An Interview With Author Katherine Yeske Taylor
Katherine Yeske Taylor began her rock critic career in Atlanta in the late '80s, when she interviewed Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and the Black Crowes while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has done hundreds of interviews with a wide range of artists for dozens of national, regional, and
local magazines (including Billboard, Spin, and American Songwriter). She recently signed her first book deal, for She's a Badass: Women in Rock Shaping Modern Feminism (set for publication in 2023 via Backbeat). Like/Follow her on Instagram ("KYT_in_NYC") and Facebook ("Katherine Yeske Taylor - Music Journalist").
How did you get your first book deal?
I'd always wanted to write a book, but I didn't have a clue about how to do that. All the advice I could find online or from asking people in the publishing business only yielded conflicting answers. I'd pretty much given up on the idea - and then Lee Sobel got in touch with me. He'd read some of my articles and thought that I might be a good client for him. We talked, and it seemed to click. I asked around and heard that Lee has an excellent reputation, as well. So I took the plunge and worked with him to create a proposal - and within three weeks, I had my first book deal (For She's a Badass: Women in Rock Shaping Modern Feminism, due for publication in 2023 via Backbeat). After being so confused about the process, it was remarkable how easy it turned out to be with Lee's guidance.
What are some of the best and worst experiences you've had with being a professional writer?
Getting this book deal is certainly the highlight of my writing career so far! I've been working as a freelance journalist for many years, so there have been many ups and downs. I'm especially pleased about contributing to two books (Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama and The Trouser Press Guide to the '90s). I'm also really happy that I've established myself as a contributor to well-respected outlets such as Billboard, Spin, and American Songwriter. The worst experiences I've had were when I was starting out, and the (older, male) writers who dominated the music journalism field were often very chauvinistic or even crude toward me. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to write my book about women in rock and feminism - there's been a lot of progress throughout the past fifty years with women's equality, but we still have a long way to go.
What makes a good literary agent and what do you expect them to do for you?
I think a good literary agent is responsive, respectful, and always professional. I know that they have to be pushy in order to do what they do - but there's a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. A good agent understands when to push, how hard to push - and when to ease up. I think that Lee does a great job with striking this tricky balance.
Where do you see the book publishing business going in the future? Will there still be book stores? Will people buy less and less physical books?
If you'd told me thirty years ago that people would be reading books on electronic devices they can carry around in their pockets, I'd have thought you were reading too many sci-fi novels! So who knows what's coming that we can't even imagine now. That said, I do think that we'll continue moving toward digital platforms for books - but there will always be a place for a beautifully bound book that can be bought in an actual store. Especially with art books, where a digital recreation isn't nearly as effective as a lavish "coffee table book." Whatever happens, I hope that people will keep reading just for fun, in any formats that emerge.
If you could change anything about the book business, what would it be?
When I was starting out my journalism career, I had a "day job" at a bookstore in Atlanta. I saw how so many excellent books just fell through the cracks - people came in to buy whatever was already on the bestseller list, but didn't pay much attention to the rest. All of us on staff would recommend more obscure books we personally loved, and it felt like a triumph when we convinced someone to take a chance and buy one of them. I
know it's impossible for every author to sell zillions of copies of their work, but I wish readers would be more adventurous about checking out unknown authors.
If you could impart any wisdom to would-be authors about getting their first book published, what would you tell them to try to help them?
My own experience shows me that if you keep doing what you love to do, then someone will eventually notice and help you to the next level. Remember that everything you publish, no matter how obscure it may seem, could catch the eye of an agent or editor
who might be impressed enough to check out your other work - so never be slapdash about anything you put out into the world! Also, I've found that the relationships you make along the way are exceedingly important. Since I started my career thirty years ago, I've built up a rapport with dozens of editors, publicists, managers, and musicians - and many of them are helping me get the interviews I need now for my book. If I hadn't made those connections, I know I'd be struggling to convince people to work with me at this crucial moment. So remember that it won't matter how wonderfully you write if you aren't reliable about deadlines, if you don't treat people well, or if you simply neglect to cultivate your business relationships.
(c) Lee Sobel, 2022