Jane Rotrosen Agency
WG: Hello! Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. �
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
CH: Hi Winnie, and thanks for having me. It's always a pleasure for me to get to talk to book people.
I've been happily ensconced at the Jane Rotrosen Agency in NYC since 2003, after graduating with a degree in English (and Women's Studies) from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA and attending the publishing institute at the University of Denver.
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an agent and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
CH: After one soul-sucking year working in health insurance, I knew I needed to search harder for a fulfilling career, and to me that meant something in books. I was always happiest when surrounded by the study of literature - paperbacks as a young girl, the classics at F&M, a Jane Austen intensive in Bath, England and a modern Lit intensive at Oxford my junior year - so the choice was clear. The problem was that they don't teach you about commercial publishing, not even at tiny liberal arts colleges. My advisor in the English Dept at Franklin & Marshall College pointed me toward the Denver Publishing Institute, where we all wanted to be editors. But I was lucky enough to meet--and immediately admire--agent Stuart Krichevsky, whose good friend at Jane Rotrosen was looking for an assistant� That was nearly eight years and a million happy pages ago.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently represent?
CH: My work reflects my interests. I represent women's fiction, mainstream fiction, all sub-genres of romance, historical fiction, mystery, thriller, suspense, young adult fiction, and memoir.
WG: Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
CH: Jane Rotrosen Agency has a long history (37 years!) of working with authors of commercial adult fiction, but what authors may not realize is I have a keen interest in teen fiction. In the past 4-5 years I have been actively seeking to expand our work in that arena. I would especially love to see YA work that incorporates elements of magical realism and I'm a firm believer that there will always be room for a timeless love story (or even better, the clever twist on the happily-ever-after).
WG: Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?
CH: I personally do not have a faculty with science fiction, epic fantasy, prescriptive/self-help, political nonfiction, comedy, or chick lit. We do not represent picture books, early readers, or curriculum-based nonfiction.
WG: Do you represent any authors of non-fiction? If so, have you been successful in selling their projects? If not, is this a market that interests you?
CH: My work in the commercial market has been focused primarily on fiction, but every once in a while a nonfiction proposal comes along that cannot be passed up. In those rare instances that I fall head over heels in love with a nonfiction project, it tends to be narrative nonfiction, such as Michael Collins' medical memoirs HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL and BLUE COLLAR, BLUE SCRUBS, which are still making pre-med students everywhere cry into their stethoscopes. For me, it's the writing that wins me over. With Mike's work, the topic is evocative and the writing transports you.
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
CH: Women's fiction, romance, and mystery, and more recently young adult has made up a portion of my sales.
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?
CH: Viking /Pam Dorman Books, Harlequin/HQN, Kensington, Random House/Crown, Harlequin /MIRA, Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, St. Martin's Press, Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers, Random House/Ballantine, HarperCollins/Avon, Harlequin Teen.
WG: Approximately how many clients do you currently represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?
CH: All of my clients have very different levels of activity, meaning that some clients are developing new projects/direction, while on the opposite end of the spectrum others are delivering multiple books per year. It's tough to put a number on that. Of those I have two new clients, debut authors, who are currently unpublished (but hopefully not for long!).
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?
CH: In the last year, I have completed deals for two debut YA authors, and one first-time sale in the US for women's fiction author Menna Van Praag.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
CH: Always! Finding a new author, or a new-to-me author is what makes me tick. Keep in mind that most of agents' and editors' reading happens on their own time - late nights and weekends. I'm never happier than when I'm kept up late reading something that transports me, makes me learn something new (like A Thousand Splendid Suns), or has elements of magic (like The Lace Reader, a story I'm mental for). I love Chevy Stevens and Tana French and would love to find an up-market mystery that controls my emotions like their books. I have a long-standing obsession with Diana Gabaldon, who is without comparison, but if another author managed to pull my heart strings and capture that feeling of can't-live-without-you, star-crossed love, I would be hooked. I'd lose sleep over it.
WG: How would you describe your agenting style? What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning? Or is your relationship strictly the business side of contract negotiation and as author/editor interface?
CH: I'm a hands-on agent and pride myself on strategic career planning with an eye toward career longevity, but that also means contract negotiating and interface with all aspects of the publishing team.
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
CH: You mean am I happier when I'm reading in bed? No. I love all aspects of my job.
WG: Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?
CH: My colleagues call me a door lurker: when I get the urge to talk about something I've just read - so much so that I'll lurk in your doorway until you're free - then I know it's a match. I can't imagine representing something that I couldn't emote about.
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions?
CH: I keep clients updated every step of the way, and that means sending them correspondence as it's received.
WG: What is your process for submitting work to editors? Is this different if the editor is one you've had no prior contact with as opposed to one you've already built a working relationship with?
CH: Part of my job is creating author-editorial relationships, and so I always choose to make contact by phone before including an editor in a submission. In most cases, I'll have met the editor in person or have a long-standing relationship, but that renewed phone contact is a really important step for me to gauge the level of interest and to determine the length of the submission - and to communicate my own enthusiasm for the project.
WG: How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
CH: Sometimes that's the best way to go, but in many instances I have one particular editor or house in mind so I'll send out exclusively.
WG: Once a work has been sold, do you provide any input to the author and/or editor in the area of marketing and promotion for the book?
CH: I do, and recently I've found it important to connect the author with the marketing and publicity teams to get the author started with facebook and twitter.
WG: What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?
CH: I'm an effusive person by nature, so when I find something I love I find it easy to communicate its appeal, over and over, for as long as it takes. I pride myself on accountability to my clients and since there's no line between my life in books and my job in books, I've developed great relationships in the industry.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?
CH: I love attending conferences, and fill my schedule with 6 to 10 a year in addition to BEA, RWA, and Thrillerfest, which are fixed annual events for me. They are great opportunities to see editors in another environment and I always soak up so much energy from authors in those settings.
WG: Have you ever been involved in the sale of movie rights? Foreign rights? If so, did you handle this yourself or did you work with someone more specialized in this field?
CH: Yes and yes. We have an in-house subsidiary rights department, and we work with a number of film co-agents in New York and on the west coast.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
CH: I do my best to get to requested material within 4 weeks but if requested material lingers without response longer than that, I encourage authors to follow up by email. I read unsolicited queries on a weekly basis depending on my obligations to clients and do my best to send response in a timely manner.
WG: Do you feel an agent based in New York has a significant advantage over one who is not? Why or why not?
CH: There are reputable agents everywhere (and the opposite is true, as well). More important than location is sales record and reputation in the industry, and ethical business practices.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent's role is?
CH: I'm lucky, I suppose, to not have encountered unrealistic expectations concerning my role, at least not among the clients I've chosen to represent. Thanks to writer's groups and the internet, most clients are pretty well informed.
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author's career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
CH: Before s/he has written The End.
WG: What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering approaching you (or any agent) for representation?
CH: Become involved with the book business. Read industry blogs, participate in critique groups/sites, talk to booksellers, read trade reviews, attend conferences, and read, read, read, especially within your genre.
WG: Do you think contest credits help authors further their career before and/or after making that first sale? Have you ever acquired a client that you discovered via a writing contest?
CH: I have requested material after seeing it win the Malice Domestic Grant, or final for the Golden Heart and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.
WG: Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering working with? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?
CH: Always. These days, the website isn't usually my first stop when I'm considering a new client. It's facebook and twitter, the number of followers, and the frequency and quality of activity that really make a difference in terms of marketing one's work.
WG: How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? Is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?
CH: There are some massive bestsellers (Suzanne Collins) who don't need social marketing to propel their career. Most everyone else can benefit from actively participating in social marketing at some level.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
CH: Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
CH: You mean, besides a character in a romance? I was a girl scout for 12 years and a camp counselor for many of those, so there was a fleeting moment when I thought I'd be a park ranger. That still makes me laugh.
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
CH: I've discovered a new-found love of bird watching, I'm a courageous (if not talented) home chef, and I'm learning to enjoy wine. I've been in a book club since 2007 and reading is still my favorite past-time.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
CH: I find myself gravitating lately to the shelves at Target, so mostly that means women's fiction. I have a new colleague, a former teen librarian, who has fed me some terrific YA fiction: The DUFF, Matched, If I Stay, Something Like Fate, Gemini Bites.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
CH: Like my taste in books, it's all over the map. I'm incapable of disliking a period piece but I also love psychological suspense and stupid bro-mances. Thanks to DVR, I habitually watch Glee and all of the AMC originals, and the Food Network is background noise in my house.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
CH: The Anne of Green Gables books, because they were the first time I equated reading with pleasure. Those books transported me and I identified with Anne Shirley if for no other reason than because she was an ugly duckling, a redhead, and a romantic. I still look for that quality in series today and I can recall every time I've felt that same leap of heart.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the agency?
CH: Honor the work you do. When you're looking for an agent, find a partner you can trust, and who loves your work so much that it makes her palms throb.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency?
WG: Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit in this month's spotlight. It was delightful �visiting' with you here.
CH: My pleasure! Thanks for asking great questions!