Molly Ker HawnThe Bent Agency
Molly Ker Hawn is one of two UK agents at US firm, The Bent Agency. She is based in London and represents US and UK writers. Molly specialises in young adult, middle grade, chapter books and non-fiction for ages 8-18.
Her publishing career has seen her take on editorial roles at Chronicle Books and Dial Books for Young Readers, social media development for a teen magazine, and a post as National Programs Director at the American Children's Book Council. She is a former board member of the United States Board on Books for Young People.
*Molly's young adult list covers thrillers, comedy, romance and science fiction. She is actively building her list and represents a number of debut authors. Clients include Stephanie Kate Strohm ('Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink' and 'Confederates Don't Wear Couture'); Simon P Clark (debut middle grade novel, 'Eren'); and Kat Ellis ('Breaker' and 'Purge')
*In fiction, she is interested in books set in India and Ireland. Molly like books 'whose characters explore religion in unexpected ways'. Performing arts stories, strong sibling relationships and unusual settings will also catch her eye.
*In non-fiction she would like to see middle grade and YA which focuses on 'social issues and contemporary topics'. She's looking for fiction that is 'inventive, well-crafted, and rich with emotion'.
*Humour is a bonus (as long as it's not toilet humour!) and she tends to prefer books with literary appeal.
*Please note, Molly doesn't represent adult trade fiction, adult non-fiction, new adults (18-25), or picture books.
*Her favourite children's authors include: Ellen Raskin, Edward Ormondroyd, Margo Lanagan, Maureen Johnson, Jack Gantos, Jacqueline Woodson, Catherynne Valente, Chris Crutcher, Francesca Lia Block, Noel Streatfeild, Gene Luen Yang, and Susan Cooper.
*Email Molly with a brief biography and a 'solid pitch' for your book. Make sure you paste the first ten pages of your book in the body of your email (the agency don't accept attachments or postal queries)
My time in the children's publishing industry has included editorial roles at Chronicle Books and Dial Books for Young Readers, early social media development for a major teen magazine, and serving as National Programs Director at the Children's Book Council, the trade association of American children's book publishers. I've also been a bookseller, and I'm a past board member of the United States Board on Books for Young People. I live in London and I work with authors and publishers both in the U.K. and the U.S. I've bounced back and forth from America to England since I was a teenager: I grew up in Northern California, lived for a time in the West Country, read English at Cambridge University, spent many years in New York City, and now live a stone's throw from the River Thames. I'm looking for middle grade and young adult fiction that's inventive, well-crafted, and rich with emotion. I'm also interested in non-fiction for readers ages 8-18. I like wit, but not snark; I prefer books that lean more toward literary than commercial, but of course, my perfect book neatly bridges the two. The books on my list all share a strong sense of authentic place, whether real or imaginary. If you've got a terrific story, well-told, I want to read it.
Some of my favorite (non-client) authors are Ellen Raskin, Edward Ormondroyd, Margo Lanagan, Maureen Johnson, Jack Gantos, Jacqueline Woodson, Catherynne Valente, Chris Crutcher, Francesca Lia Block, Noel Streatfeild, Gene Luen Yang, and Susan Cooper. And in the non-children's/YA pantheon, my favorites include Maeve Binchy, AS Byatt, Mollie Panter-Downes, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury, Laurie Colwin, and Judith Krantz.
An Interview with Molly
Q. What books/authors do you love in children's fiction? (Crime, women's) Give us some examples and say why you liked these books/authors.
My tastes are varied, to a certain extent - but most of the time, they veer toward the literary.
Some of my favorite middlegrade novels:
The Westing Game, by the great Ellen Raskin. It's a tricky puzzle of a book, with a cast of largely adult characters seen from the perspective of thirteen-year-old Turtle Wexler.
The Dark Is Rising sequence, by Susan Cooper. There's no one like Cooper -- her books are superbly researched and plotted, elegantly written, and full of characters that just burst with life.
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell is another favorite. The voice is a gorgeous mix of whimsy and melancholy, and the story is classic and fresh and genuinely touching, all at the same time.
Jack Gantos' Joey Pigza books are terrific: funny and engaging. I think a lot of kids can see something of themselves in Joey, and his struggles feel very real to them.
In YA fiction, I think Margo Lanagan is hard to beat. Her voice is singular, her imagination is boundless, and she has crucial things to say about gender politics and human relationships.
Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss is my shining example of a romantic YA novel. She captures that delicious tension of first love so naturally.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is one of the most extraordinary novels you'll ever read. It's an edge-of-your-seat wartime novel, but it's also a heartbreaking depiction of female friendship, which I always I find compelling.
I'm not really a good fit for any fiction that relies on bathroom humour, and I don't easily connect with animal protagonists. Other than that, though, I'm open to anything, as long as the writing is top-notch.
Q. On the non-fiction side, are there particular areas that interest you? Does your non-fiction list have a particular slant to it?
I'm interested in non-fiction for the MG and YA audiences, especially projects that focus on social issues and contemporary topics.
Q. Is there anything in particular you'd love to see at the moment?
I'd really like to see a middlegrade or YA novel that plays with narrative structure in a clever, unexpected way. I was really taken with Todd Hasak-Lowy's recent novel, ME BEING ME IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS YOU BEING YOU -- it's told entirely in lists, and it managed to surprise me with its inventiveness while still delivering an emotional punch. I'm always hopeful that today will be the day I find the kind of high-stakes fantasy I crave -something like Marie Rutkoski's THE WINNER'S CURSE, or Rae Carson's THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. I want political intrigue, I want complicated characters, I want a world that feels new and fully developed.And I'm constantly looking for great MG and YA contemporary fiction with a literary slant.
Q. What's your biggest turn-off in a covering letter? What would you really hope to see?
Too much information is worse than not enough, I find. Seven paragraphs on the author's life story detracts from what's really important: the book. A solid pitch is so much more appealing.
Q. What are your biggest peeves in an opening page or opening chapter? And what do you love to see?
The usual disappointing suspects: The main character's alarm goes off, waking her up. The main character examines himself in a mirror. The main character is late for something. Clichs, clichs, clichs.
Q. Do you have any unpredictable loves?
I'm drawn to novels set in India and Ireland. I like books whose characters explore religion in unexpected ways. Performing arts stories are a good bet. Strong sibling relationships. Unusual settings.
Q. Would you take on an author who had self-published? What kind of self-pub sales would make you sit up?
If I thought the book was really special, sure, I would.
Q. How many submissions do you see annually? And how many of those submissions will end up on your list?
I get about 5000-6000 submissions each year, and take on maybe 4 or 5 clients in that same timeframe -- but I don't have a quota. I can go months without signing anyone, and then discover two promising writers in a week.
Q. Do you look for social media and online presence? Do you care?
Oh, sure. It's not a prerequisite for success, but an online presence that's unprofessional or unpleasant is a warning sign. I'm not sure I'd want to work with someone who was always angry or complaining.
Q. When people are pitching the concept for a book to you, what do you find is the most common failing?
Waffling. Be concise -- give me the one line pitch and the comp titles (e.g., "it's Downton Abbey meets The Lord of the Rings").
Q: What character (from any book) would you be and why?
Lizzie Bennett, please.
Q: Which 3 famous people (alive or deceased) would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Emma Thompson. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Michelle Obama. I think with a couple of bottles of wine, we could definitely put the world to rights.
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