“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary — though she was with Lowenstein Associates when she gave this interview) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.
This installment features Kathleen Ortiz, of New Leaf Literary. Kathleen began her career in publishing at Ballinger Publishing as an editorial assistant, then moved on to her true passion of working within the book industry. She interned with FinePrint Literary and Caren Johnson Literary Agency, and is currently working toward her M.S. in Publishing at Pace University. She also runs a blog.
She is seeking: young adult, middle grade, chapter books, adult romance and contemporary women’s fiction. She’s open to both fiction and non-fiction within these age groups. She does not represent screenplays, adult thrillers, adult fantasy, adult sci-fi, memoirs, or picture books.
GLA: Briefly, how did you become an agent?
KO: After working in interactive media design and teaching high school for a few years, I really wanted to push forward with my goal of working in the publishing industry. I interned with two awesome agencies, decided agenting was the better role for me and what I enjoy doing, and poof! Here I am. (For a much, much longer version, visit my blog.)
GLA: What’s something coming out that you repped and are excited about?
KO: Since the majority of my role is in foreign rights and audio, I have a very small client list (I like to keep it intimate so I can give me my full attention when they need it). My first project—a YA paranormal series about Cambions, the offspring of incubi and humans—by Jaime Reed sold to Kensington in a three-book deal and is temporarily slated for a spring 2012 release.
GLA: How would you describe the differences between contemporary romance and women’s fiction to a writer unsure of her genre? Where do they overlap?
KO: A contemporary romance’s plot revolves around the love / romantic element, whereas women’s fiction tends to revolve around women’s issues and the growth and empowerment of the female protagonist. Women’s fiction can have romance, but it’s not the driving force of the plot.
GLA: You’ve stated that you’ll only take on nonfiction if the author has a strong platform or is an expert in his/her field. What impresses you in terms of platform?
KO: If the author is an expert in their field and has the potential to have a large online platform or has been recognized as a leader / expert in their field and has a large online platform. I want to know that they have a voice in their community and constantly strive to reach out and interact with others who have an interest in their field.
For example, if an author were to come to me with a book about building apps (*hint hint*) but I Google them and can’t find a website or information of any type, then I’d be weary. If I search Blackberry, Apple and Droid app stores and can’t find them, then I’d just send a reject and move on. I need someone who has a presence, who has built and sold apps before, and who is constantly on the lookout for being a leader in their field.
GLA: I read that you’d seriously considered a career in veterinary medicine. Do you have a soft spot for animal-loving protagonists?
KO: I do! But I won’t sign a book just because of it (it needs a good plot, voice, etc, of course). I don’t mind if a protagonist has a fear of cats or dislikes dogs, but I don’t think I could ever sign a book where some serious animal abuse is involved. I just saw so many cases of that at the veterinary clinic, and it’s not something I’d care to read about over and over again.
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GLA: What’s your favorite part of selling to foreign publishers?
KO: I love watching how the trends change and which territories are interested in various genres.
GLA: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy?
KO: Open communication and an open mind. Communication is key for all parties involved, whether it’s the author or the agent. I’m very transparent with my clients and am always open to answer questions or discuss anything they need with their manuscripts / writing career. An open mind is important, because the industry is rapidly evolving and it’s important that both the author and the agent stay on top of the way things are changing to ensure the best possible partnership. If we stay stuck in the ways of the past then the chances of moving forward in the future are slim.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where people can meet/pitch you?
KO: Yes! Quite a few; however some details are being ironed out, so I can only promise the following at the moment: Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference (April 8-10, 2011, St. Louis, MO); Northeast Texas Writers Conference (April 29-30, 2011, Lake Bob Sandlin, TX); Book Expo America (May 23-26, 2011, NYC); Wisconsin RWA Write TouchConference (June 3-5, 2011, Brookfield, WI); RWA National Conference (June 28-July 1, 2011, NYC); Midwest Writers Workshop (July 28-30, 2011, Muncie, IN) I’m always happy to attend, speak with writers, give lectures on online marketing, etc, so if you’d like to see me at your writers’ conference, tell them to contact me.
GLA: Something personal about you writers may be surprised to know?
KO: Thanks to a nasty cold a few months back that had me stuck indoors for a while, I was able to teach my sister’s cat, Mango, how to sit on command (lots of time on my hands + too sick to read or do anything + a cat = training, apparently). (True story—ask anyone who visits and then is in shock from watching it happen)
GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?
KO: Watch what you say online—I know it seems like common sense, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who blog, Tweet or post inappropriate things online. It’s better to just not do it—if you post and delete, it’s still archived. An online presence is an agent’s or editor’s first impression of you—make it a good one.
Agent interview by Donna Gambale,
who works an office job by day, writes young
adult novels by night, and travels when possible.
She blogs at the First Novels Club and is the
author of a mini kit, Magnetic Kama Sutra.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Notes to the First-Time Novelist.
- “How I Got My Agent,” by Novelist Holly LeCraw.
- Literary Agent Interview: Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Write Now, Edit Later.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.