FIVE FOR FRIDAY: Five Questions for Stacey Kondla!

Welcome to the end of another week, and another FIVE FOR FRIDAY interview! This week I welcome literary agent, anthologist, and bookseller Stacey Kondla to the table to discuss networking in publishing, the significance of the prairie landscape, and the tip of the AI iceberg. Hit CONTINUE READING below to check it out!

Why don’t we start by going around the table and introducing ourselves? Tell us who you are, why you’re here today, and one interesting thing about yourself.

Hi, Chris! Thank you for inviting me to participate in Five For Friday. My name is Stacey Kondla and I am a literary agent with the Rights Factory. I’m also a part-time bookseller at Owl’s Nest Books, an anthologist with Prairie Soul Press, and a hardcore bibliophile with eclectic taste and a ridiculously large personal library. Besides books, I am also completely obsessed with the band Ghost, I make a lot of soup from scratch, I’m a stroke survivor, and I share my home with 5 parrots, 3 cats, 1 rabbit, and 1 significant other who mostly isn’t put off by my eccentricities. Not sure how interesting that all is, but I don’t think I’m totally boring. (Laughs)

The two anthologies you have edited so far, PRAIRIE GOTHIC and PRAIRIE WITCH, collect stories set in the Canadian prairies. What is it about the landscape and those who call this place home that speaks to you?

I was born and raised in Alberta and spent a lot of time camping with my family and at my grandparent’s southern Alberta farm as a kid. That level of immersion in the natural world and the unique ecosystem that is the prairies resulted in a lifelong love for prairies. I think the prairies are vastly underrated and often equated with boring since the landscape is so open and relatively flat. But when you live on the prairies you realize how full of life the prairies are and how they house unique plants and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. And you can’t beat the big sky. The prairies are approximately 18% of the total Canadian landmass and yet no one thinks about how important the grassland ecosystem is. People are keen to protect the forests, but we don’t hear much about grassland preservation.

On top of that, with being widely read, I recognized that it is very rare for fiction novels or stories to be set on the prairies, unless they are a Western, and that is also a disservice to the ecosystem and the people that call the prairies home. So my goal with PRAIRIE GOTHIC and PRAIRIE WITCH was to show that the prairie setting can be just as awesome as a tropical setting, or a mountain setting, and to elevate prairie voices within the horror community because I absolutely love creepy stories and had never read any horror stories set in a prairie setting.

In addition to being an anthologist and agent, you’ve also been a bookseller on the retail front and are deeply involved in organizing literary events like Calgary’s When Words Collide festival. How do your varied experiences in the bookish community contribute to your success as an agent?

My time spent working for Scholastic Book Fairs, Chapters/Indigo, and for the last few years at Owl’s Nest Books has been completely invaluable in terms of learning about the book market as a whole and keeping up to speed with market trends and what readers are looking for. Volunteering with When Words Collide has also been invaluable in terms of networking. If you want to work in the publishing world as an author, agent, or editor, you cannot overstate the importance of networking and making friends in the literary community. I feel strongly that without the experience I have gained and the relationships I have developed with so many stellar and interesting publishing people, I would not be the literary agent I am today. This industry is community based at it’s heart, so being an active part of the community is crucial and giving back to the community will be ongoing for me for years to come.

If I’m not mistaken, this month you’re celebrating five years as a literary agent? Congratulations! I’m curious about how the business of publishing has changed in that time. I’m thinking of the rise of self-publishing and hybrid models for authors, as well as the stories we hear about publishing house mergers and global supply chain problems resulting from the pandemic.

Thank you! Yes it will be five years at the end of the month and the time has flown by! I’m thrilled that I have 48 deals announced on Publisher’s Marketplace and have three picture books yet to be announced as we wait on illustrators to be signed for the projects, so I have met my personal goal of 50 deals in 5 years. And I am looking forward to my next 50 with my amazingly awesome clients. I have had the pleasure of doing these deals with Big 5’s, large independents, and some small press. It’s all about helping my clients find the publisher that is right for them. The publishing industry hasn’t changed as much as you might think, but it has had it’s share of challenges over the last few years. I think that self-publishing and hybrid publishing is a major plus for authors who are driven and entrepreneurial. I don’t think it has affected traditional publishing, just like video didn’t kill the radio star, and it is nice for authors to have choices about how and where they would like to get their work out into the world. Not everyone is cut out for self publishing and many authors thrive under the traditional umbrella. Traditional publishing is doing well, despite the challenges of mergers, the pandemic, and the more recent strike at Harper Collins.

I think the only big change I have experienced as an agent is that everything takes longer than it ever has. Publishing was never fast and now it is even slower. Editors are overworked and there are more submissions than ever so the environment is highly competitive across genres and age categories. So having high quality work is crucial and patience, persistence, and kindness is the name of the game. Regarding supply chain issues, they are definitely still impacting the business and books are still being delayed due to paper and printer shortages, and reprintings are taking a lot longer too. But books are still being acquired, books are still being published, and readers are still reading.

On the topic of disruption, some short fiction editors have reported being inundated with AI-generated stories in recent months. It got so bad at Clarkesworld, where editor Neil Clarke had taken a very vocal anti-AI stance, they had to close submissions to deal with the slush backlog. Is anything similar happening to agents and editors for book-length submissions? Has AI had any other impacts on the submission process from your end?

Ugh! This is not a cool thing to happen and as someone who works in the arts world, I have a hate on for technology taking the place of actual human creativity. I’m totally down with technology helping make the lives of people easier but this devalues art and human creativity. I think one of my colleagues received one AI submission. I haven’t had to deal with any of it yet and honestly dread that I will eventually. I do worry a lot too about AI replacing human audiobook narrators. Narrators are also artists that bring a level of humanity and creativity to their work that can’t be replaced by AI and the human narrators deserve to earn a living from their art just like authors deserve to earn a living. I am positive on the agent end we will be more cognizant of these problems and look for wording in contracts where AI might sneak into cover art or audio or other subrights. I’ve had clients express concerns about having their work narrated by AI or having AI generated art, so this stuff we all need to think about and watch out for.

BONUS QUESTION! Here’s your chance to tell us about any recent acquisitions or upcoming releases from your client list! What should we be looking forward to in the weeks and months to come?

Oh my gosh — I have 10 books in total by my wonderful clients that have been released or will be released in 2023. You can check them out, and all my clients previous releases as well, on my Linktree ( If I were to pick two books that the readers of your blog might enjoy, they would be THE CROW VALLEY KARAOKE CHAMPIONSHIPS by Ali Bryan, published by Henry Holt (an imprint of MacMillan) and NO ONE LEFT BUT YOU by Tash McAdam, published by Soho Teen. Both of them are available for pre-order.

I’m totally biased though and love every project I have sold. Seeing the books in print and knowing that I have helped my clients with their publishing dreams is the best feeling ever. I am so proud of their hard work. And knowing that every book published has the potential to change someone’s life is humbling. I am so lucky to be a part of this business and this creative community.

Thanks for taking part in Five for Friday, Stacey! Have a great weekend!

Stacey’s Links

Agent Profile at The Rights Factory


Chris Patrick Carolan is an author, editor, and hovercraft enthusiast, originally from Glasgow but now based in Calgary, Alberta. He writes science fiction, fantasy (urban and epic), and steampunk, though he has also been known to turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime fiction, that is. His first novel, THE NIGHTSHADE CABAL, was published by Parliament House Press in 2020, and was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence ‘Best First Novel’ award. He can be found on Twitter as @cpcwrites but – consider this fair warning – it’s mostly wisecracks about McNuggets.

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