Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Agent Allison Hunter
Allison Hunter’s clients include bestselling novelists, memoirists, journalists and experts in their field. She also worked with Lena Dunham on her bestselling memoir Not That Kind of Girl.
She is actively acquiring literary and commercial fiction, memoir, narrative nonfiction, cultural studies and pop culture at the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. She is always looking for funny female writers, great love stories, campus novels, family epics, and for projects that speak to the current cultural climate. Allison has a B.A. in American Studies and Creative Writing from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.
Allison Hunter: I see my relationship with every author as one that will hopefully last for the length of the author’s career. To that end, I try to advise each author not only on current projects, but on how current projects will fit in with his or her overall career trajectory. More specifically, I take a strong editorial role, but I also firmly believe that the author must be the final decision maker on all editorial decisions, and that he or she must be proud and happy with every project submitted under his or her name. Finally, I try to be really open, honest and transparent with my authors, and work hard to walk them through each step of the submission and publishing process.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
AH: For fiction, it’s really all about the voice. If something on the page grabs me, so I can’t put the book down, I’m sold. For nonfiction, voice is important too, but the author’s platform and expertise become much more important. For memoir, I’m asking myself if the author is the only person who can tell this particular story this particular way.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
AH: I do for certain kinds of writers. For nonfiction, it can make a huge difference, especially for writers writing for the millennial audience, which spends so much time online. For fiction, I think it can help, but it’s definitely not critical, and I don’t recommend fiction authors throw themselves into social media if they don’t feel comfortable there.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
AH: Know your category and read your category. If you want to write contemporary YA fiction, figure out what are the bestsellers in that category and ask yourselves why. Try to network with other authors in your category, either in person, through conferences and the like, or online. That way when you’re querying agents, you can write knowledgeably about where you fit in within the marketplace.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.
AH: Two examples of projects I took on because of something special or unique: On the fiction side, I took on a grounded science fiction novel, which was a category I hadn’t represented at all. I did it because I was totally mesmerized by the story, and found myself crying while reading on the subway as a major character died. I knew at that moment that I had to take the book on, even though I wasn’t sure exactly how to position it. On the nonfiction side, I took on a prescriptive parenting book about potty training, despite not having children or knowing much about the subject! I did it because my close friend, who is a parent, told me about a self-published potty training book that really helped her with her daughter, and I discovered that the author had already sold 40,000 copies herself. That was enough to make me want to take it on!
I have had so many proud and exciting moments in my career—it’s really hard to pick just one. I’m proud every time I sell a book. I think selling fiction is especially exciting, because I know that generally the writers have been working on their novels for a long time. I was especially proud when my client Katie Heaney’s memoir Never Have I Ever was published, and she got a huge outpouring of support on social media. Seeing teenage girls tweet at her, telling her what an inspiration she was to them, really moved me.
— Thanks, Allison!
Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.