“It takes a lot of courage to be a writer and I will always be in awe of authors for taking that leap.” -Hannah Strouth, The Jane Rotrosen Agency
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings 20-25 literary agents and book editors to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 29th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 24 – 26, 2022, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our visiting agents and editors here.
An Interview with Hannah Strouth
While earning her B.A. in English and Marketing from the College of William & Mary, Hannah Strouth completed an internship at a boutique literary agency in Virginia, where she fell in love with this side of publishing. After graduating from the Columbia Publishing Course, she joined the Jane Rotrosen Agency as Office Assistant and soon after was promoted to Contracts Associate. Today, as assistant to Andrea Cirillo, Annelise Robey, and Kathy Schneider, she helps maintain their list of clients while keeping her sights set on actively growing her own list. Hannah is looking primarily for literary fiction, upmarket/commercial fiction, historical/biographical fiction, speculative/light magical realism, high concept women’s fiction, and select romantic comedies. Books that dig deep into a wide range of emotions, leave her thinking deeply, and have her questioning human nature are the ones that capture her heart and make her most excited. She’s primarily driven by emotion and voice in a story, so the more heart-wrenching the better. Across all genres, she’s drawn to stories that help her discover and learn new aspects about people, places, events, herself, and grand concepts that have no defined answer.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Hannah Strouth: I’m a very hands-on and collaborative agent, so I love getting into the weeds with an author and helping to shape their work into the best version possible. But I think being an agent is all about adaptability, so I like to meet an author where they’re at. Not every author works in the same way, so you have to be able to shift your approach to fit their process if you’re truly going to be the best advocate and business partner. As an agent, you should be able to draw out an author’s strongest work possible.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
HS: As cliché as it sounds, I look for heart. Finding an author that pours themselves into their writing is truly the most rewarding part for me. It takes a lot of courage to be a writer and I will always be in awe of authors for taking that leap. But I think I also look for a strong work ethic and a commitment to grow as a writer and a person.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
HS: Know your power/strength and build on it. I often find myself saying this in some shape or form both professionally and personally. For writers specifically, I think it’s always important to help them realize their strengths and help them build their work around them. But also, to keep working at those aspects of their writing that could use improvement. So, the “build on it” part is truly twofold—hone your existing strengths and continue working at your weaknesses.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
HS: I’m most excited about seeing more genre-bending stories out there. I think people are becoming more open to the idea that a story doesn’t have to fit perfectly in one category. I like a story that takes unexpected turns and keeps me on my toes, so whether that’s a clever plot twist or a mash of genre/stylistic elements, I’m always excited by the new ways writers are finding to push the envelope.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about?
HS: I’m currently working on a memoir with another agent at JRA that I’m extremely excited about. The memoir follows the author, a young woman exasperated by poverty, throughout her time in sex work, specifically as a sugar baby. Interspersed with humor and heart-piercing insights, her story spoke to me because I think it provides a perspective on sex work that people often don’t consider. The author does such a fabulous job at diving into the relationships with her family and how her arrangement truly made all of their lives a little better and the weight that she carried. Normally, I don’t seek out nonfiction for my list, but I happened upon this writer one day and was immediately hooked. So I think this is the perfect example of why I always say I’m never completely closed off to projects outside of the topics I say I’m looking for. I actually often find that the stories I end up most excited about are the ones that take me by surprise in the best possible way. I like to think that my wishlist is always missing something that I don’t quite realize I want or need yet.
Click here for more information on the 2022 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.