Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 21, 2022

January Agent of the Month Interview Part Two

Jackie Williams at the Knight Agency is

JANUARY’S AGENT OF THE MONTH.

See first Page submission guidelines at bottom of Page.

PLEASE NOTE: LOOKING FOR MORE FIRST PAGES – WILL EXTEND DEADLINE TO 5PM

Jackie Williams joined the agency in July of 2020, after working as a Food & Lifestyle Editorial Fellow for Chronicle Books.

She began her career in government, graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Political Science and Latin American Studies and subsequently working in consumer protection policy at the Federal Trade Commission.

Jackie reads a broad range of commercial and genre fiction, especially stories with psychological suspense, dark, gritty voices, speculative elements, multi-generational plots, and intricate world-building; even better if the stories are set in space. Some of her favorite authors include N.K. Jemisin, Haruki Murakami, Cixin Liu, Greek Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, Blake Crouch, and Daniel José Older.

She also looks for narrative and prescriptive projects in food, drink, lifestyle, health/wellness, pop culture, business, productivity, humor, and memoir. When it comes to the nonfiction space, she’s particularly excited about books and novelty items where food, lifestyle, and community intersect and projects that expand the reader’s empathy and self-awareness. Books like AFRO-VEGAN, THE COOKING GENE, BAD GIRLS THROUGHOUT HISTORY, YOU SUCK AT COOKING, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, EDUCATED, and ATOMIC HABITS come to mind.

She’s interested in collaborating closely with writers throughout all stages of their careers and bringing more multicultural representation to the publishing landscape.

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Commercial, Crime, Fantasy, General, Historical, Horror, LGBTQ, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult

Non-Fiction: Cookbooks, Crafts/DIY, Humor, Illustrated, LGBTQ, Memoir, Pop Culture, Psychology, Sports, Travel, True Crime

I love a broad range of commercial and genre fiction, especially stories with psychological suspense, gritty voices, speculative elements, multi-generational plots, and intricate world-building; even better if the stories are set in space. And I’m interested in collaborating closely with writers throughout all stages of their careers and bringing more multicultural representation to the publishing landscape.

If what you’re writing isn’t explicitly listed below, that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in it! If you think I’ll love it, pitch it to me!

Fiction

I’m interested in all types of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror in MG, YA, and Adult.

Novels that span generations like REMEMBRANCE OF EARTH’S PAST trilogy, Dark, and THE PASSAGE. The weird, strange, and speculative—books like N.K. Jemisin’s THE FIFTH SEASON and Samantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON.

I’m a huge fan of magical realism and surrealism. I would love to see projects like THE MEXICAN GOTHIC, THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, and Haruki Murakami’s work.  Novels with light-hearted magic like THE EMPEROR’s SOUL, THE SHADOWSHAPER CYPHER series, and the WAYWARD CHILDREN series. Geeky books that inspire nostalgia like Stranger Things or READY PLAYER ONE. And, science-fiction and fantasy with thick threads of romance like DARK MATTER and THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

Books with a unique take on sports, dance, and hip-hop like Love & BasketballPose, or The Get Down.

Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense with smart female protagonists and/or unreliable narrators, like the LOU NORTON series, THE WIFE BETWEEN US, THE OTHER SISTER, SHARP OBJECTS, and YOU.

I tend to prefer literary fiction with a commercial appeal like Celeste Ng or literary fiction that includes elements of other genres a la Tana French.

Nonfiction

When it comes to food and drink, I’m particularly interested in projects involving southern food and culture, single-subject books, and project where food and community intertwine (AFRO-VEGAN, LET’S MAKE RAMEN!, THE COOKING GENE, SON OF A SOUTHERN CHEF, and WE ARE LA COCINA are great examples).

In the lifestyle and wellness space, I would love to work with authors that explain big ideas and large concepts like happiness, productivity, business, or creativity in ways that are accessible, fun, and humorous (think THE LAZY GENIUS WAY, ATOMIC HABITS, AM I OVERTHINKING THIS?, and GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER). And whether it’s meditation, breathwork, astrology, or Wicca, I would love books or novelty items that explore physical and mental resilience through a BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ lens.

As far as memoirs, I look for culture-related stories that expand the readers’ empathy and self-awareness like EDUCATED, MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE, and WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR.

*******

BELOW IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JACKIE:

Do you have any pet peeves, yet?

Not yet! I think spelling and getting my name wrong in the query is not great, but not to the level of a pet-peeve.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

In the manuscript, I don’t think so, for the most part, it’s just a matter of taste, which is super subjective, but not a common thread here.

For the query letter, I would say authors spend too much time on their bio and the themes/point of the story, rather than the character. I’m very character-driven so taking the time to make me want to know more about what makes this character unique and why I should go on a journey with them is super important.

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

I have a blog, and hope to be more consistent with updating it this year!

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, I generally try to be hands-on editorially.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)?

Phone communication is usually best for me! Email is so clunky and impersonal.

What happens if you don’t sell a book and the author wants to self-publish a book? Would you be okay with that?

It depends. I usually recommend that we keep the book we don’t sell on the backburner as many houses often buy the first book that you go out with as your second book. If that’s not the case, I think it would be okay to self-publish it.

Do you seek help from other agents at your agency to get suggestions on editors and/or publishers to submit to for the clients you sign up to represent?

All the time. I’m still a newbie agent, so I often rely on my colleagues for all sorts of things, including suggestions on editors and submission lists.

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at the Knight Agency if it was good but not what you want to represent?

Yes, and I have done so.

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

I’m torn. Digital and audiobooks are obviously how most people are reading nowadays (I mostly read on my Kindle), but you take more time with printed books, so I remember and cherish the reading experience more when I’m reading the printed version. Regardless, it’s a crucial part of book sales.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

With all that we’ve had going on these last few years, I think there’s a lot more room for exploring humor and hope, something that will make us either laugh or get a good ugly cry in.

I also think some books are moving the needle forward with queer, coming-of-age fiction, and I would love to see a book that speaks to that.

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

Keep going! As a writer myself, my motto is to improve 1% every day, and I think those who get published are persistent and work on their craft consistently.

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR JANUARY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “JANUARY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, 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 2022 January  – 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. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and not including you in the running.

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: JANUARY 21ST. – 5pm EST

RESULTS: JANUARY 28TH.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR FIRST PAGE RESULTS.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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