Kurestin Armada is our featured agent for the month of October. I met her at the NJSCBWI conference in June and invited her to the Avalon Writer’s Retreat, so I am happy to introduce her to everyone.
Kurestin began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.
Genre Wish List: Picture-Book, Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Graphic-Novel, Nonfiction, High-Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Edgy, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction, Magic Realism, Alternative History, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ (any genre), Graphic Novels, Mystery and Romance.
Here is part two of the interview I had with Kurestin:
Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?
Absolutely! In fact, if I don’t have any ideas on how to make a manuscript better then I begin to suspect that I’m not a good match for it. I always take things through at least one round of revisions before we go on submission, and usually it’s a few rounds (with one round focusing on big picture items, one round focused on cutting down the word count, one round focused on more specific stylistic issues, etc., all depending on what’s necessary).
Do you have an editorial style?
I tend to lean away from line editing, and instead focus on big picture items or overall style changes. I like to be able to tell my authors that, for example, their transitions are awkward, highlight an example, and then trust them to find and smooth out the rest without me having to highlight every single one.
In the end, the author and I are working together because we share a vision for the manuscript. That shared vision directs all of my notes, as I try to highlight the particular strengths of each author and make the manuscript the best version of itself that it can be.
How many clients do you have or want to build up to?
Right now I have nine clients, and I’m definitely open to signing more. I don’t have a set number that’s my limit, because I tend to bring on more clients in a cycle that’s dependent on my other work. If I’ve moved everything off of my plate editorially, and my current projects are either back with the authors for revision or ready to go out on submission, then I feel that need to sign more authors! I suppose I’ll know that I’ve hit my maximum comfortable number of clients when I don’t have that stage of a clear editing desk anymore and there’s always another project to tackle.
What is your typical response time to email/phone calls with your clients?
For emails I try to respond within 48 hours, and that can vary depending on if they just need a quick confirmation of receipt or if it’s an email full of questions that I want to sit down and really think about. All of my phone calls are prescheduled; while I’ve never said that my clients can’t call me out of the blue, with many in different time zones (or across the world!) it’s easier for all of us if random communications are handled over email.
In general, I prefer to give an estimated date on when they can expect an edit letter back from me (or when we’ll be going on submission). This way they’re (hopefully!) never in a place where they wonder if I’ve read something yet, or what exactly I’m doing with their manuscript at any given stage.
How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?
I do prefer email, but I’ve started moving toward phone calls for edit discussions. It really makes the process more of a conversation, and I’ve found that it’s more productive in a lot of cases to have that back and forth in the moment.
In the submission process, I usually send my authors regularly scheduled updates (often monthly) on where the manuscript has been sent, who has passed, etc. And then of course I’ll reach out immediately if we’re moving forward somewhere! That said, I have a couple of clients who prefer to know these things right away (even the rejections), and I’m happy to accommodate that.
What happens if you don’t sell this book?
This is a great question, and an important one to ask on The Call with an agent. At P.S. Literary we’re very focused on growing authors over the course of their career. That means that as soon as we’re out on submission with one book, I ask authors to begin working on their next book. This way we’ll be prepared with another manuscript already in the works if the first book doesn’t sell, and we can dive right into it with full force.
How many editors do you go to before giving up?
It definitely varies depending on the project. For adult science fiction and fantasy, there are only so many places that publish those genres. That will naturally limit my pool of editors, compared to the wide pool of places that I could send a YA manuscript to.
In general, I like to have at least two rounds planned for a submission (although this might not be possible for some manuscripts). That way we have the opportunity to pivot depending on feedback from the first round. And of course, I never think of it as giving up! Instead, it’s just changing what project we’re putting our main focus on.
How long is your average client relationship?
As long as I’ve been building a list! So anywhere from a bit over a year to a few months.
Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?
All of our foreign rights are handled by Taryn Fagerness, who is tireless and amazing and full of knowledge and excitement for everything we send to her. I honestly can’t say enough good things about Taryn!
Are you open to authors who write multiple genres?
Absolutely, I love authors who are full of ideas and ready to try new things. Of course once a book is sold it’s best to focus on building the author in that genre for a few books, but that doesn’t mean we can’t branch out through the course of their career.
Are you interested in being invited to writer’s conferences?
Definitely, I love meeting authors and getting the chance to chat about the industry and their work!