Saturday, September 4, 2010

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Mary Kole

Mary Kole is an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency Inc. She runs a fantastic blog,, which is a must read for any writer, regardless of the stage of your career. Here is a link to a post in which she answered one of my questions!

And here is Mary Kole's official bio:

Mary came to children's literature from a writer's perspective and started reading at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency to see what it was like "on the other side of the desk." She quickly found her passion here and, after a year of working behind the scenes, officially joined the agency in August, 2009. In her quest to learn all sides of publishing, she has also worked in the children's editorial department at Chronicle Books and earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco. Mary's passion is editorial work. With all of her clients, she uses her well-honed editorial eye to develop each project to its full potential. She especially enjoys traveling to conferences and SCBWI events to meet writers and actively build her list. Mary lives in Brooklyn and operates the East Coast office of the agency.

At this time, Mary is only considering young adult and middle grade novels and truly exceptional, funny, quirky and character-driven picture books (she especially loves working with author illustrators). She's seeking fresh, unique voices and idiosyncratic characters who, by book's end, are more friend than fiction. Her favorite stories are upmarket, high-concept, character-driven and well-plotted...featuring a mix of fast pacing, emotional resonance, and beautiful writing. In essence: literary spark with commercial appeal.

While she's not interested in high fantasy (think Tolkien), she would love to consider realistic/contemporary, character-driven fantasy (think GRACELING), urban fantasy, action/adventure, light science fiction, absolutely unique paranormal (no vampires or werewolves or Greek mythology), and humor manuscripts. She is especially looking for horror, ghost, mystery, thriller and dystopian tales. One of her favorite genres is magical realism: a story set firmly in our world, only with a twist—something that turns "reality" on its ear—to make things more interesting. Favorite themes include: family, home, unlikely heroes, discovering one's voice, and finding one's equilibrium after a big life event. Mary adores manuscripts that make her laugh, make her tear up or punch her in the gut. She also loves stories of friendship, romance, betrayal, full of those "first time" moments that make teenage life electric and unforgettable.

For all manuscripts, voice is absolutely essential and character development is key. A high-concept or upmarket commercial premise is also important in today's market. Make sure your manuscript is as strong and polished (revised, revised after feedback, revised again) as possible. She looks forward to reading your work!
I read every week and I'm very excited to post this interview. 

And now Mary Kole faces the 7 Questions:
Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford, LOVE, AUBREY by Suzanne LaFleur and SPANKING SHAKESPEARE by Jake Wizner. But that's an atrocious question to ask a book person and you know it! I have so many more books, both classic and current, that I love dearly.
Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?
I didn't have a TV last year and it was the happiest year of my life. I have one again now (not my idea) and tend to watch it sparingly...that way I'm not losing chunks of time that could better be spent reading. The teen in me loves movies like Empire Records and SLC Punk. The (sort of) grown-up in me loves The Big Lebowski, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Sideways, Igby Goes Down, and Fargo. The goofball in me loves shows like Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother and The Office (the BBC version is so much more fun, in my opinion, than the American version). On the more serious side, I like True Blood, Mad Men, and the West Wing (while Aaron Sorkin was still on board). My ultimate favorite TV show from childhood, though, was the X-Files. All over the place, I know. If nothing else, I'll put on a DVD of a Sondheim musical. My favorites to watch are Company (the new John Doyle revival with Raul Esparza, which I also saw live) and Sweeney Todd (the DVD of the musical, any version, and NOT the awful Tim Burton remake).

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?
Someone who is savvy, hard-working, open to feedback, knows that their career and their success is their responsibility, and someone with realistic expectations. Oh yes, and also, someone who is an amazing writer or artist who understands and loves the craft of children's books in the same way that I do.
Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?
Right now, I'd love to find more unique paranormal, a really breezy teen beach read but with substance (think Jenny Han or Sarah Dessen), a completely unique and chilling dystopian, a really creepy ghost story, a murders mystery, a thriller, a classic middle grade, like THE PENDERWICKS, and a really fun, adventurous boy middle grade. I'm still always looking for my edgy contemporary realistic teen voice, of course. I find that, for me, the edgier and darker the YA, the better. What can I say? I'm a twisted mind. Must be all that Sweeney Todd...
Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is calling a client and telling them that their idea, dummy, manuscript, or proposal will be published and will become a real live book. A very close second favorite is working on the nuts and bolts of a project...I'm a very editorial agent. My least favorite thing is telling an editor who is really excited about a project that they won't get to work on it because we've decided to go with another offer. I am so thrilled every time I get an offer, but if a project gets more than one, someone is always disappointed. Having lost projects I've offered representation on to other agents, I know how crushing this can be.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

I've been reading like a madwoman this summer, and my list of books to read keeps growing instead of shrinking with every title I finish. I can't stress enough how important it is to dip into the classics, the titles coming out now, the authors who have the most vibrant careers, and the authors who are just making their debuts. Read, read, read, read, read. It opens your mind, makes you more aware of what's possible, and pushes you to craft amazing books...and that's what I'm looking to represent. You can find lots more writing and publishing advice, posted three times a week, at my blog,

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Kurt Vonnegut. Hands down. And in, say, seventy years or so, when I've gone to the big library in the sky, I hope it's a date. I read Vonnegut voraciously in college and his stories, his outlook on life, his sense of humor...they're all so important to me. Reading Vonnegut gives me perspective--a winking reminder to focus on the important things in life. I want to one day start collecting his Confetti screen prints.


  1. Fabulous interview, Rob! Love these. I've added it to Mary's profile.

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