Agent Interview: Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown

There’s more than one “Ginger” at Curtis Brown. Could you clarify for us, which is which and who does what?

Ha! This is a problem that is rather unusual to have for an agent, but yes–there are two Gingers at CB, and we are entirely different people. Ginger Knowlton is Vice President and represents almost exclusively children’s books–and is also one of the owners! I arrived about two years ago from Writers House, and half my list is adult and the other half children’s books.

What inspired you to become a literary agent?

I worked at Tor Books for more than a year as an editorial assistant, and then got a job as an assistant at Writers House. After six months, I knew I didn’t want to go back to the editorial side. I love the agenting side–the lawyer side in me enjoys the contracts and negotiating in particular.

How long have you been in the business? How has it changed?

Since Fall 1998, and while I have seen less consolidation in publishers the way those working in the 80s and 90s did, it still happens. Houghton has just bought out Harcourt earlier this year–who knows what that means for their future editorially?

I’ve watched children’s books be taken a lot more seriously by both readers and publishers.

I’ve also seen comics and graphic novels grow in sales and respect.

Would you describe yourself as an “editorial agent,” one who comments on manuscripts, or one who concentrates more exclusively on publishing issues? Why?

I would say I’m more on the publishing side of things–I don’t line edit. I rarely, however, send out a book on submission that has not been through at least one round of suggested edits by me.

Is your approach more manuscript by manuscript, or do you see yourself as a career builder?

You have to be a career builder with clients in order to be a good agent, because if you just focus on selling each book you aren’t giving them long-term guidance.

In terms of markets (children’s, YA, fiction, non-fiction, genres, chapter books, ER, picture books, etc.), what sorts of manuscripts appeal to you?

Well, half my list is kids and half is adult. On the children’s side, I do young adult and middle grade fiction.

What I am specifically looking for right now on that side is YA or MG science fiction—series based would be great, but not required. I’d love a fresh YA fantasy series, too (particularly YA urban fantasy) and contemporary “boy books.” And of course, YA paranormal romance/chicklit would be great as well.

On the adult side, I do science fiction, fantasy, literary horror, and paranormal romance. I’d love to see some military SF; alternative history; post apocalyptic SF; urban fantasy; romantic fantasy; and paranormal romance that is not heavily focused on vampires.

Do you work with author-illustrators and/or illustrators?

I actually just took on my first (and probably) only author-illustrator. I’m not planning on adding others to my list right now.

Are you accepting unsolicited submissions? What is the best way for a prospective client to get in touch with you?

Yes. They can mail me a letter and SASE, and they will get some kind of answer from me within 4 to 6 weeks. An email I will look at faster, but I don’t respond unless I’m interested in seeing more.

Do you have any particular submissions preferences or pet peeves?

Correct business format and proof-reading is always appreciated. Also, please don’t call me Mrs. or Miss. Ms. is fine.

How much contact do you have with your clients? Emails, phone calls, retreats, listservs? What kind of relationship are you looking to build and why?

I mostly email and call my clients, as often as it comes up. I have one or two clients who are not very active right now who I am not in constant contact with; but some clients I email or call several times a week, particularly if something pressing is going on.

What are the greatest challenges of being an agent?

The rejections, of course. I get frustrated with lots of rejections, too. And seeing the number of readers out there get smaller and smaller.

What do you love about it?

Having good news for my client–an offer on the next book in a series, that the book is going to auction, that we’ve just sold foreign rights.

Cynsational Notes

The 5X5 Interview: Ginger Clark, Assistant Literary Agent from Gawker.

Guest Blog: Ginger Clark on How to Handle an Offer of Representation from Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent.

Agent Interview: Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown from Cynsations. See also my full list of agent-related links.