Friday, October 5, 2012

Interview with an Agent: Kerry Sparks

As promised, here’s my interview with Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. Enjoy!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

KS: I’ve been at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency since 2008 and actively selling books since the end of 2009. When I was a senior at California State University, Los Angeles, I worked as an intern with an agent who used to be at Levine Greenberg and who was based in L.A. She would send me three or four manuscripts a week to review and that’s when I really fell in love with YA.

I worked in film for a few years after college but really wanted to get into publishing and when I met the Levine Greenberg Team on an impromptu New York trip, we just clicked. My husband and I moved east a month later and have been here ever since.

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

KS: I’m a big believer in communication and honesty in the agent-author relationship. I do a lot of editorial work with my authors before sending their books out into the world and find that having a relationship where I can be kind but honest with my writers is essential.

I am very aware of the lonely pursuit of being a writer and I do my best to always respond quickly to my writers--even if I’m unable to get back to someone on a question or problem right away, I always confirm that I am working on it and do my best to make authors feel secure that I haven’t forgotten about them. I expect the same level of communication, honesty, and respect from my clients, and of course also enjoy a certain amount of patience on their end as well!

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

KS: Oh gosh, I have so many projects I’m really excited about! As with most of my projects, it’s really the voice and the characters that drew me to these books.

This past spring was marked the publication of two of my debut authors--Jenny Lundquist’s Middle Grade novel Seeing Cinderella was published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster and Jenny Torres Sanchez’s YA debut The Downside of Being Charlie was published by Running Press Teen. Both authors have second novels coming out with the same editors and they will publish in the spring of 2013. Jenny Lundquist’s lovely second Middle Grade is called Plastic Polly and Jenny Torres Sanchez’s fantastic YA is perfectly titled Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.

In October of this year I have another debut author, Carrie Arcos, whose YA novel will be published by Simon Pulse. It’s called Out of Reach and it follows a teen girl in search of her missing meth-addicted brother.

As for 2013, it will be an exciting year as well. In the spring, my very talented author/illustrator Mark Pett’s wordless picture book, The Boy and the Airplane will be published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers; two great YA novels by my author Jennifer Salvato Doktorski will publish--her romantic road-trip novel, How My Summer Went Up in Flames will come out in May with Simon Pulse and her book about a teen obit writer, Dead Lines, will publish in the fall with Henry Holt; and the hilarious Jennifer Mann’s first Middle Grade in a series about Beezus & Ramona-like sisters will come out in the fall and is titled Sunny Sweet is Going To Be So Sorry.

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

KS: I focus on Young Adult Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, and Children’s Picture Books but I am open to other genres. I do a little bit of Adult Nonfiction (Business, Parenting, Lifestyle) and also represent several Adult Fiction authors (YA Crossover, Commercial, Literary).

There isn’t any one genre that I would completely turn down. If there is a great voice, solid writing, and it’s a page-turner, I’ll consider it.

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

KS: I am open to writers who aren’t illustrators, but very sparingly.

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

KS: I think the biggest mistake is not getting right to the point in your query letter. Being overly formal, too wordy, using odd/different fonts are all sort of annoying when you are reading hundreds of query letters. Let me know who you are, what type of book you wrote, and then grab my attention with a great synopsis.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

KS: I’m really on the hunt for a great YA or Middle Grade thriller with series potential. I’ve been on the lookout for one of these for a long time but haven’t fallen in love with any yet.

I’m tired of seeing rhyming picture books with sassy talking animals. And I’m really worn out on novels revolving around the Irish Potato Famine--believe it or not we get two or three every month in our online submissions inbox!

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

KS: Going through our website is a great way to submit. Click on How To Submit and it’ll prompt you with questions and the option to send along the first 50 pages.

Writers are also welcome to e-mail me directly at and attach the first 50 pages. A short e-mail query letter with your information and synopsis of the book is perfect.

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we are unable to respond to every query, but if I’m interested, I will e-mail you directly.

Thanks, Ms. Sparks, for these responses. Sounds like you’ve got an awesome list. I hope this interview helps you find another great title to add to it:)

Have a great weekend, all!


Kelly Polark said...

Thanks for a great interview, ladies!!

Julie DeGuia said...

Great interview. Kerry sounds like a good agent for my WIP... if I ever get around to finishing it!

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Great interview! One of my friends is repped by Kerry and loves her.

Unknown said...

Huh. I'm querying and didn't have her on my list, but I think she sounds very nice. I'm off to query her. Thanks! :-)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Thanks for this interview, Krista! Awesome as usual. :D

Carrie-Anne said...

Wow, that was interesting to see how many queries she gets about the Irish Potato Famine! Has there been some recent movie or something that caused all those writers to pick that era?

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for stopping by, all! I'm glad you liked the interview.