Today, we have literary agent Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates on the blog. Welcome, Ms. Cloughley, and thank you for being here!
Me: How did you become an agent?
Ms. Cloughley: After studying creative writing and magazine journalism, I held positions in both editorial and marketing—managing a magazine, advertising campaigns, and marketing/promotion projects. I first got into book publishing via an internship at my agency and ultimately started taking on my own clients, coaching writers through classes and conferences, and participating in the myriad of opportunities that agenting has opened up. Certainly my journalism background laid the groundwork for my appreciation of tightly-written prose and my love of a unique story; whereas, my marketing background provided a base for the business side of book publishing. Throw in the fact that I get to help writers reach their goals (obviously, the best part of the job!), and I have landed where I belong.
Me: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?
Ms. Cloughley: I will be your biggest fan. With so many queries coming in every day, I guarantee that I only offer representation to authors if I feel passionately about their projects. For me, the author/agent relationship is, above all, a collaboration. With the first phone call, I am always excited to hear your ideas and also share my thoughts, i.e. the amount of editing required, what that editing will look like, and the next steps I will be taking once the manuscript is polished and ready to go. It is so important that our visions match, and we establish a communication plan that works well for both parties. I suppose it is the “former project manager” in me, but I am all about having a plan, documenting that plan, and executing that plan so neither of us is left wondering what is going on.
Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?
Ms. Cloughley: I agree with all of the agents who say they are looking for a strong voice, but I will add that I am a sucker for a really specific setting—whether that is a vivid town or an inside look at a social or cultural environment. On the flip side, I get a lot of projects where the writing doesn’t go deep enough into the protagonist’s internal journey. Whether the book is a psychological thriller or literary fiction, I need to care about, relate to, or be interested in the character enough to want to turn the page.
Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?
I don’t always get to go, but on the first Sunday of the month I love to wake up early to go to the most amazing outdoor antiques faire in the bay area. It has hundreds of booths full of unique furniture, art, and of course lovely aged books!
Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
Ms. Cloughley: Hmmm. Advice. There is a delicate balance between taking too much advice and digging your heels in, but it is next to impossible to create your best work in a vacuum. Whether you work with a smart writers’ group, have a trusted editor, or attend quality classes and workshops, listening to the feedback from other can be insightful and inspiring. Of course, some feedback will be more valuable than others—and weeding through it can be the trick—but finding the right resources can be invaluable in helping you create your best, most polished work.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
Ms. Cloughley: Certainly! You can find a bio with my editorial preference on our company website (http://kimberleycameron.com/amy-cloughley.php). I prefer a one-page synopsis and the first fifty pages of your manuscript attached as a separate Word or PDF file. You can also follow me on twitter (@AmyCloughley) to see if I will be coming to any conferences in your area.