Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview with Mary Kole: Agent and Editorial Consultant

I met Mary via SCBWI. My manuscript was assigned to her for an individual critique. I was very impressed by the amount of work, and time she took to help make my work stronger. I believe in Mary as an agent, and now I believe in her as an editor. I'm sure we will see many new books make their ways to publishing via her help.

Below are the questions I asked her:  

1.     Describe your editorial service in 5 words:

providing craft focus, market savvy 

2.     What time do you get up, and what do you eat for breakfast?

My boyfriend is a chef, so we tend to keep strange, late hours. Adding to that, our new puppy has hijacked any routine we used to have. My breakfast never changes, though: plain yogurt with berries and a shot of espresso.

3.     Why do you believe you are the best editorial consultant for the job?

There are many amazing people out there: writers, former editors, former agents. I've been lucky enough to think very deeply about both the craft and the market, and have done critiques for literally thousands of writers while participating in an MFA program, speaking at conferences, and teaching my Writer's Digest webinars. 

Helping writers in a craft-focused way is something I enjoy, and since I'm a publishing professional, I'm in a unique position to give my clients industry context that they might not otherwise have.

4.     How quick is your turn around time per manuscript?

One week for smaller projects like queries and picture books, two to three weeks for full manuscript edits. 

I give myself a wide cushion because I prefer to meet or surpass deadline expectations instead of being behind schedule. In terms of lead time, I am usually booked about a month in advance.

5.     What is your goal for your business in the next 3 years?

To grow my client base, gather momentum via positive testimonials and word-of-mouth, and to get some success stories under my belt from clients who go on to publish after consulting with me.

6.     Will your service help to place manuscripts in the "right" hands if you believe in the project?

The children's book community is very small. While one of my rules is that I will never represent a project that I have edited as a freelancer, I am more than capable of connecting a writer to an agent colleague if I see an irresistible fit. 

7.     I've heard many writers say, "It's not about the writing anymore, it's about the bottom line." Is this true? Or do you feel agents/editors/publishers want to cultivate a writer's career, not just the next big hit?

I'm not going to deny that there is a LOT of pressure on each book to have blockbuster potential and commercial appeal. This didn't used to matter as much in the children's market. However, now that HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES have proven that children's books make big money...more and more publishing bosses expect them to. 

Fruitful, developmental editor/writer relationships DO exist, but editors are feeling the crunch, too, and have fewer resources to spend on drawing talent out of creators. 

8.     What writer's groups/associations do you belong to, and why?

The SCBWI because they are, hands down, the best organization for children's book writers. Not only do they provide valuable resources on craft and publishing to members, but they put on incredible events. I've personally had the pleasure of speaking at dozens of regional conferences, domestically and abroad. All children's book writers should check them out at

9.     What's the toughest part of writing for you to overcome in your own writing? And, how do you work to make it better?

I mostly do non-fiction writing now, with my book and blog. Just like most writers, though, I think that writing a compelling fiction beginning (the first chapter or so) is very hard because you have to accomplish a lot quickly to draw a reader in.  

10. Are you a one-woman editorial consultant, or will you have trusted readers helping you critique manuscripts?

Nope, just me. My fees are based on my reputation, experience, and platform and what I, personally, can bring to the table. That's the whole point. Plus, I really do enjoy the work, so outsourcing doesn't serve me or my clients. 

11. What is your main goal when you choose to edit a writer's work?

Every writer is on a path, and each path is unique. I want to give everyone a few "Aha!" moments that they can take with them as they continue writing. Not only do I want my notes to apply to the manuscript at hand, but I really do try to explain things in a way that will make them more universally relevant for future work. 

12. Where do you believe writers have the most difficulty? Beginnings? Middles? Endings? Overall idea?

Beginnings (see above reasoning) and middles, because writers often don't know how much complexity to include (more than they think) and what makes for compelling ups and downs as the story rises toward the climax and resolution. 

Most middles feel very Point-A-to-Point-B without developing the necessary sophistication that will keep a reader turning pages. It's very easy to lose your audience either right away or in the "Muddy Middle."

If you'd like to hear more about children's book writing from Mary, please check out her blog at

13. What do you think about the publishing world today? Is it easier or harder to find true, lasting talent with everyone self-publishing?

I think self-publishing is a good showcase for certain types of talent, and that talent and the choice to self-publish are not mutually exclusive. 

I do think there's a lot more noise to wade through now, and everyone seems to get busier every year, so there's less time to sift through the static and really pay attention. 

I think that's a humans-in-the-modern-world problem, though, not necessarily just a publishing problem. 

14. You've moved from San Francisco to New York City. Where is the best place for a cup of Joe or tea in both places?

For the Bay Area, I'll pick Barefoot Coffee. It's not in San Francisco (where my neighborhood places were okay, at best), but my old Sunnyvale stomping grounds, and they make some ridiculously decadent dark mochas. 

In Brooklyn, I'm partial to a place in Park Slope called Venticinque Cafe...they make pumpkin lattes with real pumpkin pie filling, not flavored syrup. 

For iced coffee, I like Black Gold in Carroll Gardens.

15. What one piece of advice would you give a newbie writer, manuscript polished, trying to break into the publishing world?

Be patient, it's never going to turn out exactly like you think. Also, when the going gets tough, put your head down and write. 

This business is full of frustrations, because the product we're all dealing with is someone's creative output--it's a very emotional thing. So if you ever start to get down about something--rejections, a low print run number, the amount of publicity your house is doing--go back to the well and focus on the next manuscript, the next idea, the next inspiration. 

16. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My boyfriend. He is the most supportive and unfailingly positive person I know, and I'm lucky to have him in my life. 

17. Why did you decide to open up an editorial consultant service?

Everything in publishing takes a long time and agenting is commission-only (at least at the agencies where I've worked) and unpredictable--you never know what will land in your inbox, when it will sell, and how it will fare in the market. 

I like working with writers and wanted the opportunity to use my skills in a way that would also fill in my income gaps while offers and sales and contracts trickle in at their own pace. This is more active than sitting by my slush, twiddling my thumbs, and waiting for the next big thing. :)

18. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Hire me! :) If not, tell your friends to hire me. 

You can find her for hire @

19. What one word best describes you?


I like to always be learning something.

20. Any big news?

A new puppy and a new business in one month? That's plenty of news for me!

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