by Bernadette Sukley
Emily Keyes is an agent with the L. Perkins Agency. Emily is the Contracts & Foreign Rights Manager. She’s very passionate about YA and teen novels and is looking to acquire in that area. Previously, she was a Contracts Administrator at Simon & Schuster, Inc. and a writer for “The World Almanac for Kids.” She is a graduate of the NYU Publishing program and knowledgeable about many areas of publishing, and an expert on all things “Sweet Valley.”
Q: What's your greatest joy about writers conferences?
A: I love conferences--trying to go to more if any of your readers need agents for other conferences. The best part is finding an author you're excited about, of course. But I also find conferences energizing. Spirits are high, people are positive and hopeful. I always return to work feeling better about my job. I know that sounds hokey, but I think authors are used to working in solitude and when they come together there is a great energy. Conferences keep me from feeling too down about all the rejections I get!
Q: What's your biggest pet peeve?
A: Tough one. I don't like when people are rude or entitled, which doesn't happen often at conferences but when it does it really gets under my skin.
Q: Have you ever felt "meh..." about a manuscript, but pursued it anyway?
A: I think every agent has the experience of being excited about a manuscript and then feeling more "meh" about it after a few rejections or reading it half a dozen times. But I've never pursued a manuscript I wasn't enthusiastic about when I first encountered it. Because your feelings only become more mixed as time goes on. That way lies madness.
Q: You are looking for YA and teen novels. Any particulars you can give? (i.e. Harry Potter, Diary of Wimpy Kid, Hunger Games?)
A: I'd love to have represented all three of those series. Then maybe I wouldn't have to take the bus! Right now I'm looking for contemporary or science fiction YA. I see a lot of paranormal or dystopian in my inbox already, which is not to say I wouldn't be interested in a good one of those--just that the bar is set higher. A lot of agents and editors I know are looking for books with strong voices, I think that is because a lot of stories have already been told, but if you get a unique perspective it still feels fresh.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I'm always reading submissions. For published book I am reading "Going Clear" by Laurence Wright at the moment. I just finished "The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight" by Jennifer E. Smith.
Q: Pitch Session Scenario. Writer comes to meet with you at the 2013 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference: "Hi Emily, I'm working on my YA novel called Huffaby Hall, it's a first person mystery about a lonely girl who befriends a rich boy with cerebral palsy. They begin searching for his missing mother..." What's the next thing you need to hear from this writer?
A: I'd have lots of questions. Is the book completed? How long is the manuscript? Is it more mystery genre or more "issues"? Is it anything like "A Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time"? What made the author decide to write about cerebral palsy? Where is the boy's father? Why is the girl lonely? I'm very curious.