Our family grew by one today. Everyone, welcome Emily S. Keyes! Emily will be representing middle grade and young adult children’s books; fantasy, science fiction, women’s fiction and new adult fiction. In non-fiction, she will be representing: pop culture, humor, and all things nerdy. I sat down with Emily over a cup of coffee and the internet to ask her a few questions.
We’re thrilled to have you. How does it feel to be here?
Great so far! Everyone has been really welcoming and nice. … when do you turn into gremlins?
Don’t feed us after midnight. What made you want to become an agent?
I always loved books and reading. Like a lot of people, I never really thought about the publishing industry–like books being a job–until I was in college. And then I became totally obsessed with the idea of working with books. I think initially I wanted to be an editor, but I also really liked working in contracts and am interested in the legal side of things (I was raised by a family of lawyers). So agenting seemed like a natural mix of those things.
Tell us about some of the books you’ve sold.
I could talk about this for hours. Right now my client Amy Zhang is doing revisions on her book with Greenwillow. The title hasn’t been announced officially, but it’s a great one, and I’m really excited for everyone to read that book. It’s about a girl who attempts suicide told from the perspective of her childhood imaginary friend. It’s funny and sad. I’ve been calling it a YA “American Beauty”.
I also recently sold a book called HELLO, I LOVE YOU by Katie M. Stout to Thomas Dunne (an imprint at St. Martin’s). That one is so much fun. It’s a contemporary YA romance and the lead guy is a K-Pop singer. I got to watch videos like Gangnam Style on YouTube as “research”!
And early next year THE GIRL AND THE CLOCKWORK CAT by Nikki McCormack will come out from Entangled Teen. That is a YA steampunk mystery about a girl who finds a cat with a clockwork leg and has to unravel the mystery surrounding the kitty. I love that it’s kind of an old-fashioned mystery story (I loved Nancy Drew and Sally Lockhart when I was younger) but it’s got these fun steampunk elements.
Those look awesome. I’d actually turned down Nikki’s manuscript as one of those tough “This will sell, but it just isn’t for me” decisions agents must make on occasion. I’m very glad to have that genre covered here. Are there any particular genres or stories you’ll be especially looking for once we open to submissions on January 2nd?
I love young adult and middle grade. I sort of have a Peter Pan complex and never really grew up. But I’m also open to commercial adult fiction and fun pop culture and humor titles.
What was your favorite book of this year?
That is very hard! I will say FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell, because I had several people email me and tell me the heroine in that book reminded them of me. (I am also an identical twin, like Cath.)
That has been burning a hole in my TBR list for a while. How do you see the role of an agent changing?
I see it changing a lot. Agents don’t just sell books to publishers anymore. There is more editorial work before books are sent out, and more publicity and marketing work after they are sold. I’m excited to get to be a part of all of those processes because I like to know a bit about everything.
Excellent. That’s actually a big reason why we launched the agency to begin with. Where do you see publishing going in general?
Oh gosh, I’m not sure I am smart enough to predict. Obviously I think publishers figuring out how to monetize reading in the digital age is a huge thing. I’m excited that the agency has a digital publishing program and is thinking about building apps for books and such. You’ve got to try everything and we’ll see what sticks.
And we have a lot in the works for 2014. How do you like to read?
I like to read in word form. I like to have print books. I also like to read on my e-reader, especially submissions because that saves a ton of paper. And I listen to audiobooks when I’m walking around the city or checking email.
What is your favorite kind of cookie? (This is important here.)
That is perhaps the most difficult question. I like a good sugar cookie, I’d say. I think they get a bad rep for being “boring” but what is bad about sugar? Nothing. And then you can decorate them however you want! But I’m also a fan of most others.