Friday, March 24, 2006

An Interview With Christina Hogrebe

Christina Hogrebe joined the Jane Rotrosen Agency in 2003. As an assistant to the company's senior agents, she's worked with such writers as Jennifer Crusie, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Michele Martinez, Victoria Alexander, Carla Neggers, Nancy Martin, and Susan Wiggs. Now, as a literary agent, she is building her own list of distinctive fiction and nonfiction authors. She is looking for commercial fiction, with a particular interest in young adult and middle-grade fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, light paranormal, mysteries, and thrillers. She also considers a few nonfiction projects that tend to be story-based, such as memoir and narrative nonfiction. Christina is a hands-on agent and strongly believes in taking on clients for their whole career. Born in Northeastern PA, Christina is a graduate of the University of Denver Publishing Institute and Franklin & Marshall College, where she studied English literature and Women’s Studies, and was therefore blissfully unemployable in any other field.

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What do you like to see in a query letter? Is a simple one-page query enough, or do you like to see a sample of the writing along with it?: This is a really good question, but one that’s not always easy to answer. Certainly, my preferences differ from other agents’, so it’s good to do your homework before submitting. If you are a published author, please just call the agency and speak with me. Or, you can send me a copy of your latest book with a letter explaining your goals, including any new proposals and other relevant information. If we’ve met at a conference or if you were referred to me by a client or colleague, I will usually ask for the first 100 pages or so and go from there. Otherwise, I very much appreciate keeping the first introduction down to a one-page query letter with a one-page detailed synopsis of the whole book and SASE for my reply. I do not accept email queries, and I don’t have an eye for science fiction, manga, politics, historical fiction, or children’s picture books. Please be sure your fiction manuscript or nonfiction proposal is complete and is in the best shape possible before contacting me.

What’s the best part of your job?: Reading manuscripts. I always dreamed of a job where I could lay in bed and read. When someone told me I could turn my English major into a living, I jumped at the opportunity. While the reality of my job is nowhere near that glamorous, I do look forward to my fair share of reading in bed… and on trains… and in line… and while talking to my mother on the phone. You get the idea.

And the worst part?: Declining an author’s work. I have the highest esteem for the creative process and the years of hard work and practice that go into it. While there is a degree of merit in every manuscript I read, publishing is still a business. In order to effectively serve my clients, I must be able to really “get” their work and its place in a highly-competitive market. Without the highest level of enthusiasm, I just can’t be the table-pounder an author needs on his/her side.

And I’m not always right. Sometimes I’ll see a manuscript I passed on in print months later and I realize that another reader had the response the author needed to get published.

What was the last book you read, non-business related, just for pleasure?: The Princess Diaries. Again. I’m really into young adult chick lit at the moment. There’s nothing like revisiting my imagination and dreaming like the whole world’s ahead.

If you were sick in bed, which movie would be your ‘comfort movie’, and why?: Annie. It was the first movie I can remember wanting to watch again and again. As a redhead, I wanted to be Annie, but I probably just wanted those matching powder blue patent-leather shoes and an indoor swimming pool.

What do you think it takes for an author to become successful in this business (aside from the obvious need to write good books)?: To a certain degree, being in the right place at the right time plays a role in many authors’ immediate success. But career longevity is something that Jane Rotrosen Agency works very hard to promote. I think it’s important for an author to be mindful of the market and what’s selling while maintaining one’s unique sensibility; to be aware of his or her core audience and the trends that attract new readers; to set goals and work with your agent to achieve them. And while agents and publishing houses are tireless advocates, a successful author needs to be a constant self-promoter.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?: When it comes to choosing an agent, be sure to find someone who is enthusiastic about your material, respected within the publishing world (a member of AAR), and knowledgeable about the genre in which you write. This is a big decision. An agent will be your link to the scary world of publishing. Too often I see authors jump at the first offer of representation without giving much thought to it. Certainly the days after the first offer of representation are an exciting time, but if an agent is really interested in taking you to the next level, he or she will keep the offer on the table until you’ve had a chance to decide. Become familiar with the agency agreement, ask questions about their strategies and experience, and—when your material is on multiple submission—notify the other agents who are considering your material.

The Jane Rotrosen Agency represents authors of both fiction and nonfiction, including many New York Times bestselling authors. They are located at 318 East 51st Street, New York, NY 10022. The Jane Rotrosen Agency is currently not accepting email queries, or unsolicited queries from authors who have not been referred by a client or colleague or who have not previously been published.

11 comments:

Ellen said...

Nice interview, Terri and Christina! I'll save the info for when I finish my wip. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

According to the last paragraph in your interview, the agency is only accepting queries from previously published authors or by referral. So it appears that Christina is not looking at over-the-transome queries to build her client list unless you're already published or are referred by someone the agency knows.

Christina Hogrebe said...

I apologize for not being more clear about our submission policy. Other agents at Jane Rotrosen are NOT accepting unsolicited queries due to the difficulty in giving attention to the volume of mail we receive. Because I am building my client list, I am happy to look at unsolicited hardcopy queries for material that falls within my interests, but I do ask that you keep your letter brief.
Happy reading!
Christina

Tawny Taylor said...

Thank you for posting this interview, Terri!

Anna Sugden said...

Great interview, Terri. Very helpful for those of us querying agents. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Gernerally, how long is your response time for reading a requested sample?

Larry Hammersley said...

Thanks for making the interview with Christina available. I hope to get an appointment with her at Antioch next week: July 8-15. Now I have additional info on her interests.

Terri said...

Good luck with your appointment, Larry, and tell Christina I said 'hello'! :-)

John Askins said...

Thanks for the comments, Christina. In your answer to the question about query length, you said, "...If we’ve met at a conference or if you were referred to me by a client or colleague, I will usually ask for the first 100 pages or so and go from there. Otherwise, I very much appreciate keeping the first introduction down to a one-page query letter with a one-page detailed synopsis of the whole book and SASE for my reply." My question is: Let's say I've met you at a conference. I still need to somehow establish that fact before you ask for the first 100 pages. So don't I have to send a one-page query and one-page synopsis first? Or did you mean you'd ask for those 100 pages at the conference meeting?

Terri said...

John,

Christina is no longer monitoring this post (it's pretty old), but I can answer your question for you.

If you met Christina at a conference AND she expressed an interest in your manuscript, you'd send her 100 pages and a synopsis, mentioning in your query/cover letter that you met her at XXX conference, and here's the 100 pages you discussed, etc.

If you did NOT meet Christina at a conference, she wants to see only your synopsis and a query/cover letter.

That's the difference between a "solicited" and "unsolicited" - meaning she's either asked to see your pages (solicited) or you're approaching her cold with no prior contact (unsolicited).

Does that make any sense?

john said...

Thanks, Terri.