Interview with Curtis Brown literary agent, Tess Callero

by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
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Tess Callero is one of the fabulous literary agents at Curtis Brown Ltd (another fabulous agent is Ginger Knowlton, my own agent). I got to know Tess when I recently did an Instagram takeover of the CB feed; the fact that I had so much FUN was largely due to Tess’s enthusiasm and help – in addition to her role as an agent, Tess is also the Social Media Director at Curtis Brown.

You can find Tess on Twitter at @tesscallero, Curtis Brown on Instagram at @curtisbrown.ltd and on Twitter at @curtisbrownltd.

Q. How did you become an agent?

I was a business major at Indiana University and halfway through my junior year taking finance, accounting, and marketing classes, I sort of hit a wall. I missed reading books and discussing them with a class. I missed writing essays and thinking critically about literature. I got in touch with an advisor in the English department who worked with me on my schedule so I could take up a dual degree in English and Marketing and still graduate on time. I then enrolled in a literary publishing class that outlined the whole industry. One of our guest speakers was a lit agent assistant, and the way she described her job was the perfect marriage of my two degrees. I took an internship in NYC at an agency after graduating – I had never even been to NY before and was completely terrified. But I knew this was what I wanted to do, and almost four years later here I am!

Q. According to your Curtis Brown agent profile, you welcome all YA submissions. I assume this means you are NOT interested in picture book or middle grade? Your profile also says you gravitate toward stories involving friendship, romance or suspense in YA. Any other details you’d like to add about what you are and are not looking for?

On the children’s side, I am only looking for young adult submissions. As far as what I’m looking for – I would LOVE a YA about a girl with dreams to make it to the MLB/NHL/etc. I’m also interested in a friendship story involving mental health. I’m not the best agent for high fantasy, but love a touch of magical realism in the vein of BONE GAP. Lastly, I’m a total sucker for a good psychological suspense novel that will keep me guessing!

Q. What turns you off the most when reading a query letter?

An author should always include a bio! An agent/author relationship is a partnership, and even a short introduction is key so I know who I could potentially be partnering with.

Q. Is it ok to send a query for more than one story at a time?

I would prefer that you choose your best and most complete story. You always want to put your best foot forward!

Q. Your profile says that you will only respond if you’re interested in taking a look at a writer’s work. How long should a writer wait before assuming you’re not interested?

I tend to respond to queries within two weeks.

Q. What’s your opinion about a writer submitting a manuscript to more than one agent at a time?

I think that is completely understandable – and I encourage it! Just because an agent is interested doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is the right one for you. Authors should consider all their options and choose the agent that is the best fit for them, and submitting to multiple agents is the only way to do that.

Q. Are you an editorial agent?

Yes. One of my jobs as an agent is to make sure a client’s work is in its best possible form when submitting to editors. This may mean one quick round of edits, or many (many!) back and forths. Either way, I would only offer representation to stories – and writers – I believe in, so an author should never take this personally. Editing is meant to be constructive, not critical.

Q. What else would you like people to know about you?

I grew up being one of the only readers in my circle of friends and family. Now, I love sharing books with my non-reader friends and having them fall in love with the feeling reading a good book can give someone. My goal as an agent is to help writers put books out into the world that will appeal to those “non-readers” – books I would personally recommend to friends and family. I read pretty much every genre, so what really captures me is the connection I feel to the characters because I know that if I feel connected, others will too!

Thanks, Tess!

If you are interesting submitting a query to Tess, please check her Curtis Brown profile info for her email address and other submissions details. As of today (November 6, 2017), Tess *is* currently accepting submissions, but I’m pointing writers to her CB profile page since others may read this post after it’s been archived.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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