Three Seas Literary Agency
WG: Hi Cori! Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
CD: Like most people in the industry, I’ve had a love and passion for books and writing ever since I learned how to read. I discovered romance novels as a teen and the rest, as they say, is history. In my early twenties, I submitted several non-fiction articles to national horse magazines and was really excited to get them published. That encouraged me to brave the attempt to write a romance novel. I was extremely lucky to have three books published by Silhouette. It was an unbelievable thrill to see something I’d written out there on the shelves right there among authors I’d worshipped and envied for so many years. After taking a rather long hiatus from writing, I then decided to purse a different avenue that would still keep me in the industry I love…and I became an agent.
On a personal level, I live out in the country with my own menagerie of dogs, cats, and horses. I have a fabulous family who all live within an hour’s distance of my house. I’m fortunate enough to have a career that is both fulfilling and truly enjoyable.
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?
CD: After working for years at other jobs in “the real world,” I was ready for a change. I really missed being so actively a part of the publishing industry, but I found I didn’t have quite the same passion to write novels as I once had. My niece, Michelle Grajkowski, had started the 3 Seas Literary Agency six years prior, and with unlimited amounts of hard work, dedication, integrity, and charm, she’d become extremely successful. She’d sold to every major publishing house, built a strong reputation with editors and authors, and had really made a name for herself in the business. At the time, she had a client list of around 40 and could no longer feasibly keep up with incoming submissions that averaged about 500 a month. She desperately wanted to add another agent to her agency but couldn’t find the right person. I’d been involved with the agency on a very limited basis behind the scenes since its inception, so it was all really a matter of her need finally coinciding with my timing of a career change. It made perfect sense and was a perfect fit for both of us. I had it easy…I got to start with a highly successful, experienced, and respected agency, with an agent who already had excellent relationships with a whole lot of editors. I’ve been slowly and steadily building my client list ever since. The proverbial icing on the cake has been the discovery of just how much I love it.
WG: What genres do you currently represent (i.e.: have clients published in or are actively submitting to houses who publish this)?
CD: All types of romance (contemporary, category, historical, regency, erotic, romantic suspense), women’s fiction, paranormal, YA, thrillers, mysteries, non-fiction, and children’s books.
WG: Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
CD: I’m open to almost all genres, if I fall in love with the project.
WG: Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?
CD: Science fiction and poetry. I don’t know enough about either genre, and they aren’t anything I even personally read for pleasure.
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?
CD: I don’t have any non-fiction authors at this time, but I’m definitely open to acquiring some. I’ve had a few non-fiction proposals but nothing yet that’s impressed me enough to take on.
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
CD: The majority have been historical romances and YA. Since I’ve only been doing this for 14 months, I don’t feel I’ve developed any trends “over time” yet!
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?
CD: Berkley, HarperCollins, Kensington, and Puffin. I’ve also had contract offers from St. Martins and Dorchester.
WG: Approximately how many clients do you currently represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?
CD: Currently I represent 12 clients and am on the verge of signing two more. At the time I signed my authors, the pubbed to unpubbed ration was 1:4.
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?
CD: I’m very excited to have made sales for five of my first-time authors! What a thrill it was for me in each and every case. It’s so rewarding to be a part of making a writer’s dream come true!
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
CD: Yes, I’m still actively adding to my list at this time. With the tremendous volume of submissions we get, a project really has to have a “wow” factor to catch my eye. I love to see a fabulous, opening line to a book, tight writing, characters I care about and am intrigued by from page one, and a unique voice that compels me to keep reading no matter what else is demanding attention on my desk. Of course an author needs to be able to tell a great story…that’s even more critical than a perfectly polished manuscript. I’m also impressed by a super query letter that’s professional, typo-free, and has a brief and brilliant summary of the project. Good writing credentials by the author never hurt either! J
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?
CD: I take on as much or as little a role in my clients’ writing lives as they personally want. In general, I’m very hands-on in knowing what my clients are working on, where they’re at with their projects, and where their career is headed as well as how to get there. I’m happy to assist in brain-storming if a client likes and is comfortable with that. I read everything before it goes out, and if I see a major problem in a manuscript – whether in character development, plot, conflicts, or a logic issue – I discuss it with my client. I edit when necessary so editors know when they receive a project from me that it’s going to be clean and virtually error-free. Then, of course, there’s also the whole business side as well.
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
CD: I especially enjoy editing and career planning.
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 represent it?
CD: I absolutely have to love and be excited about an author’s work before I’ll take it on. It wouldn’t be fair to the author otherwise. I wouldn’t be able to honestly and thoroughly get an editor charged up on a project if I didn’t believe in it 100% myself. Why would any writer want an agent who is only going to pursue a sale with luke-warm enthusiasm? I’ve passed on many published authors who have queried me because their writing didn’t compel me. I’ve also passed several times on representing authors who’ve just gotten an offer on their own from a publisher and are looking for an agent to handle the contract. In that situation, I have to read a sample of their work first, and if I don’t fall in love with the project and the writer’s voice, I won’t represent it.
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions? How specific is the feedback?
CD: It varies from client to client. I give specific feedback whenever I get any from an editor, be it positive or negative. I always tell my clients where I’m submitting their work, and most like to keep track along with me as to what’s still out where. If a client has a question or comment about their submissions, I’m happy to update them at any time.
WG: What is your process for submitting work to editors? Is this different if the editor is one you’ve had no prior contact with as opposed to one you’ve already built a working relationship with?
CD: Most of the editors I deal regularly with accept email submissions, which is a great time-saver for all involved. I tend to include a more casual and friendly note along with a query to the editors I’ve already built working relationships with than to those I haven’t. I always research an editor’s submission preferences prior to sending anything out.
WG: How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
CD: I always submit to multiple houses simultaneously, unless of course we’ve made an exclusive read agreement with an editor. The waiting game in this industry is long enough without simultaneously submitting! Almost all editors understand that very well and while it’s not their preference, they do expect it.
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?
CD: Yes, on an as-needed and as-appropriate basis. Again, this varies from book to book.
WG: What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?
CD: One of my personal strengths with my authors is that I’ve been in the role of writer myself. I know how it feels to be on that side of the table, so I have a greater understanding and appreciation for everything a writer goes through. I was also multi-published, have been an avid reader since I was five, and have a real love of the industry in general. I’m also a perfectionist with editing and will only submit a project to an editor that is as professional and error-free as possible. That’s very beneficial in my agent/author relationships as well as my agent/editor relationships. When dealing with editors, I believe in being pleasant and courteous so an editor will hopefully look forward to working with me, rather than dreading it. Then when the time comes to get tough in negotiations, I already have a good foundation built, so hammering out contract terms doesn’t turn into an ordeal for them or me.
WG: Do you feel that writers’ conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?
CD: Absolutely on both counts! While I feel a conference has been especially successful if I end up with one or two great submissions out of it, the best benefit is having the opportunity to personally get together with my clients who may be attending. It’s also an invaluable time to network with editors, on a personal and professional basis.
WG: Have you ever been involved in the sale of movie rights? Foreign rights? If so, did you handle this yourself or did you work with someone more specialized in this field?
CD: I haven’t personally been involved yet on either the sale of movie rights or foreign rights. Michelle (owner of 3 Seas) has done both though. With movie rights, we definitely work with a co-agent who is specialized in that field. That is sometimes the case with foreign rights as well, but Michelle has also done some negotiating of those herself.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
CD: Well, the “realistic” timeframe tends to be different than the “ideal/intended” timeframe! Lately the response time for queries has been taking about a month; partials are about three months; and fulls are around five months. This will vary slightly, of course, depending on my own clients’ needs…which always takes preference.
WG: I see you are not based in New York. Do you feel that this impacts your effectiveness as an agent in any way?
CD: Not at all! In this electronic age, almost all correspondence is handled via email and voicemail anyway, not face-to-face. Michelle and I do take business trips to New York to meet with editors once or twice a year. We’ve often heard the New York editors comment that they see the out-of-state agents more frequently than the New York-based agents, as the former sometimes make a stronger effort to schedule formal meetings with them.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent’s role is?
CD: Well, there are authors who think having an agent is going to result in a guaranteed sale of their work. Or that they’ll hear back from an editor on their project in a matter of days if it’s submitted by an agent. Or that an agent can automatically get a six-figure advance for them. There are lots of misconceptions out there!
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author’s career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
CD: That’s really a question each author has to decide for him/herself. Writing for category romance, for example, can still be done quite successfully without an agent. But more and more of the large publishing houses won’t accept submissions from unagented authors, so if that’s a writer’s goal it will definitely help to have an agent first. I also feel if an author is looking for a long-term career in the industry, the right agent can be invaluable. On the flip-side, having a bad or disreputable agent can be worse than not having an agent at all, so my advice is for any writer to thoroughly research an agent before signing a contract.
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?
CD: Write from the heart, believe in yourself and your project, be professional with your work and your approach, and make sure you have a thorough understanding of the business going in so you don’t have unrealistic goals/expectations.
JUST FOR FUN
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?
CD: “Dance as if no one is watching; laugh as if no one is listening; and love as if you’ve never been hurt.”
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
CD: I enjoy spending time with family, friends, and my pets, as well as horseback riding, photography, gardening, and doing just about anything outdoors. I’m also a huge movie buff and love to go see movies in the theater with a huge bucket of popcorn.
WG: Other than your client’s work, what do you enjoy reading?
CD: I wish I had time to read anything other than my clients’ work! J But I enjoy reading romance (of course!), women’s fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and non-fiction animal books.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
CD: Favorite movies include Romancing the Stone, The Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing, Gone With the Wind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m a sucker for strong, yummy heroes, romance, and action. Favorite all-time TV shows include Magnum PI, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Big Valley, Friends,, and Survivor. I guess I’m aging myself with most of those!
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
CD: As a life-time animal lover, when I was a child the book that had the biggest impact on me was Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s the ultimate dog story and so tremendously engrossing and moving that I cried my eyes out every time I read it. That book touched me on such a deeply emotional level, I think it forever cemented my love of dogs as well as the satisfaction a person can get from reading a great story. Later in life, the two books that hooked me eternally to romance reading (and later writing…and even later to be an agent) were Shanna and Gone With the Wind. Those were both completely awe-inspiring books and such a joy from the first pages to the last.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the agency?
CD: Hmm…nothing else comes to mind! Your questions were so thorough, I think you covered everything. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be a part of your spotlight! It was a real pleasure, Winnie! J
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency??
CD: Certainly! www.ThreeSeasLit.com
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.