Emmy Nordstrom Higdon ON: Predicting the Market, A Love for Weird Stories, and How to Lift Up Diverse Books in Traditional Publishing
"You can't really pick what you're going to represent or what you're going to pitch based on what people are excited about today. You need to be thinking about what's going to be happening three years from now or four years from now.” – Emmy Nordstrom Higdon, Westwood Creative Artists
Abigail K. Perry sits down with Emmy Nordstrom Higdon to discuss their career shift from a bookseller to a literary agent—and why both taught them how to predict the market. They also share their love for books by underrepresented authors in traditional publishing, especially identity-driven stories in upmarket and literary fiction and nonfiction across all ages.
Emmy loves weird, bizarre books and wants more of those in their inbox. Emmy talks about FOLD and why the focus of this festival is literary diversity, and how they try to lift up books that are unrightly marginalized by barriers in traditional publishing.
Emmy also shares the two main questions they ask authors that they are interested in representing, and what they consider when they put a book out on submission.
Emmy holds a PhD in justice-oriented social work with a focus on critical animal studies from McMaster University, with additional peer-reviewed publications in public health and psychology. They even studied professional circus arts in a former life, but fell in love with the publishing industry while working as an indie bookseller at Another Story.
Emmy brings a deep appreciation and unique perspective to their work as an agent. They are a member of the planning team for FOLD, the Festival of Literary Diversity. Emmy is a queer, trans, non-binary colonizer originally from (Newfoundland), and lives with their partner, a Deaf Dalmatian, and two formerly feral Maine coon cats.
Emmy primarily represents authors of upmarket fiction and narrative nonfiction, across age ranges. They specialize in identity-driven stories based on lived experience, particularly from LGBTQ2S+ and disabled or chronically ill authors.
They prioritize queries from trans and/or non-binary, Black and/or BIPOC, and/or disabled authors. Their clients can be found on social media as the #SpineSquad.
Fiction: Children's, Commercial, Crime, Family Saga, General, Graphic Novel, Horror, LGBTQ, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Picture Books, Romance, Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Young Adul
Non-Fiction: Journalism, LGBTQ, Psychology, Science, True Crime (currently only accepting non-fiction queries from authors traditionally under-represented in publishing)
Favorite sub-genres: Diversity, Feminism, Gothic Horror, Narrative Nonfiction, Psychological Thrillers, Social Issues
Twitter: @abigailkperry @emmy_of_spines
Read the books discussed in this episode: