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Interview with Literary Agent Emily Keyes of L. Perkins Agency (and my 25,000th follower!)

Thanks so much to Emily Keyes, the 25,000th person to follow me on Twitter. Emily is a literary agent at L. Perkins Agency, and kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Inkygirl readers about her work and what she’s looking for.

Q. How did you come to work at L. Perkins Agency? 

Lori Perkins, the founder of the agency, used to teach at the NYU and I was a student at the NYU Publishing Program. She was looking for interns and I worked for her briefly, going through slush, but she kept in touch with me when I was working other places.

So when my job at Simon & Schuster ended, she said I could come work for her which was huge for me because I was really worried about what I was going to do, and because I had always been very interested in the agent-side of the business. In addition to building up my own list, I do the contracts and foreign rights for the agency.

Q. Are you open to submissions? If so, what kinds of books are you looking for? What are you NOT looking?

Yes, I am open to submissions. I’m looking for all kinds of things. I still feel like I’m really building my list. I’d really like to see some middle grade novels from your readers. I get a lot of teen books but not as many younger readers. I’m not looking for picture books right now though. I love them so much, but I worry about my grasp on the market. Maybe one day. I’m also not looking for erotica. I get a lot of erotica submissions which is awkward.

(Note from Debbie: Emily does not currently represent illustrators.)

Q. You mention you’re especially looking for middle grade novels. Any specific types/genres you’re looking for? e.g. fantasy vs contemporary, etc. Any examples of MG novels you especially like?

I love a lot of types of middle grade. I wouldn’t say no to fantasy, but I’m leaning toward contemporary these days. Or science fiction. I think there are a lot of MG fantasy books out there already, so the bar is set very high. My favorite MG growing up was probably MATILDA and I can’t wait to see the musical. I recently read ZEBRA FOREST and enjoyed that quite a bit. And THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN made me cry a lot (I have a thing about baby elephants, in that I love them). 

Q. How should writers submit material to you?

Authors can send their query and the first five pages of their manuscript (pasted into the body of the email) to emily at lperkinsagency dot com.

Q. Who are some of your clients? Any new or upcoming projects you’d like to mention? 

My client Sara V. Olds has a book called MY LIFE AS A LUMBERJACK coming out on May 30th. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in a fun summer read. Some of my clients are Kit Forbes (who used to write adult romance novels under the pen name Barbara Sheridan, her first YA is coming out next year), Kenneth G. Bennett (who self-published his middle grade series and we recently sold the film rights, that’s exciting), Amy Zhang (who wrote a piece for CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: INSPIRATION FOR WRITERS that came out May 21) and Dale Lucas (whose YA science fiction story recently appeared in the FUTUREDAZE anthology). I also have some exciting things that are going to be announced soon that I’m dying to talk about but can’t.

At the Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Co.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring children’s/YA book writers? 

Read a lot. Your followers probably don’t need to be told this, but I see a lot of submissions from people who don’t actually read kidlit. They just think, “Hey JK Rowling made more money than the Queen! It’s easy!” I find that very insulting. Writing for kids is so much fun, but it’s also a lot of work. I think the shorter the book, the more each word matters, so the degree of difficulty actually goes up.

Q. Where can people find out more about you online? 

I have so many online accounts. I tweet almost every day at @esc_key. I also have a blog  and a tumblr. Those are the three I use professionally. I’m still trying to figure out what to post where. But I do like interacting with people, especially readers.

Q. Anything else you’d like Inkygirl readers to know? 

I used to moderate a blog about Sweet Valley High called 1bruce1. I debated mentioning it in the above question, but it’s not professional (at all!). I haven’t had much, if any, time to devote to it recently. I guess it says something about me that I work on young adult books all day and then, for fun in my free time, I read more.

The L. Perkins Agency 

Twitter: @esc_key


Mistakes by new kidlit writers: 1. Thinking it’s easy 2. Not reading it. – Lit agent @esc_key (Tweet this)

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.