Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 19, 2020

June’s Agent of the Month Interview Part Two

It is my pleasure to announce that Katherine Wessbecher at Bradford Literary is our Agent of the Month for June. Scroll down for Part Two of my Interview with Katherine. First Page submission guidelines follow.

Katherine Wessbecher

Bradford Literary Agency

Katherine joined the Bradford Literary Agency in 2020. Prior to becoming an agent, Katherine edited children’s and young adult books at Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, and was the science and technology editor at an academic book review journal. She holds a B.A. in English from the College of William and Mary.

As an editor, Katherine worked with debut and veteran authors, including Sherri L. Smith, Stacey Lee, Keir Graff, Jeff Seymour, and Eliot Sappingfield. She brings to her work a nuanced understanding of the publishing industry and a practiced editorial eye.

Katherine is looking for children’s books (picture books through YA), upmarket adult fiction, and narrative nonfiction for all ages.

In MG and YA, historical fiction and fantasy have been favorites since she was young. But more than genre, she’s looking for the kinds of stories that transport her: to the past, an imagined world, or a perspective wholly different from her own. She’s drawn to stories that push readers to question their assumptions of the world. She’s interested in humorous voices; she’s also a fan of epistolary novels and other unexpected storytelling techniques, like Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae Files series or Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

Her favorite picture books are the kind that make both kids and grown-ups laugh. Inventive premises, twist endings, and quirky characters are all good ways to pique her interest.

Katherine is looking for upmarket adult fiction that straddles the literary and commercial divide. Books that inspire her list run the gamut from Where’d You Go, Bernadette to Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. She loves unexpected takes on familiar stories and flawed yet endearing characters. Katherine is actively seeking adult and juvenile narrative nonfiction—particularly projects that highlight stories the history textbooks left out. In the same vein, she’d love to work with nonfiction graphic novel projects like John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy.

Katherine is not looking for: adult genre fiction (romance, thriller, high fantasy/sci fi), business, poetry, memoirs, or screenplays.

Twitter: @KatWessbecher

Prior to joining Bradford Literary in early 2020, I acquired and edited children’s books at Putnam and was the science and technology editor for an academic book review journal. I’ve got room to grow my client list and am actively seeking new clients in both children’s and adult.I’m most excited by stories that transport me: to the past, to an imagined world, to a perspective wholly different from my own. I’m drawn to stories which push readers to question their assumptions of the world. I’m all for immersive storylines and plot twists I don’t see coming, but first and foremost, I need to connect with the characters on an emotional level (bonus points if they can make me laugh or cry!).

One of the best ways to stand out in my submissions inbox is with a distinctive voice. I’ve got an inexplicable love for unexpected narrative techniques, so send me your epistolary novels in the vein of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae Files series, Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, or Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Humor is always welcome!

For MG and YA, I’m fond of historical fiction—particularly from settings and perspectives we don’t often read about—and contemporary stories with fresh voices that don’t shy away from weightier themes. On the fantasy and science fiction side, grounded and high are both welcome, as long as worldbuilding doesn’t get in the way of the characters.

On the adult side, I’m selectively seeking upmarket fiction that straddles the literary and commercial divide. I love unexpected takes on familiar stories and flawed yet endearing characters. I’m not seeking genre projects at this time (e.g., no adult romance, mystery, sf/f).

In picture books, my favorites are the kind that make both kids and grown-ups guffaw. Inventive premises, twist endings, and quirky characters are all good ways to pique my interest. I’m a better fit for narrative texts than concept-driven ones.

I’d love to find great adult and juvenile narrative nonfiction—particularly projects that highlight the people and stories the history books left out.

Below is Part Two of My Interview with Katherine:

What are your feelings about prologues?

Prologues are fine, but in some of the submissions I see, the prologue becomes a crutch. The story kicks off with a tense, high-stakes, fragmentary scene, then shifts to a placid Chapter One full of backstory and exposition. Don’t rely on your prologue to hook your audience! I should be able to skip it and still want to keep reading.

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

The best place to stay current with what I’m looking for is at my agency bio and my profile over at Manuscript Wish List.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

As a former editor I’m pretty hands-on here. I enjoy collaborating with writers on revisions and helping them get their projects in the best shape possible before going out on submission. Clients should expect developmental and/or line edits, depending on what each project needs. Before offering rep I like to hop on the phone with an author to gauge their openness to revisions and see if we’re on the same page in terms of a general direction.

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

For now, I’m focused on authors and author-illustrators. That could change, though!

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

Usually within a business day!

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

I generally default to email for quick questions and updates and phone calls when a dialogue would be more productive. During the submission process, I pass along updates as I get them.

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?

I would encourage a client not to make that decision prematurely, but I wouldn’t automatically part ways with someone who wanted to self-publish a project that doesn’t sell. Self-publishing takes time and effort, though, and it may be in the author’s best interests to work on something new instead. A book deal for a new project sometimes opens doors for the earlier one.

How many editors would you go to before giving up?

Every submission situation is different, so it’s hard to give a number. Just as with querying, there’s a lot to be learned from editor rejections! Submitting to editors in multiple rounds allows us to take their feedback into account, revise, and go out to a new batch of editors with a better manuscript. But sometimes hitting pause and moving on to something new is the right call.

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

Yes, this happens all the time!

What do you think of digital and audio books? Are they part of every sale these days?

The audio and ebook terms are negotiated up front in pretty much every book contract, even picture books, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a book will always be available simultaneously in print, digital, and audio formats. Sometimes publishers wait to see if print sales are strong enough to justify producing an audio edition.

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

The excellent Taryn Fagerness Agency represents Bradford’s clients’ work abroad, and we have relationships with film agents.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

Graphic novels, and graphic nonfiction, are still growing. There is an ongoing need for more underrepresented voices across the board. I’ve also heard from editors actively looking to add nonfiction picture books to their lists (beyond just picture book biographies).

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

Find a critique partner! Get comfortable with the process of using other people’s feedback to hone your writing; you can learn a great deal as well by thoughtfully critiquing others’ work. Writing and querying can feel lonely, so seek out company—look into online communities and mentorship programs like like PBChat or Author Mentor Match, and attend conferences and workshops if you can.

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

I’m open to invites! My events all went virtual this year, so I’m looking forward to meeting with writers in person again someday soon.




In the subject line, please write “June 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 JUNE  – 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: June 19th. – noon EST

RESULTS: June 26th.

Talk tomorrow,


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