Get ready, all you YA writers. I think you’re going to like this one:) Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Naomi Hackenberg of Elaine English Literary Agency. Enjoy!
KV: How did you get into agenting?
NH: By the time I went to grad school, I had already had some non-publishing-type jobs, and I knew that I wanted to move into the publishing industry when I finished. While I was in grad school, I had an internship at a literary agency, and it struck me as the ultimate intersection of everything that I liked about publishing--working with both authors and editors; having the opportunity to spot and nurture talent and to help find an audience for that talent; and, of course, reading! When I graduated, I became a literary assistant at the Elaine English Literary Agency where I began by selling foreign rights and have since moved into representing my own projects as well.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
NH: I believe in tenacity and building good relationships. When it comes to working with authors on maximizing the potential of their manuscripts, I’m pretty hands-on (when the manuscript is completed, that is--I stay out of the way unless requested otherwise during the initial writing process). I expect the agent-author relationship to be one that’s honest and built on mutual respect for the varied talents we both bring to the table.
KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?
NH: I’m a very new agent, so I don’t have client work coming out soon. I’m currently shopping some paranormal projects with unique hooks and high (emotional, active, etc.) stakes. (Those vague descriptors wouldn’t stand in a query or pitch letter, but I’m being coy for now--they’re exciting projects.)
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
NH: I represent young adult fiction exclusively, but almost all genres within that category; I especially like paranormals/urban fantasies, dystopias, contemporary, literary, funny, etc.
I don’t represent picture books, and my middle grade interest is limited.
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
NH: My main pet peeve is receiving queries in which the author has obviously done no research on who I am and/or what I represent. I don’t require or encourage exclusives, but I appreciate queries in which the author makes it clear that they are interested in querying me and having me represent their project.
KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?
NH: I don’t hold it against an author if they include a few sample pages at the bottom of the query; however, I typically don’t read the pages. If the query doesn’t grab me, I’m not going to read more.
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?
NH: I’m looking for manuscripts with emotional depth and big stakes. I’d love to see some manuscripts in which the protagonist doesn’t have special powers and is put in a situation with supernatural/paranormal/fantastic elements and threats.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
NH: Query me at email@example.com with a query letter in the body of the email--no attachments, please.
Thanks again, Ms. Hackenberg, for these responses. And for those of you thinking about querying her (or for anyone looking for some great writing and/or publishing advice), check out her agency’s blog. Ms. Hackenberg is a regular contributor, and the other bloggers at her agency have wonderful information to dispense as well.