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SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Cortney Radocaj from the Belcastro Agency

Good morning, everyone!

Today I’m excited to share a wonderful interview with Cortney Radocaj!

Cortney Radocaj is a US Literary who joined the Belcastro Agency in 2019. She has five years of experience in the publishing industry, having worked in a wide variety of backgrounds, including editorial, agenting, and freelance writing.

 As a member and advocate of both the LGBT and neurodiverse communities, Cortney adores seeing works that celebrate and normalize these experiences, particularly in YA. Compelling characters are what grab her the most; she loves books with strong, dynamic, complex characters that have complicated and nuanced relationships with others. She loves romantic threads that weave in seamlessly with the plot and characters’ motivations, particularly in SFF. In regard to POV, the closer, the better; she wants to live inside characters’ heads when she reads, and loves as little distance as possible.

Check out some highlights from our interview with Cortney below.


image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=718&dpx=1&t=1655809556Cortney Radocaj

"Remember that rejections are not a ruler by which to measure your worth, and even if I (or any other agent) decline your query, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or your book isn’t worth publishing."


Good morning Cortney, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We can't wait to find out more about what you're looking for in submissions and about your role as an agent!

Q. What brought you to agenting? 

I’ve always loved books and writing, and decided before college that I wanted a career in publishing. Originally, though, I thought I wanted to be an editor, but realized after a couple of internships it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. My main goal was to work closely with authors, to champion them and guide them, and while there is some of that in editorial, it’s not quite what I wanted. Editors are always beholden to their houses (though they fight for their authors whenever they can, and are invaluable!), and I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone but the author. After college I did more research on other jobs in the industry and stumbled upon agency internships—and the rest is history! Agenting is exactly what I wanted out of a client relationship; everything I do is for the author, and the only one I’m concerned about is them and helping their dreams come true. 

Q. What’s at the top of your fiction wish-list?  

Fantasy! My list is sci-fi heavy right now, but I have very little fantasy at the moment (which, seeing how fantasy is what I’ve lived and breathed as a reader, I’m not quite sure how that happened haha). I’m also dying for adult horror, and YA thrillers. Sci-fi is really the only thing I’m super picky on right now (though I do still accept it—just extremely discerning there, especially in adult). And I’m always actively looking for stories featuring queer and disabled characters, especially by queer and disabled authors! 

Q. Is there any genre you’d rather not receive?  

I am NOT a good fit for parody/satire, adult thrillers, political/military/spy fiction, cop/detective procedurals (though I’m okay with police investigations in the context of things like urban fantasy and sci-fi—just don’t want the genre cop dramas), epistolary formats, mysteries, or nonfiction. I’m also not accepting MG, short stories (including collections), children’s/picture books, novellas, or poetry collections (though I do accept novels-in-verse). 

Q. What do you want to see in a query letter? And what do you hate? 

I love seeing clear, strong stakes—this is generally the hardest part of the query letter to get across! Generally, I want to see a) set up of who the character is/what they want, b) the conflict (i.e. what’s going to prevent the character from getting what they want), and c) the stakes (i.e. what happens if the character doesn’t get what they want/don’t do what the plot is asking of them). The first two points are easier to suss out, but the stakes are often absent; I need to know why the issues present matter to the character, what’s at stake for them if they don’t succeed. It doesn’t have to be world ending or huge on an objective scale—but it should be huge for the character, and it should matter to them. And if the world is at stake, I want to know why that character cares, and what’s driving them forward rather than running away. 

On the flip side, I don’t like to see queries that don’t tell me anything about the plot itself. A lot of authors get caught up in talking about the themes or large, grand-scale points of their book, but never actually give me pitch for what their book is. A pitch shouldn’t be able to be easily applied to a myriad of other books—it should be only applicable to your book, and big, sweeping ideas of what you want your book to convey, rather than details about your plot, doesn’t give me that. It doesn’t make your book stand out—it just makes it very difficult for me to determine if it’s something I actually want to read (and more often than not, a swift rejection). 

Q. What’s your favourite thing about being an agent? 

Getting to be one of the people 100% in my author’s corner—I’m the one my clients come to when they have questions, or concerns, or need advice. I get to be there for them on the creative side and the business side, and I adore that I get to be so closely involved with them. Seeing a client take confidence and solace in my feedback, to celebrate with them when we have wins, to be there for them when we don’t—that’s what makes this entire job worth it. 

Q. Tell us about a recent deal (or three) that really delighted you.  

We recently got the go ahead for a sequel to Claire Winn’s YA cyberpunk, titled City of Vicious Night! It continues from its predecessor, City of Shattered Light, and follows the gunslinger and heiress-turned-smuggler leads in a brutal competition for control over one of the underworld’s criminal factions, complete with sapphic angsty kissing and beautiful, neon-drenched world building. I adored the first book (and it was actually the first book I signed and my first sale!), and I’m so ecstatic Claire gets to write more. 

We also have Don’t Ask If I’m Okay by Jessica Kara that was recently announced—a YA contemporary set in a small Idaho town, it follows a recently-graduated teen as he grapples with the death of his cousin and tries to find his place in the world without him. So much nerdy goodness, wrenching depictions of grief, and also heart-warming friendships and blushes of new love! 

Q. What are some of your favourite authors and books? 

V.E. Schwab is one of my favorites right now—Vicious in particular! Holly Black is a perennial favorite (Tithe was the first fae book I picked up as a preteen, and that love has not faded one bit); more recent favorites include Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall, Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. 

Q. Any final words of advice for authors in the querying process? 

Deep breaths! Publishing is extremely subjective and difficult to navigate, particularly at this point in time. Remember that rejections are not a ruler by which to measure your worth, and even if I (or any other agent) decline your query, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or your book isn’t worth publishing—it just means we weren’t the right fit at that time, or that the market just isn’t quite right for that particular book. And if publishing gets to be too much and you feel overwhelmed and are despairing, take a step back! It’s okay to take a break if you need to—publishing will always be here, and you’re on no one’s schedule except your own. Take care of yourself and your mental health first, always! 

The full interview can be found on Cortney's AgentMatch profile.


In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!


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