Interview with literary agent Jill Marsal from the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency…

Happy Sunday boys and girls. Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July. Call me biased, but after getting to know Jill Marsal over the last seven months, I think she’s the best… And I’m thrilled to have a chance to interview her today…




On the fiction front, Jill looks for all types of women’s fiction, stories of family, interesting relationships, Southern fiction, or multi-generations, and all types of romance, including romantic suspense, historical, contemporary, and category romance. She also is looking for mysteries, cozies, suspense, and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. She likes general commercial fiction and welcomes a dramatic storyline and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships. If you have a novel that has a highly original concept or voice, Jill would love to see it.

On the non-fiction side, Jill’s areas of interest include current events, business, health, self-help, relationships, psychology, parenting, history, science, and narrative non-fiction. She is particularly drawn to projects which will move readers or leave them thinking, which make provocative arguments or share interesting research, or which offer useful, new advice.


Tell us a little bit about your background, education, and experience as an agent.

I have always loved reading and great books. I started working in a literary agency when I was a senior in high school and later went to work at a publishing house in New York. I then got a law degree and practiced law for a few years.

This helped me have a strong background for contracts and contract negotiations. But my main love is agenting-reading and editing manuscripts, helping writers formulate ideas and structure proposals, pitching them to publishers.

I worked at the Dijsktra Literary Agency for eight years and then in 2009, left with Kevan Lyon to found the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and over the years have had the opportunity to work with terrific writers- from debut to New York Times bestsellers.

When did you fall in love with the literary world? Was there a magic moment? Did a certain book or author inspire you?

I remember being in 7th grade English class and our teacher Mrs. Browne always read to us after lunch to calm the class before starting lessons. One of the books (The Phantom Tollbooth, I believe) had a scene where the characters were sitting in a car or some type of vehicle, and one of them said “be quiet because it goes without saying,” and I remember thinking that was such a great word play, and I was hooked.

Are you a fiction or nonfiction girl?

Both– fiction, non-fiction- all types of books and subjects.

Favorite childhood book?

Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books

What’s your favorite romance genre? Romance book/series?

Contemporary and historical, though I love most romance genres. It’s the only genre I know where you are guaranteed the HEA.





Favorite romantic spot to visit?

Watching a sunset on the beach with chocolate covered strawberries.

Favorite movie?

Good Will Hunting

Favorite quote?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“So many books, so little time.”

If you could go back in time, is there any moment in your life you’d change? One you’d relive?

In college my senior year, I got very sick and had to go home and missed over a month. I would love to go back and have that time and the experiences that I missed.

Tell us what advantages/disadvantages you see in self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

I think self-publishing allows authors to publish books that traditional publishers might be hesitant to take on and so authors are less constrained by rules, genres, or publishers’ conceptions of “what will work on the market.”   Self-published authors can try new and risky things, often to great success.

On the flip side, editors at traditional houses have terrific experience, know the market well, have a sense of what has worked and what hasn’t, and can offer invaluable feedback in shaping a manuscript. Further, for many authors without a platform or experience in marketing, the self-publishing route can be challenging, and it may be difficult to break out and find your audience. How will readers learn about your book? How will you make it stand out on the market? Traditional publishers have experienced marketing, sales, and P.R. people who can help authors reach a broad audience and take you to the next level.

Also, for authors who want to be in a brick and mortar store, the distribution that traditional publishers offer is not currently available for self-published authors.






What are the top three things you look for in a story when a new author submits a manuscript for possible representation?

The three top things would be great “hook”, interesting characters, and strong/distinct voice.

Any advice for new authors?

Write what you love and are passionate about. Read in the genre so you know what is working on the market. Have others read and critique your work so that you get an “objective” read of your book, and then edit, edit, edit. And don’t give up! It is a very subjective business, and there are so many stories of NYT bestselling authors who received tons of rejections before getting “the call”- do everything you can to make your work as strong as possible and then keep trying.


Thanks for visiting with us today, Jill,  and for providing such great advice.


Where to find Ms. Marsal…

And the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency…


One thought on “Interview with literary agent Jill Marsal from the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency…

  1. It’s great getting an agent’s perspective. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise and advice!

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