On Tuesday, December 13, literary agent Christopher Hermelin will lead an intensive three-hour publishing bootcamp for Catapult. The class will teach students what to do — and what not to do — when trying to find an agent and sell their work.
Christopher studied creative writing in undergrad at UC Santa Cruz and received his MFA in Fiction from the New School. He works at the Fischer-Harbage Agency, and has sold and edited fiction, nonfiction, children's, humor, and self-help books.
How did you become a literary agent?
I became a literary agent by meeting an agent after a proposal-writing workshop and asking for a job. My whole life is spent reading books and thrusting them into people’s hands, so I figured I should try and get paid for it.
How should writers just starting out begin to research and look for representation?
Start with the acknowledgments in the backs of books you like!
What are you primarily looking for when you field queries from authors?
I am looking for a strong understanding of the story they are telling, the passion to tell it, and the writing chops to be able to deliver.
What kinds of projects are typically acquired based on proposal?
Nonfiction projects of all sorts are often sold on proposal. Fiction is acquired on proposal very rarely, especially debut fiction.
What are the most important things a proposal has to get across?
The story you’re telling is the number one key. Even if you’re not exactly telling a story, every book is a journey.
For the writers you work with, what are some of the most surprising things that come up in the process of pitching publishers?
Probably the main surprise is that it’s a very long process, until it isn’t. Publishing is a “hurry up and wait” industry.
Do writers really need agents in order to sell their work?
If you would like to self-publish, or work on books as a side project, it isn’t absolutely necessary. But for those who are hoping to make writing their career, get an agent.
Sign up for Christopher's publishing bootcamp: How to Get an Agent and Sell Your Work