Literary Agent Interview: Maryann Karinch of The Rudy Agency

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Maryann Karinch of The Rudy 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 Maryann Karinch of The Rudy Agency. In addition to the 18 books she has written, Maryann has also ghostwritten books and done a lot of editing. She is also the founder of The Rudy Agency and serves as a literary agent in several categories. Recently, she has founded an ebook publishing company called GamePlan Press.

(How should you discuss a book’s series potential in a query letter?)

She is seeking: Maryann is looking for nonfiction, primarily in these categories: Health/Medicine, business, culture/values, history/current events, biography/memoir, science/technology, and military/intelligence. In regards to fiction, she’s particularly interested in historical, thriller, mystery/crime.



GLA: What’s something you’ve sold that comes out now/soon that you’re excited about?

MK: Toy Time! From Hula Hoops to He-Man to Hungry Hungry Hippos: A Look Back at the Most-Beloved Toys of Decades Past by Christopher Byrne, aka “The Toy Guy” from Three Rivers Press [October 2013].

GLA: Besides “good writing and voice,” what are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?

MK: Something that’s relevant today and tomorrow. A good example is a book I first published in 2005 with my co-author, Gregory Hartley, called How to Spot a Liar.

GLA: You founded The Rudy Agency in addition to being an author of 18 books yourself. What are some features that you like about each side of the pen so to speak?

MK: It thrills me to have the opportunity to mentor a new author and to make that phone call about one or more offers coming in. I am more understanding of the fears, hopes, and confusions that a new author has because of being an author myself. And often, I can anticipate what kind of rough spots they might hit in the development and production processes.

As an author, my aims are to inform and entertain readers, but I want to be informed and entertained in the writing process as well! This is one reason why I love co-authoring. I get tremendous personal satisfaction from co-authoring with experts who keep planting new ideas and concepts in my brain. Invariably, these collaborations also lead to friendships—another great bonus.

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GLA: Your agency focuses heavily on nonfiction, what is the reasoning behind this?

MK: I rep what I want to read and my reading has been largely non-fiction through the years. A few really good pieces of fiction did reach me, though, so I took on an associate who enjoys repping fiction and helping novelists develop. His name is Fred Tribuzzo and he just closed three deals in about as many weeks, so he obviously has a knack for this.


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GLA: How has the competing processes of traditional publishing and e-publishing influenced agenting?

MK: Authors want to be sure their books are in electronic format, but they still want that print version. In other words, they want to hold their “baby.” As a result, I am almost always still talking print with publishers so that aspect of the business hasn’t changed.

In terms of the rest of the conversation I’m having with publishers, I hear their concerns about revamping their business models; we have more conversations about the business challenges of publishing than I remember having when I launched the agency.

GLA: Is that what prompted you to establish your own e-book publishing company?

MK: Actually, the story behind GamePlan is rather simple and more about authors than margins. I received a number of solid business books—particularly career development—that were too short for most publishers (roughly 30,000 to 35,000 words). In addition, the authors had proven expertise, but no platform to speak up. Regardless of that, I tried pitching their work—only to hear what I expected to hear: “No platform, not full-length, therefore, no deal.” So I thought I’d create the opportunity for them to publish the book in electronic format.

However even if I think something is a perfect fit for GamePlan, I still begin by pitching it to other publishers. That’s my duty as an agent.

(How much should an outside edit cost writers?)

GLA: I’m sure you’ve had a fair number of bad proposals come your way. What advice are you dying to give to writers looking to submit to you?

MK: Three things:

1. Be clear and concise about what your book offers readers. Many authors try to be so clever in catching my attention that I have only the vaguest idea of what the book is about.

2. Publishing is a business. Put your head (and your heart, if possible) into those aspects of your proposal that point to success in the marketplace. It is your job to care as much as a publisher as I care about driving sales of the book.

3. Choose your best chapter, or another very strong example of your writing, to include as sample manuscript material. I realize that some publishers want to see the first chapter, or first few but I want to see the best in the proposal.

GLA: What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?

MK: I want to be a panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”

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

MK: I always go to BookExpo America [May-June 2013] in New York and plan to go to the Sangria Summit Military Writers conference [May 2013] in Colorado Springs as well. The problem with meeting at BEA is that I generally have back-to-back meetings, so the best thing to do is email in advance with a query.


This agent interview is by Brittany Roshelle Davis, a
freelance writer and aspiring author. You can visit her
blog, The Write Stuff, or follow her on Facebook.

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