Name: Mary C. Moore
Agency: Kimberley Cameron & Associates
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current agent role?
I was an author and copywriter, but I wanted to know more about the book publishing business so I started an internship at the literary agency and promptly fell in love with the business.
There’s no specific agent qualifications, so what would you say best qualifies you to do your job & allows you to do it well?
One of the most important aspects of a literary agent’s job is having “a good eye,” meaning the ability to recognize a great submission. Having been an avid reader since I was 5 years old, I unknowingly developed this eye. My love of reading is what brought me to writing. Writing further developed “the eye” and school took it even one step further. A perfect storm if you will, for my love of reading brought me full circle to agenting. When I landed at the agency as an intern the first manuscript I pulled from the slushpile is now out in hardcover with a sequel forthcoming.
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with?
The morning always starts with reading the Publishers Marketplace (usually in bed ) for that day’s deals and news to find out which editors are active, what kind of deals are being made, catching up on any publishing news etc.
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day?
Every day is different, but the day usually starts with emails. Responding to any client or editor or assistant emails right away. Then it’s on to priority jobs such as contract negotiations and shopping clients’ work. Next comes any client manuscript editing that needs to be done and then, if there’s time, reading new work from current clients. Finally, if I have energy, I will dig into my slushpile a bit. Usually I try to respond to queries within 2 months, so if I’m falling behind, I’ll set aside a day to do a query blast.
What do you feel a client and agent should expect of each other in the course of a fruitful working relationship day-to-day?
Each agent is different. I tend to lean on the colder professional side of things, keeping boundaries between my personal life and my clients, meaning all communication is via email unless we set up a phone conversation to meet and most takes place during the working week hours. I find by maintaining boundaries, there is a mutual respect for each other’s time and emotions tend not to run too high. That being said I do enjoy joking with my clients on social media and meeting them when I can, and I do know many agents who have closer relationships with their clients, the clients feel comfortable drunk texting at 1am or calling without setting it up ahead of time and this works for their relationship, so each is different.
Is there a typical process that sees a first enquiry turn into a working client relationship?
The first step is getting my attention, whether it be at a conference or via a professional well-done query letter in the slushpile or getting a referral from one of my colleagues. Once an author has my attention then that manuscript needs to be in the best condition possible, from a well-developed plot to clean prose. If I like it, then I nose around the internet to see if the author has a well-developed web presence, i.e. author website/blog, active social media accounts, and best of all a bit of a publishing history. Once I’ve researched them and I like what I see, I set up a time for a phone call. Sometimes the phone call results in an offer right away, sometimes it’s a discussion of the manuscript and a request for a revision and resubmit. Either way, if I’m making that phone call, I’m invested and odds are high that we will be working together in the future.
What is the best way to approach you, or any agent, with a view to representation? Is there one part of an approach that makes you think this client is or isn’t for me?
Professionalism! It’s so important. If an author recognizes that being an agent is our job, that we are human, that we are busy, that we are not going to make your dreams of being the next JK Rowling come true with a snap of our fingers, then that is the right first step. It’s such an interesting position to be in as a literary agent, because writing is so personal, but we are the professionals, so we are looking for authors who are professional.
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends?
Reading and editing, always.
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out?
To remember it takes on average 10 years to get your first book published (and that’s not usually the first one you wrote either) and then it takes about 6 successfully published books to start making a living as an author. I like to remind newbies of this, it’s like any other job. You start at the bottom in the mail room, you can’t expect to be the CEO within a year or two.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
It’s possible to have a career in books! Get started now!
Favourite film? His Girl Friday
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? Friends and Doctor Who
Favourite book? That’s too hard! Jane Eyre, anything by Robin McKinley, Cosmic Banditos, Dealing With Dragons, Blood Meridian, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, Steppenwolf, Don Quixote, the list goes on and on.
Favourite director? Don’t really have one.
Favourite writer? Too hard, see above.
Favourite actor (male or female)? Hmm, Robin Williams and America Ferrera (wish she was in more stuff!)