3 S.R. Johannes: Mary Kole - Agent interview and Pitch Contest

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mary Kole - Agent interview and Pitch Contest

Mary Kole's Agent Pitch Contest starts this Fri am at 9EST and ends Sun am at 9 EST. Winner gets a query critique from Mary. Come back Friday at 9 am EST for more deets on how to enter!

Hint - get your 140 character pitch ready!

Now, here is Mary Kole:

Hi Mary, tell us about yourself. How did you get into agenting?

I had been writing YA for about two years, got an agent, and went out on submission. When my manuscript didn't sell, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the business and see things from the "other side of the desk." I'm never really satisfied with what I know and always want to keep learning. I started reading for an adult agency, then started reading and giving editorial manuscript feedback for my now-colleagues at Andrea Brown. It was the first time I really felt completely at home doing in a job, and I've been an official agent with ABLit since August 2009.

As an agent, what would you say is the state of YA today? What are you seeing too much of? What aren't you seeing enough of?

YA is changing, I think. Paranormal is still strong with readers, but editors, who are MY primary customers, are clamoring for really unique paranormal, fantasy, and dystopian, as well as contemporary and realistic stories. I see way too many derivative manuscripts -- girl, sixteen, discovers she has powers (through a diary, book, dream, vision, amulet, ghost, etc.), right as the hottest guy she's ever seen inexplicably transfers into her class...and provides a key to her powers and her destiny. Yawn. I've read it hundreds of times. There are more interesting stories out there and I challenge YA writers to find them.

You are building a great resource/site – Kidlit? How did this come about and what is your goal?

Since you can only query one agent at Andrea Brown at a time, I wanted to differentiate myself and attract submissions. I have eight amazing colleagues and I'm the newest agent, so I wanted to stand out and get my name out there, right from the beginning. But aside from that, I also come from a writing background and really enjoy teaching. This way, I reach out to potential clients, provide valuable content for writers (see more on this, below), and talk about the publishing business and the writing craft -- all of my favorite things to do, wrapped up in one blog!

What is a queryfail for you? What is a query success for you?

The least successful queries fail to make me care about the character and story. Other, smaller failures, involve queries that are too long, opening with a rhetorical question or making hyperbolic claims ("This is the next TWILIGHT!"). Here's a formula for a successful query, from my Kidlit blog.

How do you help your clients promote their books? What is an agents’ role in that if any?

A lot of writers don't realize how important in-house support for a book can be. Publishing is a business of relationships, so I make sure that author, editor, marketing department, and more, are all working smoothly together, all while generating enthusiasm from everyone I talk to on a client's behalf. Having grown up in Silicon Valley, I'm very interested in the Internet's role in book promotion, too. I happily discuss strategy, provide blog/website advice, and brainstorm with writers. I also talk up clients at my own events and, since I travel so much, I try to make connections with booksellers around the country -- you never know when you'll need to plan an event!

What do you feel is critical when doing book publicity?

Most people are selfish creatures, and that's not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to promotion. Most readers ask themselves, "What's in this for me?" So when you do any kind of promotion -- running a blog/Twitter feed, a contest, having a reading or event, doing an interview -- make sure the reader gets something out of it, too, besides the super awesome chance to purchase your book. Do giveaways. Bring goodies to events. Give away bookmarks and book plates. Talk about writing, reading, your book's themes or subject matter -- not just about yourself and the product you're selling.

My favorite book promotion tactic comes from David Morrell, an adult author. At a writer's conference, he told the audience about his recent book, something to do with urban exploring. Except he didn't mention his book, his characters, or his story at all. He talked for five minutes about the practice of urban exploring -- sneaking into abandoned urban properties, like buildings, factories, and warehouses -- and why it's so interesting. I feel like I learned a lot during that talk -- new facts for my cocktail party repertoire, score! -- and it got me excited to give the author something in return: my money.

Give your readers and future readers something valuable or cool, even if it is just a fun factoid. I repeat, don't make promotion all about you, you, you.

Last question – what is your biggest fear and why?

I'm a pretty anxious person, so I could go on, but why air all of my neuroses? One of my biggest fears, and I never hope this interview becomes ironic, is becoming deathly allergic to something I love to eat. I'm a total foodie and I don't know if I could be trusted to choose between, say, the sushi roll or the ER.

Thanks Mary! :)


Unknown said...

Great interview! Love Mary and Kidlit. Thanks for the interview you two!! :)

Not a huge fan of sushi, but I don't know that I could choose between food I love or the ER either haha.

Carolyn V. said...

Yes! I write dystopian! Yay!

Mary, you are awesome. I met you at the wifyr and was so impressed with you.

Great interview Shelli! =)

Larissa said...

I love your interviews, Shelli! :)

Mary is coming to the FWA conference in October, and I am looking forward to meeting her.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great interview :) Mary's such a helpful person!

Dawn Embers said...

This is a great interview. I know how it feels with the allergy issue. Even though it doesn't put me in the hospital, a few years ago I started having issues with dairy. I get sick and have some minimal allergic reactions but does that stop me? Nope. I love pizza, cream based soups and ice cream.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

Awesome interview! And, um, I'm right there with sushi. It'd be so hard to give it up... Great, now I'm craving it and we're having boring old chicken for dinner tonight.

David Morrell's tactic seems like such a good idea! If I ever publish, I'll have to go out and do cool things like sneak into abandoned properties so I've got interesting things to talk about too :) Or, you know, something original...

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

Oh! Also, do the pitches need to be for query-ready manuscripts? Or can they be for current WIPs, as long as we have a query written for it?

Gail said...

Wow, I love the 2 comments written in Chinese or Japanese, not sure which. I'm sure they were interesting....whatever was said!

Great interview!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview Mary & Shelli. I love Mary's blog. It is always so informative. Glad to hear editors are still interested in Fantasy.

RAD - Dot Painter said...

hmmm, maybe I need to rethink my WIP and move on to the next book idea. In fantasy, doesn't the protagonist usually have some sort of power? And isn't romance usually an element in most teen novels. It is hard for me to be clever without including some of those elements. Anyone have thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I can so relate to being a foodie. :)

Christina Lee said...

Aww, great interview with Mary! And yeah I have a personal relationship with food too! ;--)