“Patience and empathy will take you so far in this industry. Publishing does not operate on the same time tables as other businesses and every agent and editor has their own communication and work style.” -Kat Kerr
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 28th Annual A&E Conference, taking place September 17-19, 2021, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Kat Kerr
Kat Kerr joined Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2019. She graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelors in English in 2009 and is drawn to literary and commercial voices within the adult and YA markets, as well as adult nonfiction. Kat is passionate about creating space in this industry for those from historically marginalized communities. She is actively seeking to grow her client list and is particularly hungry for magical realism, literary leaning speculative and science fiction, women’s fiction, YA works with a lot of heart, and narrative nonfiction with something to say.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Kat Kerr: I very much consider my relationship with my clients to be a partnership. I practice transparency with my authors and maintain open communication with them. When it comes to edits, I tend to do multiple rounds with my authors, as needed, in order to get the manuscript submission ready. Edit notes are always suggestions and it’s more about having a conversation with my clients about what would best serve the story they are trying to tell.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
KK: A good story! I know, so profound, right? But it’s true! It all starts with a well-told story that I love and can immerse myself in. Then, I think about the business side of it (how much editing would it need, marketability, etc) and then it’s about getting to know the author and see whether we would be a good personality fit for each other.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
KK: Patience and empathy will take you so far in this industry. Publishing does not operate on the same time tables as other businesses and every agent and editor has their own communication and work style. We all read at different speeds, are working on different types of projects, some that may require more time than others. It’s a very useful skill to be able to wait and/or to occupy that wait by working on the next project.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
KK: The books! While we still have a way to go, I love how we are pushing for different stories, especially those told from historically silenced perspectives. It diversifies our human experience to be able to step into a character and see things from their point of view as well as to dive in to new, exciting journeys.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and want everyone to know about?
KK: I am really excited to share Robyn Lucas’ book, PAPER DOLL LINA, which is out Sept. 1, 2021 about a Black suburban wife who overcomes intimate partner violence and finds her own path to a happily ever after. I remember when I read this book the first time and it really resonated with me and I really appreciated the accurate portrayal of what women living in these relationships go through.
For YA Readers, I’m also excited to share with you YOU TRULY ASSUMED by Laila Sabreen, a book about how three Black Muslim teenagers come together to start a blog to fight anti-Muslim hate, will debut on February 8, 2022. I absolutely loved championing this work and how it represents teen activism.
Click here for more information on the 2021 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (September 17-19) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.