By Jeffe Kennedy
Since the Colorado Gold Conference is coming up, pitching and querying seem to be on people's minds. So I thought I'd interview my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.
You’ve been an agent now for about two years, right? First with Larsen-Pomada and now with the new agency you helped form, Foreword Lit.
I was at Larsen Pomada for a year when Laurie McLean and I left with Elizabeth and Michael's blessing to for Foreword Literary. We wanted to dig into the tech and new fields of publishing and forge some industry standards for agents while still maintaining ethics. We're super excited to have gotten Gordon Warnock on board early on and are very excited about the new agency.
In a relatively short amount of time, you’ve sold a lot of books. Would you share your stats – how many books have you sold, to which publishers, in which genres? And how many clients do you have now?
Some of the sales are secret ;). But I've sold 38 books (soon to be 40 probably by the time this interview posts) to Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Entangled, and other large and small publishers. Most of my sales are romance or adult, with YA and MG following closely behind. I have twenty-two amazing clients!
Who is your favorite client?
Jeffe, of course. Don't tell Vivi.
What made you decide to become a literary agent?
I was offered an internship a few years ago at Kimberly Cameron as a reader. I fell in love with the entire process of making a book and when Laurie offered for me to be her assistant agent I took it! After I learned from her and sold a book on my own she let me go and I've been running forward every since.
Do you like it?
It is literally the best job ever. To know that you are in some small way influencing what people read and making author dreams come true is a heady experience. It makes all the bad stuff (rejections, clients who didn't work out) tolerable.
What did you do before you became an agent?
I left college to manage boy bands from Scandinavia. Then I met Marco and worked at Yahoo for a while before deciding to stay at home with my young son who I later sent to daycare because he is of Satan. Ok, maybe not Satan but he because a toddler.
While I was home with him I created a book blog that did pretty well on the interwebz. Bookalicious is still going strong with tons of reviewers and good books being recommended.
One of the things that I think gives you a different – and useful – perspective of the world of books is the time you spent being a book blogger. How do you think that informs your career as an agent?
I think book bloggers are some of the most publishing informed people in the world. We know the market, we know what's coming out and what has already came out, and we know the publishing staff (if the blog is big enough to have worked with publishing staff). Transitioning for me may have been easier than it is for some new agents. I didn't have to introduce myself, I only had to introduce my authors.
In which genres are you most actively acquiring right now?
Middle Grade, contemporary romance, and genre fiction (except mystery and thriller and horror).
What’s your philosophy about digital-first publishing vs. “traditional” publishing vs. self-publishing?
I love them all for different reasons and different books. I think digital/digital-first is a great way to prove your work has merit and to finagle into a print deal if that is what the author wants to do. Traditional publishing is still going strong no matter what naysayers say and has the distribution and marketing that authors desperately need in this ever-shifting marketplace. Self-publishing has brought on a new reading level (NA) and made erotic romance a household item. These ladies are making tons of money and getting big traditional deals. They have the best of both worlds.
What’s the most common misstep writers make when querying you?
Not following my very easy submissions guidelines.
What do you think is the worst advice out there for writers querying agents?
There's this new thing where authors query in their character's voice. That is so weird. SO WEIRD. I'm going to work with the author not the character.
What about the best advice?
Keep it short and simple!
Any final words?
Thank you for having me.
Pam van Hylckama Vlieg started her literary career as assistant to Laurie McLean in early 2012. By April Pam was promoted to Associate Agent at Larsen Pomada. In January of 2013 after selling twenty-one books in her first year of agenting Pam was promoted to agent. When Laurie McLean mentioned creating Foreword, Pam jumped at the chance to follow her mentor and create a new agency together.
Pam blogs at Bookalicio.us, Bookalicious.org, and Brazen Reads. She partners her blogs with her local bookseller Hicklebee’s where magic happens daily.
Pam grew up on a sleepy little Podunk town in Virginia. She’s lived in the UK, several US states, and now resides in the Bay Area of California. She has two kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs, but only one husband. You can find her mostly on Twitter where she wastes copious amounts of time.
To query please send a query, 1-2 page synopsis, and the first chapter of your manuscript (no attachments) to email@example.com.
Pam is interested in the following genres:
High concept young adult in any genre. Some of Pam’s favorite recent YA books are: The Masque of the Red Death, Cinder, Shadow and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Small Damages, and Insignia.
Middle grade in these genres: fantasy. Pam’s recent favorite MG books are: The Peculiar, The Emerald Atlas, Storybound, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and Icefall.
Romance in these categories: historical, fantasy, contemporary, and erotica. Pam’s favorite romance titles released recently are: Loving Lady Marcia, Be My Prince, Rogue’s Pawn, and The Siren.
New Adult in all categories will be considered. Pam has enjoyed Suddenly Royal, and Leopard Moon in this genre.
Speculative fiction in these genres: urban fantasy, paranormal, and epic/high fantasy.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.
Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.
She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.