Book Broker – an interview with Kathryn Green
Agent: Kathryn Green
Preferred genres: Upmarket fiction, cozy mysteries, young adult and middle grade fiction, non-fiction (the quirkier, the better), and true crime.
Bio: Kathy Green worked as a magazine and book editor for over twenty years before becoming an agent. Her small agency takes a hands-on approach to every author. She has a BA in journalism from the George Washington University and is a member of the School of Media and Public Affairs National Council.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A query letter that draws you in and gives you a sense of the writer as well as the story they want to tell. Also if they can express why they want to tell this particular story and how it will serve the reader—that is extremely helpful.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
I like to help authors get their work ready for submission, but anything that is sent to an agent should be far beyond the first-draft stage. So a novel with obvious holes in the narrative or, in the case of non-fiction, a proposal that is too short or missing essential elements like a promotion or marketing plan is a red flag.
3) How do you feel about personalization in query letters? Can you give an example of effective personalization?
I think it is nice when an author takes the time to see how their book may fit into your roster, in a thoughtful way. I also don’t mind if they connect somehow to things in my bio like my college or former jobs or places I’ve lived. I am a definite Anglophile, so I will always be drawn to books set in Great Britain, and if they suss that out, that’s great.
4) What are the three most overused opening scenes that you encounter in submissions?
That’s tough one. Every time I start a submission I’ve requested, I’m excited to read it. I guess one thing that is overused in mysteries is having the body discovered in the first scene without any context or development.
5) For writers without prior publications, what can they say in their "about me" query paragraph to catch your attention?
For fiction, they can talk about where they may have studied writing—or how their life experience fits into their book. An example would be a DA writing about a crime. For non-fiction, especially prescriptive, it is necessary for them to have some experience in the field they want to write about.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
It isn’t unique to me, but the emphasis on platform does make it much more difficult for authors who may have a great idea, but don’t have audience recognition as of yet. And if I can add a second: Judging a book by an authors’ past sales record is not always fair to the writer or to their potential audience, because there are always extenuating circumstances.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I am working my way through RED COMET: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark. As a long-time Plath fan, this book gives a very deep dive (941 pages) into primary research that wasn’t public before. I love having a thick book I can pick up at the end of the day.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Oh, it’s hard to pick one, but I’m excited for Kristin Levine’s latest coming out in June called THE THING I’M MOST AFRAID OF. Once again, she has managed to voice a young character with heart and purpose.