interview with Agent Kathleen Rushall
Please welcome Kathleen Rushall from the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency to our blog. She is here to give our readers a new perspective from the other side. Please tell our readers a little bit about you, such as why did you become a Literary Agent?
First off, thanks so much for having me here. I’m excited to be interviewed! I always love connecting with authors who are doing their research and have such a passion for their work. I didn’t realize I wanted to be an agent until I was in graduate school, actually. I had known before that that I wanted to work in publishing—to work with stories and people. But I really had no idea what an agent’s role was until I was getting my master’s in literature and found my first internship at an agency. One of my tasks was reading the slush pile—from then on, I was hooked!
Please tell our readers about the agency you represent.
Marsal Lyon Literary Agency is fantastic! Of course I know I’m biased, but I really can’t think of kinder or more talented people to work with—our agents are amazing colleagues and I couldn’t be more proud of our authors. I joined our founders, Jill Marsal and Kevan Lyon, at the agency in 2011. Back then it was just the three of us, but now we have six brilliant agents, each with various specialties. We are a leading agency for romance and women’s fiction, representing authors such as Jennifer Armentrout, Marie Force, Jennifer Probst, Molly McAdams, Jennifer Robson, and Kristen Proby, to name a few. However, between the six of us, we also represent a wide range of other genres, including children’s literature from picture books through young adult novels, as well as nonfiction. Our agency’s philosophy is that it’s never about signing an author for just one book—we want to work with authors for their careers and help strategize those moves with you. We always think long term and are dedicated to partnering with our authors for continued success and career building.
Describe the genre of the most recent release, and is it the only genre you represent?
My most recent release was a contemporary YA psychological thriller with romance, CUT ME FREE by J.R. Johansson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Another recent release is Lyla Payne’s sweet and funny new adult romance, MISTLETOE AND MR. RIGHT (Bloomsbury). I also represent romance, women’s fiction, select nonfiction, and the full range of children’s literature from picture books through YA titles.
What is your weekly routine like?
Communication is very important to me so I spend a good amount of time on the phone with authors and editors, answering emails, and eying my ever-growing reading queue. One of the great things about this job is its variety of activities. My day to day routine is made up of anything from answering emails to reviewing new client proposals, negotiating contract terms and language, sending out new projects I’m excited about, or brainstorming ideas with colleagues and clients. And, of course, a lot of reading!
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
I have my mom to thank for that. She’s always been an avid reader. I grew up with books everywhere and my favorite activity was to go to the library or to wander a bookstore. She still gets asked pretty frequently if she’d like to work at our local Barnes & Noble, as on more than one occasion the manager there has walked by and overheard her answering questions and giving recommendations to customers who then go on to buy her suggestions. So, this was an easy question to answer!
For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter, synopsis, the plot, etc.
The query letter. This is the first time I will read, see, or know anything about your work. Think of the potential here! Your query letter is what will intrigue me enough to request your sample pages and synopsis. It’s your foot in the door, your first impression. I know the query letter or ‘hook’ can seem scary to write, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is. Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.” I think this truly applies to your ‘hook’ or pitch. If I see a great query letter, I know that the author fully understands not only their characters and plot, but also the market for it and has done their homework. This speaks volumes.
What is the biggest no no you see in submissions that makes you reject them?
I’m confident that anyone reading this interview won’t be someone who would make these silly mistakes because everyone here is doing their research. Things that immediately turn me off from a query are just simple mistakes where people don’t use their common sense, such as submitting genres outside of my range of representation or calling me ‘sir’. (You’d be surprised how often this still happens! Not that ‘Madam’ would fix it…I definitely prefer to know that you know my name and chose me specifically.) Another big ‘no no’ is telling me non-relevant personal information rather than info about your book or attaching your query letter rather than putting it in the body of the email.
What do you see ahead in your career?
Even more collaborations with authors I believe in—amazing books hitting shelves and lots of champagne glasses clinking!
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract? Also, how can our readers find your submission guidelines?
I know that the publishing path can be an arduous one. Please remember that there isn’t a single book on shelves today that wasn’t rejected at some point. I know it can feel like a roller coaster of hard work, frustration, sweat, and tears. But stay the course. Don’t lose sight of what drove you to write in the first place—your passion and the joy you find in honing your craft will never let you down. And always keep learning. Conferences, critique groups, and writer’s organizations are invaluable, plus they provide an important (and needed!) sense of support and community.
More About Kathleen Rushall
Kathleen Rushall joined Marsal Lyon in 2011. She represents writers for all age groups of children’s literature, including picture books (fiction and non-fiction), middle grade, and young adult novels. Kathleen is also looking for women’s fiction and romance projects. The most important element that draws Kathleen to any project is a strong voice and unforgettable characters.
In addition to her fiction list, Kathleen also represents select nonfiction and is interested in mind/ body/ spirit topics, yoga, alternative medicine, parenting, crafts, business, women’s interest, humor, pop-culture, and some how-to.
A few of Kathleen’s recent or soon to be published books include BACKHOE JOE by Lori Alexander (Harper Collins), CUT ME FREE by J.R. Johansson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), THE ONE THING by Marci Curtis (Hyperion), IT’S RAINING BATS AND FROGS by Rebecca Colby (Feiwel and Friends), FOREST FAIRY CRAFTS by Lenka Vodicka and Asia Currie (C & T Publishing), BHAKTI FLOW YOGA by Rusty Wells (Shambhala), THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by Sarah Harian (NAL/Penguin), DARK PARADISE by Angie Sandro (Forever Yours/Grand Central), HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks), and DEAR DRAGON by Josh Funk (Viking/ Penguin).
Kathleen graduated from Seattle University with her bachelor’s degree in English and minor in fine arts. She moved back to her hometown of San Diego to earn her master’s degree in English, specializing in children’s literature, from San Diego State University. When she’s not at her desk, Kathleen enjoys hanging out with her Australian Shepherd, Finn, and German Shepherd, Abe. She also loves to travel and will be attending the following conferences in 2015:
New England SCBWI Conference (April 24-26)
SCBWI N. California/Central Spring Spirit (May 2)
SCBWI Los Angeles annual conference (July 31-August 3)
Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight & Magnolias (October 1-4)
Follow Kathleen on Twitter at @KatRushall