August 16, 2013

Casual Friday: Interview with Literary Agent Emily Keyes

Hello, Misfiteers!

This Friday, we have a great interview with agent Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Agency!

Emily represents YA and Middle Grade books. She stopped by to talk to us about what she's looking for, good online behavior for authors, and what to look for in contracts. There also may or may not be a question or two about Sweet Valley High in there somewhere. You can follow Emily on Twitter (@esc_key) and on her blog ( 

Thanks so much for stopping by the YA Misfits blog! We’re very excited to help our followers get to know you better and learn about what you’re looking for. So first question: On the L. Perkins Agency website, it says you're looking for YA and Middle Grade. Are there any concepts or themes you're particularly interested in?
Thanks so much for having me! I love YA and MG of most every stripe. I'm looking for contemporary middle grade right now--something fun but with heart. For YA I'm really looking for something with a strong voice, or a twist that I haven't seen before. I'm kind of sick of seeing the same paranormal romance tropes over and over. 

Alternately, what are you tired of seeing in submissions?

Besides the same paranormal romance tropes over and over? I'm kind of sick of MG where a character finds a passageway into a magical world. I mean, I like those kind of books but yours need to be BETTER than Narnia otherwise what is the point of reading it again? 

Do you respond to all queries, or just the ones you're interested in? Do you offer feedback?

I try to respond to all queries (I am sure there is some angry person reading this who is like, "I sent you a query a year and a half ago and never heard anything!" because some do fall through the cracks. But I do TRY to respond to all queries.) I offer feedback if I like something about the query but some other element isn't working for me. I try to be constructive but there isn't always time. Oh, and if you sent your query more than, let's say, 6 months ago and didn't get a response, you may resend. 

Being part of the L. Perkins family myself, I know online behavior is important. What kind of online behavior do you look for in a prospective client? Is there any dealbreaker behavior that could convince you to not offer representation?

I do google authors before I offer representation, and click on any links that might be provided in their email signature. Having a lot of followers and a good online presence is definitely a plus for an author. But not being super active online isn't a dealbreaker. Being crazy and bad-mouthing people is a dealbreaker. There are people who post every rejection they get and comment on it (often with colorful language). That's not really professional. If you want to be a professional writer, you should start acting like one when you're querying. Don't wait. What else? Oh, maybe something like posting bomb building tips and talking about committing terrorist acts would be a dealbreaker?

You have an extensive history with contracts. How can authors better educate themselves on contracts and clauses? Are there certain parts of contracts they should examine extra carefully?

The Authors Guild sends a "model" book contract to all members when they join and they have a lot of legal resources available. That can be helpful. There are also some books on the subject if you are super interested. Mark Levine's NEGOTIATING THE BOOK CONTRACT is pretty good. We used that in class at NYU. I also have Kirsch's GUIDE TO THE BOOK CONTRACT. I think that's out of print now but you can probably get it used. If you have a good agent you shouldn't have to do all this research but you can if you're a nerd like me. I think all authors should educate themselves on copyright though since that is what allows you to make your money. I see it confused with trademark a lot, and that bugs me. Again, because I am a nerd.

There are a bunch of contract clauses that deserve special attention. Definitely check what the grant of rights are and make sure you're not giving away your first born. And look at the termination clauses to make sure there is a way to get out of the agreement--because it shouldn't go on forever and ever. This has become a particular issue since the advent of ebooks since contracts used to terminate when things were "out of print" but what does that mean if there are no actual print books being sold?  

And the fun question!

I've been told by a certain other Misfit that I need to ask you about Sweet Valley High, and have you explain this strange (and Makes-Me-Cry-At-Work funny) thing called 1bruce1. What is it? Where did it come from? Are the Wakefield twins really that insane?

I believe I know who this other Misfit is! And I'm jealous that she has ALL the Sweet Valley books. My mom threw most of mine out. Or gave them away. It's a great sadness in my life.

1bruce1 is a community that was started by my pal Megan just before she was going to get married. She found an old box of SVH books in her closet and thought it would be fun to re-read them as an adult and make some comments. I, of course, was all of this and started re-reading my own. It grew and grew and now the community at large has succeeded in discussing every single SVH book and most of the related series. There is some real bananas crazypants stuff that goes down in those books, let me tell you. Some of it we just accepted at face value as children. There was one where a crazy woman tried to steal the twins' mother's face. Not, like, her purse. HER FACE. By tricking her into going to a spa resort and cutting it off! There were also vampires. So eat your heart out, TWILIGHT.

The community can be found at 

Bonus points: What's your favorite Sweet Valley High title?

That is hard to pick because there are some I legit love and some that I love because they are crazy. Actual love to DON'T GO HOME WITH JOHN which is about date rape and features Lila Fowler, who is my favorite. Crazy love to all the books featuring Margo Black (who was the crazy girl who looked just like Liz and Jessica and tried to murder Liz and take her life) and William White (who was the racist serial killer who was in love with Liz and tried to kill her, because that's what you do).

 Thanks for stopping by, Emily! Don't forget, Misfiteers, if you want to query Emily, you can find more information on the L. Perkins website, on Emily's blog, and by following her on Twitter.


Dahlia Adler said...


Great interview!! And OH MY GOD YES WE ARE BOOK LOVE TWINS. Margo and William 4eva! Don't you hope they found each other in hell? I hope they found each other in hell <3

Stephsco said...

I remember thinking Sweet Valley High was terrible as a kid, but there were so many of them and not much else for YA, so I read them. I don't remember them being quite so crazy though. Gotta love Livejournal groups! I was part of a Battlestar Galactica group there for awhile... the reboot with Katee Sackoff OK? Not the janky 80s one. Anyway... Fun interview! Thanks for posting :)

Stephsco said...

Visting that LJ group, I was just reminded of Sweet Valley University--genre-defining New Adult? :D

erica m. chapman said...

Oh, it's hard to pick one Sweet Valley High book!!

Great interview!! Thank you!

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