Hey, this is Cheryl again, bringing you another great interview--this time with literary agent Kae Tienstra. Kae shares some 'inside secrets' on how to hook this agent's attention. This interview is brought to you by my friends at GumboWriters.com. Enjoy the interview. ~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif
GumboWriters: How long have you been agent and how did you get your start, Kae?
Kae: This is a two-part answer. I began my publishing career at Rodale where I served as publicity director for the book division for over 10 years. I left Rodale in 1993 to launch my own book publicity firm, KT Public Relations. My husband Jon had retired from corporate life and acquired a Masters in library science. He joined me in the PR business. A few years ago I accompanied one of my authors to a popular home and garden show where she was taping several segments to publicize her book. In the greenroom I met a delightful woman who had self-published a book on homemade beauty products. I asked her if she'd thought of shopping it to publishers. She had not, but welcomed my interest. I came back home and talked to a literary agent friend, asking her if she'd be interested in the project. She was, and together we sold the book to Putnam. The same agent and I sold another self-published book to Marlowe and Company. My friend retired from agenting and encouraged Jon and me to launch our own literary agency. She felt that our marketing and publicity background would be most helpful in this "platform driven" business. We decided to keep our publicity business and create the literary agency as a separate entity. We call our new combined business KT/PR & Literary Services.
What makes your agency different than any others?
We are not your standard literary agency. Because publicity is our bread and butter, we are acutely aware of a book's marketing potential. Our decisions are based, in large part, on the publicity potential of the project. We are also intimately connected with our authors. It's just the two of us here--reading the queries and partials and asking for manuscripts. When you sign on with us, you sign on with us, not a junior member of the agency.
What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?
I love fiction of all kinds, but am interested in finding brilliant nonfiction as well. We don't get much of that and I'd like to receive health books (from pros), and other kinds of nonfiction. The problem with the nonfiction genre is "platform." Most nonfiction publishers today insist that their authors are well-known or that they write a newspaper column, are sought out by television and radio interviewers or have a fabulous blog with a huge readership. Because we have to sell to these publishers, we insist on author platform for nonfiction as well. Jon likes science fiction and is looking for fine writing in that genre. He also is looking for mystery/crime, thrillers and military.
Kae, what are you tired of receiving?
I still get lots of standard sword / wizard / dragon fantasy and I can't sell it. Please, no more!!
How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?
Write a beautiful, "perfect" query. Do your research--online, in books and writer's magazines. Information abounds that will help you hone the ideal query to get my attention and the attention of other agents. Don't send me a long synopsis or chapters until I ask you for them.
How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?
Email. It works every time.
What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent Kae that they don't seem to?
There's no way for authors to understand how much material we process on a daily basis. We talk about that on our blog and it does impact our work to a great extent. But, as Jon is fond of saying, "Good writing trumps all." Our goal is to sift through everything we get to find the jewels, the good writing that can find a home with a publisher. That means we are reading each and every day and that we may not get back to your query or to your requested partial or manuscript in good time. We try, but we tend to fall behind.
What's the best way for a writer to reach you?
Again, email. Or, read our blog http://www.newliteraryagents.blogspot.com/ and post comments. We try to answer all of those.
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