Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Molly Ker Hawn

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Hello my darlings!

Today I bring you an interview with the incredibly lovely Molly Ker Hawn of the The Bent Agency.  In case you aren’t following Molly on Twitter, I suggest you do so with a quickness.  She’s faboo.  FABOO, I say!

Molly Ker Hawn

Aside from her general awesomeness, Molly reps Kat Ellis, one of my partners in crime from the Hook, Line, and Sinker contest we put on with Dee Romito.  So clearly, Molly has all the taste.  ALL OF IT.

Molly is one of my favorites on Twitter to follow and has been for a long time.  While she is a fairly new agent, she has been in the biz for a hot minute and knows all the things that you would love to know, but she is also a super sweet person and I like to trade Mommy-tales with her.  Any agent that can give you publishing tidbits *and* advice on why not to get a toddler bed is a rockstar in my book.

1.  Let’s start with basics: How long have you been a literary agent, and what made you dive into this wacky business in the first place?

I’ve been an agent for almost a year. And it’s not what got me mixed up this crazy world, it’s who – I’ve known Jenny Bent for longer than either of us cares to admit. The chance to work with a massively successful and respected agent like Jenny was not one I felt I could pass up, so I became the Bent Agency’s first UK-based agent in early 2012. I have a pretty deep background in children’s books and media, but sitting on this side of the table was a big change for me, and having Jenny as a mentor is a pleasure and a privilege.

2.  For those unfamiliar, what genres do you rep?  Is there any type of story that you are praying to the literary gods will land on your desk one day?

I’m open to just about anything for readers aged eight to eighteen, though I’m cautiously interested in New Adult as well.

3.  You work in the UK, but you rep authors in both the UK and the US. I have seen a lot of people wondering how that works for a US author working with a UK agent.  Can you lay out some of the differences for us?

The bad news first: despite my best efforts, I can’t get the rest of the world on board with my plan to make everything from California to Western Europe a single time zone. So most of the week, I split my work days — 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. GMT, and them 8:00 p.m. till late. That lets me get my U.K.-based work done during U.K. working hours, and it gives me time to connect with U.S. authors and editors in the (my) evening. One of the useful things about having worked in both countries is that I’ve got good relationships with editors on both sides of the ocean, and I spend a lot of time maintaining those relationships — because this really is a business built on networking. Realistically, most American authors may live a thousand miles from their U.S.-based agent, so working with me isn’t that different. Like most agents, I check my email compulsively, and I’m always happy to call my American authors on my dime. Or my 6p, as it were.

4.  What is your absolute most favorite part of being an agent? And for balance sake, what part makes you *headdesk* now and then?

A lot of people think that a sizable chunk of my job is talking to smart people about books, and they get a little bit jealous.  Well, let me give you a little insight into the reality of agenting: Some days, my job is talking to smart people about books while eating cake. I KNOW! Sometimes I can’t believe it either.

The other thing I love: delivering good news to my clients. They work so damn hard, and to be able to tell them that all that work has been worthwhile — that’s so rewarding.

On the other hand, there are days when I feel rotten about turning down so many queries and not having time to tell the authors why. It’s such a leap of faith to send your work out into the world, and I see a lot of projects that are genuinely appealing, but for one reason or another, aren’t a good match for me. They’re too similar to projects my clients are working on, or I’ve heard too many editors say they don’t want another book about [fill-in-the-trend here], or the concept is fantastic but the voice doesn’t give me that frisson of recognition, of visceral emotional connection. But I get 15-20 queries a day, and if I replied to each of them with a personal note I’d never have time for anything else. So instead, most get a form letter, and I just whisper “I’m sorry” when I hit send and hope that mine isn’t the email that pushes them over the edge into quitting writing and applying to law school.

5.  In this delightfully subjective business, what works for one agent doesn’t always work for another in queries.  Tell me, what gives you the happy feels in a query?  What is a personal no-no for you when an author queries you?

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.

6.  Tell me something you are working now that has you all a-flutter?

I just signed a new client who’s written an inventive, witty, big-hearted, hilarious middlegrade novel that I can’t wait to send out. I have my sub list all ready and I know exactly what I’m going to say when I start picking up the phone to pitch it to editors.

7.  I am told you are a big Disney fan.  I myself have been likened to a cartoon with a potty-mouth.  Think Snow White with a penchant for the F word.  What Disney character sums you up?

I’m going to totally cheat here. Disney released a terrible (sorry, Disney) adaptation of Lloyd Alexander’s THE BLACK CAULDRON in the 80s, and as bad as the film was, that book (and the other four volumes of the Chronicles of Prydain) is nothing short of brilliant. I identified hugely with Eilonwy, the scatty, chatty enchantress/princess, when I was a child–I dressed up as her for Halloween in third grade, and I even got my dad to cut out a crescent moon out of plywood that I spraypainted silver and hung from a ribbon around my neck. No one in my class got it except for my teacher, Miss Scott, who I think of all time time because of the huge effect she had on my development as a reader. She read us ABEL’S ISLAND and MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and had that gift for putting exactly the right book into a third-grader’s hands. Anyway, that book, and my abiding love for Eilonwy, opened up my eight-year-old mind to the power that books can have.

8.  As you are on my blog, it is customary to share an embarrassing or hilarious moment, industry related or otherwise, with the class.  Bonus points if it involves accidental nudity.

I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to think of something embarrassing I’ve done that won’t also make me look like an awful person (because I’m not going to tell you about the time I hit reply instead of forward and…oh God, I don’t even want to think about that now). But I can’t. So here’s this: I was at a publishing party about ten years ago, and I was introduced to the creator of many wildly successful picture books of which I am a great admirer. I couldn’t believe it was him.

“You’re

? Oh my God, I thought you’d be really old!”

Nice one.

See guys!?  Isn’t she swell??  Witty, smart, worldly?  If I didn’t dig her so much, I’d be terribly jealous of her inherent coolness.

I hope you all have enjoyed this little chat with Molly!  Leave her some love in the comments section!!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Cake!!

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks for lots of laughs this morning! I have a billion “most embarrassing” moments, so hearing of a very cool person sticking her foot in her mouth makes me feel loads better. :-)

    Thanks for the interview. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Molly, and it’s great to learn more about her.

  2. TWO OF MY FAVOURITE PEOPLE EVER! This post is like cake meets ice cream for me. <3

  3. What a fantastic interview. Nicest agent EVER – whispering “I’m sorry” when sending rejections. She has some very lucky clients :)

  4. “So instead, most get a form letter, and I just whisper “I’m sorry” when I hit send and hope that mine isn’t the email that pushes them over the edge into quitting writing and applying to law school.”

    Not only is this hilarious, but it makes me feel a lot better. It’s so easy to imagine some thin-lipped, nose-wrinkled-in-disgust snob sending that form letter. It’s comforting to hear about someone who really wishes she had the time to give everyone feedback, and feels genuinely bad that she can’t.

    Great interview as usual! Molly seems really awesome!

  5. I adore this. Molly is seriously one of the most awesome agents I have ever interacted with, and her clients are very lucky.

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