Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 11, 2020

September Agent of the Month Kelly Peterson Interview: Part One

I am happy to announce that Kelly Peterson at Rees Literary Agency is our Agent of the Month for September. Scroll to bottom to learn how to submit a first page for a chance to win a critique with Kelly. Please note: September is a short month, so the deadline to submit is September 17th.

Kelly Peterson is a West Chester University graduate with a B.S.Ed in English and Literature. She worked as a Junior Literary Agent for two years before moving to Rees Literary Agency, continuing to champion her authors and the manuscripts she loves. Kelly seeks manuscripts in various genres within Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult age ranges. In Middle Grade, she loves fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary that touches on tough issues for young readers. Her Young Adult preferences vary from contemporary to high fantasy, sci-fi (not the space kind) to paranormal (all the ghost stories, please!), and historical all the way back to rom-coms. Kelly is proud to continue to represent Adult manuscripts in romance, fantasy, and sci-fi. She is very interested in representing authors with marginalized own voices stories, witty and unique characters, pirates, witches, and dark fantasies.

Kelly is excited to be expanding her client list and finding new authors who have a strong story to tell. She only accepts queries through Query Manager at and requires a query, synopsis, and the first five pages of your work to submit. Follow her Twitter or her blog for more information on writing, the industry, and MSWL updates.

What I’m looking for:

Kelly is looking for voice driven fiction in the MG, YA, and Adult age ranges. She loves stories with strong world building, characters that are quirky and witty, and writers that have a natural understanding for relatable dialogue and pacing. Kelly is always seeking to promote #OwnVoices stories and authors who have a strong story to tell, including POC,  LGBTQIA+, and neurodiversity.

MG: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Contemporary, leaning towards heartwarming stories and adventures that showcase the tough issues that need to be read by young readers.

YA: Fantasy (all sub genres of fantasy accepted), Steampunk, Sci-Fi (futuristic, not space!), Paranormal (Ghosts, please!), Historical, Contemporary (all the rom-coms!), and any combination of the above with strong, female main characters.

Adult: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Contemporary Romance (Cowboys, anyone? Sexy and somewhat geeky entrepreneur? Sports? Yes?), Historical Romance, or any combination of the above.

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Fantasy, Historical, Humor, LGBTQ, Middle Grade, Military, New Adult, Romance, Science Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
Favorite sub-genres: #ownvoices, Adult, Contemporary Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary YA, Diversity, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, LGBTQIA, MG, MG adventure, Paranormal, Steampunk, YA, YA Science Fiction

Not The Best Fit For:

Non-Fiction, Mystery/Crime, Children’s Picture Books, Emotional Turmoil (i.e. stories that revolve around depression, anxiety, rape, etc.), as I prefer my books to help me escape. Characters that have some of these traits but it doesn’t overwhelm the story are okay.


When did you know that you wanted to become an agent?

Honestly, I never knew I wanted to become an agent until I already was one. I graduated from West Chester wanting to become and English teacher because teaching was my life. I couldn’t find a teaching job that I enjoyed with administrative support and happy coworkers and such, and it took so much out of me that I started crying having to go to work everyday. For whatever reason that year (2014-2015) I started a Twitter and eventually went on to being a book reviewer. I made friends in the Twitter world and ran a small library for the school I was working at, so I’d go to conferences and read and review books and meet authors and writers. At one point, I wanted to become a writer, too! I wrote a single chapter (it was bomb, trust me) and never returned to it. Never wrote another word of it. So now it’s sitting on an old laptop of mine lost in the electronic abyss. But seriously, a friend suggested maybe I should find some purpose and get out of my depression by applying for an internship at a literary agency (thank you Nori and Melissa!). I applied, got into two places, chose one for the summer and ended up staying until I was promoted through the ladder to an agent. I never knew how much I honestly loved working with adults and working in business until I was physically doing it, and this job just somehow fit. I fell in love with the social nature of the industry and the multi-tasking facets of this life, and it’s where I stayed!

Do you think going to West Chester University and getting a B.S.Ed in English and Literature has helped you as an agent?

In truth, not much. Do you need a college degree to be an agent? Probably, yes. Did my English degree truly teach me anything I needed for this job? Probably not. What taught me the skills I have today is reading, editing, reading more, editing more, being sociable and talkative and asking questions. What you need for this job is most of what you learn on the go in internships and through making mistakes. Most people don’t even know this industry and this job exists, so most colleges won’t cater to it.

Did you live in Boston?

I did not! I’ve actually never been, and I’m fully Philly born and raised (proudly, I might add)! Nothing against Boston! I actually have a friend who connected me with Rebecca Podos, and I believe we’ve just clicked from that first conversation on. I found a home with her and Rees, and I’m so insanely happy that I can say that and feel like I have people who support me in this industry.

How did you get the job with Rees Literary Agency and long have you been with them?

Long story short, I was a Junior Agent at my old agency, and I wanted to continue to improve. I needed to make a smart move so I asked for help from a friend who was currently working on the publishing house side of the industry if she knew anyone or had any advice. She immediately connected me with Rebecca Podos. I alluded to this in the question before, but I clicked with her and she’s since become an amazing mentor to me, alongside Lorin Rees and Ann Collette. I even have a new agency sister in Ashley Blake! It was a long, hard road though with a lot of mistakes, tough lessons, awkward moments, and learning involved. I still can’t believe Rebecca and Lorin saw something in me that made them want to take me in! I’ve been with them since March of 2019, though, so I’m still a bit of a newbie at the agency.

Do have a limit on the number of clients you will represent? 

Yes and no. A lot of agents do, a lot of agents don’t. I honestly hate putting numbers on these types of things. If I feel like I have the time and energy to take on a new client, I will and I’ll offer! If I don’t feel like I have the time and energy to commit to another client, I won’t offer. I currently have 7 clients, and they’re still fast writers who take up a decent amount of my time in edits, so will I represent as many clients as a lot of agents? Probably not. I will more than likely top out around 15-20 clients at some point. I’m still building my list though, and just waiting for the right clients to find me. =)

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

I’m not picky at this point, but I am still looking for another Adult Romance writer, an Adult Fantasy writer, and a few Middle Grade writers! I’m so particular about voice in Adult and Middle Grade, so I’m really just looking for the right voices to hit my inbox!

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

I lean a bit more commercial in story. However, in voice I always say I lean a bit more literary/lyrical in fantasy and more commercial in contemporary. I have a bit of a wide span, but as long as the story and voice are sellable and it hits my heart the right way, I’ll take it on!

P.S. Rebecca Podos is definitely the one you want for more literary, abstract story lines in our age ranges and genres!

Do you have someone there that looks to sell books with movie potential you represent to Hollywood directors?

We don’t have someone who works with the agency directly to sell to producers, but I believe all of us have our own, and shared, contacts within the film industry. We all seem to have a few producers, screen writers, and film agents in our pockets on speed dial if need be!

Do you think it is better for an author to focus on one age group and genre?

When they first start out, I think it’s important to build their following by writing a few books in the same genre and age range. By staying there, you essentially build your audience/readership, and the hope is that if you do branch out, they will follow you! I always say that no one can really tell you what to write though. We can help you edit it and make it prettier, but we can’t tell you what makes your heart beat faster. Write what you want to write, and if it needs to be shelves for a bit to be sold later, then let it be shelved for a bit to be sold later. Even if that age group and genre isn’t able to be sold now doesn’t mean it can’t be sold later after you have your following!

If you had a MG or YA author who writes a picture book, would you represent them with the book, pass it on to someone else in your company, or tell them they will need to find another agent for that book?

More than likely, I would work hard to keep them. I would do research and see what I can do in order be the best agent I can be, even in a genre and age range I know nothing about. I’d ask questions and look for answers and give it a shot! It wouldn’t guarantee the book would sell though, and if I realize that I’m not the best agent for them in order to sell that picture book, then I would reluctantly let them go. I may also reach out to an agent I know who is better at Picture Books than I am and see if we could work it out with the author’s permission. I have seen authors be represented by two agents simultaneously before and though it’s not the prettiest split, it can be done!

What do you like to see in a submission?

Voice, voice, voice, voice, VOICE! Voice isn’t something you can teach, so if you’ve developed a voice that can catch my attention and hold it, then I am yours.

How important is the query letter? 

The query letter is your first impression on an agent. It’s pretty important because if it’s done incorrectly, then it shows the agent immediately that you may not have done your research or that you may not know what you’re doing at the moment. A proper query letter, even if it’s not the most well written, is much more impressive and at a minimum, it tells us you’re researched and know what you’re doing. Give us the facts and try to reel us in with voice. If you can do both successfully, then you will usually be able to snag more interest in your manuscript.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

Following guidelines, stating the facts, and having voice! Having a high concept hook is always important as well, and making sure to start the pages off with character and drive. You have to hook your readers and agents from the very first words, so make sure the first words of both your query and your manuscript tell us who your character is and what they want immediately. By continuing that drive throughout the subsequent pages, we can continue to see the growth of the obstacle they must overcome and in turn, the growth of the tension. This drive and tension building is what hooks your readers, and you can’t feel the drive and tension if your readers don’t know and understand your character. You need all of this in your first five pages in order to truly master the art of hooking your readers…and hooking agents, too.

Do you let people know when you are not interested in their submission?

I do now! When people used to submit to my regular email inbox, I unfortunately didn’t have the time to let people know of rejections. However, I’ve recently switched back to Query Manager and now have the ability to respond to everyone again, which I’m very excited about!

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

Requested material is a coin toss. It could take a few days, a few weeks, a few months. I’m sorry to say I’ve even held on to a submission for a year, tossing and turning about my decision before eventually rejecting with the notion that I’m just not in love with it enough to be sure. Every agent is different, and every agency is different, so this answer will vary by agent. It can also vary by time, as I know during COVID and the pandemic, many of us have either slowed down or sped up 10 fold. There’s no right answer, and it’s a bit of a toss up to see what floats my boat that day! No one wants an agent to read their work when they’re in a bad mood, or just not in the mood for their genre. So I will sometimes even search out a genre or age range that I’m feeling good about that day and see if it catches my interest so that I can give that manuscript the best chance it has of having my attention and making an intelligent decision. There’s no rhyme or reason or pattern to the process. It unfortunately, much like this industry, just IS what is IS.




In the subject line, please write “SEPTEMBER 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 September  – 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: September17th. – noon EST

RESULTS: September 25th.

Talk tomorrow,


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