Book Broker – an interview with Kari Erickson
Agent: Kari Erickson
Preferred genres: Romance (historical and contemporary), women's fiction, contemporary young adult. I'm particularly interested in hearing from own-voices writers in these genres.
Bio: Kari Erickson is a junior agent, rights associate, and editorial assistant at the Hill Nadell Literary Agency. Previously she has worked at a boutique book publicity company and was part of the 2017 inaugural class of the Los Angeles Review of Books and University of Southern California Publishing Workshop. A graduate from the University of North Texas, she’s also lived and worked in Switzerland. Kari is currently building a list of fiction focusing on historical and contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and contemporary young adult.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Good writing, as obvious as that is. Also a strong hook and clear voice. A unique twist on a traditional trope. Something that grabs my attention and peaks my interest right off the bat and leaves me wanting to read more.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
If I receive a submission for a novel and the word count is either way too short or too long. That can signal that the writer has either not developed the characters/story enough or has not taken the time to edit and polish their work.
3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Don’t rush things. Take the time to edit and perfect your work as much as you can on your own, and with critique partners, before starting the querying process. This will help you in the long run. Also, do your research to find the right agents to submit to and then personalize your submission. Let them know why you chose to query them (the more specific the better).
4) How do you weigh the importance of each submission component (query letter, synopsis, writing sample) when determining whether you will ask to read a full manuscript?
I’d say overall the writing sample has to be great in order for me to request more. That said, the query letter is the first impression agents have of you as a writer. A poorly written query letter doesn’t put me in a great mindset to read the pages. You want an agent to be excited to get to your manuscript, and you create that excitement by having a great query letter.
5) Approximately how many query letters do you receive per year? Of those, how many will you respond to with a request for a full manuscript? And of those, how many are likely to receive an offer of representation?
I’m still in the beginning stages of my agenting career and getting the word out that I am open to queries. I’d say I receive approximately 15-20 a week right now. The number I request more from really varies week by week. Sometimes none of the submissions hook me nor are a good fit, and some weeks I find myself requesting several to read. While I’m actively building my list, I’m also being very mindful with what I request as I curate my client list. I’m very eager to take on new and interesting stories, particularly by own-voices writers in the romance and women’s fiction genres.
6) What is the average length of time it takes to place a manuscript with a publisher, and what is your strategy for a client whose manuscript isn't selling?
This can really vary as there are so many factors that go into deciding when to pitch a book. The most recent manuscript I sold took about three months from when I first started pitching it to when we got an offer. That also happened to be right at the start of the pandemic arriving in the States. Before pitching that project, my client and I worked on the manuscript for about three months.
For a manuscript that isn’t getting many bites, I’ll cull what information I can from the editors and their feedback, and then go over that with my client. If there are similarities in the feedback, then my client and I talk through how to fix those potential issues in the manuscript which may be what’s holding it back from selling.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I loved Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis. The book starts off with a bang right away. Lia Louis doesn’t dawdle in that first chapter; she hooks you right away. The stakes are so high at the end of chapter one that you can’t help but keep reading to see where the story goes. I want stories that hook me fast and keep me there with strong writing and characters. Dear Emmie Blue did just that.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I’m so excited for everyone to read Samara Parish’s debut which is coming from Forever (Grand Central Publishing) next year! It’s a banter-filled historical romance with a contemporary feel, set in regency England and featuring a heroine with a modern independent streak and an unexpected (but charming) hero. It turns a traditional romance trope on its head as the hero is a commoner and the heroine is part of the aristocracy. The natural humor so well displayed in Samara’s writing, along with her complex and multi-faceted characters, is what drew me to the story, and I think it will win her many fans!