a good fit for us. In the internet age, this kind of research takes almost no time at all, and yet it puts you a step ahead of the rest. When I can see that you took a little time to personalize your query, I naturally pay a little extra attention. You gave the submission real time and consideration, and so I’ll do that same for you. I’m amazed to see how many submissions I still get, on a daily basis, that are addressed to “Dear Agent”, or not addressed to anyone, or sent to 25 agents at once (all cc’ed on the same email), or whatever else. Those submissions only get a fleeting glance, to be frank. A little bit of care and personalization goes a long way.

8. As this is my blog, and my humiliation loves company, I must now ask for an embarrassing moment, industry related or otherwise.

I have a wonderfully humiliating, publishing-related story involving a bathhouse in Germany and some major nudity…but…you’ll have to buy me a martini or two to get that one out of me.

Fizzy here.  New goal in life: Meet Elise in person and buy her ALL THE MARTINIS.

That is the super adorable, and most fantastic of peoples, Elise Capron!

Show her all the love for her agenty ways and unicornosity in the comments section!!

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Unicorns!!

4 Comments

  1. She is also thimble-tiny, you forgot to mention. And my favorite! Great interview, ladies!

  2. Such a great interview and perfect GIFs. And I LOVED Geek Love.

    Whoever gets the details on the German bathhouse, post that business here, please. 🙂

  3. Such an excellent interview and agenty advice! Thanks for sharing, Elise. It sounds like your reading/manuscript-desiring tastes are both broad and awesome (personally I think a little ALICE and PETER PAN are just the right sprinkle to the LOLITA mixture :).

  4. Who would have thought this interview contained unicorns, German bath houses, and sound query advice? You can feel Elise’s passion for agenting leap from the text. Awesome interview, as always. Maybe we can have some Fizzy awards with trophies that have different colored streaks in their hair for the winners? I’ll let you think about that one for a bit. The categories could be favorite embarrassing moment, best query advice, etc. I’m sure your husband could design something badass for the occasion. 🙂

    Just let your audience choose the best use of a gif category. 😉

    Can’t wait for the next interview!

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