What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Personally, I think trying to find “the next X” is far less exciting than discovering a story (or storyteller) that will totally surprise and delight you with its originality. So instead of chasing trends, I try to look for gaps in the marketplace by asking what subject hasn’t been covered in a while or from a certain perspective. Who is leading an interesting conversation, whether it be in their field or on a national or global level? What accepted truth is actually more complicated than we currently think?
I have had the immense pleasure of representing Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times–bestselling author of Hidden Figures, for the last few years, and the one thing that has become perfectly clear to me is how much of a trendsetter Margot is. About a decade ago, Margot looked at the narrative nonfiction canon and asked herself where the epic, sweeping American history books featuring African-American protagonists were. She found few examples. So she’s made it her mission to lead the charge in expanding the genre. In doing so, she’s made it possible for other writers to now write books on “hidden figures” who a few years ago might not have received the publishing or Hollywood treatment. It’s a remarkable thing to have witnessed. Naturally, I’d love to help other authors break down barriers and enjoy similar successes.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I was a microbiologist in my pre-publishing life. But even though I left the lab bench behind, my love of science, particularly medicine and the human body, has only grown over the years. So I’m always on the hunt for a fascinating medical history (The Emperor of All Maladies [by Siddhartha Mukherjee] is an excellent example), an evidence-backed big idea book (like Susan Cain’s Quiet), a book advocating science’s importance in our society (like Dr. Caren Cooper’s Citizen Science, which I represented), etc.
As an agent, I believe I’m uniquely positioned to help promote voices that might not otherwise be heard, and so I’m also always looking for writers and stories that challenge accepted narratives and push conversations forward. Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege to work with journalists Peter Moskowitz and Jessica Goudeau, whose forthcoming books on free speech and the U.S. refugee resettlement program, respectively, have the potential to influence our national dialogue and perhaps even policy.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’ve fallen a bit out of love with memoir lately, but perhaps that is due to the number of them in my inbox. I usually read queries in aggregate, and after a while, many of the memoir letters begin to sound the same. But, that being said, if your story is unlike anything that’s been published before or you’re the kind of writer who can make reading about paint drying compelling, don’t hesitate to reach out.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Almost exactly a year ago, I joined the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. I’d worked at a few well-respected agencies before, but it wasn’t until I landed at SKLA that I felt I’d found my true publishing home. My colleagues are as kind and generous as they are smart, and I’m often pulling their books off the shelves for my weekend reading. Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods (one of Stuart’s books) might just be my favorite read of the year. It’s a real joy to work alongside some of the top minds in the business.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Aside from my “day job” at SKLA, I’m involved in the nonprofit BinderCon (a development conference for women and non–gender-conforming writers) and the soon-to-be-nonprofit Inkluded (a group of publishing professionals working to develop and celebrate diversity in our industry). Both organizations are always looking for more help and support, so please feel free to reach out at any time!
Mackenzie Brady Watson has been an agent with the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency since 2016. Prior to that, she was an agent with New Leaf Literary + Media and Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. Her clients have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List, and have been winners of the NAACP Image Award and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award and finalists for the Lambda Literary Award and ALA Carnegie Medal. As a former research scientist, she has a great passion for science books as well as sociology, investigative journalism, food writing, memoir, business, and contemporary YA fiction. She particularly appreciates work that sheds light on marginalized experiences and helps contribute to the cultural conversation.