Mary Kole, Amazing Agent and Badass

I met Mary Kole at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference this past June.Right when I met her I knew I was going to have a giant crush on her {not to be taken the wrong way, I just thought she was super badass}. Mary brought a lot of good things to the conference and was one of our favorite guests we’ve had in a long time. She gave wonderful advice, talked to everyone who wanted to talk to her, and showed everyone the dance moves to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. I was lucky enough to interview her for all of your viewing pleasure!

How long have you been interested in working in the book world?

I’ve always loved books. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment or the exact book that made this a lifetime calling, unfortunately, but I’ve just loved books in a crazy way ever since I was a kid. I was always reading and writing. Now that I’m older, nothing has changed. I’m afraid that my inability to put down a book makes me completely useless in most other fields (especially organized sports).
What made you decide you wanted to be a part of it?
When I first learned that publishing is an actual business and books aren’t just magical things that fall from the sky, fully formed, I wanted to learn all I could about it. Sure, the business has its issues, as every industry does, and the economy is always a factor, and there are all sorts of practical concerns, but I think what really fired me up was learning about the writing craft and then learning about the process a manuscript takes as it becomes a book. It’s the idea that thoughts and images and smells and sounds can come out of the ether, onto the page or screen, get edited and polished, and then become an actual physical object in a kid’s hands. It’s all that in-between — the taking of ideas and words and turning them into reality — that’s really exciting to me. Plus, I know for a fact that kid’s books change lives. Kids who read find friends, courage, laughter, hope, creativity, and strength on the page. (Especially if they’re reading books by Carol Lynch Williams.) There’s nothing more awesome than that.
You’re probably the youngest, cutest agent in the business. What’s that like?
Very difficult. I’ve had a floor-to-ceiling mirror installed in my office and now I just spend whole days dancing to Lady Gaga, looking at myself, and blowing my own mind with my hotness. It’s truly an issue, and I get hardly any work done.
What are your 3 biggest dislikes in writing?
I hate flat writing and voice that lack imagination and passion. If you’re just writing to get something published because you hear that’s what you have to do, I’m usually not impressed. I dislike dialogue, characters, and story that only work on one level. Everything in life is complex, and all the moving parts of your novel have to match that reality. Finally, if you don’t give me a strong main character that makes me think about life or about myself as a person, I have to ask, why? Why put this on shelves? Why give this to a teen? What is the reason for this book to exist? If I can’t answer that question, I’m probably not going to do well in trying to sell it to publishers.
What’s the best part about being an agent? What’s the worst?
There are two best parts. First, calling a creator and telling them that their project, their dream, is going to be a real book. Especially if it’s the first time they’re going to be published. I also love working with that creative, wonderful client to polish that project so that it’s submission ready. The worst part, by far, is being disappointed by losing out on a project I really wanted to another agent, by a book that you have high hopes for coming out and not doing as well as you wanted, or having to disappoint an editor who offered on a project and tell them that we’ve gone with another offer. When you don’t get to work on the thing you love or when the thing you love doesn’t work as you wish it would…that’s the worst.
Word on the street is you’re a writer as well as an agent. What do YOU like to write?
I like darker YA. I haven’t sold a book as a writer yet, so there’s not much to talk about, but I love YA. My inner age is about sixteen. I write manuscripts that my sixteen year-old self would’ve loved to read. One of these days, maybe y’all will be able to read a story of mine as well!
What are your 3 favorite YA books you’ve read this year?
GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams (I’m serious). BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver. I also really loved GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry, out in September.
What’s the best advice you could give someone looking to get an agent AND published?
Work on the writing first, then chase publication. It’s a really long journey and I can always tell the people who spend more time focusing on the craft and the passion of the writing from the people focusing on the book contract at the end of the tunnel. The goal isn’t just to get whatever published just so you can be published. The goal is to have a really long, fruitful, and exciting career where you write every day and love it. At least that’s the goal I want my clients to have.
You’ve just moved to New York to open the new  Andrea Brown Literary Agency branch. What’s that like? Busy? Scary? Fun?
I have been loving every minute. Every since the move, I’ve hit the ground running. I’ve been meeting with editors, working on client projects, selling books, and, poor thing, going to parties and socializing. That’s the great thing about being in New York…now I can really circulate and get to know my editor contacts at various publishing houses, and my agent colleagues at other agencies. It’s like diving into the world of publishing, and I’m so glad to finally immerse myself. (And, of course, the food and shopping are fantastic.)
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Shortly after college, I spent about six months working as a prep cook at a restaurant with two Michelin stars. It was the best job, besides this one, that I’ve ever hard. I love food. I love cooking. I’m probably happiest at a really gourmet, organic, food-driven restaurant or a farmer’s market. I love trying new things or perfecting old favorite recipes. But when I’m not cooking or agenting, I’m definitely reading. Reading takes up all of my free time and it’s so much fun, I don’t call it work.
Tell us about your blog 🙂
My blog,, came from my passion for talking about writing and for working with other writers — two things I get to do a lot as an agent. I also wanted to get my name out there, as a newer agent, and attract submissions. The blog has gotten me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and a lot of great friends and readers. It’s tedious, sometimes, to keep up with a rigorous blogging schedule, but it’s one of my favorite little things to do.

This is Carol speaking now–I think we are going to watch Mary Kole do amazing things in the literary world. I’m glad I have a view of the stage. Kyra and I really do love her. Not only is she beautiful, but she’s hilarious, too. Meeting Mary was like meeting someone I hadn’t realized I knew and loved.


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13 responses to “Mary Kole, Amazing Agent and Badass

  1. Great interview!!
    Mary’s blog is really top-notch!!

  2. rbs

    It was fun to talk to her, listen to her, and watch her dance! Most HILARIOUS. And this interview captured who I thought she was. What a relief! Thanks CLW. You could be a bigger and better Barbara Walters! 😉

  3. CLW

    I do not do the interviews or most Friday posts. These are all done by Kyra.
    This interview was conducted by my beautiful daughter, as all the rest have been.

    However, because I don’t know how to let her sign in as her own user, well, it comes up under my name.

    We’ll get that figured out soon, I hope. 🙂

  4. Kyra

    sheesh mom! taking the credit for my interviewing skillz?! sheesh!
    just kidding! i love Mary Kole!

  5. Hahaha. Question #3 is my favorite. I imagine being young and attractive is certainly a burden 🙂

  6. Amy

    I liked Mary Kole so much! She was killer funny doing her readings…loved the voices!

  7. This reminded me to put Mary’s website on my peruse list.
    Mary really rocked the conference.
    Thanks, Kyra.

  8. I was lucky enough to be at the Young Writers and Illustrators conference to see and hear both Mary and Carol in action. Loved the Lady Gaga thing! Loved the advice and great week a lot more (if that’s possible.) I’m hoping it happens again next year, but until then, I’ll be happy to read your blogs. Thanks for all the help! (By the way, I won a book that Mary read the first page of: Ship Breakers and I really enjoyed it. Thanks Mary! You’ve got very good taste–and that book has been making serious rounds with my kids, my friends and their teenagers.)

  9. Great interview! Now if we could just get a video of Mary dancing and Carol singing her awesome rendition of Bad Romance, it would make my day. No, my year! No, wait…my century!

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