Interview with Kevan Lyon
By Theresa Rizzo
Date: November 2011
Bio: Kevan Lyon has more than 20 years in the
publishing business, including 5 years as a Literary Agent with the Dijkstra Agency and 17+ years on the wholesale, retail and
distribution side of the business, Kevan's background
on the buying and retail side of publishing affords her helpful insight into
what types of books will sell and how to market them. Kevan
holds an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.
Kevan handles women's fiction, with an emphasis on commercial women's
fiction, young adult fiction and all genres of romance. Authors on Kevan's list span a broad range of genres in women's
fiction from more literary, commercial projects to all genres of romance
including historical, contemporary, suspense and paranormal. She loves to be
surprised by a unique plot or characters and is always looking for a new, fresh
voice or approach.
- Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant
place in your heart?
Answer: I am looking for primarily fiction – all types of women’s fiction,
with an emphasis on contemporary and historical women’s fiction, and all
genres of romance, with the exception of inspirational romance. I also love
mystery, particularly historical mystery and a good “cozy” series. I am also looking for young adult
fiction of all types.
- What length synopsis do you prefer to
see with a partial? Single spaced
Answer: I generally don’t ask for a
synopsis, but rely on the opening chapters of a novel to determine if I want to
see more or a full. If I do ask to read
a synopsis I will ask for double spaced, anywhere from 3 to 10 pages or so.
- In terms of submissions, what are you
sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: I can’t really think of
anything that I am “sick of”, but I would love to see more women’s fiction with
a high concept plot or hook (great “book club fiction”) as well as historical
fiction of all types and I am particularly look for stories set in the WWI to
are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
read? What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: The first thing that draws me in is usually the voice of the story. If I love the voice and then the writing
I am immediately intrigued. From
that point, a dramatic opening that draws me in (and never lets go) is
what I am hoping for.
- For you, which elements in a fiction
submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which
are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented
author is willing to accept your advice?
- Voice – critical, and really can’t
be fixed. You either have it or
- Weak Grammar – some can be
fixed. If it is a “big” problem
may not be indicative of other problems with the writing.
- Common plot – Can’t really be
fixed, but if the voice is amazing I may give it a shot.
- Poor character development – can
be fixed, not terminal. But everything else has to be pretty close.
- Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) probably
headed for an early rejection at pitch letter.
- Mediocre / uninspired writing –
this is often something you cannot see until you read a partial (may have
a great pitch letter), and is a pretty quick pass.
- Excessive use of violence or cursing
– can be fixed, but may not make it past the reading of a partial.
- Lacking genre –specific requirements
like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – probably an early
pass – at pitch.
- Pacing is off—plot is too slow –
often can be fixed, but everything else needs to be strong.
- Story starts in wrong spot – can
be fixed, but the story has to be worth the effort.
- Ending is unsatisfactory – can be
- Does meeting an author face-to-face at
a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission
process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few
sentences of advice)?
Answer: Yes, I try to get to them a
bit more quickly if I can. But, client
stuff always come first.
- Besides the writing, the story and the
talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins,
cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of
publishing industry, promotability, etc?
Answer: The writing, the story and
the talent are key, I need to LOVE the work, and then we both need to make sure
that we are a “good fit”. We will
hopefully be working together for a long time and it is important that we feel
that we are a good match.
- What are you addicted to?
Answer: Walking on the beach in the
morning so that I can sit in front of a computer all day!