“I don’t see myself as their agent for ‘this’ book or ‘that’ book, but for the entirety of their writing career.”
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 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30–July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Annie Hwang
Annie Hwang is an agent at Folio Literary Management where she represents a range of fiction for adults and select nonfiction projects. She gravitates towards literary fiction with commercial appeal, and is particularly drawn to braided narratives and layered plots, especially when populated by complex characters with deep emotional resonance. Commercially, she’s looking for both sweeping historical fiction and visceral literary thrillers that depart from the norm of the genre. The most important thing to her, beyond concept or pitch, is breathtaking storytelling that stretches its genre to new heights. A California native, Annie worked in journalism before joining the publishing world, where she digs for stories that keep her reading late into the night and stay with her long after she puts them down.
Annie Hwang: I’m an editorially rigorous agent, so expect to work, and to be challenged to do your best work. When I decide to represent a client, it’s with a deep sense of responsibility and a passion for their voice, their work, and their career as an author. I don’t see myself as their agent for “this” book or “that” book, but for the entirety of their writing career. I want to know where they want to be in the next year, in five years, in ten years, and beyond; and, ultimately, help them lay out a path that will allow them to accomplish those goals. I’m also a proponent of regular, open communication and I expect the same of my clients to ensure that we’re on the same page every step of the way.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
AH: Any great relationship starts with honesty and communication. Trying to bring a book into the world is hard enough already — if we’re not on the same page, we’re not going to get very far. Beyond that: I am on the hunt for authors who are able to roll with the punches and revise based off of feedback. I look for someone who can and wants to carry more than one book. Because, at the end of the day (to borrow a phrase from the tech world), I invest in people, not (just) products. I want to develop deep, meaningful relationships with authors that go far beyond their debut.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
AH: It really depends on the kind of book we’re talking about. For prescriptive nonfiction, most definitely. For literary fiction, less so. It’s probably more important to have meaningful connections to notable people in the literary world (but, of course, having a presence on social media never hurts). Ultimately, what’s critical is being present where your audience is.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
AH: Just because it’s good doesn’t mean that other people will want it, so take ownership of your book, be confident in your abilities, but also be open to thinking critically about your book and the kind of guidance that comes your way.
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: One of the most exciting moments in my career was holding in my hands the very book I’d plucked out of the slush pile. I was an assistant at the time, so seeing my name in the acknowledgements meant the world to me — it still does.
Scribe: You emphasize “gifted storytelling” on your website; can you elaborate on this a little more for our readers?
AH: I’m really looking for the kind of writing that can make me forget the world around me and completely immerse me into the one that the author has created on the page, whether it be a subculture I’ve never experienced or a place I’ve never been or even turning that which I find familiar on its head.
Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.