Interview & Contest
1. What is the best part of being a literary agent?
Working with amazing authors! There is nothing more exciting than opening a new file from a client to start reading a fabulous new manuscript and getting lost in the story—except for telling that author that an editor loves their book as much as you do, or discovering a fabulous new project you just can’t put down!
2. How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
In general, I’m a very hands-on agent. I love to edit, and I edit every client’s work before it goes on submission. I also try to keep in close contact with authors, although of course there are times when one needs to communicate more and times when one needs to communicate less. I look for authors who are looking for a partner for their entire career, not for an agent who will sell one book quickly and then back off.
3. What’s something coming out now/soon that you’ve represented and are excited about?
I’m very excited about two projects that I’ve sold: Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, coming out from Del Rey/Random House beginning in Fall 2013, and Rosamund Hodge’s Sundered, due to publish from Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins in Winter 2014. Red Rising is Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games on a dystopian Mars—an epic far-future science-fiction story. Sundered is a lush and electrifying YA reimaginng of Beauty and the Beast. I can’t wait to share both of them with readers!
4. What are the primary mistakes you see writers make in the query process?
I think writers can get so wrapped up in the worlds they’ve created they forget how they look to outsiders (this is especially true in fantasy/SF). I’m reading each query in seconds, so there needs to be something—an idea, a voice, a character, a pitch—that immediately grabs my attention and makes me take a second look. That doesn’t necessarily mean a logline: usually those don’t work that well. But every word in a query counts, and the goal of the query letter is to distill the coolest, most compelling features of the story into a few sentences. Of course I want to know what the story is about as well, but it’s not a synopsis: a hint of setting, a compelling voice, an interesting question are more important than a full description of the plot at the query stage.
5. With fiction partials, what makes you stop reading and start skimming-or stop reading altogether?
One of the most common issues I see in fiction submissions is a relation of events, rather than really telling the story. A story isn’t just about characters and what happens to them—the story itself is bound up in how it’s told. The writing (and this applies to query letters too) has to really immerse me in the story. Otherwise, the plot/characters/concept may be good, but the book just won’t be compelling.
6. Your agency website says that you’re interested in young adult, can you elaborate more on YA subgenres that you might consider?
I’m willing to look at all types of YA. My tastes tend toward speculative, of course, but I’m also interested in contemporaries. Right now on my list, I have YA fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, near-future thriller—and I’m always looking for a true YA sci-fi (think Beth Revis’ Across the Universe).
7. When accepting fantasy and sci-fi, what subgenres do you lean toward?
I’m always a fan of epic, secondworld, and historical fantasy. Some of my favorite authors are Katherine Kurtz and David Eddings. Urban fantasy tends to be a harder sell for me, although I’d be very happy to take on the right project—something in the Jim Butcher or Kevin Hearne style.
In science fiction, my tastes are very classic. I love stories set in space. I love science fiction that plays with big ideas, and that isn’t too dark. I’m probably not the right agent for anything post-apocalyptic or cyber/biopunk. I’d love to find some good military SF. My favorite SF authors include Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Lois McMaster Bujold.
8. Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where people can meet/pitch you?
I will be attending the Unicorn Writers’ Conference in March of 2013, but otherwise I don’t have conferences on my schedule right now. But I love going to them, so I hope to make my way to a few more soon!
9. Is a writing platform important for unpublished writers? Does it weigh in on your decision to represent? Are you a fan of social media?
Platform is a complicated question for fiction writers. The book is more important—you don’t need a platform. But I am intrigued by writers who have a strong social media platform, or who have a strong brand—something about them that ties into what they write and is very compelling. I think branding is important for tying fiction platform together with an authentic authorial voice.
I am a huge fan of Twitter. There’s no reason for any writer not to be on Twitter, and many reasons to take part. Not only is it a great way for writers to learn more about the industry and network with agents and editors, it’s also a fantastic way for writers to get to know other writers. I met my first critique partner through Twitter, credit it with helping me make the connections that got me my job, and even sold a book because of a wishlist an editor put on Twitter! Setting up a Twitter account is an easy step any writer can take to improve their platform.
10. Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?
Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep improving. Keep querying. Breaking into this business is hard, but people get book deals out of the slushpile all the time. The system isn’t perfect, but we’re all trying to get the best books out there to readers, and quality will find its way through!
Follow this link to WIN a Query Letter Critique from Hannah!!! Click HERE
Hannah joined the Liza Dawson Associates in 2011. She has a B.A. from Cornell University, summa cum laude in English and magna cum laudein Mathematics. While a student, she spent four summers working in particle physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, before eventually deciding her true interest was books. Before joining Liza Dawson Associates, Hannah interned briefly with agent Weronika Janczuk, now of Lynn C. Franklin Associates.
In her free time, she writes her own fiction (mostly science fiction and fantasy) and plays the organ.
Hannah specializes in commercial fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, women’s fiction, cozy mysteries, romance and young adult. Hannah is also interested in nonfiction, particularly in the areas of mathematics, science and spirituality.
Contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.