Today’s interactive installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Sarah Heller of Helen Heller Agency. Details on the interactive part are at the bottom. Enjoy!
KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?
SH: Since 2004. It is a family business; my mother, Helen, started the Agency in 1988, and I grew up in it, you could say.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
SH: We pride ourselves on being accessible, honest, and straightforward. We are accustomed to working editorially with our clients, prior to sending work out to publishers, if that is necessary to great avail, and being able to do that definitely gives us an advantage as agents.
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
SH: We represent front-list commercial and literary fiction (with a particular emphasis on crime fiction, though this is by no means all we represent), adult and YA, and some non-fiction. I personally am interested in historical fiction, and YA. I am really open to anything that catches my interest, so am loathe to confine myself to any particular genre, or to categorically deny anything because it is or isn't a particular genre.
We do not represent screenplays, poetry, or picture books.
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
SH: Please DO NOT tell me how you are going to make us both millionaires in your query letter! Also, please do your research. If you are going to query us, it helps to know that you take your writing seriously enough to at least know our names and how to spell them. (Queries addressed "Dear Agent" will most likely get deleted before they get read!)
A query letter should include a brief introduction and synopsis, and if relevant, professional history. If we are interested, we will contact you to see a partial. Please do not include a writing sample within the body of the e-mail.
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?
SH: I am always looking for something that I can't put down! I can't say I am tired of anything specific, but certainly any "big" book encourages trends; in the recent past I was seeing a lot of vampire fiction. Now, I'm seeing a lot of dystopic fiction. But again, if an individual manuscript happened to involve vampires, but I really loved it, I don't think I'd be able to turn it down based on that alone.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
SH: We are best reached via e-mail.
Thank you, Ms. Heller, for these responses. Lots of helpful information here already, and the best part is yet to come!
If you have a question for Ms. Heller, feel free to leave it in the comments section below. She’ll pop in a few times throughout the day to answer whatever questions she finds down there. We’ll wrap this up at 4:00 p.m. EDT (which is 1:00 p.m. PDT), but in the meantime, ask away!