When I’m reading a manuscript, in my head I’m thinking about building connections: with the editor who will buy and champion it; with the publishing team who will bring it to life and send it out into the world; with the teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other professional book mavens who will put it into exactly the right hands—and most of all, I’m thinking about the readers whose lives will be entertained, improved, challenged, informed, or delighted by it. The stronger those connections, the more likely a book will live on forever. If I can visualize exactly how to form that web of connections around a book and its creator while I’m reading an early draft, then it’s a fantastic signal that I also know how to help that author or artist build their way into a meaningful, and potentially lucrative, career.
No two writers' brains are alike, and neither are the stories that emerge from those brains, and that's what keeps this job fascinating. Make me wonder from your manuscript's first page (or even better yet, from its title!); make me care about its characters and feel things deeply alongside of them; or wow me with its masterful storytelling, and I'll be well on my way to becoming one of its—and your!—fiercest advocates. As an agent, I love the creative process and early-stage project development, am invigorated by business strategy and entrepreneurial thinking, and am fascinated by the intersections of art, commerce, creativity, and innovation. I’m especially passionate about the people behind books, and take pride in discovering and evangelizing talented authors and illustrators, expanding the global reach of their work, and finding new ways to build connections and community among creators, readers, stories, and their champions.
I believe that every book is a unique balance of the specific (uniquely memorable), and the universal (broadly, powerfully resonant), and that much of an author's work of writing a book is in finding the truest balance of those aspects for their characters, their plot, and their future readers. I love working with debut talent, and am drawn to authors and artists who constantly challenge themselves, who are adept at communicating with their audiences, who are creative and flexible thinkers, and who have as much enthusiasm for their audience as for their own success. Wit, strong writing, vivid settings, a passion for craft, or a well-timed reaction gif will always catch my eye.
Young Adult Fiction: Tell me a story that's somehow never been told, particularly if it's by a narrative voice that's never been heard, or an authorial voice that's been previously under-represented. I'm most compelled by big what-ifs; by a vivid and vibrant sense of place or worldbuilding; by characters making hard, even seemingly-impossible choices; by the portrayal of friendships that are as intensely meaningful as any romance; by tales of chosen family or bands-of-misfits-turned-family; and by romances that are simultaneously swoony and full of wit and spark. I'm far more interested in the ground-breaking than the well-trodden or derivative, and so am fascinated by unexpected structures, high-concept narrative frameworks and storytelling mechanisms, meldings of genres, or twists I genuinely didn't see coming. And always, always, I want evocative, masterful writing.
Middle Grade Fiction: I'm drawn over and over to middle grades that make me feel something as a reader—whether you make me laugh, cry, curious, wondrous, or furiously indignant! My favorite middle grades explore relationships and a character's growing awareness of their connections to the larger world around them, all while saying something fresh and meaningful about the experience of being human. Magical realism or a sense of the fantastical get big bonus points from me, as does a strong sense of place, real or imaginary, and I can never get enough of humor (though I lean more toward wit, puns, or a sense of the absurd than slapstick humor). Lyrical writing can win me over fast, but to be a book that readers return to again and again, it needs to be supported by a plot as compelling as the language is beautiful.
Illustrators & Author-Illustrators: I am NOT currently seeking standalone texts by picture book authors, but I'm very open to illustrators, and I likewise welcome illustrators who are also writers or on their way to becoming writers. My illustrator clients work on a variety of formats, from jacket/cover illustrations, to spot art, to full picture books, to early readers/chapter books, to the occasional graphic novel or graphic hybrid. I'm drawn to a wide variety of illustration styles (visit the Illustrator Gallery on my website to see examples), but what most catches my eye is art with a distinctive narrative sensibility or point of view, a knack for visual storytelling, and the intelligent use of subtle-but-impactful visual details, whether poignant, humorous, or sweet, that add to the richness and complexity of a story's seemingly-simple layers. On a technical level, I'm open to any medium, but looking for illustrators who work equally well in full color and black/white/grayscale and dexterity with shading, line work, and composition are all important.
Other categories: My nonfiction list is eclectic and highly selective. While I have found many of my kids/MG/YA clients through general submissions, for adult fiction and nonfiction, I'm most likely to sign clients who I have pursued based on their existing, distinctive, well-established platform, expertise, or life experience. I'm particularly drawn to nonfiction narratives about creativity, culture, storytelling, innovation, community, connectivity, and/or friendship/love/family in all its forms; by projects that explore the intersections of unexpectedly-connected topics; and by those that underscore a universal human story, whatever the context. A good rule of thumb: if it would make for a fascinating TED talk, chances are I'll be intrigued. As an agent, I'm eager to strategize with you about how a book/literary career might further enable the reach of your existing work, and to support you in developing authentic ways of collaborating/exchanging value with the community that already embraces you and your work.
*About the Agency*
Literary agent Holly Root launched over two dozen New York Times bestsellers before founding Root Literary in 2017. The agency's clients benefit from our agents' proven skills in identifying talent, negotiating advantageous deals, and advocating for our books all the way from submission to publication. We offer our clients broad-based industry insights as well as individualized strategic thinking to empower each author to define and pursue their own unique path to success.
We love what we do, and we do it best in partnership with authors who combine skillful storytelling with the drive to build a lasting body of work.