This week's Agent Spotlight features Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: “My time in the children's publishing industry has been varied, including editorial roles at Chronicle Books and Dial Books for Young Readers, early social media development for a major teen magazine, and serving as National Programs Director at the Children's Book Council, the trade association of American children's book publishers. I've also been a bookseller, and I'm a past board member of the United States Board on Books for Young People.
“I'm looking for young adult and middlegrade fiction that's inventive, well-crafted, and rich with emotion, whether contemporary, historical, fantasy, sf, thriller, romance, or mystery. My favorite books have characters I wish I could talk to in worlds I wish I could visit, and I love stories that grab hold of me and keep me up reading long into the night.
“I live in London and I work with authors and publishers both in the U.K. and the U.S. I've bounced back and forth from America to England since I was a teenager: I grew up in Northern California, lived for a time in the West Country, read English at Cambridge University, spent many years in New York City, and now live a stone's throw from the River Thames.” (Link)
What She's Looking For:
“Molly represents authors who write for the young adult and middlegrade (ages 8-12) market.” (Link)
From her Bio (as above):
“I'm looking for young adult and middlegrade fiction that's inventive, well-crafted, and rich with emotion, whether contemporary, historical, fantasy, sf, thriller, romance, or mystery. My favorite books have characters I wish I could talk to in worlds I wish I could visit, and I love stories that grab hold of me and keep me up reading long into the night.” (Link)
From Bent on Books (01/2013):
“My client roster is growing, so here’s what I’m looking for this year:
“Middlegrade fiction! Especially…
- Funny, contemporary stories about real kids in real situations
- Stories that feature a strong sibling dynamic
- Adventure stories
- Literary fiction with a strong voice
“Young adult fiction! Especially…
- Romance, either contemporary or historical
- Funny contemporary fiction with a ‘hook’ -- think ROCKOHOLIC: ‘Girl kidnaps the rock star she’s obsessed with and hides him in her garage!'
- Well-researched historical fiction
- Gothic novels and straight-up ghost stories (not to be confused with paranormal romance) – think THE DIVINERS
- Stories set in wartimes real and imaginary, with high stakes – think CODE NAME VERITY or HOW I LIVE NOW
- Stories about religious sects and cults
- A story set in a theme town
- A story that P.G. Wodehouse might have written…if he were writing for children in the 21st century
“And New Adult fiction! Romances or thrillers, please.
“I’m actively looking for projects from authors in the U.S. and the U.K. (and elsewhere, of course, but British publishers are clamoring for U.K.-based authors who can actively participate in promoting their books).
“If none of the above describes your project, but you think it might be a good fit for me, by all means send it along. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings to my inbox!” (Link)
From an Interview (03/2012):
My wishlist: Strong sibling relationships and/or believable parents, […], stories about the performing arts, boarding school stories, character-driven stories set during wartimes real and imaginary, fabulous contemporary romance that feels real (I’ve reread Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS three times – and I am not a person with time for rereading), the British answers to Chris Crutcher and Jack Gantos.
“I don’t have a favourite genre, though I have to admit that I don’t connect much with horror. I’ve only read a few YA horror novels that have really sucked me in, so to speak. I should also say that if your book is a paranormal romance, I’m probably not the girl for you unless there’s something else in your book that’s special enough to make me look past the vampires et al.” (Link)
From her Blogger Profile:
“I love a story that's inventive, well-crafted, and full of emotion. I like fantasy and sf, but contemporary and historical novels strike just as big a chord for me. Among my weaknesses: magical realism, heartstopping romance, and time travel.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
From the agency blog:
“Here’s what I’m not looking for:
- Snark. Wit is great – I love wit – but sarcasm is not wit. I’m over the eye-rolling “whatevers”
- Paranormal/urban fantasy. No vampires, werewolves, angels, succubi, shapeshifters, etc.
- Time travel (I said I wanted it last year, and I got tons – I don’t need any more right now)
- Stories set in the 1980s
- High fantasy, for the most part. I’ve been suffering from ‘fantasy fatigue’ for the last year or so, and it took THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS to snap me out of it. But if you've written something as personality-driven and engrossing as that, send it to me.” (Link)
“Non-fiction, Picture Books, Books for the adult market.” (Link)
“Nothing with zombies, werewolves, vampires, fairies, or monsters made of spare parts.” (Link)
“I’m definitely an editorial agent! My editorial background is extensive and I really enjoy the challenge of helping to refine a manuscript without compromising the author’s voice and vision.” (Link)
There is a list of agency clients on the website.
As of Jan 2013, Ms. Ker Hawn is listed at Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 1 deal in the last 12 months and 1 overall. Recent deals include 1 YA.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“If you know you are a great writer with a story to tell, we hope you will be in touch. Tell us briefly who you are, what your book is, and why you're the one to write it. Then include the first ten pages of your material in the body of your e-mail.”
See The Bent Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
“I love smart, snappy queries that tell me concisely what the book is about while giving me a sense of the author’s voice. It’s not a job application; it’s a chance to hook me on your story. Use it!
“What I don’t like: queries that say the project “will appeal to readers who enjoyed TWILIGHT or THE HUNGER GAMES.” Because those queries are from people who haven’t researched the market they’re purportedly writing for, but are convinced that writing for teens is not only easy, but a surefire way to make millions of dollars.” (Link)
“What annoys me: Not following the submission guidelines posted on our agency website.
“Even worse: Telling me you’ve read the guidelines and then giving me your reasons for not following them. Our guidelines aren’t arbitrary, so I don’t care if you’re the next Jacqueline Wilson: follow them.” (Link)
See Ms. Ker Hawn’s guest post at Notes from the Slushpile for additional tips.
The agency has a goal of responding to all queries within a month. If you do not receive a response within this time, resend your query and indicate you are resending.
Stats on the web show Ms. Hawn responding to most queries within hours to a week or so. Requested material ranges from days to a couple weeks.
What's the Buzz?
The Bent Agency is a successful agency with many New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors. Molly Ker Hawn joined TBA in January of 2012 and is actively building her client list. Her experience in children’s publishing certainly recommends her. I hope to see some client deals soon!
Follow her on Twitter @mollykh where she shares her thoughts and occasionally participates in #askagent.
Worth Your Time:
An Interview with Molly Ker Hawn at Fizzygirl (01/2013).
An Interview with literary agent Molly Ker Hawn at Simon P. Clark’s blog (12/2012).
Agent Interview: Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency at Tall Tales and Short Stories (03/2012).
Autumn is contest season for Molly Ker Hawn (09/2012).
Ten Top Tips from Molly Ker Hawn at Notes from the Slushpile (07/2012).
And now a word from… Molly Ker Hawn! (01/2012).
Around the Web:
Please see The Bent Agency website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 1/21/13.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 10/15/12.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's and/or teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.