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Secrets of Literary Agents

Instructor:  Kate McKean
Level:  Intermediate
Class Times:  There will be two class meetings.
Monday, January 9, 2012, and
Monday, January 23, 2012,
7:00 pm-8:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time Zone
Application Deadline:  December 13, 2011
Tuition:  $179.00

For a description of the class, its assignments, requirements, and
schedule, see the syllabus below.
To apply, click here.

For more information on Odyssey's Online Classes, click here.

Secrets of Literary Agents


Course Description:
Literary Agent and teacher Kate McKean gives you the dos and don'ts about getting and working with an agent.

The right literary agent can help shape and build an author's career. The wrong one can sink it. In this course, Kate will explain why you need an agent in today's market and what an agent can do for you. She will show you how to identify qualified agents appropriate for your work, and how to figure out which of those are the best candidates to approach. You'll learn what agents are looking for in a query, a synopsis, and a novel opening, and how many submissions yours must compete against to get an agent's attention. Kate will take you inside the minds of agents to reveal how they evaluate projects

Kate will also prepare you for working with an agent. She'll explain the contracts between agents and authors: clauses to avoid, clauses to insist on. You'll learn how many authors an agent represents and what an average day is like.

She'll let you know what is reasonable for an author to expect of an agent, and what is unreasonable, and how to build a positive, long-term relationship with an agent.

Kate will also give an overview of changes and trends in the publishing industry, particularly those involving fantasy, science fiction, and young adult literature. Which sub-genres, publishers, and editors provide the best opportunities for new writers? What is the role of e-publishing from an agent's perspective? And how are these changes affecting literary agents?

Students will read about and research literary agents; write a query, synopsis, or novel opening; and provide critiques of their classmates' work.

You must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and to work to strengthen them. You must also be ready to give feedback to your classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will help you improve your writing.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, which is an umbrella term I use to cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Many of the examples we discuss will be taken from fantastic fiction. Yet the issue of skillfully controlling showing and telling is important in all fiction writing, so fiction writers who focus on other genres could profit from this class and would be welcome

Homework will be assigned on January 9 and must be completed and turned in by January 16. Any student who misses the deadline may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be in standard manuscript format and should be submitted as MS Word 2003 files, rich text files, or ascii files.

You should reserve a minimum of 6 hours to complete each homework assignment.

The assignment may include readings, research, analysis, writing, and critiquing. Kate will provide feedback on your homework before the final class session.

Students are expected to follow guidelines about postings to the Yahoogroup in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Students will be required to read a lesson on critiquing before the course begins.

Since we will have only 2 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for you to get the most out of this course.

You are expected to attend all classes, except in cases of emergency. In such cases, you should notify Jeanne Cavelos.

There is no method for making up any missed classes.

Students are expected to follow the policies set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Technical Requirements:
Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered on the Online Classes page.

Tentative Schedule:
January 9:      First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. Why you need an agent and what an agent can do for you. How to identify qualified agents. How to write a strong query, synopsis, and novel opening. How agents evaluate submissions. Study and discussion of examples. Assignment of homework.
January 16:      Homework is due.
January 23:      Second class meeting. Discussion of homework. Contracts with agents. What an agent's day is like; what you can expect from an agent; how to build a positive, long-term relationship. Changes, trends, and opportunities in the publishing industry. How to keep current. Homework is returned with Kate's feedback.


Kate McKean A native Southerner, Kate McKean earned her Master's degree in Fiction Writing from the University of Southern Mississippi before starting her career as a literary agent at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. Her interests lie in literary fiction, contemporary women's fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, young adult and middle grade fiction, narrative non-fiction, sports related books, food writing, pop culture, and craft. Her varied client list ranges from New York Times bestselling humor books based on ICanHasCheezburger.com to literary fiction such as Carey Wallace's The Blind Contessa's New Machine. She enjoys teaching and regularly teaches publishing classes and writing workshops at New York University and Mediabistro.com. Kate lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

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