Katie Shea joined the Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2011. She was previously an agent with the Johnson Literary Agency. She specializes in fiction and memoir, especially women’s fiction and commercial-scale literary fiction. She is also seeking memoir, narrative non-fiction, food, pop culture, health and lifestyle, and realistic YA. She is most interested in coming-of-age stories and stories of unique relationships. Some of her favorite authors include: Joan Didion, Mary Karr, Michael Cunningham, Alice Sebold, and Jean Kwok (Girl in Translation). She is a graduate of Marist College.
Now on the FIVE Questions
1. How important is a platform for new and established authors in the 21st century?
Platform comes in various ways nowadays. With self-publishing and ebooks, it seems that authors have more options to get their work out there. However, you must be smart about it. Traditional publishing is still here, and I believe won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Authors must be very careful in the decisions they make because sometimes they can make-or-break you on getting an agent. For example, if an author has a project they want me to take on, but they have been self-pubbed with previous work, how I can rebuild them as an author if they have already ‘branded’ themselves through self-publishing? Try to have a clean slate when going out with your first project, and make sure your pass work that is somewhere out there in Internet world is something you are proud of. Story stories, articles, awards are all wonderful things I like to see. But be smart about the things you do if you are serious about getting a publisher behind your work.
2. What’s it like for you to make “The Call”?
When I finish a manuscript, I know. I usually have been non-stop thinking about the story, bombarding my mind, and simply, I just can’t get enough of it. Sometimes I even have dreams about the characters! When I know I am about to offer representation, I contact the writer, schedule a call and then we talk. I explain to them what I love and how excited I am, and then offer rep. The conversation always goes deeper – to what edits I may suggest, what they are looking to do next, what ideas they may have on the project, and just understanding each other on a business level so that we know how it will be to work with each other. It is always a great moment to be able to connect with a writer and his/her story. It is a beginning of a new relationship.
3. According to your bio, you’re seeking realistic YA. What does the story need to win you over?
Realistic YA is a tough category to breakout in. The first pages are so important to me when it comes to grabbing my attention. As far as YA, I want the main character to have a strong voice. A strong enough voice that will make me what to follow them wherever they go. Make sure the character is unique enough for her to stand out. I always want to writer to think ‘MAINSTREAM’ – how can you develop this character to connect with any young reader? Presenting a conflict is also very important when I read YA – what is going on in their life that make them different? What is happening to them that makes me want to keep reading? Life is so complicated as it is. Take a deep look at everyday problems and build a story from it.
4. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Listen and watch. Listen and watch the world around you. To people. To agents. To editors. To other writers. To family. To friends. Understanding the ‘world’ is the best way to write a novel. Observe what goes on around you and put it into a perspective for ANY PERSON to learn from. Take the reader from their ‘world’ into another ’world’. If you are able to do this successfully, you have a work that anyone will be able to read and connect to, in some way or another.
5. Finally, Beatles or Rolling Stones?
The Beatles. They are the definition of timeless.