Interview with TBA agent Molly Ker Hawn

We’re taking a small break from our June subject, revision, to introduce a new feature on the blog: TBA Agent Interviews!  Earlier this year, we chatted with Heather Flaherty when she joined the agency, and got the scoop on her background (not to mention a very cute picture of her pup).  That inspired us to make a plan to talk with all the agents over the course of this year – which leads us to this interview with agent extraordinaire Molly Ker Hawn.  Enjoy!

Your background is varied – some time in editorial, in magazines and social media, as well as at the Children’s Book Council. How have those different parts of your career impacted your work as an agent?
I think my agenting style is directly informed by every job I’ve ever had—and I mean right back to working in my local B. Dalton Bookseller and my town library when I was in high school. I’ve been lucky to have had jobs that exposed me to nearly every part of the publishing process and the life cycle of a book, and that have introduced me to so many people in the industry. I think it’s really useful for an agent to understand the dynamics of an acquisitions meeting, the line items in a book’s P&L (the profit-and-loss estimate a publisher creates for each of its books), how editors pitch books to their own sales teams, how marketing departments promote their books and authors…I’m grateful every day for the experiences I’ve had, and that my role now allows me to focus on the parts of the process I like most.

How did you get into agenting?
It’s all Jenny Bent’s doing. She and I have known each other longer than either of us cares to admit, and when she started the Bent Agency, she suggested I think about joining her. When I was ready to come back to work after having my children, she hadn’t changed her mind—lucky for me.

How long have you lived in the UK? I love being able to hear about the UK market from you – it’s great to have knowledge of both the UK and US markets. How does that affect your agenting?
I’ve lived here since 2006—this time. But I lived here for a year in high school, and came back for university, and then I worked here in the early 2000s as well. So I’ve been here for fifteen of the last thirty years. I have a pretty good sense of the sorts of books that do well in each market, and I definitely look for projects that have the potential to sell on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s not a requirement, though; there are always great books that will do well in one market but not the other, and I’m lucky that I can take those on, as well.

Tell us about a book you’ve read recently and loved – something that you didn’t represent.
I reread Mary Wesley’s THE CAMOMILE LAWN not long ago when I had a cold and was feeling sorry for myself. I really like wartime novels, and Wesley’s economy of language and frankness are like catnip to me. She doesn’t waste the reader’s time, nor her own. Glorious.

Do you recall the first book you read and loved?
Like it was yesterday. My third-grade teacher gave me Lloyd Alexander’s THE BOOK OF THREE and my whole (short) life changed. It was the first book I read that showed me what a book could do: the world and the characters just swallowed me up. That same teacher read us MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, which, while very different from the Chronicles of Prydain, did the same thing. Thank you, Pauline Scott of Granada School, wherever you are now.

What natural talent would you most like to have? 
I wish I were a natural early-riser. If I could get myself out of bed at six every single morning, I’m convinced I could make my life perfect. 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

I still have hope that Nashville will come calling and I will at last find my destiny as a country music star.

Where would you go in a time machine?
I’d drive across the U.S. in 1960, to see America on the brink of massive, earthshaking change.

What are some of your favorite movies?
Almost Famous. Lady Jane. Heathers. Three Days of the Condor.

6.What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
I took my Grade 1 piano exam last summer. I passed it, but I was so terrified I nearly threw up.

7. Pie or cake?
Am I baking? Then apple pie. Though last weekend I made this gingerbread and forgave myself for every stupid thing I’ve ever done. 

Thanks Molly!  

You can find more Molly here: Twitter and what she’s looking for

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