Elizabeth Kracht has heard it time and time again: “I have a book idea.” The Tiburon literary agent knows the feeling well. She dreamed of writing one herself from a young age. But, after writing and copyediting for a business newspaper for about three years, she realized that she’d rather help other would-be authors.
Aspiring writers rarely know why literary agents like Kracht pass on projects that come through their inbox. Drawing upon her 10 years of experience in the industry, she finally made her book-writing dreams a reality with the recently released, “The Author’s Checklist,” her tips and tricks for authors to develop and edit their manuscripts.
Kracht learned the ins and outs of book publishing at internships at Hunter House Publishers in Alameda and Kimberley Cameron & Associates, where she works.
She has also worked as a freelance developmental editor for She Writes Press, and was a founding member of the Kauai Writers Conference and Reputation Books.
Q As an agent, what gets your attention?
A In the beginning, I gravitated toward crime fiction, because that’s what my boss has done a lot of, and also my dad was a homicide detective. But because I have always been a nonfiction reader by nature, I definitely moved a little bit more toward incorporating nonfiction. For nonfiction, it’s usually something that has a pretty strong hook, relevant for the time period. In fiction, we are looking for really good quality writing, and making sure all the elements of fiction are in place that keep us reading and turning the pages.
Q What are some of the books that you’re proud to have been part of?
A I tend to really like working on books that I feel like give back in some way. A book I did a side editing project on was, “The Great Healthy Yard Project,” which was essentially about creating a situation where our water is healthier and cleaner by not using pesticides and fertilizers on lawns in our gardening. One book I am working on now is about nesting, so it’s a book that’s helping parents who are in the process of divorce to have less impact on the children. The children stay in the home, and the parents come and go from the home, instead of having the children go from one home to the next.
Q What are some common mistakes writers make?
A Slow pacing in the beginning, where a writer is taking too long to build up to the incident in the book that takes place and catapults the main character on their journey. Beginning writers might suffer a little more of the quality of the prose. They might be using a lot of adverbs, overwriting the description, where an advanced writer might not realize that their character is unsympathetic, something that’s very subtle about their character that’s not reading quite right.
Q How have you seen the industry change?
A I came in during a big industry change in 2009. I came in at an uncertain climate. That was my normal. And then, things evened out. People weren’t sure if e-books were going to take over. Now, we know where we stand; I don’t think e-books have taken over print, and they are not going to. But, now with the virus, it’s a little bit uncertain what’s going to happen with the economy and people’s jobs and stuff like that. It seems like the next biggest shift.
Q Do you have any more books up your sleeve?
A I was at a conference in Sacramento and one of the people who sat in front of me was later killed, so I got pulled into that murder trial because the investigators wanted the manuscript that they thought this person had submitted to me. I actually started to put it down and I realized it was more of a framework, and layer in some of the other experiences that I have had in publishing. When you have people sit in front of you to pitch books, you don’t know who is sitting in front of you half the time. I have had some ex-cons submit books. I have had a woman who thought that her father had maybe killed her best friend in high school pitch me. Sometimes as a sensitive person, it feels overwhelming, so I have had a lot of thoughts about that and I wanted to put them in book form.