Agent, The Knight Agency
WG: Hi Melissa! Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
MJ: I am an agent with The Knight Agency, which is based out of Georgia. After graduating from Clarion University with a bachelor's degree in English, I moved to New York and began a seventeen year career as an editor with Harlequin Books. Almost two years ago I decided to make the move into the world of agenting and picked up my life, relocated and started working at The Knight Agency. I currently reside north of Atlanta.
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an agent and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
MJ: After seventeen years as an editor I just felt the time had come for some type of change. And while I really enjoyed working on category romance, I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and that's just not something I could do at the time. So, when the opportunity arose to change careers, I jumped at it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I say. Now, not only am I working with clients who write for category romance-my first love-I am also handling women's fiction, young adult and everything in between. It's very invigorating.
WG: What genres do you currently represent?
MJ: My current client list includes authors who write many types of romance: category, inspirational, historical, contemporary, paranormal and erotica. I also represent young adult, mystery and women's fiction as well as one client who is writing non-fiction.
WG: Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
MJ: I would really love to find more category projects, young adult projects and women's fiction. I'd also be interested in finding a great historical fiction project.
WG: Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?
MJ: I have a full list of clients writing in the paranormal market so I'm pretty much at my limit on what I can take on in that genre. This applies to young adult paranomal as well.
WG: Do you represent any authors of non-fiction? If so, have you been successful in selling their projects? If not, is this a market that interests you?
MJ: I have just the one client who is working on a nonfiction project. We are currently doing some revising to make it more competitive in the marketplace.
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
MJ: Romance has been where all my sales have been. And, I hope it continues to be my largest component of sales.
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?
MJ: Harlequin Superromance and Historicals; Silhouette Desire, Nocturne and Romantic Suspense, Steeple Hill Love Inspired, Samhain, Sourcebooks and Kensington.
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?
MJ: Two authors. A total of six books.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
MJ: I am actively seeking new authors. A great story is key to catching my eye-something that I haven't seen time and time again. It really comes down to a writer creating a compelling, clever premise and having the talent to back up that idea with terrific writing.
WG: How would you describe your agenting style? What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning? Or is your relationship strictly the business side of contract negotiation and as author/editor interface?
MJ: I am a very hands-on agent who likes to read all projects my clients are working on. However, I do step back once a project is sold to allow for the building of the author/editor relationship. My clients and I definitely discuss career planning and work together to achieve the goals we set.
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
MJ: I really enjoy the editorial input stage-because I will always have that editorial background that I love to put to good use. Watching a project grow from a germ of an idea to a published novel is just so fantastic. It really solidifies my decision to become an agent.
WG: Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?
MJ: Writing is so subjective. Of course not everything will be to my personal taste but I am able to remove myself from the equation and look at a project's viability in today's market. I have to love working with the client and appreciate their talent for me to take something on...and to know that there is a market for their work.
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions?
MJ: I'd prefer not to answer this as it varies from client to client and that's something I discuss with them.
WG: How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
MJ: It's definitely something I do on a regular basis. In today's market you want to create as many options for a work as possible. In some cases, I may give a particular editor/publishing house a chance of a first look at a work but that's not always the case.
WG: Once a work has been sold, do you provide any input to the author and/or editor in the area of marketing and promotion for the book?
MJ: That's determined on a case by case basis. However I am always there to offer feedback and suggestions.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?
MJ: I find writers' conference to be excellent opportunities for me to meet with writers I may never have met otherwise; to really get to know someone and determine if we can successfully work together. A face to face meeting can really solidify a relationship. It's also great seeing editors face to face and having that opportunity to discuss their needs and also clients you may share.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
MJ: I respond to queries within two weeks. I do ask that all queries be sent to our general submissions box: email@example.com. Requested partials take me an average of six to eight weeks. Complete manuscripts are usually requested because I have a keen interest in a work and I try to respond as soon as possible.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent's role is?
MJ: Just because you sign with an agent, a sale is not a guarantee. We can work as hard as possible on your behalf but we are not able to tell an editor to just buy your book-it takes time, perseverance and sometimes just having the right project at the right time.
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author's career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
MJ: They should definitely have a complete manuscript ready to go out to publishers. Maybe it isn't quite perfect but it needs to be well on it's way.
WG: What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering approaching you (or any agent) for representation?
MJ: I'd say just present yourself as professional as can be and provide me with useful information about yourself, career and current project.
WG: Do you think contest credits help authors further their career before and/or after making that first sale? Have you ever acquired a client that you discovered via a writing contest?
MJ: I think contests help writers fine-tune their craft but I worry that there are writers who are professional contest entrants and who never actually end up finishing or submitting their work. No, I have not taken on a client via a contest, though I have asked to see completed projects I have judged.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
MJ: Not sure who to attribute it to, but: Jump and the net will appear.
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
MJ: I am an avid scrapbooker and crafter. I find getting involved in a creative project really de-stresses me.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
MJ: I love historical romance, especially Regency. I also really love to read celebrity biographies - a guilty pleasure.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
MJ: I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which I read in grade school. It really created a love of the written word and helped define me as a reader.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency?
MJ: Yes, please visit KnightAgency.net. We provide a great deal of information about our agency and agents as well as our submissions process and updated information about our clients.
WG: Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit in this month's spotlight. It was delightful 'visiting' with you here.