You may have noticed that my Wednesday Writing Tips have focused on creative writing for the past few weeks. I’ve been so excited about the upcoming James River Writers Conference that I just couldn’t resist. Yes, we all need to know the differences between less and fewer, who and whom, and historic and historical; indeed, it’s important to know we’re spelling y’all, yeah/yay, and through/threw correctly; however, if our storytelling isn’t working, the entire piece suffers.
And for the storytellers among us, I have a special treat this week. The fabulous Kimiko Nakamura, literary agent at Dee Mura Literary, agreed to do an interview with me. I’ll just dive right in, but for more with Kimiko, she’ll be at the JRW conference this year. I’ll be there. Will you?
KS: What drove you to become a literary agent?
KN: I grew up in a home overflowing with literature on every bookshelf we owned, real or makeshift. In my young mind everything there was to know was on those shelves. I would spend hours inside circles of books I had piled high around myself. Since then, places with high concentrations of books have exerted a gravitational pull on me. So like most, a love of reading propelled me into publishing. While working in publishing houses, I got hooked on a feeling one gets when a new book is announced, a shiny galley comes out, and the finished copies arrive. Each bound copy was so much more than the ink covering all those pages—a world in itself. Several years later, I joined Dee Mura Literary as a literary manager, and now I get to live that excitement again and again with my clients.
KS: What do you enjoy most about your job?
KN: Several things, I feel lucky to say. Finding that diamond in the rough is always a thrill. But I’m most passionate about helping to further my client’s careers and getting to know them as people. I’m happy to say that I’m on a recipe-swapping basis with many of them. It’s a joy to watch a writer grow and be witness to their journey.
KS: I see from your bio on Dee Mura Literary’s website that you represent a broad range of projects from contemporary fiction to urban fantasy to memoir to nonfiction in a variety of topics. Is there anything in particular that you’re looking for right now?
KN: I’m always on the lookout for new projects in my listed genres, but currently I’d love something Covert Affairs inspired with a strong female protagonist—high heels optional. I’m also interested in a cross-country YA escapade that’s equal parts The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for everything! Julie Newmar.
For nonfiction, I’d love a gluten-free cookbook inspired by regional or global cuisines. I’d also like a mind-body title that integrates contemporary practices of mediation, yoga, and stress-reduction techniques from around the world.
KS: What do you wish more writers knew about literary agents?
KN: That we’re looking for reasons to say yes! Writers don’t need to let the fear of receiving a no keep them from sending their work out once it’s ready.
KS: Do you have any advice for what really makes one pitch/query stand out above the others?
KN: A simple salutation that addresses me by name is always a refreshing introduction after I’ve received a few back-to-back queries addressed to “undisclosed recipients.” After that, I appreciate when a writer shows me why they sought me out as their potential agent (i.e. partner in publishing). The best pitches stay close to the standard one single-spaced page by writing what a reader might expect to see on the back copy of a book. If I like the bones of a project, I won’t hesitate to request the sample pages.
KS: How would you describe the ideal writer-agent relationship?
KN: The relationship between a writer and an agent centers around a common goal: furthering a writer’s career. Both work this goal from different ends, cultivating a relationship as business partners. The agent’s role is to be an advocate for their client, taking care of the business aspects of publishing so that the writer can do what writers do best. The writer’s role is put their entire focus on creative energy, whether that is a new manuscript to sell, an article for publication that increases their potential readership, or a social-media storm that generates buzz for a newly published book. When combined together, both partners make a pretty unstoppable team and remarkable things can happen.
Thanks again, Kimiko! It was great chatting with you!