News - Booklover Lands Job Reading for a Living

Booklover Lands Job Reading for a Living

By Rachel Heston-Davis Booklover Lands Job Reading for a Living

“Reading books for a living? If that ever becomes a job, I’ll do it!” Kortney Price ’14 remembers thinking as an undergraduate.

Three years after graduation, Kortney got her wish. She recently became the newest associate literary agent at Holloway Literary Agency. Literary agents represent authors to publishing houses. They help authors polish their manuscripts and get their work into print. The job requires a deep love of reading to not only discover new talent, but also to guide a client through the process of perfecting a novel. 

Kortney’s love of English snuck up on her. She first entered college at St. Louis University as a biology major, but soon found herself cutting science class to attend English lectures and luxuriating in the world of literary interpretation. When she transferred to GC, hoping for a different kind of college experience, she knew it was time to change majors as well. She chose English.

Kortney knew a career in the publishing world was right up her alley. Although a specific degree in “publishing” didn’t exist at GC, Kortney used the College’s flexible and innovative approach to learning to craft an experience that perfectly prepared her for the demands of being an agent.

Tailor-Made Training

Publishing requires a unique blend of skills: writing and editing to help authors improve their work, marketing skills to promote books to the public and the ability to talk knowledgeably about the publishing process. Greenville College offered Kortney these tools and more.

  • Creative writing classes taught her literary critique and editing, which she now uses to brush up manuscripts.
  • Literary theory classes taught her to see the same written text through various interpretive lenses. “I bring that into a lot of the books I read [at Holloway Literary],” Kortney says.
  • The Scriblerus, GC’s student-run online literary magazine, gave Kortney insight into the selection, editing and publication process for literature.

As a student, Kortney undertook her most focused work when Associate Professor of English Alexandria LaFaye crafted an independent study in publishing specifically for her. The author of several fantasy, historical fiction and picture books, LaFaye used her familiarity with the literary world to prepare exercises for Kortney that mirrored what Kortney would find in the industry. These included how to select the best writing from a slew of submissions and how to craft a marketing plan for a book.

Today, when Kortney assesses a submission for literary potential or marketability, she draws on these lessons.

Granting Voice to the Voiceless

LaFaye also helped Kortney realize the power that agents and editors hold to grant voice to the voiceless. Writing that explores life from the vantage point of the marginalized can foster compassion and awareness among readers. This principle fits with Kortney’s faith and the Christ-centered education she received as an undergraduate. 

As she sifts through requests from hopeful authors seeking representation, she keeps an eye out for books that center on the experiences of marginalized groups. Kortney’s very first project as an associate agent was a novel written from the perspective of a Muslim family.

“We’d Hire You, If Only…”

The path to becoming an agent wasn’t easy. Between transferring schools and switching to an English major late in her undergrad years, she missed her chance for an internship. On top of that, she lived in St. Louis, while most publishing houses and literary agencies clustered on the East Coast. 

“If you were on the East Coast, where we are, we’d hire you,” she kept hearing from agencies who needed interns.

Yet Kortney partnered perseverance with her education and ultimately found success. She tracked down the few publishing connections that exist in St. Louis and completed internships with Amphorae Publishing Group and with agent Whitley Abell, a St. Louis resident who works for Inklings Literary Agency.

When she stumbled upon Holloway Literary, an agency whose members work remotely, Kortney already had acquired significant experience. She entered Holloway’s intern-to-agent program, which put her on track to become an associate agent with the company. 

Her path looks steady in hindsight, but she says with a laugh that she was “almost never confident” about where these experiences would take her.

The Nontraditional Way 

Kortney graduated from GC with the goal of being an editor at a publishing house someday, but she loves the agent life so much she might just stay on this career track instead. After this realization, Kortney set some realistic short-term goals in service of her new ideal career:

First, she’d like to grow her client list to three or four authors by the end of the year. Second, she’d like to become successful enough as an agent to quit her day job as a receptionist.

Of course, she has already realized her most important goal—reading books for a living. It turns out that with determination, education and plenty of flexibility, you really can make dreams come true.

“You have to go the nontraditional way to get there sometimes,” Kortney muses.

For more on Greenville College’s innovative approach to learning, especially in the humanities, try these:

A Calico Patchwork of Skills

Press Association Names Student Publication VISTA As Finalist

Education That Prepares for Evolution

You Majored In Storytelling?

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This story was published on March 23, 2017

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