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Agent Advice: Abigail Koons of The Park Literary Group

This installment features Abigail Koons, of Park Literary Group, LLC. Currently Seeking: Her passion for travel makes her a natural fit for adventure and travel narrative nonfiction, and she is also seeking projects about popular science, history, politics, current events and art. She is also interested in working with commercial fiction, especially superb thrillers and mysteries."

“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Abigail Koons of The Park Literary Group) 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 Abigail Koons, of Park Literary Group, LLC.

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GLA: How did you become an agent?

AK: After working for EF Education, a large Swedish company specializing in educational travel, I decided to make the switch to publishing. I attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute and started working as the foreign rights assistant with agent Nicholas Ellison the week after I finished the program. That job eventually morphed into an agent’s assistant position and here I am, six years later, an agent and the director of foreign rights at The Park Literary Group.

GLA: What's the most recent thing you've sold?

AK: Actually, the most recent sale for me was just this week. After many years of trying to find a publisher for Nicholas Sparks (author of The Notebook and most recently, The Lucky One) in Korea, I concluded a four-book deal with Magic House Publishing.

GLA: Your bio says you seek "travel narrative nonfiction." Can you help define this category for writers? What are some examples of this category?

AK: Travel and adventure narrative nonfiction is the type of book that takes you away to another place. It is often a memoir, but can be a journalistic story of a particular event or even a collection of essays. The key here is that it tells an interesting and engaging story. It is also very important these days that the story is fresh and new—you’d be surprised at how many people have had the exact same experience with the rickshaw in Bangkok that you had. Some recent successful examples of this genre are Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and most things by Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson.

GLA: When you get a query for a commercial fiction novel such as a thriller, do you want the author to have a series in mind? Should they mention this? Or just pitch it as one book?

AK: The author doesn’t have to have a series in mind to pique my interest because frankly, not all thrillers are meant to be series. If the do intend for the novel to be the first in a series, it helps to know, but it’s not necessary. The most important thing is to pitch the strengths of your project—don’t just say what you think the agent wants to hear.

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GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting?

AK: To be honest, I’m not seeing great thrillers! I’d love to find a political or military thriller set today that addresses the very real issues that we’re facing. An intelligent and exciting novel set among the Iraq War or covert missions in Pakistan (we’re talking fiction, here). I’d also like to see more funny novels that aren’t completely over-the-top. I love outlandish characters but I still want them to be believable. I am seeing too many memoirs, however, and I’m taking on very, very few.

GLA: Let's say you're looking through the slush pile at query letters. What are common things/elements you see in a query letter that don't need to be in there?

AK: If your query letter is more than one page long, there are things in there that are superfluous. The most common unnecessary addition is a description of the writer’s family/personal life if the book is not a memoir. Some personal background is good, but I would much prefer to know about the amazing novel you wrote. The personal information can come later. The other most common misstep is listing weak qualifications for writing the book. What I mean by that is when someone says “I have a daughter so I am qualified to write this very general book about how to raise daughters.” In today’s very crowded book market, you must have a strong platform to write nonfiction.

GLA: Will you be at any conferences in the future where writers can meet and
pitch you?

AK: I will be in Austin, TX the weekend of Nov. 14 leading a workshop about query letters.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice concerning something we haven't discussed?

AK: Keep it professional. Although many agents and editors are in publishing for the love of books, it’s still a business. It’s hard not to take rejections personally, especially at the beginning, but responding to a rejection with an angry e-mail, letter or phone call will not serve you well.

"Eager to work with emerging and established talent, Abigail Koons is currently looking to add to her list of diverse and engaging authors. Her passion for travel makes her a natural fit for adventure and travel narrative nonfiction, and she is also seeking projects about popular science, history, politics, current events and art. She is also interested in working with commercial fiction, especially superb thrillers and mysteries." See her agency web page here.

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