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Interview with Agent Mark McVeigh

KEKLA MAGOON: I met Mark McVeigh close to a year ago through Simon & Schuster, where he was then the Editorial Director for Aladdin (my novel’s imprint). He has since “switched sides” by starting his own literary agency, primarily representing writers of books for children and young adults. During his many years as an editor, Mark earned a reputation as being a tireless advocate for authors and an excellent judge of talent among up-and-coming writers. It seems like agenting will suit him well! We tracked Mark down to talk about his vision for this exciting new endeavor….

KEKLA MAGOON: Thanks for joining us, Mark! We’re interested in career transitions within the children’s publishing industry. You’ve been an editor, and now you’re an agent! Why the switch? Tell us a little bit about the decision to change your role.

MARK McVEIGH: I’ve always thought about being an agent—my greatest pleasure as an editor was acting as an advocate for creative people—surely one of the great underclasses of our society, at least as far as business is concerned.

KEKLA: How do you think your editorial experience will inform your role as agent?

MARK: It informs it in every way. I’ve tried to balance my roster of clients the way a house would balance a seasonal list: some commercial, some literary, a mix of formats, genres, and age groups, and some simply because I couldn’t resist.

KEKLA: As a former editor, you’ve no doubt worked with a lot of agents. What are the best qualities an agent can possess?

MARK: Being a good editor is important. Being assertive but not aggressive is a close second. And feeling comfortable walking away from a deal if something doesn’t feel right: like every other part of life, one needs to trust intuition.

KEKLA: What types of work are you looking to represent?

MARK: The easy answer is, check out my website: http://www.themcveighagency.com for a very comprehensive list.

KEKLA: Great. We peeked at your website, and it’s definitely worth a read. Sounds like you have a wide range of interests, from picture book to YA and graphic novels, and beyond! We loved this vision statement, too:

“THE McVEIGH AGENCY is more than just a literary agency: it is a creative think tank. It is a place where the people I work with (and that includes the editors and art directors) can feel comfortable trying new ideas, secure in the knowledge that I will help all involved attain the best possible final book. My favorite book is the one everyone thinks can’t be done!”

KEKLA: What’s the biggest challenge of starting your own business?

MARK: Waiting! I remember being annoyed when agents called me for a response because I was so busy, but now I understand their dilemma! I want to know—do you like it?

KEKLA: What is most exciting about your new endeavor?

MARK: So many things, but the most exciting thing is to be creating something that is part mine—the business—and part a shared entity—the body of work I’ll help grow with my clients. It’s like planting a garden–I’m looking forward to all of us reaping wonderful things from our connected journey!

KEKLA: Sounds great, Mark. Best of luck to you!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

C. Lee McKenzie July 31, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Being on two sides of the business has given Mark McVeigh a wonderful appreciation for the writer-waiting angst.

Thanks for that answer, Mark.

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Chris Eboch August 3, 2009 at 9:41 am

I have the good fortune of working with Mark first as an editor – he acquired my just-released Haunted series – and now as my agent. Agenting is a great fit for him. He’s smart and honest, and his advocacy for authors shines through. It helps that he’s an author too!

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Holly B August 11, 2009 at 11:18 am

I love your comment, “My favorite book is the one everyone thinks can’t be done!” I think I have more than one of these. I guess I’ll be in touch!

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Steve Bjorkman September 14, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Mark is a tireless advocate of authors, a great encourager who is resolute, savvy and compassionate. He has been my editor, he is my friend, and he is my agent. I have great respect, admiration and affection for the man.

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