An Interview with Literary Agent Kortney Price, by Heather Stigall, and a Critique Giveaway

Next month Eastern PA SCBWI is offering a webinar series called “Meet the Agency.” Our featured agency will be Raven Quill Literary. We’ll have four webinars led by four different agents from Raven Quill, and at the end of the series we’ll host a live virtual “Pitch Parlor” with the agents. For more information, including how to register for the webinars and sign up for a pitch session, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog, Heather Stigall interviews our second presenter in the “Meet the Agency” webinar series, literary agent Kortney Price. Kortney will be presenting “Mastering Your First Five Pages” on April 11, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We are also giving away a free critique by Kortney for one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details at the end of this interview!

An Interview with Literary Agent Kortney Price

Heather: Kortney, thank you so much for agreeing to present “Mastering Your First Five Pages” on April 11 as part of our “Meet the Agency” series. I’m looking forward to your webinar! Has agenting always been your dream job? Can you tell us a little about the path that led you to agenting?

Kortney: I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a kid. Not like Indiana Jones. More like Daniel Jackson. Getting into the publishing industry was a bit of a leap of faith in that I didn’t know what I exactly wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work with books and authors, and so I switched my major my senior year of college. When I landed an internship with an agency, I fell in love with the job almost immediately. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Heather: It sounds like you and agenting were meant to be together! What is your favorite thing about being an agent?

Kortney: Oh, there are so many things. My clients are incredible, and I’m always amazed at my luck in getting to work with them. It’s literally my job to help authors make their dreams come true. Getting to make “the call” and tell a client that we have an offer from a publisher has definitely been one of those singular tasks that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. 

Heather: I know your clients love getting “the call” and hearing about book offers too. What do you wish writers and illustrators knew about agenting?

Kortney: This industry is so incredibly subjective, and when I take on a new client it’s because I cannot fathom not working on their stories. I’ve declined manuscripts that have gone on to do really well! Not because I messed up or the author sent me an earlier, less-polished draft, but because I wasn’t the agent who could best work on that story and with that author. If you’re querying or even on sub with your agent and are feeling beat down by rejection, keep your head up. Write to the best of your ability, keep learning, and eventually you’ll find the perfect agent for your stories. We’re rooting for you. 

Heather: Thank you for the pep talk! In your webinar, you will be talking about how important the first five pages are in hooking your readers. What are a couple of books that really hooked you by their opening pages and why?

Kortney:

  • Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven: I actually wanted to put the book down because the opening was so gutting for me. Naturally, that reaction made me want to read more. 
  • Well Met by Jen DeLuca: For the opposite reason as above. I immediately knew I was going to love the voice and humor of this book.
  • House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig: The atmosphere of this book is just incredible, and she sets it up SO WELL in the opening scenes.
  • Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur: This is a great example of being dropped into the action and getting enough details to keep reading without being overwhelmed with backstory or confused by lack of detail. She also jumps right into a wonderful moment of suspense. The fact that on page 3, I already care if the main character is found out is a huge sign of a fantastic start.

Heather: These books sound amazing. I’m going to have to add more to my “to read” list. Your website states that you represent picture books to young adult, from “dark and spooky to light and fluffy.” Can you give us a sense of your tastes by telling us some recently published books that you love and why?

Kortney: I enjoy stories that have a lighthearted, witty feel to them but are practically bursting with a relatable and deeper meaning. These have been a trend in my recent reads: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey; Love, Lists and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz; Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzalez; Float Plan by Trish Doller; and (to a slightly lesser extent) Well Met by Jen DeLuca. 

This trend extends into the fantasy, horror, and thriller genres for me as well. One of my favorite fantasy novels is The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (which isn’t exactly recent). I adore stories that are fast paced, suspenseful, and beautifully dark with an undercurrent of humor to balance out the story. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is the epitome of what I love in books. She had a wonderful suspenseful plot line, but the community in the story became a sort of character, and I’m just obsessed with this book. 

In middle grade I’m really fond of seeing kids doing incredible things such as From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury (which is in a league of its own by combining audiobook and orchestra). 

Heather: Thank you for the recommendations. Now for some fun! What is your superpower? Your kryptonite?

Kortney: I swear my superpower must be something to do with getting people to talk. I’ve had more strangers spill their secrets to me than I can honestly remember. It’s always an adventure when you’re waiting for coffee and the person behind you tells you all about their quarantine experiences, or when you’re at the hospital for a routine blood draw and the person holding the needle is ranting about how much they hate their son’s fiancé (that one was particularly memorable). 

My kryptonite is definitely anything requiring any sort of coordination. My center of gravity is like seven feet to my left or something . . . I trip a lot and run into things. I swear walls, doorframes, and door handles are all out to get me. It’s a problem.

Heather: Ha! Maybe you could follow Lucy’s lead (from Peanuts) and put up a sign charging for your advice. Just be careful not to trip over your stand. Thank you so much for your time, Kortney. We’re all looking forward to your webinar on April 11. See you then!


Kortney Price graduated with a B.A. in English from Greenville University in 2014. Since then she has interned  with several prominent literary agencies and worked as an agency assistant and associate at several leading kid lit agencies. She found her home with Raven Quill in January of 2020 and is building up her list of wonderfully talented authors. Kortney specializes in books for children from picture books through young adult with an eye for all things dark and spooky to light and fluffy. To connect and learn more about Kortney, check out her  Twitter,  Pinterest, or  MSWL page. Twitter: https://twitter.com/kortney_price; Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kortney8821/_saved/; MSWL: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/kortney-price/ 


Webinar Information

April 11, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time

Mastering Your First Five Pages with literary agent Kortney Price

No matter the length of your novel, the first five pages are going to do the most work. In the publishing industry, the quality of an entire novel is gauged through just these pages. In bookstores around the world, readers decide whether or not to purchase after reading just a few pages in. Therefore, we need to put a lot of care and attention into making sure that we put our best foot forward by carefully crafting five pages that draw a reader in and hook them so that they read until the very end. In this talk, we’ll go through some of the most common pitfalls as well as strategies to polish these hard-working pages to a shine.

Critique Giveaway

Eastern PA SCBWI is giving away a free written critique (early reader, chapter book, middle grade, young adult, or graphic novel; fiction or nonfiction) with literary agent Kortney Price to one lucky Eastern PA SCBWI member! Kortney will critique up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page single-spaced synopsis in the same document. 

To enter, please comment on this blog post before 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, April 1. We will choose the winner at random from those who comment. Must be a current Eastern PA SCBWI member to be eligible. Please include your full name as it appears in your SCBWI membership. If you’d like to comment on this blog post but not be entered to win (e.g., if you are not an Eastern PA SCBWI member or if you are not interested in a critique), simply state that along with your comment. Materials for the critique are due Friday April 15, 2022. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post, so check back after the deadline to see if you’re our winner! Instructions for submitting materials will be sent to the winner. 

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6 Responses to An Interview with Literary Agent Kortney Price, by Heather Stigall, and a Critique Giveaway

  1. robin jordan says:

    You seem like such an attentive agent, Kortney! I’m glad you dig agenting as you did archeology. Thank you for agreeing to visit with our Chapter!

  2. Kristen Swanson says:

    Kids love creepy! And it’s so much fun to read out loud.

  3. Diane Hanington says:

    Thank you, Kortney, for your insights and encouraging authors to keep putting themselves out there in the face of rejection. I agree with you, Daniel Jackson had me more interested in past cultures than Indiana.

  4. Looking forward to your visit with our chapter!! And to checking out the books you mentioned!

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