Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kylie Brant

Kylie Brant is about the most generous published author I've had the pleasure to have known. I can't tell you as an unpublished writer how many times she answered questions, gave a quick read to see if I got something right. Today, this award-winning author will grace us with her blurbs, and then share something different with GLIAS readers. Since many of us are writers, she'll talk about GETTING IT BACKWARDS: ACQUIRING AN AGENT. Please welcome, Kylie Brant.

Kylie Brant is the author of thirty-one romantic suspense novels for Harlequin and Berkley Sensation. She is a three-time Rita finalist and has been nominated five times for Romantic Times awards, including a win for Career Achievement. She’s also the recipient of two Daphne du Maurier awards. Her books have been published in twenty-five countries and translated into fifteen languages.


What’s in your refrigerator right now?

I’d say mold—lots of it—but the truth is my husband would never let that happen J. The only thing that man can bring himself to throw away is old food. And once things hit the frig, if we don’t eat them the next day they’re forgotten. The one staple that I never let us run low on is Diet Coke.


No one knows the patterns and nuances of communication like forensic linguist Macy Reid. She is also an expert on kidnapping, having experienced firsthand the stark terror of being abducted when she was a child. So she is the perfect investigator to be called in when a Denver tycoon’s eleven-year-old daughter is abducted—for the second time.

The biggest stumbling block for Macy may be a member of her own team: Kellan Burke, the wisecracking, rule-breaking investigator who relishes getting under Macy’s skin. Their styles couldn’t be more different; the attraction between them more explosive. And when it becomes apparent that Macy can’t solve this case without confronting the demons from her past, Kell is just the man to take her there—and back.

April 2011
Deadly Dreams
Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 0425240681

Risa Chandler's prescient dreams of death and murder haunted her nights. They also proved invaluable for Adam Raiker's brilliant team of forensic criminologists, the Mindhunters--until a tragic end to one case shattered Risa's confidence, and drove her into seclusion. But for Risa, there's no hiding from death--or from her dreams.

Though skeptical, Philadelphia homicide detective Nate McGuire enlists Risa's help in finding a serial killer who has claimed three victims. Reluctantly, she agrees. Because she's been dreaming again--rituals by fire, charred horrors, tortured screams. But Risa's feeling something else: the heat of a stranger who's watching her just as closely, a madman with dreams of his own--to make Risa his ultimate fiery sacrifice.

August 2011
Deadly Sins
Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 0425242706

An unknown assassin has appointed himself judge, jury, and executioner, brutally taking out high-level human targets citywide. And the list of suspects is a sensitive one: an Iranian diplomat, a U.S. Senator, and a vengeful priest. It’s just the kind of case to test the resolve of a tough FBI agent like Jaid Marlowe. Especially
when her new partner is Adam Raiker, Jaid’s former colleague, and ex-lover. But that’s history—and it left scars.

Determined to leave it behind them, Jaid and Adam dive into the most shocking investigation of their careers. But when Adam himself becomes a suspect, Jaid must choose between past and present. Her choice plunges them into a far-reaching high-level conspiracy of shadows—and on the run not only from secrets and lies, but for their lives. Now, despitetheir history they have only each other, and the desperate hope thatlove can keep them alive.

Getting it Backwards: Acquiring an Agent

The biggest misconception I run into with aspiring authors is their thinking that an agent is going to be their ticket to that coveted first sale. The steady flow of rejections from editors will stop they seem to believe, if they have an agent backing them. In fact, I get the impression that many see the coveted agent as the brass ring, the golden key that will unlock the door to that obstruction in their career march. Which I think is exactly backward, but we’ll get to that later.

To clear up some of the misinformation

1) Will having an agent get me read faster by an editor?

Very possibly. Many houses consider agents as ‘first reads’ and tend to believe if a well-respected agent has brought the manuscript to their door, they can count on it to have appropriate sentence structure and grammar, and usually be suitable for their line or imprint. That’s why many publishers will only consider agented manuscripts. However, all manuscripts waiting to be read at the publisher have been solicited by somebody. If you won a contest, or were invited to submit by an editor you met at a conference, chances are you’ll get read in good time, too.

Or hey, you might even get plucked out of the slush pile and bought. That’s how my first sale occurred!

2) Having an agent increases my chances of being bought.

I don’t know that anyone has ever collected data to support or refute that, and there are a slew of variables that would factor into the equation, rendering a yes/no answer impossible. That hasn’t been my personal experience, as I sold to category and more recently to single title houses unagented. An agent might help you work through the plot problems or polish the manuscript to a degree. Some agents have good relationships with certain editors or houses and keep up on what they are looking for. But agents are only human. They tend to have one or two contacts at each house that they set up regular meets with to update their information. Their contacts can be valuable to a newbie writer with none of her own.

I know many many multi-published authors who are no longer selling in this economy. Markets go soft. Sub-genres decrease in popularity. An agent can’t prevent either.

The ‘trick’ to selling is money. For a multi-published author this means previous sales history. For a debut author it means marketability. The most novel concept out there isn’t going to get you an offer if the marketing department at the publisher can’t figure out how to sell you.

3) You need an agent to make that first sale

Not true at all. I sold twenty-five books to the then Silhouette Romantic Suspense line without an agent. I also got five invitations to submit my first single title manuscript without one. By the time I had an offer on the first Mindhunters trilogy, I had signed with an agent. But the publishing house didn’t know that when they made the offer.

As a matter of fact, I’d go on to say emphatically that you do not require an agent for category romance. Harlequin uses a boilerplate contract that allows very little wiggle room. Doing your homework, you can quickly learn where there is leeway and get those concessions yourself.

4) You need an agent if you’re writing single title for traditional print publishers

I’d highly recommend it. I know a few well-published authors who use literary attorneys and negotiate their own contracts, but I wouldn’t be comfortable doing so. For one thing, I’m too ignorant of contractual clauses to know what should or shouldn’t be in there. For another, I want a different relationship with my editor. I don’t want to get in contractual tug of wars with her. I am very happy to leave that to my agent.

There’s also the matter of foreign rights. Without an agent there is almost no hope of selling your book overseas. Those rights can be extremely lucrative and well worth the 20% agenting fees required (10% to your agent, 10% to the foreign agent).

5) An agent will help me polish my manuscript to make it more saleable.

Depending on the agent, that may be true up to a point. But I can’t emphasize enough that your manuscript has to be polished to catch an agent’s eye in the first place. The prose has to sparkle. It has to be relatively free of grammatical errors. The plot has to be intriguing. The characters compelling. And even then an agent might pass on it. Maybe that agent doesn’t represent the sub-genre you’re targeting. Or he/she might have too many authors writing the same thing. More likely, the voice didn’t resonate with them or they couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm about the project to represent it well.

6) Being rejected by agents means my project isn’t saleable

This is where it gets tricky. That is certainly one possibility. The thing to do with agent rejections is to treat them like you do contest judge comments. Look for similarities in their reasons for passing on the manuscript. Comments like ‘not right for me’ or “I’m not the agent for this” aren’t going to be helpful in that regard. But if they get more specific in their reasons, compare notes to see if a pattern emerges. And if you find one, make the changes necessary before sending the manuscript out again.

It’s also entirely possible that your manuscript is awesome but you haven’t hit the right agent yet. It took me almost as long to find an agent as it did to make my first sale, and that was after writing twenty some books!

7) If agents ask for an exclusive I should give it to them

Almost never. You can’t imagine how long an agent search can take. I suggest targeting several agents at the same time, informing each of them up front that it’s a simultaneous submission. The two agents I granted exclusives to didn’t adhere to their own self-imposed deadlines anyway. Another (who wasn’t an exclusive) responded a year later. I don’t have that kind of time, do you? Be honest and above board in your cover letter. And if you do decide to grant an exclusive I’d never suggest allowing more than two weeks. There just isn’t anything in it for the author.

I regard searching for an agent as something to be done as a next step in a career. Maybe that step comes after an author has polished a manuscript, gotten lots of feedback on it and is fairly certain it’s saleable. Or perhaps that point is reached when an author is ready to move to that next level and needs the right person to get her there. But all too often, I hear aspiring authors talking as if getting an agent is a short-cut; the end of the journey and I couldn’t disagree more. Acquiring an agent won’t be enough to make your work stand out, you have to do that on your own.

Have an agent question that wasn’t answered? A comment specific to your own agent search? I’d love to address it! I have a copy of my November release DEADLY INTENT for one lucky commenter!

KYLIE BRANT'S QUESTIONS FOR FANS AND FOR READERS: Straddling the sub-genre of romantic suspense is tough. Some like a romantic story with a dash of suspense thrown in. Others crave a meat thriller, with a satisfying romance at the core. What's the right amount of romance with your suspense? How can you tell when an author has gotten the balance exactly right?

Great question, Kylie! As always it's a pleasure to talk with you. Readers/Authors/Aspiring Authors, questions or comments for this award-winning author of 31 novels?



  1. Thank you for adding some reality to the "holy grail" destination of acquiring an agent. I do have a question: Do most agents, once you sign on, handle all of your work, or can it be a book by book decision? I'm wondering about someone who wrote single titles, which the agent represented, but then decided she wanted to write category work as well, and the agent didn't represent that line of work. Or someone who wrote historicals, which the agent represented, and then decided she wanted to write sci-fi as well.

    Congratulations on your upcoming releases and their amazing covers!

  2. Gillian, all agents work differently and that is a discussion you can have prior to hiring them. Most handle all of your work. I can see a real benefit in having an agent handle the single titles and handling category on your own, for example. Some would agree to that, some would not. But I always had a list of questions that were important to me handy when I was speaking to agents. I'm afraid some people are so eager they'll take the first one who offers (much like an editor) and end up regretting it later because they didn't iron such matters out beforehand.

  3. Thank you for a great post on agents, Kylie. For those of us embroiled in the agent hunt, it's wonderful to get a little perspective from time to time.
    I'm a thriller reader, but the best ones always have romantic elements. As for balancing romance and suspense, an author gets it right when the two blend so seamlessly that I'm unaware of the author's hand at work. It's all one compelling story.

  4. Boy, Kylie (first of all welcome). Do your words ring true for me. What would you tell aspiring authors or authors already published if an agent wants you to make significant changes to a ms. I mean, it is so subjective?

  5. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to give us such wonderful insight Kylie.

    I'm a suspense reader too. As for 'the right balance' it really depends on the author. I prefer a story that can keep me on the edge of my seat and blend well with a steamy romance. XD

  6. Decided to comment separately (and DQ myself from the drawing by the way). Wow, I love both thrillers with meat, and then a romantic suspense. It's kind of like what kind of meal I'm in the mood for.

    One thing I'm excited about in my revisions to Walk Away Joe, I'm getting to keep the sexual tension, the family dynamics and the suspense. I stepped out of the box with this book, and Bell Bridge has allowed me to keep it, but with exceptional editing that made me follow the threads through.

    I think if you have a thriller that hints at something and yet doesn't follow up on it, it feels incomplete, lacking.

    Kylie, will you talk about your revision process. Is this something that authors learn, that if they start a thread complete it, or do your editors still surprise you?

    Also, tell readers here about your incredible writing schedule (and your new grandbaby ;)

  7. Jane, you're right. The old adage is that a romantic suspense is interwoven so intricately that you can't remove either the romance or the suspense and still have a story. I see a lot of genre blending these days with the advent of romantic thrillers. They don't really follow that adage but I still agree with you--a romance makes it all the more satisfying!

  8. Wow, Donnell that's a toughie. It takes a great deal of confidence in the agent to trust him/her enough to make massive changes. I'd look at the track record of the manuscript. If it's made the rounds and it didn't get bought, the author has nothing to lose by changing it to the agent's specifications. But if it hasn't seen an editor yet, that might be a different story. I'm all about compromise and if I know the agent is very knowledgeable about what is selling and why, I'm going to give her a lot of leeway. As always, a robust discussion about why the changes are needed and what the changes will accomplish should precede any editing.

  9. Kitty, I love a very suspenseful story myself!

  10. Excellent post, Kylie! I'll be back to see what you add. Hey, Donnell! Keep working!

  11. Gulp, Donnell. You hit on a fear of mine. My editor asked me to include an overarching suspense plot in my newest trilogy. That means bringing closure to a suspense in the book but leaving strings hanging to be resolved in future stories. Some readers don't mind that and some hate it. Still waiting to hear the verdict!

    I think the revision process differs for each author and--more importantly--more every editor. Some editors want you to do revisions on things that could be handled in line edits. Some really rip the story apart and want massive revisions. Those are not--ahem--fun. Other editors barely touch the story, just pointing out a few things here and there in the line edits.

    I revise as I go along. I edit the current or previous chapter to immerse myself into the story and then continue on. I keep a running list of 'things to change' and at the end I read through the story once, adding or deleting from that list. Then I change what needs to be changed on the list and send it in.

    I never have enough time to edit. When I see the manuscript for the last time there are still things I wish i could change!

  12. Thanks, Kylie, as I said this new for me, and it's so great to see that after 31 books, it still sparks a tad of fear in you LOL. My editor, Pat Van Wie, has completely astounded me. She's taken what I thought was a decent book, and made me follow through. Line edits wouldn't have done it. Possibly because she's a very talented author in her own right, but she nailed things I had hinted at or let go. Even made me read The Sociopath Next Door.

    She also said, your heroine would do what? I don't think so. My agent had some great suggestions, but my editor simply nailed every problem area.

    Which is why I question when an agent wants to change things before a book is actually sold. Your comments make sense!

    Thanks so much, for the explanation, Kylie!

  13. Without meaning to make a blanket statement about all agents (which would be a gross generalization and inherently unfair) I would say that usually I have more confidence in the editorial suggestions than in the agent ones. However, in my earlier statement I was referring to agents who want changes prior to sending the work out.

    Editors know what fits their line, what sells and they see a massive amount of manuscripts a year. I tend to heed their advice :) If there's something I don't agree with we talk about that. But people who get a reputation of being difficult to deal with don't last long at publishing houses as a general rule!

  14. Understood. These are not blanket statements or general rules ;) I know several people whose agents authors would feel lost without their editorial input. Thanks!

  15. Kylie,

    Your question just floored me. First, as a historical romantic suspense author (debut) I struggle with the percentage of romance to suspense every day. And then second, as a reader, I want a really good mix of both. Hopefully the suspense supports the romance adding a third layer of tension to the story.

    Before I got my first publishing contract I was entering RWA chapter contests and was advised to write romance first and suspense second. I think that worked well for contests, but I see the romantic suspense novel has taken a turn toward more suspense, or am I imagining this? I also understand that editors are pressing for more
    pain/suffering/danger/muah ha ha.

    Lately, I have come to the conclusion (more like settled temporarily) that as both a reader and a writer, I want both. The trick is how skillfully I am able to interweave the two!

  16. Great advice, Kylie. It's hard not to get caught up in the agent search or the feeling like that's all you need to break in. I appreciate the reminder, and all of your great answers to the other commenters. Thanks!

  17. Gjillian, I see a real difference in the RS being offered today. We have super steamy, almost erotic suspense. Then there's the real sexy action adventures. Some RS really emphasizes the romance with a meaty suspense. And more and more we're seeing dark romantic thrillers (like mine!) that have a dark suspense with a satisfying romance at the core.

    It's a tough line to straddle and no matter what you do you can't satisfy everyone. Thriller readers don't want to read pages of a love scene. Some RS readers demand more romance than I have in my books. I even know a NYT bestselling who is stating to make her books hotter. It depends on where the audience is. And unfortunately, we don't usually know that!

  18. Ah, the next article by Kylie Brant be will be Getting it Backwards: Know your Target Audience. Don't we wish? It's so confusing and subjective and dependent upon readers' tastes! When can we expect the article, Kylie ;)

  19. I wish I knew the answer, Donnell! I just hired my first ever publicist who I hope will answer that for me!

  20. Welcome, Kylie. The agent thing is so interesting. I love my agent and I would never have been published without her. But I've never looked at writing category (I read category like crazy, but I seriously do NOT have the voice for it). Category writers see things differently which is always so refreshing to hear.

  21. Simone, I'm not sure we see things differently so much as learn the parameters category has to fit within. Having written single title and category, I think in some ways category is more difficult. To pack a suspense story within the expectation of high emotion and romance and stuff it in 1/3 shorter book is definitely a knack, you're right about that!

  22. Kylie, hello again. I love your from-the-heart answers that I hope will encourage all the writers without an agent. I was just talking about this with my agent this morning. She sometimes shakes her head when one of her authors is unusually impatient, and I had to laugh. I told her the general consensus out there among unagented authors is that once you get an author, you should make the best selling list in six weeks.LOL

    Yes, an agent is great, but you are living proof that it can be done without one. Thanks to you and Donnell for getting that message across.

    And let me know how that publicist works out.

  23. Kylie, welcome to GLIAS. I write category for Silhouette Desire and had been submitting for three years on my own with some success. But it wasn't until I got an agent and she submitted my book that I sold. I'm not saying I wouldn't have eventually sold, but having an agent behind my work made it happen a little faster, I think.

    Thanks for joining us today.

  24. Hi Kylie! Great post, and I agree.

    When I first sold, I made minor changes to the manuscript for my agent before she went out with it, and I agreed with all of her suggestions. Essentially, I removed a subplot that detracted from the main suspense and romance storyline. If I hadn't agreed, I wouldn't have made the changes (in fact, she made one suggestion I didn't like so I ignored it, but the ones I took definitely made the book stronger.)

    Now, I don't give my first draft to my agent, but I do send rough manuscripts to my editor for feedback. After 16 books, I trust her explicitly.

    As far as blending romance and suspense, I think we all have our own natural balance and the important thing is to write to your strengths and not simply to what you think the market is. Markets change. I get romance readers who wish I had more romance and mystery/suspense readers who wish I had no romance. But I like the blend I have, it weighs more on the suspense but I like having a relationship. My heroine deserves to have someone who loves her to come home to!

  25. Will do, Liz! The one thing I want aspiring writers to know is that the agent isn't the golden key--a great manusript is!

  26. Cat, your work obviously was on that bubble of just about good enough before you got an agent. Did she help you polish or streamline the plot to make it submittable? Congrats on your success!

  27. Allison, your books are perfect examples of dark and gritty suspense with a satisfying relationship at their core. That's my preference when reading RS :) You have a gem of an editior--and I know you already realize it! It would be wonderful to get that sort of feedback before polishing the book!

  28. Great advice, Kylie. I remember hearing people saying that landing an agent is the hardest part and I know first hand, that's not necessarily true... And like you, I highly recommend all writers wanting to be published by one of the big NYC houses, (with the exception of category romance), to get an agent, first, and only submit to agents after the agent option is exhausted. (Or move onto the next book.)

    I have 3 CPs who write for Harlequin and they're all agented and all glad to be. There are benefits beyond the contracts I think. But each author is different.

  29. Kylie, she did give me a hand with getting the story ready. Her feedback gave me terrific insight into the story and although the changes weren't major, I think it gave the manuscript the polish it needed. I also went through 2 revisions with my editor. One before I sold and one after. But, the second book I sold required very little fixing after my agent read it and mostly just clean up for my editor. Obviously, I'd learned something in the last year. Book three should be interesting...

  30. Maureen, I think it's hard for aspiring writers to know when their work is ready to submit to an editor or an agent. Sometimes they don't have a very realistic understanding of where they are at, in terms of craft.

    I didn't touch on this but there are things an agent can help with that have nothing to do with sales. I know an author who just had a horrible time with her editor. The revisions were slashing and unnecessarily harsh, after the author had successfully written dozens of books for other editors without such treatment. It got to the point where the author's confidence was in shreds...she needed to get a new editor or stop writing altogether. Her agent got that editorial change made, within a couple days. It saved my friend, and that wasn't something she would have been comfortable doing on her own.

    Each individual has to make his/her own determination about whether it is worth the 15% commission on a contract that leaves little wiggle room.

  31. Cat, as I suspected you must have been quite close already :) How fabulous that your agent could suggest just the right changes for that first sale!

    You're absolutely right in that we learn on each book. You can expect the revisions to get less and less with each book until you aren't doing revisions at all anymore.

  32. thanks for a great interview, Kylie! To answer your question, the only time I don't like romantic suspense is when it's too many questions and not enough answers. I'm not talking needing to know whodunit in the first chapter, but answering small questions while moving the story along. That kind of thing.


  33. Kylie, that author who has that agent who helped manage that editorial change should be kissing that agent's feet. What a story, and, yes, a good agent is worth 15 percent.

  34. Abigail, I found early in my career that I had to start tying up some of the threads 2/3 of the way through the book or I ended up with pages and pages of explanation at the end :)

  35. Sorry I missed out on this fantastic advice and discussion.

    (traveling all day on the 13th)