Interview With An Agent: Emily Fernandez
last updated 29 June 2023
Interview by Rachel Moffat
Our agents move mountains, working with our artists to make dreams come true. In this blog series, we sit down with our experts and give you an insight into their story and their passion for all things Bright.
Join us now as we interview Associate Agent: Emily Fernandez
How long have you been working for Bright? Tell us a little about your career journey?
I’ve just recently passed my one-year anniversary in the Bright agent team! The dream was always “publishing in New York,” but the journey to get here taught me so many things about the industry, and myself. I was able to look at publishing through many different lenses, wearing many different hats: production, editorial, e-books, marketing, frontlist, backlist, intern, associate, assistant, and now I’m happy to add ‘children’s,’ ‘illustration,’ and ‘agent’ to that list. I’d been aiming for an agent role for a number of years, and I am so glad that I was able to jump in with Bright. The joy, laughter, professionalism, and palpable love of books and art really drew me to the company and it’s been the truly delightful people I’ve met here that have made the last year even better than I imagined.
Illustration by Melanie Demmer
Where did your love of art come from?
My love of art came after my love of books I think. My mom originally started my love of reading (something we’ve always shared) and I had a warm and patient teacher that taught me to read. As a kid, I couldn’t put a book down—as so many of us book industry types, but I think it was socializing as a kid that got me into art. From our favorite comics and cartoons to the chalk drawings we made after school, I could suddenly see art all around me. So many of my favorite books had wonderful illustrations (Harold and the Purple Crayon, Angelina Ballerina, Madeline, Winnie the Pooh, it goes on!). I’m grateful that I got to explore art classes in school and my parents allowed me to start pottery classes and arts and crafts in my extracurriculars.
What do you look for in an artist?
In the past year, I’ve learned from the very best in the industry and I continue to absorb as much as possible from our managing and head agents. I personally love something a little offbeat, a little kooky. Great uses of texture and color draw my eye but it’s the personality that I am passionate about. In finding artists that I’m drawn to, I am finding my own style and beat as an agent.
The Bright US Team
Tell us about the first/most exciting project one of your artists worked on?
One of the most exciting projects I’m currently working on with an artist is a book that the publisher created just for them. They saw our artist’s work and were totally inspired! Now we are in the process of collaborating on a book made up of that artist’s strengths and personal interests. The passion is palpable! I’m so excited to see this on the shelves simply because I knew a lot of love went into it and I think you’ll be able to tell.
When you’re not working, what does a day in the life of Emily look like?
A day in my life, when not working, means exploring NYC! I moved up here last year from Washington, DC and I’ve loved ending up in new neighborhoods on the weekends. Finding new happy hour spots, walking through any and all parks, and meeting up with friends (new and old) has taken up most of my time so far. Throw in a lot of eating, napping, laughing, and waiting for subway trains, and that’s pretty much me in nutshell.
What has been your best day at Bright?
My best day at Bright has been any day that we’ve all been in the office. I love seeing my coworkers and we’ve been lucky to house a UK friend every so often. I’ve worked a lot of jobs, and they’ve been great in their own way, but Bright is the first time I’ve gotten excited to socialize around the office. So much of our jobs depend on the relationships we have with artists and clients, and all of the success I’ve had as an agent, or will have, could not be possible without the support of my friends at work.
The Bright Team at the Little Free Library at Berry Lane Park
What has been your biggest hurdle in your career?
The biggest hurdle in my career (so far) has been bridging the gap between me and New York City. I grew up in Virginia and graduated from college there, attended a publishing institute in Denver, Colorado, and entered the workforce in Washington, DC. Trying to stay close to my friends and family while also knowing book publishing is ultimately headquartered in NYC was difficult. “To move, or not to move, that was the question.” I’m very happy that Bright came into my life when it did, and I’m lucky to have a few friends and family nearby. It was a tough decision to leave DC, but I haven’t doubted that decision for a moment.
Illustration by James Rey Sanchez
What advice do you have for new agents?
I’m pretty new myself, but I know that absorbing as much knowledge as possible is paramount. Join book clubs, volunteer at libraries, work as a bookseller, network in the industry, read, read, read. I didn’t have any agent work on my resume, but what I did have told the story that I would be successful once I had the agent title. I built an agent career through working in customer service, exploring the ins and outs of creating a book, and professionally managing others. Those are all skills that I bring to my daily workload and I didn’t need an agent title to build them.
What do you know about the industry now that you wish you could have told yourself when you first started?
I would have told myself to move to NYC sooner, haha! But really, I would tell myself that the book industry is small and malleable. I didn’t need to try and fit into any one ‘path’ or role, and I didn’t need to work for the Big Five to get where I wanted to go. Take the backroads!
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Add more to your portfolio! We want to see as much as possible and showcase your very best skills. Your style can ebb and flow, but your portfolio should always be full. Each individual piece should be able to sell a technique, idea, or skill that you bring to the table. It’s less about what’s on the page, and more about what the page is telling the client. Draw a boat scene to show off your talent with water texture, and dark and stormy color palettes, and complicated expressions on your characters’ faces. The boat probably won’t get you anything but boat projects, but a good portfolio piece will show a client that you can bring all those skills to their next book.
Illustration by Janna Mattia
A final message?
Looking back on the last year, I can see a lot that’s changed and a lot that hasn’t. The thing that mattered the most was that I took a leap of faith in myself and I continue to choose to leap every day. My life is ‘brighter’ because of it.
To work with Emily, get in contact here.