Saturday, February 16, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Laura Rennert

Laura Rennert has been a Senior Agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 1998. She thinks of herself as a "literary omnivore" and specializes in all categories of children's books, from picture books to young adult, and in up-market women's fiction and narrative nonfiction. She represents award-winning and best-selling authors, including #1 NYT bestsellers Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, #1 NYT bestseller and Printz Honor Finalist Maggie Stiefvater, and National Book Award Finalist Kathleen Duey, as well as brand new, first-time authors. 

Some of her exemplary titles are THIRTEEN REASONS WHY (Razorbill/Penguin); SHIVER (WOLVES OF MERCY FALLS series, Scholastic); CRANK series (McElderry/S and S); MADAPPLE (Knopf/RH); THE FIVE ANCESTORS series (Random House); THE BODY FINDER (HarperCollins); MOSTLY MONSTERLY (Paula Wiseman Books/S and S); THE SCORPIO RACES (Scholastic); KILL ME SOFTLY (Egmont); BLOOD MAGIC (Random House); ROOTLESS (Scholastic); THE KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES (Aladdin/S and S); and TRIANGLES (Atria/S and S). Noteworthy sales include seven-figure deals to Simon and Schuster and Scholastic; deals for over half a million dollars to Random House, Scholastic, Penguin, and Simon and Schuster; and film deals to Nickelodeon/Paramount; Warner Bros; and Universal Pictures.

Laura loves character-driven, page-turning fiction with real emotional power. The common thread in the diverse range of projects Laura represents is a strong voice and a propensity to make readers both feel and think. She has a special fondness for characters with an insider-outsider perspective; for narrative risk-takers; and for books that make her laugh and cry. Laura likes surprises, and would love to find a stunning, unexpected, can't-put-me-down novel with a swing for the fences literary voice and an amazing commercial hook in any genre.

Right now she's particularly seeking upper middle-grade and YA fiction. She's drawn to contemporary and multi-cultural fiction; speculative fiction and alternate histories/realities; dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal; thrillers, science fiction and horror; neo-gothic novels and steampunk; subversive fairy tales; and other genres that hark back to her 19th century Brit Lit roots. She has a weakness for novels that turn her favorite classics (hint, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, original fairy tales, Dante, the Pre-Raphaelites) or myths inside out, give them an intriguing new context, and bring something unexpected to the table. She'd be thrilled to find a Hugo Cabret-like illustrated novel for older readers.

Laura's work as an agent is enhanced by her experience on the other side of the table. She's the author of a picture book, BUYING, TRAINING, AND CARING FOR YOUR DINOSAUR (Knopf/RH), illustrated by Marc Brown, creator of Arthur. She's also the author of an illustrated chapter book, ROYAL PRINCESS ACADEMY: DRAGON DREAMS, forthcoming with Dial/Penguin in 2012. Laura has a Ph.D. in English Literature and was a faculty member in English Departments of the University of Virginia, Osaka University of Foreign Studies, and Santa Clara University. She speaks at writers' conferences and book festivals throughout the country and overseas. She loves helping to bring breath-taking, unforgettable books to readers, and believes she has the best job in the world. 

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.

And now Laura Rennert faces the 7 Questions: 

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

There are so many more than three, and I have so many different criteria for "favorite," that it's almost impossible to answer the question. For this reason, I'm annotating my response and giving reasons these three are favorites. Ask me another day, and I'll likely have other answers.

Possession, by A.S. Byatt
Even with my 19th century Brit Lit background, I found the poetry and voices in this book so completely believable and captivating. It felt like Byatt had actually discovered the works of two real poets from the period.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen 
A gem of a novel, from voice to characterization to construction. Each beautifully turned sentence is a joy. For all my years of graduate school, I relished the treat of reading the novel once a year. 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
As an agent who specializes in children's and YA, I feel like I have to include a story that I returned to over and over as a child (and even as an adult). 

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

Shakespeare in Love 
I love this witty, passionate, funny, wry look at the way life and art might have converged. What a brilliant way to breath new life into some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language! 

Blade Runner
To me, this film is a remarkable achievement. It presents a haunting vision of the future that still, even after thirty years, feels real. I love its brilliant combination of sci-fi and noir and also that, at its heart, it ponders what it means to be human. 

Modern Family
Always hilarious, at times touching, pure catnip.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?
My ideal client has breath-taking talent (goes without saying), passion, professionalism, intelligence, good communication skills, and a gift for engaging people both on the page and in life. 

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

I'm looking for works with what are, for me, the essentials: 

revelatory, fresh voice
real emotional power
vivid, empathetic, memorable, conflicted characters
engagement with universals
rich, idiosyncratic world building
page-turning power
a shapely structure
an ability to keep the reader thinking and feeling beyond the turning of the last page

These are my criteria for the work I take on in all of the categories I represent. I should add that I'm a literary omnivore, with wide-ranging interests. You can find more information about what I represent on my website,, and our Andrea Brown Literary Agency website,

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?
One of my favorite things about being an agent is reading a client's manuscript that transports me and moves me to such a degree that, when I'm finished, I feel bereft that I've turned the last page, -- and then knowing that I get to shepherd that work out into the world. 

One of my least favorite things is having a brilliant client manuscript that readers would respond to (and editors do!), but that editors can't successfully acquire because a space in the market is perceived as saturated.

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)
Believe. In. Yourself. 

As a writer, your responsibility is to do everything you can to control all parts of the process that lie within your control. Practice your craft. Read voraciously. Write voraciously. Be open (truly open) to considering feedback from critique partners, strong beta readers, agents, and editors. Put yourself in the way of gaining such feedback. Attend conferences and workshops where industry professionals critique your work. Revise. Revise again. And again. 

But the first step, the one that makes it all possible, is that you believe in yourself. You keep going, even in the face of rejection, because this is inevitably a business with a lot of rejection. 

Keep the faith!

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

I would choose to have tea (seems more appropriate than lunch) with Jane Austen. I love her novels, and she seems like such a remarkable mystery to me. It's fascinating that a woman who lived such a relatively quiet life, achieving some recognition in her own time, could become a literary force of the 20th century. My fear is that she might turn her satirical pen and eye on me, but it would be worth the risk!


  1. Great interview. I don't watch much TV, but I really enjoy watching Modern Family too. And I loved Laura's advice to writers. It's all so right on.

    So glad that Laura is interested in upper middle grade and likes fantasy. I have an upper middle grade fantasy that I plan to query in the next few months and Laura is one of my agents to query.


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