Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Mary Kole

I’ve got another great one for you. Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Happy reading.

KV: You've mentioned your own writing a few times on your blog. What did/do you write?

MK: I started out writing primarily YA and also did some middle-grade. I absolutely adore the conflicts that middle-grade readers face. There are a lot of forces pulling at them... they want to be individuals and define themselves, but they also want to remain loyal to their families and the kids they used to be. It's a really turbulent time. But YA also attracts me because I have naturally darker and edgier sensibilities.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

MK: While I was writing, I wanted to see the other side of the desk. I started reading slush for another agency and then, through my colleague, Jenn Laughran, started reading for Andrea Brown. I realized how much I was learning and enjoying the editorial aspects of agenting and came aboard from there. I also worked for Chronicle Books for a bit to get the editorial perspective. I think a love of books, writing and storytelling is what drives everyone who ends up in publishing.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

MK: I'm looking for a very hands-on and long-term relationship with each client. The best clients, to me, are writers who stay informed about the business and the market but who also yearn to grow, learn, and improve their craft. You can always tell when someone is a "lifer" and can't imagine doing anything else. Their determination and their willingness to evolve are what will make these kinds of writers successful in today's changing publishing market.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

MK: I came to agenting through my passion for novels, so it was a surprise to me when I ended up stumbling across so many fantastic author/illustrator clients. I have two author/illustrator projects coming out in 2011 so far (Lindsay Ward's PELLY AND MR. HARRISON VISIT THE MOON from Kane/Miller and Bethanie Murguia's BUGLETTE, THE MESSY SLEEPER from Tricycle), and their art, as well as their skill with blending visuals and text in their storytelling, is what drew me to them in the first place.

I also have a YA novel coming out in 2011 (Lisa Albert's MERCY LILY from Flux) and the emotional honesty and vulnerability of the main character really made that story come alive for me.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

MK: My favorite novels are contemporary MG and YA, often with a touch of magical realism. I'm open to lighter fantasy and some historical, though that is a very tough market right now. My favorite books are character-driven, with literary writing but strong commercial appeal. For picture books, my tastes run toward the decidedly quirky and humorous.

I tend to stay away from old-fashioned storytelling, high fantasy, science fiction and early reader and chapter book manuscripts.

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

MK: I'm interested in picture book authors but, because the market is tough right now and because picture book authors tend to be prolific, I need to fall head over heels in love with several of their projects, at least, before I even consider taking them on.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

MK: I discuss a lot of query snafus on my blog, but the most ineffective queries, to me, aren't personalized, start with rhetorical questions or other gimmicks, and fail to make me care about the character at the heart of the story that's being pitched. Bad writing in a query also bodes to bad writing in the manuscript, so poorly-executed queries are a big red flag.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

MK: I'm looking for funny MG or a great MG mystery and some darker YA. A too-close-for-comfort dystopian YA manuscript, like M.T. Anderson's FEED, is still at the top of my wish list.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

MK: Send a query and the first ten pages of your novel, copied and pasted, into an e-mail to For picture book manuscripts, include the full manuscript after your query. No attachments, please, though I'm happy to look at art samples if you can link to them on the web.

Thanks again, Ms. Kole, for these great answers. And all you writer folk, did you check out her blog yet? Because you should. Just in case you need another link, here’s one: Lots of helpful information for us kidlit writers over there. And if you’re getting ready to query her, you should definitely give it a look-see first.

Good luck, queriers! And thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Kayeleen said...

Thanks for the interview. I love reading It's so useful.

Myrna Foster said...

Mary's blog is one of the most helpful agent blogs out there. She sounds like she'd be great to work with, and there was a lot of helpful information in this interview. Thanks!

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Thanks for backing me up, guys:)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Thanks, Krista, for doing these! I'm slowly buidling up my to-query list. :) Yay! I'll have to check out Mary's blog, too.

Krista V. said...

Yeah, Amy, definitely check it out. It's even worth following (I think).

Candyland said...

Great interview, and lovely to find you:)

Krista V. said...

Thanks for dropping by, Candyland!

Marybk said...

Fantastic interview with a terrific agent, Krista. Mary Kole has one of the best WORKING WRITER blogs out there.

just Joan said...

Great interview!

Krista V. said...

Thanks, Marybk and just Joan! And Marybk, I agree - I really appreciate her point of view because she's been on both sides of the inbox, so to speak.