by Whitney Bell
Last semester in the Creative Writing Master’s program at AUM, I had an assignment to interview an agent. I chose Elizabeth Kracht because I saw her name on the Antioch Writers’ Workshop roster, and I like to meet people in person. Before I reached out to Liz, I did some research and found some fun facts. She began her writing / editing career in Puerto Rico, her favorite color is sea-foam green, and she has dating stories that you could write books about. When ordering a drink, sometimes she has the bartender surprise her.
I wanted to take a shot at creating Liz a customized drink, but first I wanted to know what it was like to be an agent, and what she could tell me about creating a platform. (Work before play, right?). It turns out she’s the kind of person I’d like to sit down and have a cocktail with, (or an iced tea and maybe some cheese). Here’s part of our conversation:
Whitney Bell: What’s a typical work day like for you? Is there such a thing?
Elizabeth Kracht: No workday is typical, really. Having just come back from vacation, most of yesterday was spent weeding through my inbox, checking in with clients. We also had lunch with an editor from New American Library. And part of my day was spent printing a few conference submissions for the Kauai Writers Conference, which is coming up in early May (critiques). This morning I spent time on the phone with my author Lily Gardner about edits for the second book in her Lennox Cooper series, BETTING BLIND. Since I also manage the office at Kimberley Cameron & Associates, I spent some of this morning processing royalty statements. I’ve also been posting on Facebook and Twitter since my author Tj Turner’s debut novel Lincoln’s Bodyguard was just released yesterday. I did send some rejections I received from editors to my authors as well. No day is typical for an agent, really, though there is some repetition in the kinds of things we deal with.
What’s your favorite thing about being an agent?
EK: My favorite thing about being an agent is working with authors and being a part of the creative process. I also like being a part of fulfilling dreams. My authors are like an extension of my family, so I get a real sense of satisfaction working with them. I find them all really interesting people. I also like working on contracts and helping to guide and build writing careers.
What’s your least favorite thing about being an agent?
EK: My least favorite thing is dealing with difficult clients, though I won’t usually sign people who I think may be difficult. Life is too short to work with difficult people. Agenting can also be overwhelming since most of our reading work is done on weekends, which means little down time. This is also a commission-based job, so the job is a little like (no, it is) gambling for a living.
How many manuscripts do you read per year?
EK: I read manuscripts in different capacities. This last year I believe I read at least 16 full manuscripts of my clients, some of these more than once. In my work as a freelance editor, I’d say I’ve read about 24-30 full manuscripts (I often read one manuscript four times during a coaching period). I also request quite a number of full manuscripts from authors, but I don’t always get all the way to the end of these requests. Since I am only paid for manuscripts I sell, I will stop reading full manuscripts at the point at which I know for certain I won’t be taking on a project. Sometimes I’ll continue to skim a manuscript if I’m compelled by something in the story even though I know it needs more editorial time than I can devote to it. In total, I think I read 100+ manuscripts per year. I read many more partials than this, though.
I read that you might hesitate to represent a nonfiction author who doesn’t yet have an online platform. Would you encourage writers who aspire to publish in different genres to create pseudonyms and distinct social media platforms before publication? Why or why not?
EK: It’s very important for nonfiction authors to have a presence online and to be able to show some outreach in the community. This is something nonfiction authors should work on before they even submit to agents, though if I run across a great nonfiction project and the author isn’t out there (but has potential), I will coach them on branding themselves and getting their name out there in the quickest way possible. In terms of pseudonyms, this is a discussion I would have with an author. I don’t think I could say in any definite way here how authors writing in more than one genre should brand or market themselves. Something like this would need to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Can you tell us something personal related to work?
EK: Most people who are friends with me on Facebook know I’m single and demand dating stories from me because my stories tend to border on the absurd, from the online scammers and twenty-somethings looking for cougars to the guys who can’t spell, turn out to be addicts or text naked body shots the minute you give out your number (I feel sorry for the lady who has my old cellphone number; I’ve actually had three people tell me they’ve talked to her by phone, and she’s not happy).
Dating has been entertaining, to say the least, especially for my Facebook friends; my boss is hoping I’ll meet a nice guy at a conference. I recently had to read two client manuscripts (BETTING BLIND by Lily Gardner and SENTENCING SAPPHIRE by Mia Thompson), both of which featured murderous online dating activity. After a recent romantic misadventure (fiasco), Mia offered to kill off the guy in her next book if I provided the name, which I did.
Wow. That’s crazy. Naked body shots, really? That could drive you to drink. Have you decided on a signature Kracht cocktail yet?
EK: Lol. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember whatever happened with that. I don’t think we ever did have a Kracht cocktail winner. I’m still open to suggestions.
So here’s my entry for the Liz Kracht cocktail contest: A Blue Grasshopper: equal parts crème de menthe, liquor 43, and coconut milk; splash of blue curacao. Shake over ice, strain into a martini glass.
For the full-length interview, including how to hire Liz as a freelance editor, visit https://whitneybellwriting.wordpress.com/category/interviews. To read Lisa Alber’s fun discussion with Liz, (and find out why Keanu would play Liz’s romantic lead) visit The Debutante Ball.com.