Book Broker – An interview with Katelyn Uplinger
Agent: Katelyn Uplinger
Speculative fiction, historical, romance, mysteries, and thrillers in YA and adult. In non-fiction: pop culture and history.
Katelyn is an agent at D4EO Literary Agency. Before coming to D4EO, she interned and assisted at other agencies, including Folio Literary and Inklings. Before that she was a freelance editor and worked with Big 5 imprints, small publishers, and indie authors. You can find her blog and updated wishlist on her personal website katelynuplinger.com.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Other than great writing with a great hook, I love submissions that have a unique element that differentiates them from the pack, whether in setting, plot, or characters. I see a lot of similar concepts and characters in my queries. Seeing something new and fresh makes me pay attention.
2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?
Lately there has been a tie between word count and bio issues in my inbox. I see a lot of books that are far over industry standards. When it comes to your author bio, don’t focus on yourself over the story or forget to give me the plot altogether. I like to know if you have previous publishing credentials, experience in the industry, or belong to any writing organizations, but I don’t need your life story. Giving me your life story only highlights your inexperience.
3) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
A quick sign that can tell me a manuscript isn’t ready before even looking at the query is a word count that is far over or under the genre standard. Almost every book I see that is far over their allotted word count needs to be cut back due to poor pacing and a rambling plot in general. Books that come in under their genre word count usually have underdeveloped plots and characters.
4) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Make sure you get feedback before you query agents. Some writers are too afraid of critique and ignore this step, but learning to take critique is a necessary skill as a writer. If no one has looked at your writing yet, you probably aren’t ready to query agents. The most polished projects coming into my inbox usually have had multiple critique partners read them. Make sure you get feedback from other writers instead of friends and family who don’t know much about writing and probably won’t tell you the truth. Feedback will help you improve faster and show you the flaws in your book that you can’t spot yourself.
5) Are there any recent changes or trends in the publishing industry that you think authors should know about?
I think in general it is becoming harder for new authors to break out in traditional publishing. Patience and perseverance are required more than ever. Outside of that, I am happy to see interest growing for graphic novels in children’s publishing.
6) You've just decided to represent an author and the contract is signed. What steps do you take to prep the manuscript for submission to publishers?
I’m an editorial agent, which shouldn’t be surprising with my background as an editor, and so edits are always the first step. I will take a project through as many passes as I feel it needs before it is ready for submission. I can’t emphasize enough not to rush edits. They are far too important in today’s competitive market. Next is crafting the submission list.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I recently read The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling. I fell in love with the book’s setting. Having a caver deep underground and far from help with corpses and an unknown monster lurking in the dark gripped me. I’ve been dying for unique settings lately and this one fit the bill perfectly.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you' re working with at the moment?
This summer I signed pop-culture writer Jessica Mason on her wonderfully geeky project about fangirls. She recently covered Comic Con. She writes for The Mary Sue and you can read her articles here.
Want some assistance with your query letter and synopsis?
Check out our query-critique service.