This week's Agent Spotlight features Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency.
About: "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."
Status: Accepting submissions.
What She's Looking For:
From the 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." (Link)
From an interview 03/2010:
"I do both fiction and nonfiction. For fiction, commercial women's (I'd love to see more projects with book-club appeal along the lines of my client Lisa Patton's WHISTLIN' DIXIE IN A NOR'EASTER), romance (mostly paranormal although not exclusively), and a very select few mysteries. I love young adult and middle grade fiction, which is a growing portion of my list, particularly middle grade. If you've got a good one please do think of me! On the nonfic side, I tend to know it when I see it, but a strong sense of voice, a great platform and the ability to make me really think are essentials for both prescriptive and narrative projects.
"I am always looking for something that will truly transport me--make me ignore the cats and husband (temporarily) because I just cannot stop reading (they're used to it, don't worry). I love humor, but am tough on anything that tries too hard to be wacky. I love finding writers whose words just ooze confidence and make the reader know they're in excellent hands. Notice how subjective all of that is? :) As far as specifics, I mentioned above that I'd love to find a middle grade. It doesn't mean I'm not looking for other things but there's definitely a nice opportunity there if you've got a killer MG ready to go." (Link)
From a Tweet 02/2010:
"If you have a classic ghost-story-haunting for kids, think of me. Or if you write ghosts like Laura Whitcomb." (Link)
From an interview 12/2009:
"I'd love to see more middle grade, but I am exceptionally specific about voice for that age group, maybe even more reflexively than other genres I handle, so I know I will pass on saleable projects that just don't click with me.
"I continue to love YA that hits me sideways with a completely indelible voice. I'm also a sucker for contemporary fiction, both for young adults and adults, where the worldbuilding is as specific and well done as it would be in the strongest paranormal (as in Kay Cassidy's The Cinderella Society or Lisa Patton's Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter).
"I've talked before about wanting to see fiction for young readers that deals with faith in an ecumenically relatable/personal, rather than strictly market, sense. Think of the way Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret involves, but is not strictly about, a young girl's faith." (Link)
"For mysteries, primarily interested in high-concept cozies. If you have a thriller, try Scott Waxman or Byrd Leavell instead." (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Picture books, poetry, screenplays/scripts, sci-fi, epic fantasy, romantic suspense, category romance, true crime, military thrillers, thrillers with Russia or China in the premise, or woman/child peril stories. (Link, Link, Link)
"I think my agenting philosophy and my life philosophy are basically the same--do good work and do right by others. I hope to work with people who are out to do the same. I also believe that you never stop learning--as an agent, a writer, an editor--and like to work with others who see it that way too. I expect my clients to be brilliant writers, and to be professionals who can work respectfully with me and their team whether everything's going perfectly or when it gets trickier." (Link)
"I’m a sucker for voice—all of my clients have a killer sense of voice, fiction or nonfiction. I’m much more likely to keep reading if I instantly know from that first page that this character (or author, in the case of nonfiction) is someone who interests me, someone whose life I’d like to curl up in for the next two hours." (Link)
"I want my authors to be out there connecting with readers and potential readers, whether via blog or twitter or even in real life, or best yet, all three. Different approaches are right for different kinds of personalities and books. I expect authors to ask questions if they're unsure of what to do next, and to conduct themselves professionally even when frustrated. Beyond that, I want authors to play to their strengths, because you can always tell when someone has a blog only because someone told them that to move copies you have to have a blog (exchange "blog" for whatever other promo tool suits). No two authors' promotional efforts will look exactly the same, and that's a good thing." (Link)
About the Agency:
"Founded by Scott Waxman, a former editor at HarperCollins Publishers, the Waxman Literary Agency is a full-service boutique literary agency with a hands-on, dynamic approach to literary representation. Due to the ever-shifting landscape of the publishing business, editors come and go, but WLA prides itself on building long-term relationships with its clients and remaining as a constant in a writer’s life. Proactive from the start, WLA offers a range of creative input from idea generation to project development, and proposal editing. WLA clients benefit from the personalized attention of an intimate, editorially driven office, and from more than a quarter century of publishing experience." (Link)
Her Advice to Writers:
"I have a favorite saying that I think addresses most, if not all, of the things that make us crazy at any and every stage of the journey, and it is one we all should've learned by third grade: Eyes on your own test paper. Don't worry about Joe's query or how many full requests Suzy got, or whether Lisa got more co-op or David's deal was a pre-empt. Everyone's road is going to look different. Same thing applies to agents, honestly. Competing with yourself should be challenge enough. Getting wound up in the comparison game is unhealthy: It's unproductive because it's nearly impossible to know the entire story behind the scenes; it encourages a mentality that if someone else gets something good, there is one less good thing for me to get; and perhaps most of all, focusing on others takes your attention off things you can actually improve (i.e., your own work)." (Link)
"90% of writing is rewriting. I don’t know that it ever gets easier, but I know that the more you learn to self-edit and polish, the stronger you’ll be at those skills." (Link)
"No need to apologize for yourself—"I'm so sorry to take up your time." Please don't threaten or beg me to "make your dream come true" or try to pump up the project in ways that mean nothing—telling me how your mom or friends loved it, or that you have 150 Facebook friends, all of whom you're sure would buy a copy. Don't get in your own way! Just tell me about the book, and we'll go from there." (Link)
"Focus on the story. I don't need to know how long you've been writing, or what demons writing helps you exorcise, or any of those things. Just tell me a story and I'll go with you. But if you must have a peeve, I am a relentless devil's advocate so if you ask me a rhetorical question in a query, you can bet I'm on the other end of my computer screen responding obstinately." (Link)
"I’m tired of seeing everything pitched as “Buffy meets whatever”, from romance to YA to nonfiction. I completely get the urge to have a strong, take-charge heroine (though I personally am very tough on these characters because they’re easy to make stereotypical) but the Buffy comp is way overused." (Link)
"Most [queries] are just not quite ready for prime time—clear first drafts, or letters that lay out the entire plot to less than stirring effect. I also see many letters that say, “Writing this was very therapeutic.” I find most authors feel that way, but it doesn’t affect the market appeal of the work so it doesn’t belong in your query." (Link)
Yes. "I’m a pretty editorial agent; the competition is so stiff these days that I can’t imagine not being that way. There’s definitely a point where you just have to put it out and let the market speak but if I see a way to make a ms that much tighter, why wouldn’t I jump on it?" (Link)
"I almost always have some sort of notes for my clients before submitting a project. It’s always good for them to have a fresh set of eyes, and the market is too tough to send a book out with deficiencies I can see and fix. With some authors, I’ll help brainstorm concepts from the ground up; with others, it’s helping the author decide which of several projects to pursue; and sometimes it’s a more specific edit of a completed project." (Link)
Leo Babauta, Stephen Betchen, Josie Brown, Chelsea Campbell, Rae Carson, Kay Cassidy, Lara Chapman, Manda Collins, Trish Cook, Diana Cosby, Virna De Paul, Addison Fox, Jenny Gardiner, Gemma Halliday, Rachel Hawkins, Susan Kearney, Mary Kennedy, Maureen Lipinski, Libby Malin/Libby Sternberg, Myra McEntire, Theresa Meyer, Lisa Patton, Kate Perry, Misa Ramirez, Kiera Stewart, Amie Stuart, Carrie Tucker, Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna, Sara Bennett-Wealer, Skyler White, among others!
As of this posting, Ms. Root is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 17 deals in the last 12 months, 1 six-figure+ deal, and 45 overall. Recent deals include 5 young adult, 1 middle grade, 6 women's/romance, 1 debut, 1 general/other, 1 mystery/crime, and 1 sci-fi/fantasy.
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Fiction: E-mail a query letter and the first 10 pages of your novel in the body of the e-mail. No attachments.
Non-Fiction: Send a query and sample pages in the body of the e-mail. No attachments.
Do no query more than one agent at the agency simultaneously.
Please see the Waxman Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Ms. Root has an auto-responder for receipt of submission, but she only responds personally if interested. Response times on requested material range from one week to three months with an average around two.
What's the Buzz?
Holly Root has fabulous buzz. She's a top-notch agent with a fabulous stable of clients and sales. Her clients seem to adore her and gush about her every chance they get. She's a recommended agent on P&E and her active presence on the web makes her visible and popular among aspiring authors. She's on Twitter and is known to participate in #yalitchat and #askagent, so definitely follower her there and on the Waxman blog.
Of note, there has been some angst and confusion recently regarding Diversion Books, an e-pub company founded by Scott Waxman, and how it relates to the Waxman agents. Here's a statement that might be of interest:
"Diversion Books has its own staff, shareholders and interests. The agency does not own Diversion, and has no equity in Diversion. Additionally, there is an established policy that the Waxman agent is still the agent. In a case where an Agency client decides to publish with Diversion (we also will publish non-Waxman authors) and is represented by a Waxman agent, such as Holly Root, they will be represented by Holly Root. Holly will do what’s best for the client — period. She is not an equity partner in Diversion, she would never negotiate on behalf of Diversion Books. Her role has not changed, however, now she has a strong relationship with a new publisher, an epublisher, Diversion. This relationship will offer her clients an additional option. That’s one of the missions for Diversion — to help authors that deserve to be read, but require a different sort of opportunity for a particular project." (Link)
Worth Your Time:
Friday in the Fort Interview with Holly Root at Myra McEntire's blog (04/2010).
Hilarious Interview with Agent Holly Root at The Last Word (03/2010).
Interview with an Agent: Holly Root at Mother.Write.Repeat (03/2010).
Brief interview with Holly Root at Jill Myles blog (01/2010).
Agent Advice Interview with Holly Root at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog (12/2009).
Holly Root on Negotiating Publishing Contracts at Romance University (12/2009).
Marvelous Marketer Interview with Holly Root at Market My Words (11/2009).
Book Lover of the Week Interview with Holly Root at Kay Cassidy's blog (09/2009).
Interview with Agent Holly Root at Adventure Into Romance (09/2009).
Interview with Agent Holly Root at The Novel Girls (01/2009).
AuthorMBA Q&A with agent Holly Root (05/2008).
Interview Question with Holly Root of Waxman Literary at A View From The Top (06/2007).
Guest Posts by Ms. Root:
Querying Blunders: How Not to Query featuring Holly Root (04/2010).
Guest Post by Holly Root at Magical Musings (02/2008).
Guest Post by Holly Root at The Plot Monkeys (02/2008).
Selected Posts by Ms. Root From the Waxman Blog:
Quick Submissions Update (04/2009).
On Referrals (03/2010).
Letting the Market Speak (10/2009).
With a (Moutain) of Salt (09/2009).
One Thing I'd Love to See (08/2009).
A Quick Word on Areas of Interest (06/2009).
Why I Say No (05/2009).
Recipe for Success? High Concept (02/2009).
There are other fabulous posts on the Waxman Lit blog and more to come, so make sure you subscribe.
Around the Web:
A Look at Diversion Books - what it is and how it relates to the Waxman agents.
Fall 2008 article on Holly Root from a Harding Univesity Collegiate Seminar Series (about halfway down).
Holly Root was the July 2008 Secret Agent at Miss Snark's First Victim. If you dig through the archives you can read her critique comments.
Agent Panel roundup including Holly Root by Jill Myles (04/2009).
AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler thread on Ms. Root and the Waxman Agency.
Professionally grabbing the attention of editors and agents and keeping it (article featuring some info about Holly Root) by Nikki Duncan.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.