Karen is closed to submissions except for conference attendees and referrals. She responds to everything that comes to her through the proper channels.
To connect with and learn more about Karen . . .
What is your process for reading a query and sample pages?
I read the bio first, then start on the pages. As soon as I know that something is not for me, I stop reading and send off my response. If I like what I've read, then I'll go back and read the query letter, think on it a bit, then request a partial if I'm interested but not convinced, a full if I think it looks very promising, or a phone chat if I'd like to commit to the project.
How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?
I take submissions in order. I love to clean out my inbox so I will send responses right away on things that aren't my cup of tea. I put the ones I am interested in into my "To Do" folder and usually read them several times before I respond. I sat on one submission for a month before I offered representation, then received an excellent offer within two hours of submission from the very first editor to whom it had been sent. And I was the first agent to whom the author had ever submitted. I was very happy I said, "Yes!"
Is it okay for a writer to nudge concerning queries or partial/full requests?
I think it's okay for an author to nudge, say, two months after a partial or full request. I am very well organized and don't have a procrastinating bone in my body, so if an author nudges me too early they are likely to get a "no". And I prefer not to nudge my editors because I believe everyone is working at full capacity and will be sure to get in touch if they are genuinely interested in a manuscript. As for queries, I definitely want to hear from an author if I have not responded within a month. It means that it was lost in cyberspace, and I never want an author to feel ignored.
Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?
I work on a book-by-book basis. I want to love all the manuscripts my clients write, but unfortunately I don't always. I have found it very, very hard to submit manuscripts that my heart is not into, no matter how commercially viable they might be. And in my first phone chat with an author I let them know that I will always be completely honest and timely in my communications, but that I feel my first responsibility is to myself and my own heart. That I cannot send out anything in which I don't believe 100%. But that I understand they will be heartbroken when they get that news and that they are either welcome to send it out on their own, so long as they keep me apprised of where it's going, or that they are free to find an agent who does connect better with their work. The best case scenario is when an agent is completely behind an author's entire body of work, but that has not been the case for me. Some authors stay and some leave. I am not controlling. I simply want everyone to be happy with what they're doing, me included.
How do you put together a list of editors to send to?
I have a very extensive database that I have been creating based upon editors' interviews, their response letters to me, Harold Underdown's wonderful Purple Crayon website, SCBWI conference workshops and bulletins, Publishers Marketplace, and anywhere else I can find out what an editor's tastes are. The first thing I do is look for editors who publish the genre of the material I'm getting ready to submit. Then I check their personal tastes. I will ask the author if she has any editors in particular to whom she'd like to have the manuscript sent. Then I will check a different database to be sure the selected editors don't already have a manuscript on their desk from me. If something would be a perfect fit for an editor, I will send it as an exclusive. If not, I will start with anywhere from three to five editors to see how the manuscript is received. If there is a consensus in the responses, I will ask the author to address the issue. If the responses are positive but don't work for an editor for a particular reason, I will continue my quest. If the responses are very negative, I will usually set the manuscript aside and hope the author writes something new.
Does the writer have input on the pitch to editors or do you take care of that?
Because I'm not a creative writer, I do have my authors write their own descriptive blurbs, and then I will modify them with my own thoughts. I find that they can describe their projects much better than I can. My authors receive all sub letters and all responses so that they know where their work is at all times. I am only able to do this because I do not have children or a significant other. It takes a great deal of time to keep authors in the loop. I don't know how agents with families can get everything done!
What is the next step if an editor shows interest?
If an editor expresses interest, I will let the other editors know that. Editors keep me posted throughout the process as to how the rest of their colleagues are responding to a manuscript. It's a very, very exciting time for the editor, the author and for me. Editors will tell me when they are taking it to Acquisitions, and I usually hear very shortly thereafter whether it's good or bad news. This is the best part of the job!
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
I want my authors to have a great life first and to write second. I do not like it when authors worry while waiting for responses to come in. Best to keep busy writing or doing something else to keep their mind off this stage of the process. I recognize the desire to be published, but I encourage my authors to keep in mind that the rest of their life is just as important as the writing component.
Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?
It is absolutely fine for an author to check in periodically. I like my authors and do not work with any overly demanding people, so I like to hear from them.
Thank you, Karen!
Posted June, 2013 – Always check for current info and guidelines.