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Dec 3, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Mary C. Moore

A warm welcome to Mary C. Moore! Mary is an agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates, based in the Bay Area. She represents MG, YA, and adult fiction. When she’s not agenting she enjoys baking, gardening, and other cottagecore activities. To find out more about her visit marycmoore.com or follow her on Twitter @Mary_C_Moore.

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Mary: Publishing tends to be cyclical, so what I say may be oversaturated now, will change quickly. However, we are on the tail end of a YA royal fantasy glut, and I would guess that we will see an oversaturation of witch fantasies and horror in the near future, as a lot are being bought up right now. MG in general enjoyed a big surge these past two years, so it may be harder to sell in soon, like YA is, but hopefully not. Personally, I think WWII and superhero stories are overdone, but they are still regularly hitting the shelves. The “Girl” titled thrillers have calmed down a bit, but are still a hard pitch. The reality is, if you have a fresh take on any genre/story you can break through, no matter the state of the market. But you need to know the market to understand what a fresh take would be, so read, read, read. And be reading current books!

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Mary: I was a writer and had queried two projects widely, but struggled to understand the query/publication process--this was before there was a lot of information available online. I didn’t know anyone in the business or even other authors--beyond my MFA peers who were in the same boat--so it was a frustrating mystery of how to get an agent. I started an internship at KC&A because I was curious about what was behind the curtain. But once I started, I fell in love with agenting and haven’t looked back since. If I hadn’t ended up as an agent, I’d probably still be working in field biology/animal behavior. That was my previous career, which I did enjoy as I love working with animals, but not as much as I love working with books. 

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Mary: There isn’t a fixed answer to this, as my relationship with each client is different depending on the individual, and it’s constantly evolving. But I would say that the key for the longer-lasting relationships has been open communication, mutual respect, and trust. Through clear communication we’ve reached a place that I’ve proven to them they can trust me in what I do, that I prioritize their best interests, and when I say something is or isn’t working they are willing to revisit/revise the plan. So it’s pretty smooth sailing once we reach that point. That’s also when we begin to connect on a more personal level as well and you start to see that wonderful author-agent bond come into fruition.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Mary: It’s constantly fluctuating, but I usually have around 20-25 clients, with around 10 super active clients (i.e. clients that are in the middle of a project whether it’s being written/submitted/negotiated). I’ve found over time my list has become very curated around the authors, i.e. I’m looking for strong writers with interesting backgrounds, voices, and perspectives that I feel I can really help have a long career. So these days, although I’m always excited about the projects I sign, I’m more excited about the writer themselves when I offer representation.  

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Mary: I tend to be heavily involved in the editing process, although less so than I was at the beginning of my career. Again, it depends on the individual, but I expect no less than one round of revision with a new project, and on average, do three rounds of revision. These revisions are focused on big picture developmental edits; I rarely if ever, do line-editing for my clients.

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Mary: Quite honestly, it’s not that different than what I was doing before, as my office is not located in NYC, so most of my work was virtual. The only thing missing is my trips to NYC and conferences to socialize with industry people. But as I’ve been at this for a few years, I’ve already made quite a few in-person contacts. Most official pitches are done via email these days, with exceptions for those projects you feel are going to be really big, or there’s a particular editor you think is going to be really excited about it, and with those you can always pick up the phone. I do miss the in-person meetings though.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Mary: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! It’s such a fun, intelligent read that subverts tropes in a great way. And The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, that book is the gold standard for adult fantasy in my opinion. Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke is fantastic if you’re looking for a great literary mystery. I also just finished the MG book Front Desk by Kelly Yang, which I loved, and I think deserves all the awards and praise it received. Any authors comping any of these books, I want to see your query!

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Mary: That we are similar to other agents in other fields such as real estate i.e., we’re looking for projects we can turn over quickly and make money fast. The reality is we’re partners in an author’s career, which hopefully will last for years. 

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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • I read widely, and enjoy adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction. I’ve worked with a lot of SFF, so I’m very comfortable in that genre. I’d love to have more mysteries on my list, both in YA and adult. I’m especially hungry for upmarket genre fiction a la Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones or Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke. I’m also looking for whimsical MG.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Non-fiction (including memoir), picture books, or self-published novels (although she will consider your next project).
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2 Client Examples

Roaring Brooke Macmillan - 2020
Orbit Hachette - 2021
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Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Be professional and polite
  • Remember that agents are human and need boundaries, but that most of us are kind and respect you for putting your work out there
Don'ts:
  • Disparage others in the industry (books, people, etc.) in your query letter. The publishing world is small; odds are we know the person personally. 
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Submission Guidelines:
I keep my submission guidelines updated on my website: http://marycmoore.com/index.php/submissions/