Interview with Agent Holly Root
Agent Holly Root joins us today from the Waxman Leavell Literary agency, to give readers a new perspective from the other side of the table.
1)Please tell us a little bit about you, such as why did you become an agent?
Holly: I didn’t even know agenting was a thing when I was in college, so I feel really fortunate to have made my way to it. I started out on the editorial side in Christian publishing in my hometown of Nashville, and when I moved to New York, I hopped the fence to the agency side of the business. I suspected that agenting would play to the parts of the business I was best at, and I’m glad that proved true!
2)Please describe the genre of the most recent release you facilitated, and is it the only genre you represent?
I think the most recent is Jessica Clare’s The Expert’s Guide to Driving a Man Wild (Berkley): http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780425262368,00.html?The_Expert’s_Guide_to_Driving_a_Man_Wild_Jessica_Clare which, as you might guess, is a spicy contemporary romance.
I also represent paranormal romance, like Virna DePaul’s forthcoming TURNED (Ballantine Bantam Dell, April 2014); historical romance, like Manda Collins’s WHY EARLS FALL IN LOVE (St. Martin’s, January 2014); young adult fiction, like Rachel Hawkins’s REBEL BELLE (Putnam, April 2014); and adult SFF, like Victoria Schwab’s recent release VICIOUS (Tor, September 2013).
3)Do you have any rejection stories to share? Like a manuscript you passed on that turned into a best seller?
Not sure if that’s a “rejection” per se or just part of the business. As agents we hear “no” so constantly that it begins to roll off your back, and we have to say no so often that we understand there are a million reasons a no can truly have nothing to do with quality. There are definitely ones that stick with you though, mostly the people who manage the interaction less than gracefully— I do remember one particular editor who acted as if she was doing me a HUGE favor even hearing a pitch for a book and did not present the pass particularly well—I usually forward them to my authors but this one was so nasty I couldn’t. And this was a book that went on to sell in a very nice deal, garner starred reviews, land on multiple best of the year lists. So who exactly was doing who a favor here again? But that’s the business; I tend to believe books end up where they are meant to be.
4)Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
I was lucky to have a brilliant mother who also loved genre fiction—romance, SFF, you name it. So unlike a lot of bookish kids I never went through a time of thinking genre writing was in any way less than, because of her example.
5)For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter; synopsis; an agent’s submission; etc.
The query and concept are key for me. People get so tangled up in query dos and don’ts but it’s pretty simple at its core: Tell me what the book is, and make me want to read it. You’d be amazed how many queries don’t do either.
6)What is the biggest no no you see in submissions that makes you reject them?
The most common category of mss I say no to is the competently written, nicely polished, but ultimately lacking in that undefinable It Factor. Sometimes this happens when authors are trying to write to market, or trying to fit their work into a voice they think the industry wants. And sometimes what I don’t see as having the dazzle another agent totally sees and turns into gold.
7)Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
There are as many roads to publication as there are authors. I firmly believe no book is ever wasted; they are all part of your growth and development as a writer, whether you are on your fiftieth published book or your first. Publishing is what it is, but without the writing there would be nothing to publish, so do everything you can to protect that part of the art for yourself.
8) How can our readers find your submission guidelines?
Readers can go to the agency home page at http://www.waxmanleavell.com/submission.html or http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/hroot/
Holly Root is a literary agent at Waxman Literary Agency who represents adult fiction and select nonfiction and novels for children and teens; she is not seeking picture book clients or screenwriting clients. She recently opened a West Coast office in Los Angeles for the New York City-based Waxman Agency. Prior to joining the Waxman Literary Agency in 2007, Holly worked at the William Morris Agency and Trident Media Group. Visit her online at www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/hroot and twitter.com/hroot.