An Interview with Literary Agent Kristyn Keene
Kristyn Keene joined ICM Partners in 2006, where she specializes in literary and commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and more. She’ll be one of our featured agents at the 2014 A&E Conference. Learn more about Kristyn by visiting the Featured Agents page and reading our Q&A below!
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Kristyn Keene: It’s different for each writer because they have unique projects (otherwise, there wouldn’t be room for their book!) so I tailor my approach and advice to their individual strengths and needs and their most strategic next steps.
If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?
KK: Trust that I want all the best things for them and even when the world turns out not to be a wish-granting machine (I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars), they should know I’m doing everything I can to try to make it be.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
KK: When an author’s manuscript is being actively read by multiple agents and they sign with one before talking to them all. It’s short-sighted of the writer too because they should always speak to as many agents as possible in order to make the most informed decision.
You often hear that it’s the first ten pages – or even the first page – that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?
KK: Dropping us into some kind of action. I think there’s a natural tendency to begin by summing up where the characters are starting but it’s the context of a situation that will show us–not tell us—that.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
KK: If there were only one, I wouldn’t have a job! But I’d say, at the start, find a handful of people who will read your work supportively but critically. Have them ask you questions about the characters’ motivations, the plot’s reveal, the writing. And be very willing to hear it and edit.