Saturday, December 4, 2010

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Elana Roth

Elana Roth is a children's book editor turned literary agent in New York City, specializing in children's and young adult fiction.

Once upon a time, she fell in love with children's publishing by chance at Nickelodeon Magazine. Luck struck again when she began working at Parachute Publishing, where she spent nearly 5 years learning the ropes of the book world on series for kids of all ages (and that includes some adults).

Educationally, Elana is a graduate of Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she earned degrees in English literature and Bible (which you could say is really the book that started it all).

When she's not teaching or reading, she's web designing, or throwing pottery.

To learn more about Elana Roth, you should visit her wonderful blog, the Caren Johnson Literary Agency website, or Casey McCormick's also wonderful blog Literary Rambles. You can also follow Elana on twitter.

And now Elana Roth faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Such a hard question since this is such a rotating list. Let's do 2 classics and one recent favorite:

- Shel Silverstein's THE MISSING PIECE


- Shalom Auslander's collection of stories, BEWARE OF GOD

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

All three LORD OF THE RINGS movies

Star Trek
Arrested Development
Dead Like Me

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Oh, talented beyond belief is my first pick. Beyond that, someone I can joke around with and enjoy as a person. Someone responsible and reliable. And common sensical. Essentially, I want someone I am working WITH as opposed to someone I have to manage.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I'm mostly looking for a concept that hasn't been done a million times already. And a voice it hasn't been told in before. I won't lie--there aren't really any new stories. But there are new twists and turns and hooks that are yet to be discovered, and that's what I want. Just something really freaking cool.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

The moment of discovery is a really great part of the job--that little tingle of "I think I got something," But also calling the author to tell them their book got an offer is pretty great. And the reverse of that is one of the worst parts of the job. I completely internalize rejection on behalf of my clients, so I want to protect them from it--but I can't.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Keep your butt in the chair. Nothing happens without countless hours of earnest work and practice. And read EVERYTHING. You can't be a good writer without being an excellent reader.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Oh, it's cliche, but at this point J.K. Rowling. I really would love to pick her brain about plotting and outlining, since I think those books are impeccable, and as a structure and plot oriented reader and editor I think there's so much to learn from her about a novel's structure. Every writer should take a look at that for architecture alone--and how not to disappoint your readers with the final book in a series.


  1. This is great. Love the questions you've constructed here. It's nice to know more about Elana, too!

    Have a great day.

  2. What a great interview. Great questions and great answers. I really like the answer about working with someone as opposed to managing them.

    Very awesome!

  3. Elana sounds very optimistic - a great thing in an agent. Thanks for the interview.


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