Agent Advice: Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency

Agent Interview by
contributor Ricki Schultz.
“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency) 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 Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency.Lucienne joined The Knight Agency in 2008, after spending fifteen years at Spectrum Literary Agency.  She has sold more than 600 titles to every major publisher and has built a client list of more than 40 authors spanning the commercial fiction genres.  Her authors have been honored with the RITA, National Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Heart, and the Romantic Times Reader’s Choice and have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.  She is also a writer, having recently published a YA book, Vamped. See her personal website here:

She is looking for
: fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery, suspense, erotica, and young adult lit.  She does not accept nonfiction. See full submission guidelines here.


: How did you become an agent?
LD: I always knew I wanted to go into publishing, though I was also drawn to forensic anthropology and applied to graduate schools in the field as I was applying for entry level positions in the book world.  Originally, I thought I wanted to be an editor.  Until I was called in for interviews, I’d never even realized that book agents existed; I’d never really thought about it.  However, when I landed my literary assistant job at Spectrum Literary Agency over sixteen years ago, I fell in love.  As an agent, I have the freedom to “acquire” anything I fall in love with.  I don’t have to worry about the needs of a line, though I do approach my list with the idea of diversity.  (I’m an omnivore anyway, and I like to make sure that my authors complement rather than compete with each other.)
GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?
LD: Just today I did a deal for Japanese language rights to an erotic romance by Jasmine Haynes.  I’m also finishing up a UK deal for a young adult series by Chloe Neill that’s already sold in the US.  Shortly before that, I did deals for German, Hungarian and Polish language rights to various books in Rachel Caine’s bestselling Morganville Vampires series and sold a new urban fantasy series for her and for Faith Hunter.
GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting?  What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?
LD: I represent more than 40 authors, so I’m possibly not looking as actively as I used to be.  That said, though, I took on a new author just last week whose urban fantasy novel blew me away. I don’t set out looking for a particular genre or theme, really. As mentioned, I’m a voracious and omnivorous reader. I want something, anything, that will impress me and keep me reading late into the night. I love a strong voice and a really unique, well-paced plot.
: You write some young adult lit (Vamped) and have represented it in the past. Do you still accept submissions in this area?

LD: I represent all kinds of fiction—adult and young adult—though I don’t do early children’s and haven’t done middle-grade (not that I’d close that door if the right project came along).

GLA: In science fiction and fantasy, what are a few topics you feel are overdone?

LD: You know, there are some things out there in abundance, but I love them still. Characters who kick-butt and take names, vampires and shape-shifters and demons, oh my! There are few things so done that you can’t find a new angle and a fresh take on them, though it does become harder the more crowded the field.

GLA: Tell us a little bit more about your interest in romance.  Do you accept both category and single titles?  As well, are there specific subgenres you prefer over others (i.e., contemporary vs. historical romance)?

LD: I love romance. I’m not looking for a lot of category romance, but I have a couple of authors who do it very wonderfully and successfully. Mostly, I’m interested in single title.  I love suspense, paranormal and anything quirky. Books don’t need to have all three of those to catch my interest, but if none of the three are present, chances are I’m not the right agent for the work.

GLA: Staying with romance, is there a difference between the subgenre “erotic romance” and straight-up “erotica”? If so, how does a writer know which she’s written?

LD: The difference to me is that erotic romance is primarily between a couple (or sometimes a threesome) that will have a happily ever after. At its heart, it’s the story of people finding their soulmates and exploring the connection via sex. Erotica doesn’t have to end in a committed coupling. The focus (to me, and I’m sure others’ mileage will vary) is more on the voyage of self-discovery … a character or characters learning what it is that makes him or her happy and comfortable and finding the courage to accept whatever might be revealed. It’s almost that erotica is to romantica as chick-lit is to romance.  Does that make sense?


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GLA: It does.  You also seek mystery and suspense novels. How can a new writer break into this category without producing a run-of-the-mill detective story? What are some untapped subjects you feel would make for fresh and intriguing queries in these areas?

LD: Producing a “run-of-the-mill” story is the surest way not to break in. Again, what distinguishes work that sells for that which doesn’t is frequently voice, the way the tale is told. Of course, you do have to develop a strong story with red herrings, a sufficiently diabolical villain (though very definitely not in the cartoonish way) and a sense of urgency driving the plot. Aside from that, though, there are no real “musts.” Untapped subjects? Hmm….I’d love to see more psychological storylines. I’m as big a fan of psychology as I am forensics. Unless you’ve got a really new angle, I’d leave stalkers, serial killers, organized crime and terrorists behind. Whatever that leaves, there’s still room for it!

GLA: Where are new writers most commonly going wrong in the query letters you see?

LD: Ever since I started taking electronic submissions, I’ve found that many people don’t put the care into query letters that they would have in a hardcopy submission.  It’s as if they see an electronic query letter more as an e-mail than a professional introduction to their work. So I’m seeing the disturbing, “Hey, Bob, I’ve got this manuscript I think is right up your alley. Can I send it?” sort of letters. Writers should think of the query as they would a cover letter that goes along with a resume. You wouldn’t dash that off carelessly (or CC it to everyone in the field, another common mistake), so don’t do it with query letters.  Also, I see a ton of queries for material I don’t represent, like nonfiction. It’s important for writers to do their homework on agents so they don’t waste their own or the agent’s time.

GLA: How much does a writer’s platform impact whether or not you agree to represent his or her manuscript?

LD: I think platform counts a lot more in nonfiction than in fiction.  It’s wonderful, of course, to find that an author has a great starting point for promotion, but what really sells a work to me is the writing itself.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

LD: October 17th I’ll be doing a three-hour workshop for the Gulf Coast Writers in Ft. Meyers, FL.  October 23rd through the 25th I’ll be at the Kiss of Death Writers Retreat in Albuquerque, NM and I’ll be in San Jose for the World Fantasy Convention the week after.  Then, I think, I’ll collapse from exhaustion!

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

LD: The best piece of advice I can give is: Don’t ever rush things out the door.  You know the saying, “Act in haste, repent at leisure.”  This definitely goes for rushing query letters, synopses and/or manuscripts out the door before you’ve revised and polished them to the best of your ability.  To borrow on yet another cliché, you may not get a second chance to make a first impression.

This agent interview by Ricki Schultz,
freelance writer and coordinator of
Shenandoah Writers in VA. Visit her blog
or follow her on Twitter.


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