As a blog fiercely dedicated to helping readers understand the inner-workings of the publishing industry, we thought it might be fun to start a new series in which we interviewed literary agents we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some of us are signed, and some have interned with agencies, and we felt that the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through these experiences should be shared with our readership as well. As gatekeepers to the industry, agents play a vital role in the road to publication. Each agent and agency does things differently, so hopefully these interviews will help you all understand what they do a little bit better, and what makes life in this industry so special! And, who knows? Maybe you’ll find an agent who could be the perfect fit for that novel you’re writing!
Introducing Naomi Hackenberg
of the Elaine P. English Literary Agency
Naomi was interviewed by one of the Elaine P. English interns, LTWF contributor Sammy Bina
LTWF: How did you come to work for Elaine P. English?
Naomi: I was moving back to D.C. after grad school and I knew I wanted to get a job in a literary agency; Elaine was simultaneously looking for a new assistant; and the rest, as they say, is history.
LTWF: When did you know you wanted to get into publishing? I know you recently became an agent yourself – how did that happen?
Naomi: When I finished undergrad, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I basically took the first job that came along (which was NOT in the publishing industry). After I worked for a while, I realized that I wanted to be in publishing, so I went to grad school to transition into the industry. While I was in grad school, I had an internship with a literary agency in Chicago. I loved reading query letters and submissions and observing that intersection of the industry–dealing with authors, editors, rights, etc. When I finished the internship, I knew that I wanted to get a job in an agency. I’ve been assisting Elaine with her projects and selling foreign rights for the agency for almost two years. I’m still doing all that, but it’s been my goal since I came to the agency to represent my own projects as well, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do that.
LTWF: What is it about YA that made you want to represent it? Do you think you’d ever consider representing more than just YA?
Naomi: I think the YA market inspires authors to write with unfettered imagination, and I’m continually impressed by the characters YA authors create; the questions YA authors ask; and the worlds they build.
Although I am only accepting unsolicited queries for YA and MG fiction, I do currently represent authors who write adult, young adult and middle grade fiction, and I anticipate that I’ll continue to expand representation in the future.
LTWF: What about your current clients made you want to sign them?
Naomi: They all have protagonists with whom I fell in love and hooks/ideas/premises that I feel are new/unique to the market, and they are all books that I want, passionately, to sell.
LTWF: Finish this sentence: “I would love to see more…”
Naomi: …funny books, YA mysteries, and dystopian fiction.
LTWF: What’s currently at the top of your To Be Read pile?
Naomi: My To Be Read pile is SO BIG and what’s on top is constantly changing. I’m currently in the middle of SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson. Other titles that I hope bubble up to the top of the pile soon are: GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray; THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson; THE SINGER’S GUN by Emily St. Mandel; and ANNA KARANENINA by Leo Tolstoy (ok, fine: the latter’s primarily on the top of my To Be Read pile in my dreams–I’m majorly short in my classics reading and I’d like to catch up on it, but it’s hard to get those books to the top of the list).
LTWF: And now, for a non-publishy question! What do you like to do when you’re not being an agent?
Naomi: I love to read (of course), go to Nationals games, and occasionally cook elaborate meals.
Thanks for having me!
You can query Naomi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on twitter!
Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her dystopian romance, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.