Book Broker – an interview with Maggie Kane
Agent: Maggie Kane
Preferred genres: Commercial and upmarket fiction (to be very specific, contemporary or historical family sagas, romantic comedies, suspense, horror), fantasy, science fiction, YA fiction, and select MG fiction.
Bio: Born and raised in northern Michigan, Maggie Kane received her BA in English and Humanistic Studies from Saint Mary's College. She then moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing. Maggie has since interned with Gelfman Schneider and ICM Partners as well as Inkwell Management before arriving at IGLA. In her spare time she watches Disney movies, spends way too much time on Pinterest, and works at her local independent bookstore.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Besides a unique hook, something I can immediately imagine selling to an editor or to a friend, it’s voice. Voice is something that can’t be addressed in the same way as, say, pacing or plotting. A clear, confident voice is incredibly compelling and immediately stands out to me.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
A very high word count or a very low word count can be a sign that this manuscript needs more work. There are plenty of resources from editors, agents, and fellow writers about ballpark numbers for each genre. Once I start reading, I also find that too much exposition or backstory, particularly in the first quarter or half of a manuscript, can upset your pacing. I have so many questions I’m not paying attention to your characters!
3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
It seems a little obvious, but send out your manuscript only when it’s the very best that it can be. Publishing is an incredibly subjective industry, and it really does come down to finding the right agent at the right time; an offer can come after one or one hundred queries. I wish there was a magic number I could offer here (it would make everyone’s lives easier!) but there isn’t. Consider the feedback, share your work with a trusted group of critique partners, keep calm, and carry on. And keep reading!
4) What are the three most overused openings that you encounter in submissions?
A particularly violent scene. It’s eye-catching, but it can also be discombobulating. And, if the violence is particularly gratuitous, it’s ultimately off-putting, for me.
Waking up or looking at clocks. It’s the opposite issue of the scene of violence; it’s a little too quiet to immediately grab my interest.
A head to toe physical description of the protagonist. Again, it’s a little quiet.
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?
Since March 2020, I’ve received almost a thousand, not counting referrals I’ve received from my colleagues. I’ve requested around twenty, and I’ve offered on one. I need to be 100% passionate about a writer and their work in order to offer representation, because this is (hopefully!) a partnership that will last for years to come.
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?
Oh man, “average” is very subjective. Editors can have a manuscript under consideration for a week or months before the agent hears back with an offer or pass. If the book doesn’t sell, some serious conversations will take place. If each editor has the same critique, that’s a pretty finite obstacle to tackle in another revision, potentially before your agent sends your manuscript out on another round of submissions. Ultimately, if no stone has been left unturned, it may be time to set this project aside. That doesn’t mean this story will never be published (you never know when a new editor will come along who would be the perfect match) but sometimes stepping away and brainstorming something new is the best way to move forward.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING by Alexis Henderson was awesome. It's this incredibly lush, sinister fantasy about witchcraft set against an ominous oligarchy. I also loved HENCH by Natalie Zina Walschots which was a funny but cynical take on our superhero obsession starring an unlikely protagonist.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I can’t mention any specifics, but I would like to issue a shout out to the authors dealing with a literal pandemic and all the obstacles that implies and still finding the creative space and time to write. You are incredible.