Kelly Mortimer of Mortimer Literary Agency represents clients in both the ABA and the CBA. Kelly gives each client personal attention, including editing. She’s in the top 10 of the Publisher’s Marketplace Top 100 Dealmakers - Romance Category, a two-time nominee and this years winner for the American Christian Fiction Writers “Agent of the Year” Award, and her agency is Romance Writers of America recognized. Kelly is also President and CEO of Underdog Press.
Diabolically Diligent, Maniacally Moral
Kelly Mortimer here. I’m gonna use my “Agent Column” spot to write about the ACFW conference held in Minnesota last month.
What a deal. Dudes, that conference was phat! I didn’t have a moment of peace. Well, maybe a moment, but not a minute. Loved every bit of the attention. By now y’all know I ain’t shy.
When the entire faculty lined up to tromp across the stage so Pammer could introduce us, I noted the illustrious array of talented agents; titans in the industry. They confirmed my thoughts at the agent panel. I introduced myself by asking if anyone had seen the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun. When yes echoed around the room, I smiled and said, “I’m Maverick.”
But as the moderator asked the last question, I wondered what I was doin’ up on that stage. The question was something like, “What sets your agency apart? What are your specialties? Why would one of our writers want you to be their agent?” (At least one of those examples has to be close.)
I’m sittin’ on the end. The tail end. I felt like a tail, but not a waggin’ one. Every agent had some monumental tidbit to share, from “I’ve been in the business for twenty years,” to “I was a professor at a prestigious university,” to “I answered all the correspondence for the Secretary of State.” Sheesh. Then there’s Kelly Mortimer. I’ve been an agent for a whopping two and a half years.
What was I gonna say? I thought the truth might be appropriate. I gotta be me; no one else wants the job. Trust me; I’ve checked. So when my at-bat came around, I clutched my Louisville Slugger and stepped up to the plate. “Truth is every agent at this table is a better agent than I am. They all have more experience and better credentials. I’ve never even taken a writing class except Comp 101. My degrees are in contract law and finance. If I was sitting where y’all are, and I was three years ago, I wouldn't want me as my agent, I’d want one of them.
“All I can say is I’m honest; I’m me. The Kelly Mortimer you see today is the same Kelly Mortimer I’ll be with my husband next week, and with a stranger next month. There’s only one Kelly Mortimer. Well, I am bipolar”—(insert laughs)—“Other than that, I’m a fighter. I’m the female version of Rocky Balboa; I’m the human Sea Biscuit. I just don’t have it in me to quit.”
Suddenly, I’m the Sarah Palin of the conference. The blatant statements alluding to my inferiority had an adverse affect on the masses. I couldn’t cross the lobby without someone stopping me for a picture, an autograph, or some major advice, which I’d just admitted I might not be fit to give.
My life boiled down to fifteen-minute increments. ACFW scheduled me sixteen appointments, but every slot I had before and after filled up. Not only popular for my bluntness, it seems I was the unofficial “Best Dressed and Shod.” One nice lady stopped me to say, “I just love to look at you.” Fortunately, this was a Christian conference, so I knew she wasn’t tryin’ for an invite to my room...not that there’s anything wrong with that...
On Friday, I closed a three-book, single title deal for my client and ACFW president, Robin Miller w/a Robin Caroll. She’s contracted seven books in the category/series field, and wanted to write bigger books as well. Warmed my heart when her new editor hustled to the microphone to announce her newest author. A sense of calm enveloped me, because I knew Karen Ball would take excellent care of Robin. (Okay, so I’d just swallowed a Xanax, but Karen still gets credit for part of the calm.)
As if that wasn’t enough, those knuckleheads gave me the Oscar. I won the ACFW “Agent of the Year” award. Off the rip! Exuberant isn’t a strong enough word. I bounded up the stage like Bambi’s mom fleein’ that nasty old hunter with that horrid rifle. (More about firearms, and anything else I deem worthy or controversial, I’ll be spoutin’ on my new blog, Welcome to My Worlds. Yes, the “s” is intentional.)
Once onstage, I almost gave poor Brandilyn Collins fodder for a new book. Literary Agent Strangles Suspense Author in Front of 500 People! I figured she could call it Deadly Win. Trust me; I saw the footage. She barely made it out alive. Sorry, gal.
After slamming into Robin Miller, who read the nice things my clients said about me, I started the old acceptance speech in style, uttering the words, “I’m so glad I won!” The follow-up? “Is this the part where I’m supposed to be humble, ’cause that’s a hard one for me.” (Insert laughs.) Oiy!
So, in 2008, grit topped genius, tenacity beat tenure, and excitement rolled over experience. Next year, who knows? No matter. “Agent of the Year” is the only award I can truly say I won when my clients nominated me. Cliché, but not in this instance. My clients are whom I serve. If they love me, that’s the cheese. The plaque is ridiculous, though. (To those of you behind on Kelly-speak, “ridiculous” means “awesome.”)
Before I go, I should mention I spilled my guts on that stage. I related part of my jaded past, but added God had plans for me. I still haven’t achieved them all, but I’m workin’ on it. Hmm. How many movies are in the Rocky series...?