This week's Agent Spotlight features Holly Root of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.
Status: Open to submissions.
About: "My favorite part of being an agent is the thrill of discovery. Being the first to experience a new world or a brand-new author simply never gets old. Couple that with the joy of sharing that wonderful book with editors and eventually readers and you’ve got the reason I truly love my job.
“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.
“Prior to joining the Waxman Literary Agency in 2007, Holly Root worked at the William Morris Agency and Trident Media Group.” (Link)
About the Agency:
“The Waxman Leavell Literary Agency is a development-oriented firm, specializing in representing nonfiction and fiction authors with powerful stories. Our strength lies in our ability to match authors with ideas and to connect them with the best possible publisher for their book. Our clients are accomplished journalists, experts in their fields, celebrities and first time writers with an exceptional story or message to share. We have been associated with dozens of bestsellers and award winning projects, and look forward to continuing to help bring exciting and successful new voices to American and international markets.
“Founded by Scott Waxman and Byrd Leavell, the Waxman Leavell 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 WLLA prides itself on building long-term relationships with its clients and remaining as a constant in a writer’s life. Proactive from the start, WLLA offers a range of creative input from idea generation to project development, and proposal editing. WLLA clients benefit from the personalized attention of an intimate, editorially driven office, and from more than forty years of publishing experience.” (Link)
What She's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Middle grade, young adult, women’s fiction (commercial and upmarket), urban fantasy, romance, select nonfiction. (Link)
From Her Website Bio (as above):
"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." (Link)
From an Interview (05/2011):
“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.’” (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, thrillers, erotica, 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 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)
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)
"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)
There is a page of client books on the agency website.
Ms. Root’s client include: Leo Babauta, Josie Brown, Chelsea Campbell, Rae Carson, Kay Cassidy, Nancy J. Cavanaugh, Jen Cervantes, Lara Chapman, Alison Cherry, Manda Collins, Trish Cook, Diana Cosby, Virna De Paul, Liz Fichera, Jenny Gardiner, Nancy Grossman, Gemma Halliday, Rachel Hawkins, Mary Kennedy, Christina Lauren, Maureen Lipinski, Jennifer Malone, Myra McEntire, Theresa Meyers, Lisa Patton, Misa Ramirez, CJ Redwine, Serena Robar, Victoria Schwab, Kiera Stewart, Sara Bennett-Wealer, Skyler White, among others!
E-mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Send a query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript in the body of an e-mail. No attachments.
Query Tips / Peeves:
"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)
Ms. Root has an auto-responder for receipt of submission. She only responds personally if interested. Response times on requested material range from one week to several months.
What’s the Buzz?
Holly Root a top-notch agent with an incredible list of clients and sales. Her clients adore and gush about her every chance they get and she’s one of the sharpest, funniest agents I’ve come across. She's recommended by P&E and her active presence on the web makes her visible and popular among aspiring authors. Definitely follower her on Twitter and subscribe to the Waxman blog.
Worth Your Time:
Interview with Holly Root at I Want Her Job (10/2011).
7 Questions For: Literary Agent Holly Root at Middle Grade Ninja (05/2011).
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:
Is it Who You Know? (08/2012).
Middle Grade Weremonkeys & Embracing Scary (02/2011).
A Few #askagent Questions (05/2010).
Quick Submissions Update (04/2009).
On Referrals (03/2010).
Letting the Market Speak (10/2009).
With a (Moutain) of Salt (09/2009).
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:
Waxman Leavell Literary at P&E.
Holly Root at P&E ($, recommended).
Waxman Leavell Literary Agency at P&E ($, recommended).
Waxman Leavell Literary Agency thread at AbsoluteWrite.
Check out the latest at Waxman via their News page.
How I Got My Agent by Jennifer Malone at I Write For Apples (10/2012).
Live YA Q&A chat with Holly Root and Barbara Poelle at WriteOnCon (08/2011).
A Flawless Book Pitch: How Does Literary Agent Holly Root Sell a High-Concept Novel? Like this. at Pitch University (07/2011).
Myths and Misconceptions by literary agent Holly Root, and editors Molly O’Neill and Martha Mihalick at WriteOnCon (08/2010).
Query Dos and Don'ts from Holly Root, Auburn Writers Conference notes at See Heather Write (10/2010).
Professionally grabbing the attention of editors and agents and keeping it (article featuring some info on Holly Root) by Nikki Duncan (03/2010).
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.
Last Updated: 6/2/13.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 6/3/10.
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.