My Twisted Writer Brain…

What You Need to Know About Agents with Stacey Kondla

Hello readers. I’d like to introduce you all to my literary agent Stacey Kondla of The Rights Factory. She has generously agreed to share her wealth of knowledge and let you know what’s happening in her world.

Me and Stacey 2018

Who is Stacey Kondla?  

She’s a life-long bibliophile with industry experience which includes working as a Field Representative for Scholastic Book Fairs, managing the IndigoKids department at two different Chapters/Indigo stores, accepting freelance editing contracts, and serving on the organizing committee of When Words Collide (A Festival for Readers and Writers).

As a Literary Agent, Stacey’s Currently Looking for…

… narrative nonfiction projects for Adults, Young Adult, and Middle-Grade in the categories of science, nature, ecology, medicine (not naturopathic), and history.

She is also now open to horror queries for Adults, Young Adult, and Middle-Grade. Psychological and/or supernatural horror is preferred. Loves gothic fiction. Please no gratuitous torture. Stacey loves horror fiction with substance.

She would love to see more #ownvoices queries from BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ authors and scientists. She would also love to see some awesome representation of middle-aged and older women in fiction.

Stacey is closed to all picture book queries as her list is currently full for that category.

Q: What does an agent do? And why do I need one? 

A literary agent is basically the middle person between the author and the publisher.

The agent represents and helps the author with securing publishing deals, negotiating contracts, and managing rights .

Some agents are also editorial agents so they help the author make sure their work is the best it can be before it goes out on submission.

Agents also work hard to develop relationships with acquiring editors and people in the publishing community so they can represent their clients broadly and well. 

SIDEBAR: If you want to be published traditionally, then you need an agent to represent you. They will act as a go-between and negotiate on your behalf. It’s a good thing.

Q: Is Traditional Publishing better than Indie or Self-Publishing? 

This is a complicated question becasue it truly depends on what an author wants out of their writing and what their skill set is.

The decision to go traditional or indie is very personal and I don’t believe there is a generic answer that will apply to everyone.

Traditional publishing is great for some authors and bad for others. Indie publishing is great for some authors and bad for others.

SIDEBAR: Traditional publishing is a slow process. From submission to publication could take two to three years–or more. Many find this time frame daunting so decide to self publish. It’s also difficult to secure an agent as there are so many more writers than agents. It’s important to do your homework and then make a decision that’s right for you.

Q: Do all agents assist with editing?

Not all agents are editorial agents.

It is a good question to ask a prospective agent if editorial support is important to you. 

SIDEBAR: An Agent and Editor are two different positions within the industry. While an Agent can also be an editor an Editor per se, is not an agent. Educate yourself to the difference. It’s important to know. Make sure you’re presenting the best work you can each time you submit something and this of course means editing.

Q: If you find a publisher who likes a submitted manuscript what are the steps before signing?

If you have an agent, the agent will negotiate the contract for you and in consultation with you. Agents are not lawyers, but have a better understanding of what the industry standards are than lawyers do. Some people may want a lawyer to review anyways. This is a personal decision and would be at the authors cost.

Q: Tell me about query letters. How many query letters do you receive in a month and what catches your eye?

This varies throughout the year.

When I first opened to young adult queries, I was bombarded with queries and couldn’t keep up. Literally hundreds every week. Now I am very specific as to what kind of queries I am seeking and tend to get as little as one or two a week up to maybe 15 per week.

Me and Stacey 2019

I request maybe one or two full manuscripts per month, though since I have opened to horror queries recently that number has increased a little. 

What catches my eye is if the query is actually something I am looking for and fits the query guidelines I have set on QueryManager.

And then I look to see if it has cool, fresh hook that is an attention grabber – something I haven’t read a hundred times before.

And honestly, what catches an agents eye can also be very subjective. Like what checks my boxes maybe won’t check another agents boxes.

Since my client list is quite full, I am not signing a lot of new clients quickly. I think I’ve signed maybe five in the past year. I really have to love a project and have a great phone chat with a prospective client before offering representation.

It is important for both the client and the agent to feel good about working together. 

SIDEBAR: One thing you really have to pay attention to here is what Stacey said about knowing what an agent is looking for. Don’t send a query about a romance novel if the agent only represents thrillers. This again comes down to learning the industry and slowing yourself down to take the time to do it right the first time. Read the guidelines.

Q: What advice would you give to writers who are querying and submitting? 

When I go through QueryManager to look at queries, I rarely ever pass on a project strictly based on the query.

I do usually look at the sample no matter what. Some people have awesome queries but then their manuscritp sample doesn’t measure up, and some people have queries that aren’t great, but surprise with an incredibly well done sample.

My best advice is to make sure your manuscript is ready to query. Go through the editorial process including substantive editing and copyediting. Getting your best friend to proofread it isn’t enough.

Don’t get critiques from friends or family members. Seek objective eyes. Competition is fierce so you want your work to be it’s best.

SIDEBAR: Don’t go off looking for “Query Manager”. This is software used by the agent to allow for the stuff you submit to be formatted for their use. When you submit a query through the agency website you’ll be asked to provide information about yourself and the book. You’ll also have to include a query letter, writing sample, and pitch. Learn these things and be prepared.

Q: What do you do if a manuscript doesn’t sell? 

That depends on the author.

Sadly, agents can’t sell every project. I wish we could, but we can’t.

Some authors decide to file the project away and work on a new one, others may look to indie publishing after consulting with their agent.

SIDEBAR: An agent is motivated to sell your project as they don’t get paid until it does. Many of the larger publishing houses have specialized imprints that deal with specific genres or topic areas so submissions don’t necessarily end after the first go-round. Not everything sells and that’s okay. Go self-publish it if it’s something you believe in, or let it go and write the next book. Remember, one yes…that’s all it takes.

Q: If I’ve already self-published my book can/should I still submit to an agent? 

I think this depends on the agent, but for the most part I would say no. Typically I am not interested in a project that has been self published previously.

SIDEBAR: As Stacey has said, she’s not interested in something that’s already published. To query an agent on a project you already self-published could be a waste of time. Move on to the next one. If however, a publisher approaches you prior publication and wants to publish your work then contact an agent because the hard work is done already (finding a publisher) but an agent like Stacey will be able to negotiate a much better deal than you would on your own.

Q: What makes you want to take a chance with a new author?  

The short answer is great writing. I think this question also will hinge on the agent, but ultimately for me it is all about the writing and the story being told or the subject matter being discussed.

Q: Any tips or suggestions to add?

My best advice is to surround yourself with other writers that are better than you are, that are further along in their publishing journey, and learn from them. They will have advice and cautionary tales for you.

Most writers are supportive of enthusiastic new writers, and when you are further along, mentor someone who is starting their publishing journey.

And read, read a ton, don’t tell me you don’t have time to read.

Read in the genre in which you are writing, read other genres, read books on writing and publishing, educate yourself about the industry in which you want to work.

It is your responsibility to learn the business and understand how it works.

SIDEBAR: Take these last pieces of advice to heart. Learn. Find a Mentor. Be a Mentor. Read. In my blog: My Twisted Writer Brain there are many articles that can help you with basic writing skills and also author and editor interviews that are very informative about the business. It’s a place to start. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it if I can.

Thank you Stacey for taking the time to share your professional wisdom with us.

Keep writing!

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