Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Getting the Call An Agent Perspective with Caitlen Rubino Bradway

We have a first! A Getting the Call post from the point of view of an agent who is also a writer. So enjoy the post and give a look to her just released novel, SUPERNORMAL. I'll put the blurb at the end of this post. 

I still get nervous before a call with an author.  It’s because if we get to the call stage, I really, really like your book, and I’m seriously considering offering representation.  It’s also because when it comes to communicating with other humans, I’m much better on paper than I am with my mouth words.  I find it helps to have notes in front of me, to make sure I haven’t had too much coffee, and know what I’m looking for when I get on the call.  Because that call is less about the book than it is about the author. 

So what am I looking for?  Well, a couple things, so for ease and efficiency I will put them in a list format.  (But please note these are all equal levels of importance; I just like lists, they let me pretend I’m actually super-organized.)

#1: Is this author someone I can talk to?  I don’t expect us to be best friends right off the bat, but do we have an easy back-and-forth?  At the LKG Agency, when we’re considering representation, we’re looking at it as acquiring an author, not a single project.  Which means if this works out, there’s going to be a lot of communicating, and it will only help if we’re able to do that in a friendly and reasonable fashion.  And it’s even more important because of —

#2: Are we on the same page with the manuscript?  I am a very editorial agent.  I love working on stories with authors, talking about their characters, the plot, troubleshooting what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it better.  I want to know if we agree on revisions and the direction the story would go.  That I’m not seeing your middle grade as a stand alone when you had envisioned it as the first in a series.  It’s important that we have the same vision, because if we don’t, that’s a good sign that I’m not the right agent for this project.   

That’s not saying I expect the author to blindly agree with me on every single comment or edit I have.  I want to hear the author’s thoughts on the things I suggest — I think this scene doesn’t work for that reason, but they wrote that scene because they were trying to demonstrate something about the villain, perhaps if we went about it in this way instead of that.  Going back to #1, I’m looking for that back-and-forth.  I tend to get nervous on the phone when authors respond monosyllabically to my comments — does that mean they agree?  They don’t agree?  Do they hate everything I’m suggesting or are they interested in moving forward with a revision?  So, please, let me know your thoughts.  Do you think my suggestions will work?  If you don’t agree with the changes I suggest, then why not?  What are you trying to accomplish with this story, series, character?

#3: The author is approaching this professionally.  I’m sure you’ve heard by now that writing the book is the easy (and fun) part.  Publishing it is a whole different story.  I want to know that the author is ready and willing to tackle all of the work that is to come, and that they have realistic expectations of the process.  It’s one thing to say in your query letter that your book is going to be the next Harry Potter, but if I’m talking to an author and it’s clear they sincerely expect that level of success for their debut middle grade fantasy — and expect it immediately — I get concerned.  (Also, please, don’t compare your book to HP in the query.) 

One big way I know the author is tackling this professionally — they have questions for me.  I love it when authors have questions for me, because it shows me that they’re willing to sit down and do the work even before I offer representation.  So ask me questions: If we move forward, do I see it as taking on just a single book or taking on the author?  How is this process going to work?  (The author.)  Is there a written agreement?  (Yes.)  What kind of percentage does the LKG Agency take?  (Standard ‘first-born unless you can guess my full name’ setup.)  What happens if the book doesn’t sell? (Open a bottle of your adult beverage of choice, and then start working on the next project.)

#4: What do they have on the back burner? I always want to know what other ideas the author has cooking.  What they’re working on now, and what they plan on working on next.  I want to know how they see themselves as an author, especially because the LKG Agency only handles non-fiction, middle grade, and young adult fiction.  So if this middle grade novel is something fun and different they wanted to try, but they really see themselves as an adult sci-fi and fantasy author, then it’s not the right fit.

There are, of course, other things I need to know about you — do you think Galavant should be renewed for a third season? Where do you fall in the Batman vs Superman argument (Team Wonder Woman all the way, obviously) — but those are the main points.  At the end of the day, I’m trying to find out if we can work together.  And the phone call is the first step.


I joined the LKG Agency in 2008, thereby disproving the theory that no English major ever does anything with their degree.  Before that I worked at another literary agency, Don Congdon Associates, where I had the behind-the-scenes thrill of seeing Kathryn Stockett’s The Help first come in (and getting one of the first reads). And before that I was getting my Masters in English and Publishing from Rosemont College. I have enjoyed my apprenticeship under Lauren very much, and I am now actively looking to build my own list, which includes (after a surprisingly minimal amount of begging and pleading on my part), securing Lauren’s agreement to open the agency to considering middle grade and young adult fiction.
In my spare time, I am an author in my own right (or is that write?).  My first book, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, which I co-wrote with my mother, was released by Crown in 2009.  We also contributed to Jane Austen Made Me Do It, published by Ballantine in 2011.  My first middle grade novel, Ordinary Magic, was published by Bloomsbury Children’s in 2012.

Camron Scott can see the future. 

It's not as cool as you'd think. He can't see anything he's directly involved in, meaning no placing bets on sports events or stocks, or finding his true love. And it's fun trying to explain his power to to the cops whenever he tries to stop a disaster in it's tracks. The most recent complication landed him on a plane to sunny California, but at least this move best him way from his restrictive family and grants him the hope of finding a new home and a new life. 

What he doesn’t expect to find is a town seeded with people like himself, people with a special extra something. People like Ashley Garrett. 

Ashley is a super freak — charged with speed, strength, and crazy sensory perception. But she wasn't born with these talents. She’s just trying to learn how to live with them, and she’s spent the last year walking a tightrope between maintaining control and losing everything. When Cam has a vision of Ashley attacking some poor dumb kid, he does what he always does — steps in, saves the day, changes the future. And an unlikely partnership is born. He promises to use his ability to watch out for her and make sure she doesn’t lose control, a promise that Ashley is desperate enough to accept. The connection that develops surprises them both. 

But the super-powered road never did run smooth. When a series of kidnappings rocks the town, Ashley and Cam must figure out who is behind it all, and how to stop it. As you do when you're super powered — but really all Cam and Ashley want is to find a way to be is Supernormal.


  1. Great interview! I imagine the first agent/author phone call is nail-biting, body-shaking for both sides. And I love the book - very Marvel Agents of Shield for kids (and adults like me.) Go TeamCap!

    1. Thank you! And, yes, Team Cap! Though, to be honest, a lot of that is because he has Hawkeye, who is my complete favorite.

    2. Oh! You said it for me. Hawkeye is my favorite too!