5 Questions with Kerry Schafer’s Agent
“Out of excitement, writers pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be.”
Deidre Knight is an accomplished literary agent and the founder of The Knight Agency. The agency boasts more than 2,000 titles sold to major and independent publishers, many of which have become bestsellers and received numerous awards. Deidre’s main focus as an agent is on romance and women’s fiction.
Deidre represents Book Country member Kerry Schafer, whose sequel to Between, Wakeworld, comes out next year on February 14th. Last week, I chatted with Deidre to delve into her publishing expertise and get caught up on the most recent news about Kerry.
Nevena: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Deidre. Tell us, why did you become an agent? And how has agenting changed during your tenure?
Deidre: Books were always a huge part of my life growing up, as is typically the case for almost anyone in the publishing and writing professions. I began writing at age ten, when an essay of mine was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After studying Art History and English in college, I wound up working in the film and television business, but those crazy hours began to take their toll. So I eventually put my love of both sales/marketing and books to use by opening The Knight Agency.
I often tell people that agents are that quirky blend of both introvert and extrovert. We have to love digging in to read and edit, but it’s also imperative that we connect with people on many levels—both with editors when selling a project or author, and in that intimate one-on-one client/agent relationship. That’s one reason why sometimes I have a very hard time finding time to actually *read*: I can get caught up in the more extroverted part of my job, like social media, or time on the phone with editors, or working closely with clients.
Needless to say our profession has changed a lot in the past seventeen years. In many ways, it was a more static profession when I first started, with a pretty set “track” to run on as an agent, at least in terms of working to be successful as possible. Now, I think the best agents must be as agile as possible, constantly making adjustments as the industry and the world around us change rapidly. To me, that just makes it a very exciting and dynamic time to do my job. In the past, if I couldn’t sell a project to a major NYC publisher, or even to a more midsize or niche publisher, that project was something of a heartbreak for me. I’d been the work’s champion, but nobody would experience the magic that I had on the page. Now, of course, if I can’t sell a book to a major publisher, then there are all sorts of possibilities from small digital press to self-publishing to serializing the work…it’s all about being as creative as possible in strategizing what’s best for the author.
Nevena: So what kind of books are you looking for at the moment? What’s the one you wish would magically land on your doorstep?
Deidre: I am eagerly hunting for new clients right now, actually, largely in the romance and erotica area. Probably my first “shopping” choice would be a high concept single title romance—contemporary with a strong community. I won’t say “backdrop” of community because I personally want that world to be another character on the page, driving the action and the people we meet. I also love big historical romance with a big concept that links the series (family members, spinster friends, you name it!), especially series set in Victorian and Regency eras. I have a great love of women’s fiction with romantic elements, something with a ton of heart, emotion, and humor.
Nevena: I hope the Book Country members are taking notes! Deidre, you represent Kerry Schafer, whose book Between was discovered on the site. Kerry made her debut at #22 in the Bookscan Fantasy bestseller list, which is amazing! What drew you to the project? What’s next for Kerry?
Deidre: Kerry has a rare gift, especially when it comes to me as a reader. I started reading in the middle of a work morning, expecting to put the work down and move on down my “to do” list that day. Instead, I didn’t stop reading until I was about a third of the way into the book. She’s got a terrific gift for weaving a total world, one that sweeps you away in its freshness and magic. She was a truly wonderful find for me as a reader, not just as an agent. At the moment, she’s working on the next book in that series, Wakeworld. I can’t wait to see how things progress for these characters!
Nevena: Me too! Kerry crafted such a captivating world. You mentioned before that you found another writer on Book Country. How do you use the site to find new talent?
Deidre: I did sign on another author who I found on Book Country! I am shopping her work now, and will hopefully have good news to report soon. I use the site by reading what’s on there and if something really draws me in, then I ask to see more if it’s available. I’ve always marveled at the high-quality level of talent I find on the Book Country site and am itching to pay another visit soon.
Nevena: Thank you, Deidre. In your experience, what’s one common mistake that newbie writers make in submissions that our members should be mindful of? What parting words of advice do you have for our members?
Deidre: The biggest problem I see in submissions from newer authors is lack of editing and revision. Out of excitement, they pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be. And as a writer myself, I certainly get that. The process of literary creation is so solitary, and in our ultra-connected world of social media and digitized everything, the act of isolated creation is more alien than ever. That said, to truly create the very best book possible really does require a certain amount of time, alone with the hands to the keyboard.
Now, the great thing about Book Country is that it conquers some of that isolation by allowing for feedback and interaction as part of the creative process. But writers should be sure that they are truly receptive to feedback and editing, not simply eager to hear how marvelous they are. Being an author is all about process, and always looking for ways to improve and grow; the day that ends, a writer’s work begins to grow stale.
Nevena: Thank you so much for your words of wisdom! I’m so glad you could join us.
Keep up with Deidre Knight on Twitter at @DeidreKnight. Learn more about her and The Knight Agency at the agency’s website. We recommend the agency’s newsletter to all budding writers! Deidre is also a New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance novels. Visit her author website.