Thursday, December 4, 2014

1 Agent Kirsten Carleton of Waxman Leavell Agency on Balancing Character, World & Plot, Professionalism, and Diet Coke

Before joining Waxman Leavell in 2014, Kirsten Carleton worked at Sobel Weber Associates. She holds a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing concentration from Amherst College, and a Graduate Certificate in Publishing from the Columbia Publishing Course. Kirsten is currently seeking upmarket young adult, speculative, and literary fiction with strong characters and storytelling. She’s drawn to books that capture her attention early on with a dynamic plot, and innovative storytelling that blends or crosses genres.

Why did you become an agent?

Like most people who work in publishing, I wanted to be a writer. I took workshop after workshop, and gradually realized that working editorially on other people’s work was my favorite part. I got into publishing with the idea of becoming an editor (again like most people), but I realized that a lot of what I pictured doing as an editor is actually the role of the agent. I get to be by the author’s side, helping to develop the project into its best self and shepherding it out into the world.

Are you an editorial agent?

I’m definitely an editorial agent. Sharing a vision of a book with an author and helping him or her realize that vision is one of the best parts of what I do. I also think that revising is a really big part of what makes a good writer, and I prefer working with people who are open to new ideas, while also having their own strong sense of the book.

Character, world, or plot?

Definitely all three, plus good writing. Ideally, they’re all equally strong, but the ratio can change depending on the book. A contemporary YA might not need as much worldbuilding as a fantasy or sci-fi book, for example, but it should have a really specific sense of character, including a description of the physical, social, and emotional world in which that character lives.

What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?

Do your research! Know what kind of book you have, and what kind of books I represent. Treat the query like a piece of professional correspondence, because it is. Format it simply, and proofread. Lead with a description of the book – if that doesn’t interest me, nothing else you include will matter.

Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?

I like all of the above, although I have to be careful about coffee since I’m so sensitive to caffeine. I’ll usually take beer over wine though, and I can be a bit of a Diet Coke addict!

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