Three Seas Literary Agency
Cori! Welcome and thanks for stepping into
my spotlight this month.
WG: To start
off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
CD: Like most people in the
industry, I’ve had a love and passion for books and writing ever
since I learned how to read. I discovered romance novels as a
teen and the rest, as they say, is history. In my early
twenties, I submitted several non-fiction articles to national
horse magazines and was really excited to get them published.
That encouraged me to brave the attempt to write a romance
novel. I was extremely lucky to have three books published by
Silhouette. It was an unbelievable thrill to see something I’d
written out there on the shelves right there among authors I’d
worshipped and envied for so many years. After taking a rather
long hiatus from writing, I then decided to purse a different
avenue that would still keep me in the industry I love…and I
became an agent.
On a personal level, I
live out in the country with my own menagerie of dogs, cats, and
horses. I have a fabulous family who all live within an hour’s
distance of my house. I’m fortunate enough to have a career
that is both fulfilling and truly enjoyable.
WG: Can you tell us why you
decided to pursue a career as an agent and what steps you took
to get you where you are today?
CD: After working for years
at other jobs in “the real world,” I was ready for a change. I
really missed being so actively a part of the publishing
industry, but I found I didn’t have quite the same passion to write novels as I once had. My niece, Michelle Grajkowski,
had started the 3 Seas Literary Agency six years prior, and with
unlimited amounts of hard work, dedication, integrity, and
charm, she’d become extremely successful. She’d sold to every
major publishing house, built a strong reputation with editors
and authors, and had really made a name for herself in the
business. At the time, she had a client list of around 40 and
could no longer feasibly keep up with incoming submissions that
averaged about 500 a month. She desperately wanted to add
another agent to her agency but couldn’t find the right person.
I’d been involved with the agency on a very limited basis behind
the scenes since its inception, so it was all really a matter of
her need finally coinciding with my timing of a career change.
It made perfect sense and was a perfect fit for both of us. I
had it easy…I got to start with a highly successful,
experienced, and respected agency, with an agent who already had
excellent relationships with a whole lot of editors. I’ve been
slowly and steadily building my client list ever since. The
proverbial icing on the cake has been the discovery of just how
much I love it.
WG: What genres do you currently
represent (i.e.: have clients published in or are actively
submitting to houses who publish this)?
CD: All types of romance
(contemporary, category, historical, regency, erotic, romantic
suspense), women’s fiction, paranormal, YA, thrillers,
mysteries, non-fiction, and children’s books.
WG: Are you interested in
expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
CD: I’m open to almost all
genres, if I fall in love with the project.
WG: Are there any genres you have
absolutely no interest in representing at this time?
CD: Science fiction and
poetry. I don’t know enough about either genre, and they aren’t
anything I even personally read for pleasure.
WG: Do you represent any authors of
non-fiction? If so, have you been successful in selling their
projects? If not, is this a market that interests you?
CD: I don’t have any
non-fiction authors at this time, but I’m definitely open to
acquiring some. I’ve had a few non-fiction proposals but
nothing yet that’s impressed me enough to take on.
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales
fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
CD: The majority have been
historical romances and YA. Since I’ve only been doing this for
14 months, I don’t feel I’ve developed any trends “over time”
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the
past 12 months?
CD: Berkley, HarperCollins,
Kensington, and Puffin. I’ve also had contract offers from St.
Martins and Dorchester.
WG: Approximately how many clients do you currently
represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?
CD: Currently I represent 12
clients and am on the verge of signing two more. At the time I
signed my authors, the pubbed to unpubbed ration was 1:4.
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors
have you sold in the past 12 months?
CD: I’m very excited to have
made sales for five of my first-time authors! What a thrill it
was for me in each and every case. It’s so rewarding to be a
part of making a writer’s dream come true!
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent,
and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
CD: Yes, I’m still actively
adding to my list at this time. With the tremendous volume of
submissions we get, a project really has to have a “wow”
factor to catch my eye. I love to see a fabulous, opening line
to a book, tight writing, characters I care about and am
intrigued by from page one, and a unique voice that compels me
to keep reading no matter what else is demanding attention on my
desk. Of course an author needs to be able to tell a great
story…that’s even more critical than a perfectly polished
manuscript. I’m also impressed by a super query letter that’s
professional, typo-free, and has a brief and brilliant summary
of the project. Good writing credentials by the author never
hurt either! J
WG: How would you describe your agenting style? What is
your involvement with the author’s creative process? With
his/her career planning? Or is your relationship strictly the
business side of contract negotiation and as author/editor
CD: I take on as much or as
little a role in my clients’ writing lives as they personally
want. In general, I’m very hands-on in knowing what my clients
are working on, where they’re at with their projects, and where
their career is headed as well as how to get there. I’m happy
to assist in brain-storming if a client likes and is comfortable
with that. I read everything before it goes out, and if I see a
major problem in a manuscript – whether in character
development, plot, conflicts, or a logic issue – I discuss it
with my client. I edit when necessary so editors know when they
receive a project from me that it’s going to be clean and
virtually error-free. Then, of course, there’s also the whole
business side as well.
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
CD: I especially enjoy editing and
WG: Given that you feel an individual author’s manuscript
is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the
work in order for you to represent it?
CD: I absolutely have to love and be excited about an author’s work before I’ll take
it on. It wouldn’t be fair to the author otherwise. I wouldn’t
be able to honestly and thoroughly get an editor charged up on a
project if I didn’t believe in it 100% myself. Why would any
writer want an agent who is only going to pursue a sale with
luke-warm enthusiasm? I’ve passed on many published authors who
have queried me because their writing didn’t compel me. I’ve
also passed several times on representing authors who’ve just
gotten an offer on their own from a publisher and are looking
for an agent to handle the contract. In that situation, I have
to read a sample of their work first, and if I don’t fall in
love with the project and the writer’s voice, I won’t represent
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the
status of their submissions? How specific is the feedback?
CD: It varies from client to
client. I give specific feedback whenever I get any from an
editor, be it positive or negative. I always tell my clients
where I’m submitting their work, and most like to keep track
along with me as to what’s still out where. If a client has a
question or comment about their submissions, I’m happy to update
them at any time.
WG: What is your process for
submitting work to editors? Is this different if the editor is
one you’ve had no prior contact with as opposed to one you’ve
already built a working relationship with?
CD: Most of the editors I deal
regularly with accept email submissions, which is a great
time-saver for all involved. I tend to include a more casual
and friendly note along with a query to the editors I’ve already
built working relationships with than to those I haven’t. I
always research an editor’s submission preferences prior to
sending anything out.
WG: How do you feel about sending a
particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
CD: I always submit to multiple
houses simultaneously, unless of course we’ve made an exclusive
read agreement with an editor. The waiting game in this
industry is long enough without simultaneously submitting!
Almost all editors understand that very well and while it’s not
their preference, they do expect it.
WG: Once a work has been sold, do you provide any input to the
author and/or editor in the area of marketing and promotion for
CD: Yes, on an as-needed and
as-appropriate basis. Again, this varies from book to book.
WG: What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to
the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor
CD: One of my personal
strengths with my authors is that I’ve been in the role of
writer myself. I know how it feels to be on that side of the
table, so I have a greater understanding and appreciation for
everything a writer goes through. I was also multi-published,
have been an avid reader since I was five, and have a real love
of the industry in general. I’m also a perfectionist with
editing and will only submit a project to an editor that is as
professional and error-free as possible. That’s very beneficial
in my agent/author relationships as well as my agent/editor
relationships. When dealing with editors, I believe in being
pleasant and courteous so an editor will hopefully look forward
to working with me, rather than dreading it. Then when the time
comes to get tough in negotiations, I already have a good
foundation built, so hammering out contract terms doesn’t turn
into an ordeal for them or me.
WG: Do you feel that writers’ conferences provide significant
value to you in the way of networking with authors? With
CD: Absolutely on both counts!
While I feel a conference has been especially successful if I
end up with one or two great submissions out of it, the best
benefit is having the opportunity to personally get together
with my clients who may be attending. It’s also an invaluable
time to network with editors, on a personal and professional
WG: Have you ever been involved in the sale of movie
rights? Foreign rights? If so, did you handle this yourself or
did you work with someone more specialized in this field?
CD: I haven’t personally been
involved yet on either the sale of movie rights or foreign
rights. Michelle (owner of 3 Seas) has done both though. With
movie rights, we definitely work with a co-agent who is
specialized in that field. That is sometimes the case with
foreign rights as well, but Michelle has also done some
negotiating of those herself.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your
response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
CD: Well, the “realistic”
timeframe tends to be different than the “ideal/intended”
timeframe! Lately the response time for queries has been taking
about a month; partials are about three months; and fulls are
around five months. This will vary slightly, of course,
depending on my own clients’ needs…which always takes
WG: I see you are not based in New York. Do you feel that
this impacts your effectiveness as an agent in any way?
CD: Not at all! In this
electronic age, almost all correspondence is handled via email
and voicemail anyway, not face-to-face. Michelle and I do take
business trips to New York to meet with editors once or twice a
year. We’ve often heard the New York editors comment that they
see the out-of-state agents more frequently than the New
York-based agents, as the former sometimes make a stronger
effort to schedule formal meetings with them.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations
have you encountered from authors about what an agent’s role is?
CD: Well, there are authors
who think having an agent is going to result in a guaranteed
sale of their work. Or that they’ll hear back from an editor on
their project in a matter of days if it’s submitted by an
agent. Or that an agent can automatically get a six-figure
advance for them. There are lots of misconceptions out there!
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author’s
career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
CD: That’s really a question
each author has to decide for him/herself. Writing for category
romance, for example, can still be done quite successfully
without an agent. But more and more of the large publishing
houses won’t accept submissions from unagented authors, so if
that’s a writer’s goal it will definitely help to have an agent
first. I also feel if an author is looking for a long-term
career in the industry, the right agent can be invaluable. On
the flip-side, having a bad or disreputable agent can be worse
than not having an agent at all, so my advice is for any writer
to thoroughly research an agent before signing a contract.
WG: What piece of advice or ‘pearl of
wisdom’ would you like to offer authors who are considering
approaching you (or any agent) for representation?
from the heart, believe in yourself and your project, be
professional with your work and your approach, and make sure you
have a thorough understanding of the business going in so you
don’t have unrealistic goals/expectations.
WG: I love
to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky,
motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite
you'd like to share?
CD: “Dance as if no one is watching; laugh as if no one is
listening; and love as if you’ve never been hurt.”
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
CD: I enjoy spending time
with family, friends, and my pets, as well as horseback riding,
photography, gardening, and doing just about anything outdoors.
I’m also a huge movie buff and love to go see movies in the
theater with a huge bucket of popcorn.
WG: Other than your client’s work, what do you enjoy
CD: I wish I had time to read
anything other than my clients’ work! J
But I enjoy reading romance (of course!), women’s fiction,
thrillers, mysteries, and non-fiction animal books.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
CD: Favorite movies include Romancing the Stone, The Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing, Gone
With the Wind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m a
sucker for strong, yummy heroes, romance, and action. Favorite
all-time TV shows include Magnum PI, The Dick Van Dyke Show,
The Big Valley, Friends,, and Survivor. I guess I’m
aging myself with most of those!
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant
impact on your life? In what way?
CD: As a life-time animal
lover, when I was a child the book that had the biggest impact
on me was Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s the ultimate
dog story and so tremendously engrossing and moving that I cried
my eyes out every time I read it. That book touched me on such a
deeply emotional level, I think it forever cemented my love of
dogs as well as the satisfaction a person can get from reading a
great story. Later in life, the two books that hooked me
eternally to romance reading (and later writing…and even later
to be an agent) were Shanna and Gone With the Wind.
Those were both completely awe-inspiring books and such a joy
from the first pages to the last.
WG: Before we close, is
there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the
CD: Hmm…nothing else comes to
mind! Your questions were so thorough, I think you covered
everything. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be a part of
your spotlight! It was a real pleasure, Winnie! J
WG: Is there a website you can point
us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your
CD: Certainly! www.ThreeSeasLit.com
WG: Thanks again for taking time out
of your busy schedule to sit in this month’s spotlight. It was
delightful ‘visiting’ with you here.