Thursday, July 3, 2014

6 Agent Interview: Shelby Sampsel of the Vicky Bijur Agency

Hi, everyone! Lisa here. I hope your summer is going well - but I also hope you're continuing to read and write. I have another great agent interview below. So let's get to know Shelby:

Shelby Sampsel joined the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency after graduating from NYU. She comes to the agency with previous internship experience at Thomas Dunne Books, Simon and Schuster, Tor Books, Penguin Group, the Maria Carvainis Agency, and McIntosh and Otis. She is interested in Young Adult and New Adult Fiction as well as memoirs with a strong voice.

Welcome, Shelby!

Please tell us what it is about a manuscript that excites you. 

I want to feel like I'm on the same team as the main characters. I want to feel like we are in this together. It doesn't matter if the mission is getting the cute boy from Algebra II to notice the protagonist or conquering a kingdom filled with dragons and warlocks. If you can make me feel like I am standing beside that person and we are moving toward a common purpose, then you'll have me.

Here's a tricky one! Can you define "voice" for us? 

Voice is all about what makes a character unique. Their background shapes who they are and the way they communicate their experiences. A 40 year old man from Tennessee has a different vocabulary than a 14 year old girl from London. If I can get a sense of your characters life, (age, hometown, job, etc) based solely on the way things are described than your manuscript has a strong voice.

Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability? 

Emotional Connection. Ideally, of course, a manuscript would have both but emotional connection comes first. If I don't connect with your manuscript, I am not the right agent for it. An author needs an agent who is willing to champion their book. Without having an emotional connection to the story, it would be difficult for me to convince a publisher that an audience will connect. If I really believe in something, we can work on making it marketable together.


  1. Always good to get inside the head of agents. Sometimes it confirms what I thought I knew already, and sometimes, there's helpful new information. I love Shelby's comments on finding a distinctive voice. Thanks!

  2. Shelby sounds awesome :) I liked reading her thoughts about what makes her excited about a specific manuscript. It was recommended that I look into querying her w/my YA and I think I'm definitely going to do that after reading this. Thanks for the interview!

  3. Thanks for this. Very helpful.

  4. Appreciate the comment about voice. It seems so nebulous--but your comments are helpful

  5. Getting thoughts directly from the agent is so very helpful. I particularly like this line, "An author needs an agent who is willing to champion their book." This is something I try to bear in mind when it comes to agent rejections.

  6. Agents really are cheerleaders for our work! If she isn't passionate about it, she's not the right fit. Excellent interview, ladies :)


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)