Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Naomi Hackenberg

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 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.

Happy Thursday!


Annarkie said...

Great interview. I tip my hat to agents who are specific about their tastes.

JustineDell said...

Another excellent interview. Boo for me that I write adult romance. Nice job!


Kayeleen Hamblin said...

She sounds like she's right up my alley. I'll have to put Naomi on my list.

Krista V. said...

Glad you liked the interview, Annarkie (and I like that name, by the way:) ). Thanks for stopping by.

Justine, maybe I'll have to find an agent to interview who does adult romance... :)

Kayeleen, definitely put Naomi on your list. You write YA fantasy, right?

Liesl said...

I really love the question about adding pages at the bottom of the query, even if the agent doesn't ask for them. Something I was curious about!


Krista V. said...

Liesl, I've started posing this question to every agent who doesn't ask for pages in the initial query, and this is pretty much what they all say: It probably won't help or hurt you, but it might do a little good.

Myrna Foster said...

She sounds like a perfect fit for the novel I'm revising. Thanks for another great interview!

Amanda J. said...

Fantastic interview, thanks for sharing. Naomi sounds great and like someone I might be able to query, so I'll have to add her to my list. Thanks again! :)

Krista V. said...

That's great, Myrna. I had a feeling a lot of my regular readers/commenters would like her:)

Amanda, you're very welcome! I'm so glad everybody's adding her to their lists!