Agent Spotlight: Kristy Hunter
April 17, 2020
We are excited to feature agent Kristy Hunter with The Knight Agency. Enter to win a Golden Query Pass, which gets your query to the head of the line.
Tell us about your background and how you came to agenting.
I double majored in English Lit and Women’s and Gender Studies, and I took a variety of creative writing classes. Workshopping with my classmates showed me that while I enjoyed writing, I LOVED talking about books and helping people craft their best possible story. It wasn’t until I met someone who worked in the publishing industry that I realized this was something I could do for a living. I was hooked!
Quickly I learned it would take a lot more than a love of books and editing to break into publishing. I attended the Columbia Publishing Course, interned in Bloomsbury Children’s Books’ editorial department, and worked in publicity at Grove/Atlantic and Random House Children’s Books. I was always attracted to the idea of agenting—it combined some of my favorite aspects of publicity, editing, and business. I was beyond thrilled when I joined The Knight Agency as Deidre Knight’s assistant, and even more excited when I was promoted to agent and began working with clients of my own.
What types of books are you looking for these days?
Right now, I’m really looking for a story that embodies an escape in every sense of the word. Something that completely sucks me in and doesn’t let go. This could be for any genre I represent and any age group (middle grade, young adult, or adult).
That said, in middle grade I’m looking for fun, sweeping fantasy adventures, mysteries, heartfelt contemporaries, upbeat contemporaries, light fantasy and magical realism projects. Unusual story structures and projects that deal with shifting friend groups are always high on my list.
When it comes to YA, I’m open to most genres, but specifically I’m interested in seeing fantasy and magical realism projects, rom-coms, upbeat contemporaries, contemporary projects that deal with hard issues in a unique or quirky way, horror with fantastical elements, sweeping atmospheric tales, mysteries, thrillers, and historical projects with a modern sensibility (to name a few).
In adult, I’m looking for rom-coms and projects that would fall under the umbrella of women’s fiction/book club fiction. I’m open to numerous genres that would fit this category (thriller, speculative, historical, contemporary, magical realism, etc.), but the project must have a unique hook, strong writing, and appeal to a wide, commercial audience (the type of story that once you've finished, you simply can't wait to discuss with someone else).
How would you describe your agenting style?
As an agent, I’m very editorial. When I offer representation, the first things we discuss on the call are why I love the project (so much gushing!) and where I see room for improvement (i.e. characters that could be fleshed out more, motivations that could be stronger, scenes that could be cut to improve the pacing, etc.). After signing, my notes are much more in-depth, but thanks to our initial conversation, nothing should come as a surprise.
In terms of my specific agenting style, I pride myself on being approachable and communicative. In life, my favorite people are always those who make it clear that for them, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. As an agent, I embrace this. I work with a lot of debut authors, and for them, this is a whole new world. I want my clients to feel comfortable asking me anything and always feel like they are my priority (because they are!). All client emails are answered within 48 hours. Calls I prefer to schedule, but I’m happy to hop on the phone anytime.
Transparency also goes hand in hand with my open communication style. As such, pitches, submission lists, and editor responses are all shared with clients.
What are common mistakes you see in queries and partials? What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I often see new writers being overly vague when it comes to describing their project’s plot. They’ve been instructed not to overload their query with too much information, and they’ve subsequently gone to the opposite end of the spectrum. When it comes to a story, I need to know who, what happens, what are the character’s choices, and what are the stakes. If there aren’t enough details in the query, it’s hard to see how the story is different from what is already on the shelf. Striking the right balance is key.
The very best advice I can give to aspiring writers is to read widely, but most importantly, read the books that are currently being published in your genre. It will improve your craft and help you think strategically as you shape your own project.
What excites you most about a manuscript?
For me, submissions often start at the query level. Boy, do I love a well-crafted query with a strong hook.
Then it comes down to the voice. That’s where the real staying power lies. I may be excited to start a project based on the concept, but what gets me to sink in and want to read on forever is the voice.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Oh gosh, this is a hard one! This isn’t a secret, but I did grow up riding horses. It’s not a skill that comes in very handy now, but I would love to find a project that incorporates horses in a unique way (think The Scorpio Races or Sawkill Girls).
What is the best way to query you?
The Knight Agency now uses Query Manager. Writers can upload their query letter and first 20 pages using the link here: https://querymanager.com/query/Kristy_Hunter_TKA
As a graduate of Vanderbilt University and The Columbia Publishing Course, Kristy Hunter began her publishing career in New York City—first as an editorial intern at Bloomsbury Children’s Books and then as a book publicist at Grove/Atlantic and Random House Children’s Books. When she moved to the agenting side of the industry, she was closely mentored by Deidre Knight, president and founder of The Knight Agency, and her first co-agented project sold at auction soon after. As an associate agent, Kristy enjoys being able to bring a unique perspective to her clients thanks to her diverse publishing background. When she’s not curled up with a fantastic book or manuscript, she can be found kickboxing or hiking with her dog.
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