Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Interview with Agent Kevan Lyons

Kevan Lyon has more than 20 years in the publishing business, including 5 years as a Literary Agent with the Dijkstra Agency and 17+ years on the wholesale, retail and distribution side of the business. Kevan's background on the buying and retail side of publishing affords her helpful insight into what types of books will sell and how to market them.

Kevan handles women's fiction, with an emphasis on commercial women's fiction, young adult fiction and all genres of romance. Authors on Kevan's list span a broad range of genres in women's fiction from more literary, commercial projects to all genres of romance including historical, contemporary, suspense and paranormal. She loves to be surprised by a unique plot or characters and is always looking for a new, fresh voice or approach.

Kevan is the mainstream final judge in The Sandy Writing Contest.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart? Answer: I am looking for primarily fiction – all types of women’s fiction, with an emphasis on contemporary and historical women’s fiction, and all genres of romance, with the exception of inspirational romance. I also love mystery, particularly historical mystery and a good “cozy” series. I am also looking for young adult fiction of all types.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I generally don’t ask for a synopsis, but rely on the opening chapters of a novel to determine if I want to see more or a full. If I do ask to read a synopsis I will ask for double spaced, anywhere from 3 to 10 pages or so.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I can’t really think of anything that I am “sick of”, but I would love to see more women’s fiction with a high concept plot or hook (great “book club fiction”) as well as historical fiction of all types and I am particularly look for stories set in the WWI to WWII periods

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
    Answer: The first thing that draws me in is usually the voice of the story. If I love the voice and then the writing I am immediately intrigued. From that point, a dramatic opening that draws me in (and never lets go) is what I am hoping for.

  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
    1. Voice – critical, and really can’t be fixed. You either have it or you don’t.
    2. Weak Grammar – some can be fixed. If it is a “big” problem may not be indicative of other problems with the writing.
    3. Common plot – Can’t really be fixed, but if the voice is amazing I may give it a shot.
    4. Poor character development – can be fixed, not terminal. But everything else has to be pretty close.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) probably headed for an early rejection at pitch letter.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – this is often something you cannot see until you read a partial (may have a great pitch letter), and is a pretty quick pass.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing – can be fixed, but may not make it past the reading of a partial.
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – probably an early pass – at pitch.
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow – often can be fixed, but everything else needs to be strong.
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – can be fixed, but the story has to be worth the effort.
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – can be fixed.
    12. Other

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: Yes, I try to get to them a bit more quickly if I can. But, client stuff always come first.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: The writing, the story and the talent are key, I need to LOVE the work, and then we both need to make sure that we are a “good fit”. We will hopefully be working together for a long time and it is important that we feel that we are a good match.

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Walking on the beach in the morning so that I can sit in front of a computer all day!



3 comments:

Kristi Helvig said...

Great interview! My agent did an interview today too over on our blog (SistersinScribe.com), for those seeking agent advice.

ML Guida said...

Kevan, I like your comments about what can be fixed and what can't be fixed. Enjoy your walks on the beach. I feel the same way, but like taking walks in the mountains.

Dale S. Rogers said...

Thanks for the insight. It's helpful.