Have you ever wished you could have a fairy Godmother, some kind, understanding soul who could wave her magic wand and make all your dreams come true? I know it might seem like we Duchesses have it all together, but the truth is, none of us got here without amazing friends and partners, and—in most cases—professional help. Six Duchesses (including Valerie Bowman, Diana Quincy, Jennifer McQuiston, Cheryl Ann Smith, Lecia Cornwall, and Anna Randol) share one very influential, very nice, and very helpful fairy Godmother: our amazing agent, Kevan Lyon.
Kevan is one of the founders of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, a California-based powerhouse group that consistently ranks among the top agencies for romance sales. And Kevan’s widely known specialty? You guessed it: historical authors. You might say she has a soft spot for us, and loves to turn our pumpkins into coaches. And in some ways, she is the reader’s fairy Godmother too. Because the stories Kevan takes a chance on, the ones she believes in, almost always turn into the published books of tomorrow.
We Duchesses think the world of her. Today we present our stories of how we came to land with Kevan, and also pose several questions you might be burning to ask her!
Valerie Bowman’s story: I teamed up with Kevan the old-fashioned way. I queried her! I’d gotten the list of the top 10 romance agents (based on sales) from Publisher’s Weekly and then I asked a friend who was a published author to ask the other authors on the RWA’s published authors’ chat group to ask and see which of those agents preferred historicals. I figured it would help my chances if I queried those who really liked historicals! On my first query to Kevan, she asked for sample pages but ultimately rejected me. Very nicely, of course. : ) One of my favorite quotes is, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” It was my mantra while querying and submitting. I simply wrote another book and queried Kevan again. The second time was the charm!
Jennifer McQuiston’s story: I was lucky enough to meet Kevan during a writer’s conference in Georgia during 2010, and even luckier to charm my way into a dinner with the conference organizers for being one of those persistent volunteers they just couldn’t shake. Kevan was sitting across the table from me, and she asked me about my book. I admit it: I took full advantage! The glass of wine may have helped. I sent her my full manuscript, and she offered representation within the week. I didn’t have to think twice: Kevan was my dream agent, and I wasn’t going to sit in my garden and think about going to the ball, I was all in!
Diana Quincy’s story: I queried Kevan and she responded with just about the nicest rejection letter I’ve ever received. She’d read quite far into my manuscript, discussed it with her partner, but ultimately decided against offering representation. I sent her a thank you note and figured that was the end of that. A few months later, while checking my spam folder, I was shocked to see an email from Kevan. She’d seen my name on a list of finalists for a national writing competition and asked me to send her the manuscript again. A few days later, she called to offer representation. Kevan recently sold that manuscript, SEDUCING CHARLOTTE, to Entangled and it will be out in Spring 2013!
Lecia Cornwall’s story: I met Kevan at a conference in Seattle a few years ago. As a contest finalist, I got to choose one of the agents attending the conference for a private meeting. I chose Kevan, since I’d met her at dinner the evening before, and she was smart, professional and charming. She asked for my manuscript, and although she rejected that story, she left the door open for another submission. I sent her something new a year later, and while I was on vacation in Edinburgh, I got the happy e-mail that she wanted to work with me! I also had an offer from a second agent, but I chose Kevan based on those few face-to-face minutes in Seattle. I’ve never regretted it for a moment.
Anna Randol’s story: Since I’m lucky enough to live in the same fair city as Kevan, I heard her speak at my local RWA meeting. I thought she was savvy, smart, and professional. But at the time, she was with an agency that didn’t accept electronic queries, so I didn’t query her. (Hey, I figured I wasn’t going to pay thirty-two cents to get rejected…) But a few months later, I learned that she’d formed her own agency (and was accepting e-queries) so I sent mine off. A few days later she emailed asking for the full and then called a few days later with representation. I was thrilled to accept!
Cheryl Ann Smith’s story: I’d sent a requested (historical) partial to an editor at Avon, thought there was no way I’d get a full request, so I never finished the book. 8 months passed before the editor contacted me and asked for the full. I freaked! Then a week later, Kevan email-rejected a (contemporary) submission I’d sent her but loved my voice and asked to see future projects. So I replied back with the Avon request info, and she asked to see the partial. I sent 3 chapters and included an elevator pitch in the body of the email. She was intrigued by the pitch, immediately read the partial, and 7 hours later she called to offer me representation!
As you can tell, we feel very fortunate to count ourselves among Kevan’s clients. Hopefully you can also see we came to her through a variety of ways, including several in-person meetings and a few good old-fashioned queries! While these stories are lovely, there is nothing like hearing from one’s fairy godmother in her own words, so we posed the following questions:
1) One of the consistent themes for many of your clients was that they landed with you through contests and conferences, and cited face-to-face meetings as one of their deciding factors to sign with you. In case we have any aspiring romance authors visiting our site, do you have any upcoming contests you are judging, or planned conferences in 2013 where you will be taking pitches?
Yes! I will be at RWA this year, the Historical Novel Society and NW Houston Romance Writers conference. I have actually pared back my conference schedule just a bit because of a crazy year that has left me feeling behind, behind. As a type (triple) A personality type person, I hate falling behind! I also just agreed to judge the YA category for NJRW and I always participate in the Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes with critiques and one with a phone meeting.
2) You are known for your love of historicals with unusual premises, and supporting those authors who want to write them. What are some of your favorites that our readers might not have read?
Oh, I love so many…but one that is near and dear to my heart in the romance genre is the Blades of the Rose series by Zoe Archer. I sold it as a 4 book deal several years ago after many, many editor rejections. The books have a touch of magic and are set around the world in the most exotic locations. It is an absolutely terrific series. Then, I do love Anna Randol’s book, A Secret in her Kiss set in the Ottoman Empire. It is exotic, lush and a very sensual setting for historical romance. And, of course Carrie Lofty’s Flawless set in the diamond mines of South Africa…. I could go on and on!
3) If you could have lunch with any historical figure (say, Roman times through WWII), who would it be and what would you order?
Wow. What a great question. I think it might have to be Queen Elizabeth I. I love reading about this period in history, and she was quite an amazing and powerful woman – which for this period was really unusual. I would love to hear about the world of that time through her perspective and the types of issues she faced as the most powerful leader in Europe. As to what to eat – probably very little! But I guess trying the heavily doctored wines of their day could be interesting.
4) Is there a new popular time period emerging among recent historical sales that readers can look forward to seeing on shelves and e-readers in the next year or two? Are there trends that may be fading away?
In the historical women’s fiction area, the early 20th Century is finally coming into reading fashion! I love stories set in WWI and WWII and the years in between. It was such a time of dramatic change in the US and Europe. These are still challenging periods for romance novels, but we are seeing several series selling now set during the WWI period (thank you Downton Abbey). If these new series sell successfully we can hope that this is a trend that will continue. As for time periods that are “fading”, the Tudor period seems to have hit a bit of a saturation point with some editors. I love this period, so this is disappointing. But, as with all trends in publishing this can change with some hot new book, series, film or TV series that comes out!
5) How much does what’s popular in real world events affect what writers write and readers want to read? For example, there are a ton of Navy Seal books and movies in the wake of the Osama Bin Laden mission. Now Downton Abbey is so-o popular, and the 100th anniversary of WWI is just around the corner. Might that lead to a spate of books set in the early twentieth century?
Definitely and this is already underway with a significant number of books sold set during this period in history. I have several that I am very excited about, Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck, Out of all Knowing by Jennifer Crespi…just to plug a few! Coming to a bookstore near you very soon!
6) In addition to romance, your agency also represents some very well-respected YA authors, literary fiction authors, and nonfiction writers. Which group has the best manners… and come on. You know we won’t tell a soul!
I have only ever met the most well-mannered writers at the conferences I have attended!! Any of them would be perfectly suited for tea with the Duchesses!
The truth of the matter is that although we Duchesses would love to keep her to ourselves, there is plenty of our fairy godmother to share around the big writing table. And for two terrific examples, Kevan has offered the following prizes to random commenters on today’s blog (2 winners will be chosen, depending on whether you prefer to be a reader or a new writer!):
- The Reader’s prize will be a package containing a copy of each of the unusual historicals Kevan recommended above.And…
- For the Writer’s prize, Kevan has graciously offered to read a partial of your finished manuscript (25 pages doublespaced).
Talk about a magic wand!!
So, happy commenting, and please indicate in your posted comment if you want to be considered for the Reader’s package or the Writer’s package. All comments received through midnight EDT on Friday, 3/15/13 will be considered. Good luck… and wishing you all the luck we have come to enjoy with Kevan!