Welcome agent Lucienne Diver, who joined The Knight Agency in 2008, after spending fifteen years at New York City's prestigious Spectrum Literary Agency. Over the course of her dynamic career she has sold over six hundred titles to every major publisher, and has built a client list of more than forty authors spanning the commercial fiction genres, primarily in the areas of fantasy, romance, mystery, suspense and erotica. Further information is available on The Knight Agency website. She also blogs at https://varkat.livejournal.com.
Tell us about your agency and yourself.
Wow, I hardly know where to start. I began in the business over sixteen years ago at NYC's Spectrum Literary Agency and moved last year to the very dynamic Knight Agency, which was established thirteen years ago and now boasts six agents, a public relations director and many, many New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, including Don Piper and Cecil Murphy of the runaway bestseller 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN, fabulous paranormal romance writers Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh and Marjorie M. Liu, thriller and romantic suspense authors Steven James, Shannon K. Butcher and Stephanie Rowe and young adult like my 2009 RITA-Award-winning HELL WEEK by Rosemary Clement-Moore.
What kind of book grabs your attention and makes you consider wanting to submit it?
It's all about the voice. I'm a voracious and omnivorous reader. I don't tend to look for a particular genre so much as characters I really connect with and a plot so well constructed that I keep turning the pages long after I should turn in for the night. I like the sort of book that I rave about to everyone I know -- friends, family, editors, bloggers, complete strangers. I'm pretty sure I once hooked someone on a new series because it had me laughing out loud on a plane and the woman next to me had to know what I was reading.
What makes a writer a good choice for you? What makes you a good choice for a writer?
I enjoy working with savvy writers who are not only remarkably talented but business people as well, authors who can make informed decisions and take constructive criticism.
I think I'm a good choice as agent because I work very closely with my authors. I'm very communicative and approachable, and I discuss with my authors everything from what can be done to improve their work before it hits an editor's desk (there's just too much competition out there these days to let something go out at less than its best) to the submissions I plan to make. It's more a collaboration over the course of a career rather than an 'I talk, you listen' on either end. In addition, in sixteen years in the industry, I've worked with all the major houses, sold over six hundred titles in various genres and have a good track record with both domestic sales and subrights.
How much input do you expect to have on a client's work?
It varies on the needs of the author and the particular project. Some authors don't need much editing at all, some need to be pushed to even greater heights. I don't take on anything I'm not excited about, so we're always starting with a base of tremendous talent. Really, it's generally about anticipating any problems an editor might have with the work that would cause them to pass it over and trying to remedy them before the work ever goes out. I think there are two types of editors, really -- those who impose their vision and those who help the authors achieve theirs. I work hard to be the latter.
Do you consider yourself a career-builder? Can you give an example?
Absolutely. For example, Marjorie M. Liu and I have been together since her very first book. She hit the USA Today bestseller list with her second. Since that first novel (TIGER EYE) in 2005, she's written nine novels in her bestselling Dirk & Steele paranormal romance series for Leisure Love Spell and two urban fantasy novels for Ace (THE IRON HUNT and DARKNESS CALLS) with more forthcoming. She also writes comics, like Nyx and Dark Wolverine, for Marvel and novellas for various award-winning anthologies. Rachel Caine is another great example. Both her young adult series, the Morganville Vampires, and her adult series, Weather Wardens (which has its own spin-off in the Outcast Season tetralogy, which began earlier this year with UNDONE), have really taken off. Our working relationship goes back to the very beginning of these series.
How do you advise clients who want to venture into new genres or make a departure from their published works?
It all depends on whether that new venture plays to their strengths. If it does, I encourage it. Some authors can do anything! As readers, we're not so narrowly focused as to stick always with one genre. I don't think most writers are generally built that way either.
What kind of support do you offer clients who may have temporary difficulties in producing work?
Unfortunately, I can't help them produce beyond offering encouragement and brainstorming with them. I can, however, help them sell, which is the major part of my job. The other parts include wading through legalese, haggling contract language, check-chasing, exploiting subsidiary rights, advising on promotion, career counseling .
What are your thoughts about pseudonyms?
I think that sometimes they can be very useful, particularly if you're writing in more than one genre and your audience is not likely to cross-over, like erotica and lighthearted women's fiction (two sides of my author Jasmine Haynes/Jennifer Skully). Also, many authors have used pseudonyms to restart a career that has stalled due to poor sales. Bad figures can happen to good people and tremendous writers due to circumstances beyond their control (market crash, being left out of the publisher's catalogue -- believe me, it's happened -- simple failure to catch on). A new name can be a fresh start. They can also be very useful if your own name is unpronounceable or far too long to fit on a spine, especially if you achieve the much to be desired 'Big Name Above the Title' position.
What questions do you wish writers would ask you before becoming clients?
I'm not sure what questions I'd like them to ask me, since I hope they'll have done their research before getting in touch and that a lot of their questions are answered by the fact that I'm a member of AAR and subscribe to their cannon of ethics. However, I know I'd love to ask, "Will you become a diva and what kind of reputation do you have in the field as far as your work ethic." Unfortunately, I don't know that divas realize that they're being unreasonable and turning people off. I've had it happen a time or two that I've taken on someone I was really excited about only to find out that their behavior has effectively blacklisted them. It happens. Publishing is like a very big very small town.
How would you prefer to be approached by established writers looking for new representation?
Established writers are free to get in touch with me directly, either by telephone or e-mail, rather than go through the central submissions address listed below.
Do you accept electronic submissions?
Yes, at firstname.lastname@example.org.