Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 20, 2020

March Agent of the Month – Katie Grimm Interview – Part Two

This week we have part one of my interview with agent, Katie Grimm. See submission guidelines at the bottom for how to submit a first page for a chance to win a critique with Katie.

KATIE GRIMM

Don Congdon Associates

Originally from Colorado, Katie earned her BA in History and Spanish Literature from Bowdoin College. She joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007 as the assistant for the agency, and she still works with many of the agency’s Estates in addition to her own list of novelists, essayists, academics, scientists, critics, and translators. Her clients have been awarded the Booker International Prize, the O. Henry Award, and the Pura Belpré Honor, and they have been long- and shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the National Book Award for Translated Literature, and New England Book Award, among others. Her clients’ books are frequently selected for the Junior Library Guild, Indie Next List, and yearly “Best of” lists. She currently splits her time between New York and North Carolina and is actively looking for new voices from the South while she’s there.

Here is Katie:

Most generally, I focus on adult literary fiction, narrative and creative non-fiction, and literary fiction for middle grade and young adult audiences. Across all genres and ages, I’ll always be interested in the darker and weirder side of the human condition as well as previously under- or misrepresented experiences and voices. I look for books with a heartbeat, and “tragicomic” is one of my favorite descriptors.

In adult fiction, I enjoy literary and up-market fiction and cohesive short story collections with a unique voice that evokes a strong emotion and necessitates a conversation—be it contemporary, historical, mysterious or speculative. I’m delighted when an unusual structure or form functions at a higher level.

In non-fiction, I’m also looking for distinct voice and new perspectives. I enjoy narratives that blend the personal and investigative, are nerdy deep-dives into a particular topic, and/or use individual stories as a lens to analyze a systemic problem or issue.

In children’s fiction, I love the idea of finding a new middle grade classic that I wished I had as a child to guide me through complicated feelings or take me to faraway lands. I’m also looking for contemporary and speculative young adult novels that use genre tropes and form to create an emotional space to work through issues in a new way. In MG and YA, I’m open to every genre—from magical realism to horror to high fantasy to sci-fi—as long as the focus is on the characters’ personal growth and relationships, with an emphasis on creating wonder and building empathy.

How to Submit to Katie a Don Congdon:

Submissions should be emailed to dca@doncongdon.com

Please include a first chapter or 15 pages with your query letter (if you have a prologue, you can include both, for alternating POV, please include a chapter from each) in the body of the email as we don’t open unsolicited attachments. I usually respond within eight weeks if I’m interested in seeing more, but please do follow up if there are any changes on your end. I do not accept paper queries.

Visit: www.doncongdon.com/submissions.shtml for more guideline details.

*******

HERE IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH KATIE:

What are your feelings about prologues?

I don’t mind them. I do think they’re helpful for a writer to write, in setting their intensions for the book or a mood. However, I don’t think they’re always necessary to stay in the book—as sometimes that throat clearing can be cut. If the prologue is purely a “flash forward” (to something more interesting than the first 10 chapters), it’s usually a sign the opening needs to be re-worked as it can be crutch in those instances.

Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

I tweet about clients and books I’m reading, and I try to update my Manuscript Wishlist, Publisher’s Marketplace, and agency website bio. For any agent, I recommend authors consult sites likes these that agents have direct control over first rather than other databases that can get outdated fast (and repeat said outdated information).

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, I am very editorial—depending on the project, it can take months to years for something develop. I work hard with my clients to achieve the best possible version of the book they wanted to write before I submit, as I think it sets us all up for better long-term success.

Have you ever represented a children’s book illustrator? Does an illustrator have to write before you would represent them?

While I’m happy to advise existing novelist clients who want to write picture books, I don’t represent picture book writers or illustrators at this time.

What is your typical response time to email/phone calls with your clients?

It completely depends—it can be instantaneous or within a few days. There’s a classic quote about work-life balance in juggling glass and rubber balls (knowing which will shatter or bounce), and I think it’s true for clients. I tell all my clients that there will be a point in revision and submission process when they will get sick of my voice, wonder if I’m reading anything else other than their manuscript, or have other clients (and yes, maybe even if I’m sleeping). But there are other moments too when they won’t need me as intensely, that they can trust I’ll give them a substantive answer in a few days, not minutes. There are times when they are rubber and others when they’re glass—and it’s my job to communicate what stage they’re in and clients to trust I always have my eye on them. Or maybe another way of putting it is I want them to know I have a handle on them, that I’m nimble enough to catch them at a moment’s notice if they become more fragile than I thought, but that I will help them build long-term resilience too so they can bounce along in this sometimes unpredictable industry.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

I like editorial calls and explaining submission strategy on the phone, but sometimes email is most expedient. Or when working through a tricky issue, forcing myself to explain via email can clarify my message, and it gives the author something to refer to later. During the submission process, we will talk a lot before the submission, I will send them a list of imprints considering, and I will set check-in dates after the submission so they’re not expecting forwarded responses from editors at all hours. But if we have a lot of interest, they might hear from me many times a day. Other times it can take longer, so I’ll send them a digest of responses on a given date. All clients will get a full report of responses at the end, which is an important piece of data that all authors should ask for. In all communications, it’s important to set expectations on either end as each client has different needs and availability too.

What happens if you don’t sell a book? Would you drop the writer if he or she wanted to self-publish a book you could not place?

It completely depends on best next steps for a client. The market for self-published books can be limited depending on genre and age group, and not all writers are great self-promoters—a requirement for successful self-publishing. So it’s worth being realistic and honest before we get to that point. I tell my clients that even if we don’t sell the first book, we will learn a lot and be able to submit something even stronger as the next. But I don’t want any author to hold tightly to a relationship that might not be working anymore out of fear, so parting ways can be a logical next step too.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

I’ve submitted manuscripts to almost fifty editors on certain projects, whereas others, depending on how literary vs commercial, age, and topic, might not have as many options. I try to leave no stone left unturned, within reason.

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at Don Congdon Associates if it was good, but not your style?

We all have distinct areas of expertise, so it’s rarer, but we do have some overlap and occasionally pass queries. We also allow for subsequent submissions to other agents at the agency.

Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

We handle our own foreign rights and partner with co-agents across the world. We also partner with all the major film agencies, on a project by project basis. We manage all of our contracts in house, and with a client list as deep and varied as ours, it can lead to some really interesting projects—I’ve drafted contracts for opera adaptations, podcasts, and puppet shows—beyond, of course, traditional book deals, audio licenses, and magazine contracts. I am thankful for the institutional knowledge we carry on all aspects of the industry, and we take this stewardship for clients seriously.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

This isn’t a trend, I think all areas of the industry are thinking more critically about which voices we are amplifying, which ones we’re ignoring, and perhaps trickiest of all, voices we are inadvertently speaking over despite trying to highlight their experience. So I do think we’re all seeking out unique and representative voices as it’s what the market both needs and deserves.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, secure an agent, and get published?

Trust in your muse but read deeply in your genre and age group. Give yourself distance from your work and read craft books when you’re revising. Seek out trusted writer friends for fresh eyes and support. Be methodical in your pursuit of an agent, as your work deserves it, but know it’s a different skill than creative writing. Keep your eyes on your own work and pull others up the ladder. Try to think of a child whose life will be forever changed by your work, as that will carry you through challenging moments.

Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

I do attend conferences and would be happy to be considered for more!

*******

Check back next Friday for Part Two of my interview with Katie.

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MARCH 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “MARCH 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2020 MARCH – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: March 20th. – noon EST

RESULTS: March 27th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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