Saturday, May 21, 2011

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Holly Root

Holly Root began her publishing career as an editor in her hometown of Nashville, TN. Prior to joining the Waxman Literary Agency in 2007, she worked at the William Morris Agency and Trident Media Group. At Waxman Agency she has represented bestselling authors of fiction and nonfiction as well as expanding the agency's reach into books for young readers. She represents authors of middle grade and young adult fiction, women’s fiction, and romance, as well as select nonfiction.

From her bio at the Waxman Literary Agency website:

"I’m drawn to well-told commercial novels in a variety of genres. I’m much more likely to keep reading if I know from that perfectly-executed first page that this character (or author, in the case of nonfiction) is someone who interests me, someone whose story I’d like to get lost in for the next two hours. I know I’ve found a winner when I encounter writers whose skills on the page make me know beyond any doubt that I’m in excellent hands.

I’m currently seeking middle grade and young adult fiction, women’s fiction (both commercial and upmarket), urban fantasy and romance. I also represent select nonfiction projects.

I do not represent poetry, screenplays, picture books, thrillers, or erotica."

As always, for more information about Holly Root or other literary agents, check out Literary Rambles, an amazing blog run by my friends Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre.

Click here to follow Holly Root on Twitter.

And now Holly Root faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

I'll limit it to kidlit, and even that is going to be horrible to I will cheat by picking my favorite fictional families. I'll go with Madeleine l'Engle's Murrays, the Ingalls fam from LITTLE HOUSE books (as a brunette, curly-headed child I reveled in Laura's disdain for her tidy, flaxen-haired sister), and just to shake it up a bit, Nathaniel and Bartimaeus from Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. They'd be horrified to be called "family," but come on--they so totally are. And because no discussion of wonderful fictional families is complete without 'em--we've got to give an honorable mention to the Weasleys.

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

Movies: Well, I find that the Kurosawa ouevre--Wait, are we in a no-judgement zone here? We better be, because I can see that outfit, yeah you over there, so here's the truth: The Muppets Take Manhattan, Jurassic Park, and You've Got Mail.

TV: Buffy, Veronica Mars, How I Met Your Mother (Oh! And Modern Family! and Lost!)

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

I want to represent amazing writers who understand that publishing successfully requires managing interwoven threads of personal, creative, and business. I want them to want to do good work and the right thing. No matter how complex or difficult a situation, I'm a huge believer that you will never regret treating others with care and honesty, and I expect the same from people I work with.

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

I love being genuinely surprised (I should clarify this is "surprised," not "baffled"). What does that look like? A fresh spin on a genre I thought I was completely tired of, the execution that reminds me I actually LOVE [whatever genre I forgot that I love], the concept I can't get out of my head, the character who is flawed and frustrating and yet totally, completely lovable for those vulnerabilities. I'm really a fan of lots of kinds of books; it's so much about voice for me that I've fallen for all manner of things against my better sense and only after I've sold it had to be like, "Um. Right. I guess I do [chick lit/steampunk/witch/Amish/high fantasy/etc] now."

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

Oh man, there are so many things I love. I love when I've matched an author with an editor and house that are just perfectly suited for the author's work. Love telling someone their book's being acquired. Love seeing those finished copies, hearing a client yell "my editor is brilliant!" as they make a breakthrough, hearing about translation rights sales. Reading Book 3 in the series 18 months before it publishes. Working through a sticky business issue with an author and leaving them reassured they're not in it alone.

My least favorite things? Chasing down royalty statements or tax forms. (So. Much. Paper.) Query and submission guilt (Do it yourself and be slow--guilt. Be fast by giving it over to interns or assistant--guilt. There is no winning here). When a book doesn't find its audience after publication for one reason or another.

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)

Don't be in such a hurry to "level up"--get agented, get sold, whatever--that you miss this moment, right now. Nothing is wasted. The ms that didn't sell teaches you something as a writer, the query that agent didn't request could be the thing that makes your name familiar-in-a-good-way for the one they do. The trend wave you missed leaves you free to start the next one.

There are no shortcuts, and even if you took one, you might arrive unprepared for the shot at success and longevity you were longing for all that time. Everyone's experience is different, so focus on making the most of your own.

Your self-worth cannot be determined by your advance, your print run, or your sales. There is no number big enough to carry that weight.

If in doubt, don't post it on the Internet.

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

I'm aware this is the equivalent of swimming Scrooge McDuck style in writers, but I would throw a party at which Beverly Cleary, Paula Danziger, and Madeleine l'Engle all hang out together over scones and fancy, fancy teas.



  1. Wow, that is powerful & wise advice. Thanks for a great interview!

  2. Wow! Fantastic interview - funny, wise, sincere. Makes me cross all fingers and toes even more that my query - currently somewhere in Holly's slush pile - catches her eye!
    Thanks for such a great interview.

  3. Another great interview, thanks for doing these (and thanks, agents)!!

  4. Great interview, particularly her advice to writers. Thanks, Rob!

  5. I really enjoyed the interview, especially the advice to writers not to query too soon. I'm trying to follow this advice and accept that it is taking me a long time to get to the query phase.

    And I love what she said about your self-worth not being determined by your advance, etc. That is so true.

  6. Hey there!
    I love the format of your site and the fact that these 7 questions really do give us a lot of info.
    Thanks so much (from one ninja to another ;))
    Ninja Girl

  7. Another great interview! Thanks for sharing..


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