Relative Peace and the Right List: 3 Questions for Literary Agent Kirby Kim of William Morris Endeavor
Kirby, as a young agent building a list at a major agency, you're plowing through piles of queries every week. What does it take to excite you enough to request a full manuscript? And what percentage of queries make that first cut?
Well with a query letter I think it's important to be able to get at the heart of what makes a story special quickly, and to state it succinctly. If the letter's too long or if I'm getting a plot summary and it kind of rambles then I feel like the author doesn't have a firm grasp of their story or the marketplace. Of course, even when an author can execute a great query letter there are times that I don't request the manuscript and that's just me not feeling I'm the right agent.
I think I take a look at one out of every 40. 50?
When you've finally established the author stable of your sweet agent dreams, what will that list look like?
Hard to say, mainly because I imagine that list evolving as my tastes and the market change. Generally speaking though, some narrative nonfiction, some humor, some literary fiction for children and adults, and maybe a little prescriptive non fiction based on my current hobbies or interests.
Since we became acquainted two years ago, I've observed you being Kipling's "if you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs" guy. What keeps you on track as you roll with the changes?
Ha! I'm not totally sure I'm necessarily that guy. You - nor do my clients generally - see those times when the hair's being pulled out by the fistfulls. If I do have any relative peace of mind it's probably just from accepting that there are so few things I can control I'd lose my mind if I got too worked up over all the things I can't.