Book Broker – an interview with Lauren Keller Galit
Agent: Lauren Keller Galit
Preferred genres: Middle grade and young adult, both fiction and non-fiction.
Bio: Lauren Galit, a magazine editor by training, started the LKG agency in 2005 and was known for representing many of the stars of TLC’s “What Not to Wear.” After about a decade in mostly prescriptive non-fiction, she opened the agency to children's middle grade and young adult fiction and has not looked back. Now she plays Dungeons & Dragons, lives every day twice, and uses photography to stalk her father's mistress—in her authors' books, of course!
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Two things: originality and distinctive writing. I don’t really want to see another portal fantasy unless it’s truly out of the box. Or a dead or sick family member unless the author is bringing something new to the story. Also please don’t send me something that I specifically say I don’t want to see. For instance, I advertise that I don’t prefer horror. I also really don’t do adult fiction or picture books. I’m most excited when I can see the commercial and literary potential or the voice and feel of the writing grabs me because it is atmospheric or sassy or just really engaging.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
A crazy amount of typos. Or when an author lists Harry Potter or Percy Jackson as comps. Because, let’s be honest, those were category busters and very little can match up to them as comps.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
I’ve gotten into two YA retellings of classic literature and I’m loving them. I’m not sure I’m dying for more per se because I would worry about ONLY representing that but I was struck by how both authors did a really loving job of both paying homage and being super intriguing.
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
I love my authors above all else. I find them all to be quirky and engaging and smart and challenging and awesome. I love doing deep dives on plotting and character with them or just talking pop culture and what they are watching or reading these days. I also love that I get to pour my heart and soul into a middle grade magical realism manuscript one week and then turn around and talk teen angst in a YA contemporary. I honestly find it challenging to be new and fresh all the time, either in reading queries and searching for the startling or in talking with my clients. Sometimes it’s easy for them or for me to fall into tropes and I hope to avoid that at all cost.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
World building above all else, which can be equally valuable in fantasy and in contemporary. By which I mean, does the magic work consistently and do the characters work consistently within the parameters of their world. Some kid who is struggling with family finances isn’t suddenly going to have a phone, so you can’t have the MC texting. My biggest peeve is when it is clear that the author has layered in a plot point just to move the story forward but that moment isn’t organic to the character or the narrative. It’s clearly imposed from the outside. Oh, and fake fights! I don’t love when characters have fights just to isolate the MC and make him or her seem more alone. If the fight makes sense, fine; otherwise, I also really like modeling real communication between friends, especially in middle grade. Let’s show best friends being upset with each other and talking it out. Let’s see them actually share their feelings and show readers this is how kids could handle their emotions and their disagreements.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
I know I can’t change it (!) but I think one of the hardest things is keeping up with the constant flux. Editors moving, tastes changing, trends obviously. You finally think you have something figured out, a relationship with an author and their editor and boom, it’s gone. An editor at an imprint you love submitting to and just KNOW the next one will be a fit, and they jump elsewhere and you’re back at ground zero. It keeps you working hard to stay on top of the industry but it does make things more challenging.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I flew through The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. I loved both of Madeleine Miller’s masterpieces, Circe and The Song of Achilles, and I loved the notion of the mythological retelling in another culture, this time Norse legends. This was also particularly thrilling for me because I had read all the Greek mythology since I was a kid, from D’Aulaires all the way up to Edith Hamilton. I feel like I learned so much about Loki and Ragnarok through this feminist lens.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I’m mad about Alex Richards’ two books and her approach in general. She wrote Accidental, about a girl who finds out at 16 that her mother didn’t die in a car accident, but in fact that she herself shot her mom when she was just two. Her second book, When We Were Strangers, follows Evie after her father dies suddenly of a heart attack and she realizes he was having an affair and had planned to leave her and her mother. When she follows the mistress one day, she discovers that she’s young, all alone, and pregnant. Both books have a similar approach of taking the salacious and sensational but grounding it in real circumstances and emotions. Both Johanna and Evie are real characters with real feelings caught in these insane scenarios and making their way in the world. Alex captures it all so emotionally.