In honor of Agents’ Week here at the Debutante Ball, I asked Christina Hogrebe, my agent extraordinaire, a few questions about her work as a literary agent and what she is looking for (and not looking for) in her inbox. Thank you, Christina, for joining us, and welcome to the Ball!
Susan: You’ve been with the Jane Rotrosen Agency for over ten years, and the publishing industry has changed a lot in that time frame. In what ways has your role as an agent changed and stayed the same?
Christina: Obviously the last ten years saw an incredible birth of opportunities arising from the digital book boom and we’ve become very attuned to new models of connecting readers with writers. But what hasn’t changed is that the majority of our clients want to devote their time and energy to writing. They still need a business partner to help achieve their goals and create innovative strategies for navigating an ever-changing book market.
I’d also say there are more choices than ever in terms of formats, devices, price points, and engagement, but another thing that hasn’t changed is readers’ desire to lose themselves in a compelling story. Our agents are still there to add value wherever we’re needed in the process—story development, editing before and after a sale, cover, copy, format and price consultations. It takes a village to produce quality stories for mass consumption.
Susan: I certainly can attest to the fact that it takes a village. Vintage would be nowhere near the book it is today without your help.
What are some things that will make you start skimming a requested manuscript or stop reading it altogether?
Christina: Spelling and grammar can be easily corrected, but belabored writing, tense changes, a focus on stage directions (then she woke up, then she went here), clichéd situations…all can pull you out of the delicious experience of falling into a book.
Susan: What sort of projects would you like to see more of in your query inbox at the moment?
Christina: What I love about the changes in publishing is that I never know where the next big story will come from, so I’m not just tied to the query process. I still go to a lot of conferences and publishing functions and open mic nights. I’ve recently had a lot of fun helping authors transition from success in self-publishing and fanfiction platforms to the traditional model. It’s a real boost for me to find an author whose work both delights me (because it’s well-written and produced on a fast schedule) and then to be able to make a case that traditional publishing can be uniquely suited to help build upon the existing fanbase. My eyes light up whenever I see Amazon KDP, Wattpad and fanfiction among an author’s credentials.
Susan: Name three published, non-client works you’ve enjoyed recently.
Christina: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins, and Last Summer by Holly Chamberlain
Susan: I read Eleanor & Park recently, thanks to your recommendation. I absolutely loved it and have read more of Rainbow Rowell’s work since then.
Okay, last question. If you could have lunch (or cocktails) with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and why? Other than me, of course 😉
Christina: Well, only if you’re not available. Perfect day: I’d have breakfast with L.M. Montgomery, tea with Beatrix Potter, lunch with John Green, dinner with Diana Gabaldon, and cocktails with Dorothy Parker.
Thanks again, Christina! For readers of the blog, you can find out more about what sort of work Christina represents on the Jane Rotrosen Agency website.