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Meet Literary Agent Adria Goetz

Adria Goetz is a Senior Agent and Illustration Coordinator at KT Literary. She is based out of the beautifully gloomy Pacific Northwest. Adria got her start in publishing as an intern at Martin Literary Management in 2013, and began agenting in 2016.


Adria Goetz

She represents picture books, middle grade, graphic novels, and adult fiction. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, as well as the Columbia Publishing Course. In 2019, she was selected as a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree.


Adria lives in an old Victorian farmhouse in Washington state with her husband and their two darling dust gray cats, Maple and Mulberry. In her spare time she can be found rewatching Gilmore Girls for the millionth time, listening to Taylor Swift, and dreaming about the mossy stone cottage in the woods she would like to live in one day.


**The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. To watch the full interview, check out the YouTube video posted below!


We're super excited to have Adria Goetz of KT Literary here today! I'll let her introduce herself.


Adria: I've been agenting since 2016, and I represent all sorts of books, but I do a lot of picture books by author-illustrators, middle grade, and right now I'm really looking to expand my list in the adult fiction space— particularly romcoms, thrillers, book club fiction, and anything that is tinged with magic, like contemporary fantasy or magical realism!


Tell me a little bit about how you got into the publishing industry in general.


Adria: I have found publishing to be very much an apprenticeship type of industry. So, I got my start when I was a 19-year-old college intern at a local literary agency in the Seattle area called Martin Literary. And I just kind of clung on for dear life, because there are so few opportunities to work in publishing when you are based in the Pacific Northwest, and not interested in moving to New York for the rest of your life, which was me! So, I interned there for 2 years, and I was an assistant, and then I started agenting in 2016 there, and the rest is history!


I’m now at KT Literary and loving it! Our motto is, “Nice people, great books,” which I think sums up the agency very well.


What are some of the qualities that you look for when someone queries you, especially in children's literature? What makes something stand out or not?


Adria:  So, when it comes to picture books—actually when it comes to middle grade too — there are kind of two f-words; there's a bad f-word and there's a good f-word!


The bad f-word is “familiar.” So anything that feels very familiar, or feels like it's been done before, or feels like it's kind of just going to blend in on a bookshelf…that's something I steer away from.


And then the good f-word is “fresh.” So, anything that feels like, "Oh my gosh this is just a breath of fresh air!" Something hasn't been done this way before...that's something that I always really gravitate toward. And just any project that feels like it's going to really delight the readership is always a good thing to see.





What would you say are the most common mistakes that you see in queries?


Adria:  There are two things that kind of hold hands. One is missing metadata. So, anything like the title, the genre, the word count, you know, the type of book that you're talking about— that is very important for me to see. Sometimes people just kind of start talking about their book, but they don't actually tell me "This is a middle grade fantasy," or "This is a nonfiction picture book," or whatever it may be. 


And then, the other thing is really vague language. So, I see this a lot on the adult side of things, more often, where people will be like, “This is a novel that's about a woman who's on a healing journey, and it explores themes of forgiveness and redemption and healing and love…” And it's like… but what's the book actually about?  Like, tell me the plot! How does she go on this journey? What kind of journey are we talking about? So yeah, vague language is never a great thing to see; I like to see really specific language. 


And I think that those things kind of go together because it's really important to ground an agent in your project as quickly as possible.  So when you’re not telling us what type of book it is, or when you’re not telling us about, you know, what happens in the story, that just kinda makes us feel like we’re floating…and we need to be grounded.  


What would be your biggest advice to aspiring children's book authors to make their manuscript stand out…especially in a market as saturated as today's is?


Adria:  I think finding an idea that's really amazing! For me, the idea needs to win me over first. I need to think that just the general premise of the story is a really amazing concept! So, once I fall in love with the idea, then I'll go look at the manuscript. But if the idea doesn't catch my attention, then the manuscript kind of doesn't matter, as harsh as that might sound. So yeah, the idea! The idea is king in my world!


What would you say are some of the current trends in children's literature? 


Adria: I mean, I think one of the trends is just how extremely competitive it is right now! One of the trends is that editors are not acquiring books right now! But that's depressing…We won't get into that! We won't talk about that!  


What I am seeing sell, for picture books and middle grade, is anything that is kind of tinged with magic a little bit… just has a little bit of something speculative. Not necessarily something full blown, fantasy set in another world, but just something with a little bit of magic.  When I look at the last few sales I’ve done, that’s what’s been selling. 


And then in the picture book space, I feel like I’m seeing a lot of deals for nonfiction… particularly stories that are like historical nonfiction. Not necessarily picture book biographies; there are so many picture book biographies! But things that just feel like you’re mining history for these little historical footnotes…just these really interesting tidbits. I feel like I see a lot of sales in that space right now.


What would you say are your best tips for writing a query letter, itself?


Adria:  I would say, big picture, a query letter needs to be professional, concise, and friendly. So those are the three adjectives to hold dear to your heart as you're writing and editing your query letter.


But to be more specific...


👉 Nail that first paragraph


I— and I know a lot of agents do this as well—make snap decisions based on the opening of a query letter very often. So in that first paragraph it's important to include all of your metadata. So, you know, your name, the title, the word count, the genre or the type of book. So if it's middle grade fantasy, if it's young adult science fiction, if it's a picture book… those things. And then kind of a quick, big picture description of the project. 


👉 Include comps


Some agents also suggest including comp titles in that opening paragraph. I think you can include them up top. You can also save them for later. Sometimes, especially if you're writing a novel, people like to include really big picture, sort of conceptual comps. So, for example, if you are pitching a project that's like a small town story, but it's set on Mars, then you might pitch it as Gilmore Girls meets Star Wars. So, those conceptual comps they'll put in the first paragraph. And then later on, they'll include more traditional comp titles—so like other science fiction novels, that are set on a different planet, that have published within the last 5 years. I think that works great!


👉 Make it personal


And then, the first paragraph should also include a personalization if you have one. So, if you met an agent at a conference, you can mention that. You could say, “You represent my friend Tina Cho,” or you could say, “You represented this book that I love.” That's always great!


Just make sure that you have actually read the book that you say that you love! I think a lot of times people lie about that, and it kind of makes me laugh when people are like, “I love that book The Crescent Moon Tea Room, that you represented!” and it's like, well that actually hasn't published yet, so I don't think you've read it!  


But, I mean if you see a deal for a book that sounds up your alley, you can always say, “Congratulations on your recent sale of The Crescent Moon Tea Room! It totally sounds like it's up my alley, and I'm excited to read it!” That's always super nice to hear.  


But to give myself a little plug, I have a full length query letter workshop available on my website. So if you feel like you need more query letter tips, that's a great, great resource!


Do people spell your name incorrectly often, and does it bother you?


Adria:  All the time! Yeah, everyday. I get like Adrian, Andrea, Adriana…and then like my last name is like all sorts of things. I think because it's something I've been dealing with my whole life…because my mother gave me a not-very-normal or well-known name…it's not an instant rejection for me. Whenever I teach my query letter workshops, I talk about “no soup for you” moments…like quoting Seinfeld?  The soup guy? So, it’s not like a “no soup for you” moment, but I think in general, it is great to get a literary agent’s name…right!  I would definitely recommend it! 


What one piece of advice would you give aspiring writers who are just starting out?


Adria: I know I’m long winded, but my main thing is to learn your stuff. Do what you need to do to really learn the space that you're writing in.


👉 Keep learning the craft


So, if you can, get involved in SCBWI and 12x12 if you're a children's book writer. I just have noticed a higher quality in the submissions that I get from writers who are involved in those organizations, versus writers who aren't. 


👉 Read widely in your genre


And then just reading as many types of books in your space as possible; particularly books that have published within the last five years. You can get a sense for what's out there, what's selling right now, you know? What's already been done. But also just the rhythm of the format. 



And then, my last big thing is just to find your people! Find your critique group, your critique partner.  You really need those people to give you editorial, constructive feedback, but also just like for moral support! Because the writing and publishing journey can be pretty brutal, and you need people you can vent to…like whose shoulder you can cry on! You need people who are going to celebrate your wins! So, I think that's very important to find your village.


Anything else?


Adria:  I mean if I had to give one more little note or piece of advice, I just always like to encourage people to work on being able to cope with rejection, because there's going to be so much rejection on this journey.  Even when you sign with an agent, there's a lot of rejection to deal with, so being able to build up a tolerance for it, I think, is crucial in order to survive this industry. 


And I always tell writers, I don't want you to fear rejection! I actually want you to fear the absence of rejection, because if you're not regularly getting rejected, that probably means that you're not regularly sending your work out! And so, being able to kind of like “rack up” rejections as a badge of honor—that's a good quality to have!


Thank you so much for joining us!


If you're ready to pursue traditional publishing and want to kickstart your querying journey, check out our Kid Lit Query Kit! It has everything you need to get started on the right foot.


Kid Lit Query Kit



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