What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
If only we could predict, but trends ultimately choose us. The real goal, I think, is to work with innovative authors and magnetic storytellers, because they create the kind of material that is most likely to inspire a trend. But what I can anticipate seeing in the next year or so, since we’re coming up on an election, is a surge of political titles on the nonfiction side. As far as fiction goes, I’ve noticed an interest in literary fiction with dramatic plots, very realistic YA, and any book with the word “Girl” in the title. I’m joking on the last one—although it happens to be true—but I think fiction with truly incredible depth of characters is working well right now. In the end, though, it all comes down to quality, and the backbone of a trend will always be the ingenuity and creativity of writers, so it’s a far better route to invest in that.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Since I am intentionally cultivating a diverse list that is rather evenly split between fiction and nonfiction, this always changes for me. I happen to have closed a number of nonfiction deals in the second half of last year, so I am feeling particularly hungry for fiction right now. I’d love to find a psychological thriller that delves very deeply into the messiness of its characters. Kathryn Harrison is a writer I’ve long admired for her mastery of that. And, on the nonfiction side, I’d love to work on more psychologically based prescriptive nonfiction. I greatly admire BrenéBrown and her sophisticated style of self-improvement that’s continuing to inspire readers and helping us all lead better, healthier lives. I’m very excited about a similar book in the relationship space I have coming out next year called Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love by Andrea Miller, founder of the media company YourTango.com. So it seems I’ve got the commonality of “psychological” going for me on both fronts!
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
In general, I would say I favor realism, but because of some of the books I’ve worked on like Lauren Miller’s YA novel Free to Fall, and because of some recent trends, I do see a fair number of books with fantastical or paranormal elements. My bar for those kinds of books, in terms of development of the world and the otherworldly parameters, is really very high. It’s not at all that I couldn’t fall in love with sci-fi or fantasy—I certainly have and hope to again—it’s that I’d be a real stickler for the rules.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Because ICM is a full service talent agency, I’m fortunate to help generate opportunities for and often receive referrals from other departments. For example, I’ve been working with the filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass as well as with Alli Webb, the founder of Drybar. They’re relatively new clients for me but have been represented by my colleagues in other departments for much longer. In addition to managing my own list, it’s a great way to collaborate with colleagues and help make amazing books.
Kristyn Keene has been a literary agent at ICM Partners in Manhattan since 2006, building a list consisting of literary and commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, YA, and pop culture. She is a graduate of the Columbia Publishing Course and holds a bachelor’s degree in English and writing from the University of California at Santa Barbara.