Jennifer Unter, The Unter Agency

YA Historical

On Submission

Jennieke Cohen (JEN-ih-kah CO-en) is used to people mispronouncing her name and tries to spare her fictional characters the same problem. Jennieke writes historical fiction for young adults inspired by real people and events because life is often stranger than fiction. She studied English history at Cambridge University and has a master’s degree in professional writing from USC. Jennieke loves exploring new locales but always returns home to Northern California where the summers are hot, the winters are mild, and life is casual. Read more on Jennieke’s website www.JenniekeCohen.com or find her on Twitter @JennikaCohen

The first inkling I had that I wanted to write a novel came after I graduated college with a very sensible degree in economics. Thinking I wanted to write a romance novel, I joined RWA, started going to writing conferences, and decided to get a writing degree. After getting my master’s in professional writing from the University of Southern California, I started submitting my master’s thesis to agents. I got some requests and many, many rejections. All told, I spent 9 years editing the book. I’d set it aside to start new manuscripts, but then I’d return to the first book, either to insert new research I’d done on the time period, to retool the character dynamics, or just to fill out the world. In 2016, I finally determined to give the book one last edit and a final round of querying before I self-published it. In the interest of not self-rejecting, I decided to enter Pitch Wars. To my surprise, I was lucky enough to be chosen by an amazing mentor who saw how to fix the issues in the book that I could no longer see. Four months after I started sending out my Pitch Wars requests, I had an agent. A month after signing, my book was out on submission!

Besides learning how to critique (and how NOT to critique) fiction in my master’s program, I also got to study screenwriting with some great screenwriters and directors, so I have a good eye for structural problems and how to fix them. I have also worked as an editorial intern at Prima (an imprint of Penguin Random House where I got to edit video game guides), have ghostwritten some nonfiction, and worked as a writing consultant for Google. I’ve even worked as a literary agent’s assistant. As a result, I’ve seen submissions that run the gamut from very rough to polished but just not quite there, and I’ve seen the quality a book needs to be to sell. Pitch Wars taught me even more about re-writing and editing, and made me learn how to do it under a tight deadline.

I’m looking forward to giving back to the online writing community that has done so much for me! If I hadn’t found the right mentor to help me fix the manuscript of my heart, I don’t believe I would have an agent today, and so many other good things wouldn’t have happened. I would love to help someone else achieve their dreams as my mentor helped me!

With mentorship comes access to a lot of behind the scenes information, and without it, many of us would be chasing our tails in the publishing mire. I know I wouldn’t have gotten my agent without the help of a wonderful author who helped me see what was and wasn’t working in my novel. Sometimes all it takes is one person to read that book you’ve worked so hard on, let you know they understand what you were trying to do, and help you make it that much better; sometimes, that’s all it takes for your life to change! I can’t wait to help my mentee take their manuscript to the next level so they can put their best foot forward in the querying trenches.

I’m looking for anything set in the U.K., historicals of all stripes, classic literature spin-offs, mysteries, thrillers, retellings, and books with light fantasy or magical elements. I’m all about princesses, swoony romances, and feminist themes. I’m also open to dark or atmospheric books, as long as there’s a happy ending. When in doubt about whether I’ll be interested, tweet me a question! I’m hoping to find a wonderful mentee who’s a lovely person, is willing to work, and ready to have fun in the process!

  • Fantasy
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • #ownvoices
  • Romance

I’m open to all subgenres of historical set pre-1950’s, but I’m a bit of an Anglophile so bonus for anything set in the UK! That said, I’m not the biggest fan of WWI/WWII stories, but your MS could change my mind. I’m also open to light fantasy, books with magical elements, and historical fantasy/alternate history, but I’m probably not the best mentor for high fantasy novels. I also absolutely love lighthearted fairy tale retellings, and my favorite books all have strong heroines and a good romantic plot. I’m not a huge fan of anti-heroes/anti-heroines or retelling stories from the villain’s POV (although WICKED is an amazing musical IMO). I’m also really not one who enjoys reading sad endings, disease stories, or anything where the main protagonists die (unless you bring them back to life in a believable way). That said, I don’t mind dark themes/elements as long as there’s a happy ending. As a history lover, I realize history is full of stories where terrible things happen, so there will always be some exceptions to this, but in general, sad is not my jam.

I may not be the best choice for straight contemporary romances, but if you have a speculative contemporary-set retelling or contemporary magical realism, send it my way! Mysteries or straight up thrillers are also right up my alley—extra points to unique settings or gothic elements.

I also love sister stories, interesting and not totally destructive family dynamics, redeemable “bad boys,” nice guys who get the girl, and friends who fall in love. I’d also love to see anything with Jewish or multiethnic main characters, and #OWNVOICES is always a plus!


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat

I definitely want to tailor my approach to my mentee, their manuscript, and the kind of changes it will need. I plan to give my mentee a general overview of any large scale structural or character issues, either by email or by phone/Google hangouts, depending on what’s more convenient for us both. Usually, I find phone conversations and instant messaging to be a better way to communicate because then we can brainstorm together, rather than me sending a long email, you agonizing over it for days, and then not feeling better about it until we talk again. Whenever possible, I want to spare you those days of agonizing! I also plan to do a line edit in the manuscript and give you whatever other support you might need to make your manuscript and query letter shine! And always keep in mind that although I’ll be suggesting changes I believe will improve your book, ultimately you will have to determine if those changes are right for your manuscript. Beyond that, I love cute GIFs and wasting time* overanalyzing TV shows and movies, so expect some of that, if you’re game!

*I mean, honestly, is that EVER a waste of time?

My ideal mentee would be someone who thoroughly understands grammar and punctuation rules, sentence structure, and who can spot tense issues a mile away. They should be prepared to do an entire rewrite if we deem it necessary (I’m not anticipating this, but often even changing pieces of the story creates a ripple effect throughout the manuscript), and can approach changes with a can-do attitude. They have an open mind, are ready to brainstorm ideas, get to work implementing them, and have fun in the process! Writing is a long (and sometimes lonely) road, so I’d love to find someone to cheer for who’ll end up being a good friend in the future.

Cute/clever fairy tale retellings, Shakespeare re-imaginings, classic literature spin-offs (especially ones that haven’t been done before), light magical elements, historical mysteries or psychological thrillers, princesses, romantic adventures, boarding school stories, swashbuckling girls, feminist themes, books with supportive parents, multiethnic and/or Jewish protagonists, and stories set in the U.K.

Main characters with terminal diseases, graphic rape on the page, passive female main characters, unlikeable heroes/heroines, high fantasy novels with multiple fantasy elements, vampires, zombies, or dystopian/post-apocalyptic anything.

Some books and series I loved: Shannon Hale’s Bayern series, Jessica Day George’s Princesses of Westfalin series and SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW; UPROOTED by Naomi Novik; FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway, ENCHANTED by Alethea Kontis, JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke, Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mysteries, SUBMERGE by Tobie Easton, GARDEN PRINCESS by Kristin Kladstrup

Fave Classic Authors: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, L.M. Montgomery, Wilkie Collins

Favorite TV shows & miniseries: Frasier, 30 Rock, Friends, Road to Avonlea, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Buccaneers, North and South, Pride and Prejudice (1995), The 10th Kingdom, Jane Eyre (2006)

Shows I’m currently enjoying/on my queue: The Good Place, Lucifer, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Crown, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family, Victoria

Favorite Movies: Way too many to name here, but these are some of my favorites: Lady Jane, Hamlet (1996), Bridget Jones’s Diary, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Tangled, French Kiss, Austenland, Stardust, Guys and Dolls, America’s Sweethearts, Pillow Talk, Stowaway, Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Enchanted. I also love classic films (in case you can’t tell from this list), musical theater, and video games like Skyrim.