Saturday, October 9, 2010

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Kate Epstein

Kate Epstein is the founder and president of The Epstein Literary Agency, and she is a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives. Kate travels periodically to her native New York City--an easy train ride from her Boston-area location--and is actively building relationships with editors at publishers large and small. The Books section of her website reflects agency sales to date.

The particular strengths she brings to authors include:

Intelligent and insightful editing.

Concept sharpening when required.

An imagination for companion books when the time comes.

An understanding of editors that comes from having been one.

A willingness to work with independent publishers that offer good distribution, as well as larger publishers.

Enthusiasm and attentiveness.

A passion for working with authors and for defending their interests.

An understanding of authors' emotional experience of the publishing process.

Kate participates in writer's conferences from time to time, and values the opportunity to meet writers and share her opinions about the business of publishing.

Epstein Literary offers a standard agency agreement that follows AAR guidelines and charges 15% commission on sales to North American publishers. No fees, ever. Standard expenses are charged against sales, not billed directly.

Kate Epstein founded the Epstein Literary Agency in October, 2005, after four years' acquisitions experience at Adams Media. Kate Epstein holds a B.A. with Highest Honors in English from the University of Michigan. She lives with her husband and two children outside Boston.

And now, Kate Epstein faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

I hope it’s not cheating if I segment these—for adults, I love Middlemarch by George Eliot, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and while I can’t name a single top choice for memoir, book-length journalism, popular science, or argumentative writing, I read a lot of these books—they’re kind of my home base and comfort zone area of books.

For kids, I especially adore Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. I haven’t known The Hunger Games long enough to know if it will stand the test of time with me, but I did adore it.

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

Television: currently I watch The Sons of Anarchy, Glee, and Treme. Historically I’ve most loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, and, uh, thirtysomething.

Movies: I’m not a big enthusiast of the form, but I might name District 9, Casablanca, and When Harry Met Sally.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

What is ideal, and also reality, is that the qualities my clients possess vary a good deal. Each is respite and contrast from each other, and that’s part of the magic of my job, so there is no one ideal client. I like a client to be honest with me. I like her to tell me about any problems that arise, and as soon as possible. I don’t need clients to always follow my advice—but I want to be heard when I give it.

I guess I could name this an ideal: passion. Someone who writes the book she absolutely loves.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

Right now I’m dying for a graphical memoir or a graphical YA/MG novel. I love crafts projects that are high concept, especially if they blend pop culture with craft, like Vampire Knits, Knits for Nerds, and Austentatious Crochet (hoping no one gets mad that I lump Jane Austen in with popular culture, though it’s a position I’d gladly defend!). But mostly I know it when I see it.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite task is editing, though I also love negotiating. My least favorite thing is telling a client it’s the end of the road and I will not be able to place her project.

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)

Write what excites you, regardless of fashion. Do it for the love of it. And read a lot, especially in the genre in which you write.

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

George Eliot. She was so brilliant, so thoughtful. I can’t imagine the pressure involved though—how could one suck the value out of every moment with her? (If you’d said person, though, it would be Harriet Tubman, as I think no greater saint and no one braver has ever lived.)


  1. Ooh, now accepting MG submissions! This series of posts is fantastic.

  2. Kate sounds like a smart agent with a passion for what she does. Thanks for the interview!

  3. Delighted to hear that she reads + enjoys popular science, because I have a manuscript with a narrative arc that follows our unsettled climate. Might be a consideration for her.


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