Q & A With Agent Amy Burkhardt

Today we continue our series of Q & As with the faculty of the 2011 Agents Conference with Amy Burkhardt of Kimberly Cameron & Associates. Amy shares her insights into publishing the publishing process and her journey to becoming an agent. Don’t miss her at the conference, June 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time. Just click here!

How did you get started in publishing?

As an undergraduate, I did a brief internship under the direction of Joy Tutela at the David Black Agency in New York. I liked the work and the industry, but decided to pursue other opportunities upon graduation. After a few years, I found myself drawn back to the literary world. I moved to San Francisco to enroll in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco. Through our program newsletter, I heard about an internship with Kimberley Cameron & Associates (then Reece Halsey North) and applied. They haven’t been able to get rid of me since.

What’s the average number of submissions you receive in a month?

I’d say we receive about 200-300 each week to our general submissions mailbox. I probably receive an additional 50 each week addressed to me personally. So, approximately 1000-1500 a month.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice about the world of publishing, what would it be?

First, do your research. Most aspiring writers have an idealized vision of what the publishing process is, and many aren’t familiar with the book market. I encourage all writers to research the process, the agents and/or publishers they want to approach, and the category that their book will fit into (read your competition!). Second, think carefully about what your specific goals are and how to work toward those goals. Keeping your eye on what’s right for you and your book is the best way to find success and satisfaction. Third, don’t give up!

Who was your first client?

My first client was Heli Perrett, PhD, author of THE SAFE FOOD HANDBOOK: How to Make Smart Choices About Risky Food.

What was the first project you sold?

The first project I sold was the first one I took on. (See above.)

What do you love most about your job?

My favorite part of the job is working with my clients. I’m very hands on, and I like to work with them on development and editing before I send it out to editors. Once I’ve been involved in the development of a project, I’m invested in its success, and I don’t give up.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

I think the most glaring mistake a beginning writer can make is showing a lack of professionalism. Publishing is a business in which personal relationships are very important. People who work in the industry expect to be treated (and to treat others) professionally.

What is a little known fact about yourself?

I’ve been a dancer all my life.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading two, actually… Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude by Emily White and Two Gentlemen of Lebowski by Adam Bertocci.

If you could have a beer or coffee with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?

Edith Wharton. She is one of my favorite authors. She was also the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (The Age of Innocence, 1921) and an extremely prolific writer (40 books in 40 years) – all at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing anything beyond marriage. She would also, no doubt, have impeccable manners and a wealth of gossip about the literary greats who made up her social circle. ;)

Beer or coffee?

I suspect we’d have tea.

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