Friday, June 24, 2011

Firsts Fridays: Literary Agent Kathleen Rushall

If you haven't signed up for the Gearin' Up to Get an Agent Blogfest, now's your time!

I know I say this every Friday, but boy have I got a Firsts Fridays treat for you!  Especially for those participating in the Gearin' Up to Get an Agent Blogfest.  Why you ask?  Well Kathleen Rushall is only the judge of the first 200 word novel contest and a literary agent to boot. 

She is experiencing some pretty cool firsts as she is a fairly new agent and recently made the move from Waterside Productions to Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  So without further ado let us get to know the lovely Kathleen Rushall.


DB: What kinds of manuscripts are grabbing your attention these days?

KR: First of all, thank you so much for featuring me on your blog! I’m so excited to be here and to participate in the July Agent Blogfest – really looking forward to seeing what creativity shines through on the 200 word limit pitches. So, this first question is a bit tricky because I love the variety I see in my queries. I appreciate a wide range of stories from science fiction and magical realism to contemporary humor and supernatural thrillers. That being said, right now I’m finding myself especially attracted to Southern gothic, edgier YA like thrillers or mysteries, and am always on the hunt for an authentic, truly compelling historical fiction or character-driven multicultural book. For picture books – I want quirky!

DB: Your so welcome Kathleen, thank you for being here and for being a judge for the contest!

The writing industry seems to have a million and one ways to concoct the perfect query letter.  Is there such a thing and if so what is your idea of the perfect one? 

KR: I think Andrea Brown said it best: “The perfect query letter is like the perfect skirt: long enough to cover everything but short enough to excite.” I love that line! For me personally, the perfect query demonstrates the author’s research (why did you choose me to query?), plot points and character intro (what’s the hook, why do I care about these characters - why do I want to open your sample?), and a brief bit about the author (relevant information – are you a member of SCBWI or any writing groups, published before, writing experience, etc.). Bonus points if you can cite comparable books already on shelves and why yours is different. Easier said than done, I know, but keep trying, research what a good query is like, and look at examples – it will help so much!

DB: Yes, it is easier said than done, but it's nice having some ideas laid out before us.  Writers can really work with what you gave us.  And I am loving Andrea Brown's quote!

Formatting a manuscript is a big concern for beginning writers.  What are the key points to know about it, and will format make or break an acceptance from an agent? 

KR: Format won’t make or break an acceptance – but it will get you that much closer to having an agent read your sample material. With so many queries to wade through, you don’t want to make it even the teeniest bit more difficult for an agent to read your work. If she/ he likes your query enough to open your pages, of course you want them to download or open properly. The simplest way to go is a doc file – not docx.  This is because it’s the version of Word that everyone can read (regardless of whether the recipient has the latest version of Word or a Mac or a PC or what-have-you). Additionally, this is the easiest file to open on an e-reader. Many of us are reading our queries on Kindles, iPads, or Nooks – so take that into account. Other than that, this is where research comes in – each agent will usually specify on their website profile or blog what format they prefer. Be smart about what your sample or manuscript is saved as – always put your last name and the title of your work in your document’s name.

DB: So good to know, I think I send things in docx.  Not any more:) 

Can you share with us a submission pet peeve you have? 

I think this is a pet peeve for all agents/editors, but please don’t submit things outside of my scope. This goes back to doing that pesky homework. If you have written a poetry collection or short stories for adult readers, I’m not your girl. The agent who will best represent your work is one who truly believes in it, so you want to only query agents that you know have the potential to love this kind of story.

DB: Got that people, do your homework.

Should a writer worry about trends before beginning a writing project? 

KR: Trends are not something to worry about. Any agent will tell you – do not write for a trend. The trendsetters certainly didn’t – write a book that YOU love and are proud of creating. That being said, trends are something you should be conscious of, just so you know your book’s marketability. For example, even if you didn’t write for the vampire trend, but you wrote a book with vampires you are excited about– it’s going to be a really tough sell right now because people are weary of those nightwalkers (no matter how fantastic it is).

***

Ooo, I know you all are wanting more...and I have more, but I am going to hold onto it until the week of the contest.  Give us something to really get excited about.  Kathleen's advice keeps on getting better, so get a pen and paper next time you come so you can take notes. 

If you are dying to know more about Kathleen right now or you can't wait until the contest for her to read your goods, head here to learn her submission guidelines and more about what she is looking for.

 If you are interested in signing up for the contest she will be judging, go here for the details.

Until next time...
Keep writing.  Keep learning.

66 comments:

Jennifer Shirk said...

I love reading agent interviews to get their tastes and advice. Thx so much!

Sheila Siler said...

Great advice to hear, I'm not ready to query yet, but this all made great sense. Thanks!

Jennifer Lee Young said...

Hi Deana - I have an award for you on my blog! Please stop by.

Jennifer Young (Castles in the Sky)
http://jennyleeyoung.blogspot.com/

Lori M. Lee said...

Love reading agent interviews and getting their view of both the business and just a sense of their personality. Thanks so much!

Emily Rittel-King said...

Great advice, especially the query letter info!

Michelle Fayard said...

Excellent interview and advice, especially regarding .doc vs. .docx file extensions. Now I'm really looking forward to July!

Theresa Milstein said...

When my manuscript is polished in July, I'll query Kathleen Rushall. Maybe I should see how she feels about my first 200 words first!

Reading her query guide reminds me why queries are so daunting!

Alleged Author said...

Great interview, girlie! Can't wait for the blogfest. :)

Deana said...

Jennifer- I do too! Thanks for stopping by:)

Sheila- Me either, but you're right, this is great advice and it still will be when we are I'm sure.

Jennifer- Thanks for the award!

Lori- So do I!

Emily- I agree! daunting but oh so helpful!

Michelle- That was probably the most valuable thing to me as well...among other things:)

Theresa- You should! Yes you should:)

CAra- Thanks:)

Stefanie said...

Very good interview!

vinobaby said...

Great information! I'm not quite ready to send out those queries yet, but I love having a heads up.

Thanks & Cheers

Leslie Rose said...

Super advice. I'd never heard the Andrea Brown quote - loved it. Thank you Deana and Kathleen.

Karen Cioffi said...

Very useful advice. I love the Andrea Brown quote also.

Thanks for sharing.

Also, is there a post with instructions for the contest?

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Wonderful interview with great advice. Thanks!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Deanna, I think you'd better check my blog to see what I said about you and collect something ...

http://weavingataleortwo.blogspot.com/2011/06/poetry-summer-and-award.html

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I like this post. I need more time to send out my query letter.

Donna Perugini said...

Deana,

Oh, boy! How would I go about finding out (fast) what she defines as quirky for picture books?

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