AGENT HANNAH FERGESEN
About Hannah & Submission Guidelines
Before settling in New York City, Hannah worked and went to school in Denver, where she obtained her degree in Writing for Film and Television. Opportunities in New York presented themselves before she could run off to LA, and she course corrected her career toward publishing, a dream of hers since childhood. After stints as a remote intern for a well-known agent, a bookseller at the famous Books of Wonder, an intern at Soho Press, a literary assistant at Trident Media Group, and a freelance editor working with well-known authors, Hannah joined kt literary in 2016. Hannah is a proud geek and TV junkie, with an all-consuming love for Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and anything created by Joss Whedon. With her background in film and television, she is attracted to stories with strong visuals and sharp dialogue, whether presented in contemporary or edgy speculative YA and MG fiction or dark and lyrical speculative adult fiction.
in Hannah's words:
More on submitting to Hannah:
1. Tell us a little about your path to becoming a literary agent and what genres you represent (and don’t represent).
While my original plan was to try and break into the television industry with a degree in Writing for Film and Television, publishing was always on my radar. But it always seemed like such a unicorn to me - I never considered that I might actually be able to break into it! So when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I started as a remote reader for another well-known agent and moved to New York soon after, where I worked at a famous children's bookstore and interned for a publisher before becoming a literary assistant and finally joining KT Literary as an agent representing YA, MG, and speculative adult fiction (meaning science-fiction, fantasy, and anything with that kind of bent).
2. What’s on your current #MSWL?
I have a lot of YA fantasy on my list that I love (though my inbox is always open for books that do something new with the genre!) so I'm currently interested in finding more mystery/thriller or contemporary rom coms in YA right now. I'm also looking for middle grade with STEM themes and would love something with adventure and mystery. Across categories I'm really interested in finding stories by underrepresented writers with tight plotting and great dialogue.
3. What do you look for in a query? Do you have any query pet peeves?
I love queries that give me a great hook, a peek into who the main character is and what they want, the inciting incident, the conflict of the story, and what's at stake for the character within that conflict, followed by a solid bio. This is a winning formula for me. And if you have specific reasons for querying me, state those up at the top before you dive in!
One of my biggest query pet peeves right now are the queries that Frankenstein bits and pieces of my MSWL (manuscript wishlist) together to make it seem like I've asked for something I haven't explicitly mentioned wanting! I think writers are feeling a lot of pressure to match up with an agent's manuscript wishlist, but it's okay if you don't! No need to reference MSWL at all in that case. MSWL isn't the be-all end-all for what an agent is open to - it was originally intended for agents to call out specific things they wanted at any given time, but that doesn't mean it encompasses the entire spectrum of literature we're interested in! We often want specific things we'll never get, and fall in love with things we had no idea we wanted. The most important thing is to make sure your book is within the categories we represent (YA, MG, and SFF in the adult market for me!), and that you're following agency guidelines.
4. What is the biggest misconception writers have about literary agents?
That agents and writers don't want the same things. But guess what? We both want your book to get published and to make its way to the shelves. The thing that gets in the way of us doing that for everyone who queries us? We would have thousands of clients! Not every book is ready for publication, and not every book is right for every agent. One of the reasons agents often cite not falling in love with a book as a reason for rejection is, in order to read a book over and over and over again (and yes, we do this!), we do have to love it. Otherwise, reading that book multiple times would be incredibly difficult, and we might not pick up on certain issues, or things we really like. You don't want just any agent - you want the agent who loves your book the way you do, and who has good ideas about who else might love it, too. I'll be honest: agenting is a hard job! Most of us wouldn't do it if we didn't love books first and foremost.
5. Do you have any advice for the writers taking part in this program?
Take your time! I'm seeing a lot of writers querying too early and I think there are a lot of reasons for that, one of those being social media, which has recently created a culture of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out!). Twitter pitch contests like #Pitmad and #DVpit can make you feel like, if you don't pitch your book right now, even though it's not ready, then the time to pitch will pass you by. But that's just not the case! I'm much more interested in books that are well-crafted, regardless of the trends. So, take your time, and do your best work! Engage with your critique partners and beta readers and writing groups, and make sure your book is as good as you can make it before you query.