Thursday, March 18, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Holly Root

Boy, do I know how to pick ’em, if I do say so myself:) Today I give you Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency. Enjoy!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

HR: I started out working as an editor in Nashville, my hometown. When my husband and I moved to NYC, I wasn't completely sure I wanted to keep going as an editor, but I knew I loved working with books. I found agenting and knew that was it.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

HR: I think my agenting philosophy and my life philosophy are basically the same--do good work and do right by others. I hope to work with people who are out to do the same. I also believe that you never stop learning--as an agent, a writer, an editor--and like to work with others who see it that way too. I expect my clients to be brilliant writers, and to be professionals who can work respectfully with me and their team whether everything's going perfectly or when it gets trickier.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

HR: You've just opened the door to my favorite subject: My clients' books, and why they rock! These three months coming up are huge months for client releases:

In March:

Susan Kearney's JORDAN (Grand Central), the third of her SF romance series The Pendragon Legacy, which plays with Arthurian legends in a futuristic, space-travel setting--I honestly think these books are some of Sue's best writing yet, they are so unique and create such amazing worlds.

Addison Fox's WARRIOR ASCENDED (NAL), the beginning of a new paranormal romance series about the Warriors of the Zodiac--I initially signed Addison on the strength of a YA project, so she's definitely multitalented, and this is the beginning of many exciting things for her as a writer.

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins (Hyperion Books for Children), which is a debut paranormal for young adults; I knew within 50 pages that I would just cease to exist if I did not get to represent it. How lucky am I that Rachel is just beyond fun to work with to boot!

AND FALLING FLY by Skyler White (Berkley), which is a dark fantasy that blends vampires and neuroscience in a steampunk-tinted world. I pitched this one to the editor by saying "I need you to trust me and just read this book that is so brilliant I almost can't describe it" because Skye's vision is so singular that it really just has to be experienced.

Jenny Gardiner's WINGING IT: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me (Gallery), which is just the funniest and most surprisingly touching account of owning a parrot with a serious attitude problem. I'm a bit of a birdaphobe but Jenny, who is also an exceptional novelist, kept poking me about this bird book she wanted to do. So finally I caved and told her to send it, and then had to eat my words with whipped cream on top because it was so funny and heartwarming. It did not, however, change my opinion of be-winged terrors.

In April:

Libby Malin's MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA (Sourcebooks), which is a smart backstage comedy set at a floundering soap opera--sort of a 30 ROCK meets ROMANCING THE STONE. Libby has such a knack for taking high-concept rom-com setups and imbuing them with unexpected depth and pathos.

Next up is Kay Cassidy's debut contemporary YA, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY (Egmont), which is a girl-empowering story about a high school secret society out to change the world for the better that anyone who loved Meg Cabot would totally dig. Kay is the embodiment of everything the Cinderella Society is about and you will most definitely want to be a Cindy too when you finish this book. Kay also created a program for libraries called The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, which you can check out at

And then Lori Devoti's urban fantasy AMAZON QUEEN (Pocket/Juno), which is her second book about a family of modern-day Amazons. Nab the first, AMAZON INK, too for the full experience of Lori's fabulously character-driven take on the original tough chicks. Another great example of an author taking the conventions of a genre and bringing her own strengths to it in a way that feels completely fresh.

In May:

Chelsea Campbell's THE RISE OF RENEGADE X (Egmont), which is a hilarious boy-narrated YA novel about a world of superheroes and supervillains and the one boy caught between the two. We just optioned film rights to this one to Disney and it is honestly laugh-out-loud funny. Chelsea's voice is compulsively readable, and her main character, Damien, made me maybe want to be a supervillain too.

Stephen Betchen's MAGNETIC PARTNERS: Discover How the Hidden Conflict That Once Attracted You to Each Other Is Now Driving You Apart (Free Press), has wonderful information for anyone looking to understand their relationship better. Steve takes some high-level concepts and makes them so accessible; his approach to guiding couples to greater happiness is truly empowering.

Maureen Lipinski's NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS, which is a sequel to her A BUMP IN THE ROAD and a guaranteed laughfest for anyone who's deep in the new-mommy trenches. I was lucky to nab Maureen very soon after my move to Waxman and she has been keeping me in giggles ever since, both in her books and on her utterly charming blog (

That actually tells you just about everything you'd want to know about what I represent. It also tells you that no, I will not in fact be sleeping for the foreseeable future! Not every month is like these, so I'm choosing to enjoy it.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

HR: I do both fiction and nonfiction. For fiction, commercial women's (I'd love to see more projects with book-club appeal along the lines of my client Lisa Patton's WHISTLIN' DIXIE IN A NOR'EASTER), romance (mostly paranormal although not exclusively), and a very select few mysteries. I love young adult and middle grade fiction, which is a growing portion of my list, particularly middle grade. If you've got a good one please do think of me!

On the nonfic side, I tend to know it when I see it, but a strong sense of voice, a great platform and the ability to make me really think are essentials for both prescriptive and narrative projects.

I don't rep hard SF or epic fantasy, thrillers, picture books, true crime, poetry, or screenplays.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

HR: Focus on the story. I don't need to know how long you've been writing, or what demons writing helps you exorcise, or any of those things. Just tell me a story and I'll go with you.

But if you must have a peeve, I am a relentless devil's advocate so if you ask me a rhetorical question in a query, you can bet I'm on the other end of my computer screen responding obstinately.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

HR: I am always looking for something that will truly transport me--make me ignore the cats and husband (temporarily) because I just cannot stop reading (they're used to it, don't worry). I love humor, but am tough on anything that tries too hard to be wacky. I love finding writers whose words just ooze confidence and make the reader know they're in excellent hands. Notice how subjective all of that is? :)

As far as specifics, I mentioned above that I'd love to find a middle grade. It doesn't mean I'm not looking for other things but there's definitely a nice opportunity there if you've got a killer MG ready to go.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

HR: E-mail, with ten pages in the body of the e-mail below your query, to

Thanks for these great answers, Ms. Root--and for adding about a dozen books to all of our to-read lists:) If you’ve got a polished manuscript that fits her tastes, send her a query. Right away. Honestly, Ms. Root is one of the agents at the tip-tip-top of my list, and she should be at the top of yours.

Good luck to all you queriers! And thanks to all you readers for your great feedback and advice.


Kristi said...

Thanks for the interview - I just added Holly to my list!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the great interview!

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Kristi and Stina, you're welcome!

Tahereh said...

you are so awesome. you always have the best interviews. thanks for taking the time to do this.

seriously good stuff. holly is a doll.

best of luck with everything!

Lara Chapman said...

Holly - You're the absolute best! Lara

lotusgirl said...

Holly's on my short list so this interview was very helpful. Thanks.

Bethany said...

Awesome - thought I could only send her five pages! Thanks!

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Tahereh, thanks for stopping by. Maybe I'll have to badger your agent for an interview next:)

Lara, you have excellent opinions.

Lotusgirl and Bethany, glad you found the interview useful.

Dawn Simon said...

Thanks, Krista, for bringing us another helpful interview!

Those books sound fabulous. I was already a Holly Root fan, but your interview gave me even more great info!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! :)

annerallen said...

Great interview. I had no idea she repped anything but YA and paranormal. Thanks a bunch.

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Yeah, Dawn, I'm a Holly Root fan, too:)

And annerallen, I'm hoping you just discovered she reps your genre also.

Myrna Foster said...

Thank you! I'm going to have to read WINGING IT and add Holly to my list.

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Myrna, ha! WINGING IT sounds right up your alley, doesn't it? And I'm glad you're adding her to your list - even if she is a birdaphobe:)

Anonymous said...

I've just read through all of your agent-interviews, and I wanted to say thank you. A couple of these agents are already on my List, but I found some new ones, and the interviews are extremely useful.
So, thank you!

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Bethhull, you're very welcome:)

Olleymae said...

I can't wait to check out some of these books. Holly was already on my list, but this interview definitely moves her up near the top. Thanks, Krista V.

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Don't those books sound great, Olleymae? I'll definitely be checking at least a few of them out (once my library finishes processing them).

And you're welcome:)

Erin Edwards said...

Holly is on my list so it is great to have more info. Thanks for the interview!

Love the title of your blog, too! This is the first time I've found it.

Krista V. said...

Erin, thanks for stopping by!

Adrienne Albregts said...

Great interview -- glad to know what agents in Ms Root's caliber are looking for.

Krista V. said...

Thanks, Adrienne! And thanks for stopping by (and commenting)!