Today I’m thrilled to have agent Catherine Cho here. She is a literary agent at Curtis Brown Group in London and is looking for authors from the US and UK.
FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky person will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.
Status: Open to submissions.
Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.
I came to agenting in a roundabout way. I’d gone to law school and worked in corporate law before realizing it wasn’t right for me. I’d lived in Hong Kong for several years and then decided to come back to the U.S. and worked for a lobbying firm in Washington D.C. I loved the process of lobbying for clients, but I felt disillusioned about the work, and I realized that I wanted to lobby for something that I believed in, and something that actually improve the world.
I met with a bunch of editors in New York, and someone suggested that I try to get into agenting. I worked for Folio Literary Management in New York and had some great mentors there. I was building my own list, and I’d just sold a project before I met my husband, who was based in the UK. I was lucky enough to land at Curtis Brown, and I’ve been here for over a year now. I’m building a list in literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction titles.
About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.
Curtis Brown is the largest agency in Europe, and it’s been a leading literary agency for over 100 years. We represent authors including John le Carré, Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, David Nicholls and Jojo Moyes. We also have a leading book to film department, TV and film department, and translation rights department.
What She’s Looking For:
2. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?
I’m looking primarily for adult fiction and non-fiction. I’m looking for literary fiction and reading group fiction – I also enjoy science fiction and stories with speculative elements. I’m also interested in lifestyle non-fiction, in New York, I worked a lot with social media figures and lifestyle bloggers. I am interested in YA, but mostly cross-over YA titles.
I really look for compelling stories. Of course, the quality of the writing is the most important thing, but I’m looking for stories that make an impact. I love stories that are haunting and emotional. Also, because I grew up in Kentucky, I find that I’m really drawn to the Southern style of writers – atmospheric, vivid writing.
Writers that I really admire include Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Karen Russell, David Mitchell, Elizabeth Strout, David Nicholls, Ann Patchett and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
3. Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?
I would love to see a story with magical realism or a speculative edge (like Margaret Atwood or Isabel Allende). I’m also really drawn to ghost stories or time travel – I really just want to be transported. In terms of science fiction and fantasy, which I do enjoy, I would love to find someone like Robin Hobb or Stephen King.
What She Isn’t Looking For:
4. What types of submissions are you not interested in?
I’m not the right agent for middle grade or children’s fiction. I’m also not the right agent for dark comedies.
5. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?
My philosophy is that I want to work with authors and books that I believe in – books that I’d read myself. I think stories are powerful things, and so I want to work with writers who are passionate about what they write. Writers who write without cynicism, and who write because they have to write.
6. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?
Yes, I’d consider myself an editorial agent. Publishers are increasingly expecting work to be polished and complete. I give my feedback and read through several drafts from writers.
Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
7. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?
Authors should email their queries to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a cover letter and synopsis with the first 10,000 words of their work. A query letter should be concise and carefully written – I should be able to understand immediately what the book is about.
8. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?
Typos and misspellings are a bad sign in a query letter or first pages. I am also wary of query letters that go in depth about a writer’s personal life (unless it’s very relevant to the book).
9. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
I try my best to respond within a month (this is the same for manuscript requests, I will usually read and respond within a month.)
Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
10. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
Yes, definitely – I think agents are increasingly realizing that there are so many platforms for writers, and so if a writer wants to make the jump to finding an agent, I think success with self-publishing works in their favour. (If a book hasn’t done particularly well in self-publishing, it may be something to leave off the query letter and bring up in conversation.)
11. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
The role of agents is definitely changing – writers are able to reach their audiences directly, and agents are very much aware of this. Agents are developing into talent managers – it’s not just about selling books to publishers, but it’s about finding opportunities for writers to exploit their rights.
12. Who are some of the authors you represent?
I represent Patrick Edwards, a very talented literary science-fiction writer. I also represent Julia May in the UK, a historical fiction writer from Australia. In non-fiction, I’m working on several non-fiction projects including an academic who studies hair, a nature writer and several lifestyle bloggers.
Interviews and Guest Posts:
13. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.
Links and Contact Info:
14. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.
A link to my website: www.litseeker.com
My profile page: www.curtisbrown.co.uk/agent/catherine-cho
15. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?
My main advice would be to remember that the most important thing to keep writing. Write every day and read as much as you can. Writing is the most important thing.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Catherine!
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Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.