Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GumboWriters Interview with Literary Agent, Anne Hawkins from John Hawkins Literary

How long have you been an agent and how did you get your start, Anne?

I've been a literary agent for thirteen years. My brother-in-law, John Hawkins, recruited me for several reasons. He knew that I was a great lover of books and had, in fact, taught English in the past. Also, he had seen me negotiate in an entirely different field, and that gave him confidence that I could handle the business aspects of the job.

What makes your agency different than any others?

To the best of our knowledge, our agency is the oldest in the country, founded in 1893 by Paul R. Reynolds. Though we remain mid-sized by choice, we've gained a reputation for representing very high-quality authors from the early days with Jack London, Willa Cather, and P.G. Wodehouse, to the present day with such luminaries as Joyce Carol Oates. In addition to literary fiction, we also work with up-market commercial fiction and a wide variety of non-fiction projects. Our authors have been nominated for (and in some cases actually won) most of the major awards, including the Edgar, The Thriller, The Orange Prize, The National Book Award, and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

What are you looking for, specifically, that you wish you would see more of?

I'm always eager to find smart books, either fiction or nonfiction, that would be potential candidates for reading groups. In other words, books that address substantive issues. Then again, I wouldn't turn down a ripping good story that didn't have that sort of element, because I do, in fact, represent quite a bit of mystery, suspense, and thriller. I'm always on the lookout for great historical fiction, but, alas, those seem to be few and far between.

Anne, what are you tired of receiving?

No more terrorists. No more clones. No more abuse stories.

How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?

Wow me with a terrific, one-page query letter. I take on a surprisingly large number of authors from "cold-call" queries. A referral from someone I know will always get my attention as well.

How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?

My authors know that they can contact me anytime with questions or concerns. Whether the issue is major or minor, I really want to be informed, and my authors know that.

What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent, Anne, that they don't seem to?

I wish writers would do some research about the type of books I handle and only query me with appropriate projects. When I receive queries for screenplays, children's picture books, poetry, etc., it's pretty obvious that the author hasn't done his homework and is making random, wholesale submissions. Frankly, it's a waste of everyone's time. Then again, there's so much misinformation out there on various websites that the authors aren't entirely to blame. (One site lists me as a top agent for horror fiction, and I've never represented a single book in that genre.)

What's the best way for a writer to reach you?

Send a one-page query letter by e-mail or post. If using e-mail, do not attach any files. My e-mail address is ahawkins@jhalit.com