Excited to share an unusual Wednesday edition of "Interview with an Agent" with you! Today’s interview features Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Ms. Rushall has a jam-packed schedule this week, so the interview’s not interactive, but her answers to the usual questions are quite informative, I think. Happy reading!
KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get
KR: First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me! I
really appreciate it and I love to appear on blogs like Mother. Write.
(Repeat.)--places where we all have the same passion.
I officially became an agent in May of 2011, but I was
assisting other agents with their projects and on administrative tasks in an
agency before that. I interned at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency for six months and
then worked at Waterside Productions for about a year and a half before
becoming an agent with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting
philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
KR: I look at the author-agent relationship as a give and
take. I really view it as a partnership. Like all strong partnerships, it
should be built on communication, respect, and honesty. I expect authors to
work hard, to always strive for improvement (good writing is a process), to
have initiative, and to be open and upfront about their ideas, brainstorming,
and goals. And I hope they expect the same from me as their agent.
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you
definitely NOT represent?
KR: I represent children’s fiction including picture books
(looking for quirky, character-driven, and funny), middle grade, and young
adult fiction. For both YA and middle grade books, the voice is paramount
(haven’t heard that before, eh?).
For middle grade books, I’m looking for something with a
strong voice that’s fast paced with good character development. I’m really open
to anything: girl-centric, multicultural, boy POV, adventure, fantasy,
For YA I especially love Southern gothic, thrillers,
mysteries, I’d love to find a good ghost story, historical fiction (Western,
anyone?), romance, science fiction. Again, a memorable and engaging voice is
key and I’m really looking for that unique plot with characters I care about.
So, sorry to be completely unoriginal here, but voice and hook are important!
I’m also representing adult nonfiction in the areas of
crafts (DIY), how-to, pop culture, parenting, business, and health.
KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T
KR: I actually prefer picture book writers who are just
writing the text. I'm not currently looking for illustrators. Great question!
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers
avoid when querying you?
KR: Honestly, it’s just simple things. I think anyone
reading this blog is already on the right track with the preparation. Things
like not putting the title of the book in the query letter or not addressing me
specifically at the opening (please no “Dear Agent”s or, worse still, “Dear
The only other thing is to make sure you’re ready. You
should have your critique partners help you decide this--have people read over
your letter and, of course, your manuscript. Edit edit edit. This is your first
impression so you want to make sure it’s as strong as possible.
KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s
initial contact (if the writer queries by e-mail), but several respected
industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom
of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes
ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?
KR: Actually, I would love to see the first ten pages of the
manuscript included in the body of the e-mail with the query letter.
I know there is a lot of conflicting information online on
various sites about which agent wants what for each submission; I feel bad for
the confusion! If you don’t include the first ten pages, that’s fine; I will
always request what I want to see. Just makes it nice and easy when it’s
already in the letter. But please no attachments of the full manuscript with
the initial query letter.
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What
are you tired of seeing at the moment?
KR: Since I’m open to a wide range, it seems like it may be
most helpful here to focus on what I’m not looking for.
Right now, for YA, I’m burned out on paranormal “creatures”
(this can include anything from vampires to werewolves to angels to fairies).
There are exceptions (like I said, I’m into ghosts and witches), but paranormal
romance and dystopians aren’t something I’m currently looking for.
For picture books, I don’t represent rhyming texts, and the
book really has to make me laugh for me to love it. I want humor in my picture
For middle grade, I don’t want anything too “quiet.” There
really has to be a strong hook that keeps the story moving. I hope this helps!
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
KR: The best way to query me is electronically. I do accept
snail mail queries, but I prefer e-mails. Just e-mail me your query letter and
the first ten pages of your book (in the body of the e-mail vs. as an
attachment) at Kathleen@marsallyonliteraryagency.com.
For picture books, please go ahead and include your picture
book text in the e-mail as well. For nonfiction proposals, you can just include
your query letter and I can ask for your proposal. Can’t wait to see what’s out
Thanks again, Ms. Rushall, for taking the time to answer
these questions. And good luck to everyone who decides to query. I won’t be
surprised if that’s quite a few of you:)
P.S. Don’t forget to drop by this Friday for more details on
next week’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox.” Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary is going to be The Agent, and I know she’s ready and raring to go.
Looking forward to next week!