Book Broker: an interview with Karly Caserza

Interview with literary agent Karly Caserza from Fuse Literary


Agent: Karly Caserza


Bio: Karly Caserza was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Northern California as a child. She obtained her business marketing degree and has been a freelance graphic designer for over ten years. In addition to designing a wide range of print and web promotional material for clients, Karly creates book covers for Short Fuse and promotional graphics for Fuse authors.

Professionally, Karly began her career in the publishing industry as a reader for Tricia Skinner at Fuse Literary. Her responsibilities quickly grew and she was promoted to Literary Assistant, a role that also included a spot on the production team of Short Fuse.

Karly is also the Marketing Coordinator of the San Francisco Writers Conference, held every Presidents' Day weekend. In her spare time, Karly is an Adobe Technical Trainer, freelance graphic designer, young-adult author, video game geek, and art noob.

Preferred submissions: Karly has a deep love for characters with a strong voice and seeks out stories she can get lost in. Diversity in genre fiction is a major bonus. She specializes in middle grade and young adult genre fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary).

(Bio and preferences from

1) What stands out in a good submission?

Oh wow. Hitting the big questions immediately. For a query: I’m really looking for an author who can capture the essence and voice of the story in a short space (and we know it isn’t easy to do and this isn’t a deal breaker). For the sample pages: I personally love a submission that establishes a strong voice right away. World building is important but can be distributed throughout the story. Voice though? I want to feel that character’s essence from the get-go so I can thoroughly immerse myself and care about their journey.

2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?

You’d be surprised but I receive a lot of manuscripts riddled with misspellings. It makes me question whether the character and story development have been fully fleshed out if this basic isn’t covered.

3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?

Take your time. Truly. I’d rather wait and receive a manuscript that has been polished than something that’s been hastily submitted in order to get it to me sooner. Yes, I could fall in love with a story and request an R&R (request and resubmit), but reading that R&R loses the magic that could’ve happened on the first read.

4) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?

Voice. If you immediately establish voice, I can better connect with your character and the adventure they’re journeying on. Snags? Long-winded descriptions or internal thought tend to break my narrative immersion. I’m all for world-building. I’m all for establishing voice. But if the tension and plot doesn’t progress because you’re spending too much time on these, I have a hard time immersing myself into the story.

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?

On average, I receive about three to five queries a day so… out of the approximately 1500, I probably request 1-2%. And of those…maybe a handful.

6) What is your strategy for a client whose manuscript isn't selling?

I always advise my clients to keep on writing while I work on selling their books. The more quality work we can put into editor hands, the better. And even if a particular book doesn’t get sold due to several factors (what is hot, what’s not, what editors are currently hungry for, what books have recently been purchased that may be too similar to the premise, etc), we hold onto it and re-pitch it at a better time.

7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?

Ya know I never thought I’d say this but I’ve recently started representing picture books—I have a two-year-old who devours books by the tens. There was a point where, on average, we were reading about thirty books a day (we had to start going to the library because bookstores were taking a good chunk of our income!). Because of him, I’ve found a love for these picture books. Picture books are tricky. An author has about five hundred words to not only establish character and world but also complete an entire journey (this would be great for any writer to practice). So right now, I’m enamored with the Mighty Might Construction Site series because my kid loves construction trucks.

8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?

My very first client T.A. Chan is a writing machine. She has several amazing YA space operas completed in addition to a long list of SFF WIPs. Her mind is absolutely beautiful and the worlds she builds are complex and immersive. I cannot wait for these books to be in reader hands.

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