Today’s interactive installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. I’ll meet you at the bottom with details on the interactive part. Enjoy!
KV: How did you get into agenting?
KM: I always knew I would work with writing and books. I learned the ropes at the University Press of Florida after college, then earned my Masters in Fiction Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi. After I annoyed all my workshop-mates in grad school asking "Who's going to buy this? Who's going to read this?" I decided to move to New York and work in publishing. I was pretty sure I wanted to be an agent--salesmanship runs in my family and I knew I wanted to be on the idea-generation side of things. Turns out I was right. I love my job.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
KM: My personal agenting philosophy is find good work and share it. I want to fall in love with books so that I can be the best advocate for my authors.
From the agent-author relationship I expect mutual respect, understanding, professionalism, reasonable expectations (on both parts), and shared excitement over books. (And a healthy patience on the author's part for my frequent use of words like LOL, Woot!, and OMG.)
KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?
KM: Coming soon are Boo Davis' DARE TO BE SQUARE (August 31), an amazing quilting book out by Potter Craft. Her work is new, modern, and gorgeous, but still celebrates traditional quilting. I first saw her work in BUST magazine and I just knew crafters would love it. She was just featured in the New York Times.
In July, Carey Wallace's debut novel THE BLIND CONTESSA'S NEW MACHINE (Viking/Pamela Dorman Books) came out, and it's amazing, if I do say so myself. It's about an Italian Contessa who is slowly losing her sight. She rebuilds her world in her imagination, and there's a touch of magical realism in the end. Plus, her lover (not her husband) makes her one of the world’s first typewriters so they can communicate, and of course that causes problems. A friend referred Carey to me and I just knew she was the real deal. I definitely fell in love with this book.
But there's also THE BOOK OF "UNNECESSARY" QUOTATION MARKS! Hilarious stuff! I'm a grammar geek, so loving this book was a no-brainer for me.
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
KM: Fiction: Adult: contemporary women's fiction, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and literary fiction.
YA and MG: pretty much anything. (Though I'm totally tired of angels right now.)
Non-fiction: craft, sports, humor, pop and internet culture, blog-to-book properties, food writing, health, wellness, (humorous, light) reference, technology, and memoir/narrative non-fiction.
I definitely do NOT represent serious books about history, politics, religion, or science--in fiction or non-fiction. I don't represent epic fantasy, police procedurals, thrillers, or children's picture books. Also, if your book centers around FBI/CIA agents, detectives, spies, terrorist cells, corporate espionage, government conspiracy, serial killers, metaphysical/enlightenment journeys, or serves as a way to right all the wrongs that have ever been done to you or anyone you know, I'm probably not the right agent for you.
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
KM: I do not accept paper queries, and require the first three chapters of your work with your query. Not following these simple steps is definitely annoying.
Please don't respond to a rejection, even if it's just a quick question, just this once. Unfortunately, I can't afford to give out free editorial/agent finding advice to everyone. I get 300-500 queries a month.
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?
KM: I'm looking for excellent writing paired with a good understanding that the reader must be entertained every step of the way. The reader, not the author, is paramount in this relationship. Also, I'm really looking for more YA and MG contemporary (i.e., not-fantasy) novels, and smart romantic suspense and urban fantasy/paranormal romance for adults.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
KM: E-mail only: email@example.com. Please include the FIRST three chapters. E-mail attachments are fine.
Thanks again, Ms. McKean, for these detailed responses. I always like finding agents who take such large writing samples in the initial query, and I’m sure everyone else does, too.
If you have a question for Ms. McKean, feel free to leave it in the comments below. She’ll check in periodically throughout the day and leave you an answer. She’s also up for answering a few questions via her Twitter handle, @kate_mckean, so if you’d prefer to ask her your question there, have at it. All of this is a one-day-only event, though, so I'll be cutting off questions at 5:00 p.m. EDT (which is 2:00 p.m. PDT). Don’t delay!
Looking forward to your questions and Ms. McKean's responses!