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Literary Agent Interview: Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.

This installment features Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc. Previously an agent at Vigliano Associates and the Don Maass Agency, Andrea Somberg joined Harvey Klinger in the spring of 2005. She is seeking: both fiction and nonfiction, including literary, commercial, young adult, genre (romance, mystery, sf/fantasy) memoir, pop culture, how-to, self-help, humor, interior design, cookbooks, business, and health & fitness.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc.) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

This installment features Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.Previously an agent at Vigliano Associates and the Don Maass Agency, Andrea Somberg joined Harvey Klinger in the spring of 2005.

She is seeking: both fiction and nonfiction, including literary, commercial, young adult, genre (romance, mystery, sf/fantasy) memoir, pop culture, how-to, self-help, humor, interior design, cookbooks, business, and health & fitness.

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GLA: How did you become an agent?

AS: I’ve always loved to read, and so publishing seemed like a natural fit. The summer after my sophomore year of college I had an internship with the Don Maass Agency. They offered me a job after graduation, and I gladly jumped at the opportunity.

GLA: What’s something coming out now that you repped and are excited about?

AS: I have four titles coming out this month, all that I’m very excited about: Sarah Beth Durst’s YA novel, Enchanted Ivy (Margaret McElderry Books, S&S), R. Winston Guthrie’s A Taste for Absinthe: 65 Recipes for Classic and Contemporary Cocktails (Clarkson Potter/Random House), Jessica Warman’s YA novel, Where the Truth Lies (Walker), and Adrian Winter’s The Little Book of Indoor Golf Games (Sourcebooks).

GLA: You’ve noted that you’re drawn to novels with “strong, complex protagonists.” Who are your top three favorite fictional protagonists?

AS: Such a difficult question! (For the record, I have trouble naming my ‘favorite’ of anything—favorite color, favorite bands, favorite books, etc.) So, although I cannot name my top three favorites of all time, what I can say is that, of the books I’ve read recently, I really loved Little Bee of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Peter Brown of Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, and Katniss of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.

GLA: When accepting MG and YA, what subgenres do you lean toward?

AS: No genre in particular—it depends on the specific project. For example, my client, Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars is a thriller that explores edgy issues such as cutting, while my clients, Sarah Beth Durst and Gina Rosati write young adult with a fantasy and paranormal bent. My client, B.A. Binns writes multicultural fiction—her novel, Pull, is set in an inner-city school, while my client, Paula Jolin’s novel, In the Name of God, explores Islam and is set in Syria. I like the books I work on to be diverse—it keeps things interesting.

GLA: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

AS: Communication is really important. I try to be very accessible to my authors, and I work hard at keeping them informed about the publishing process every step of the way.

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GLA: You represent authors in many areas of nonfiction and both adult and children’s fiction. What do you like about taking on so many categories? How might it make agenting tougher, versus being an agent who specializes in a couple areas?

AS: A very good question! My list is diverse because I love the variety. Each project comes with its own unique challenges and joys. I also believe it’s beneficial for my clients because (a) my authors’ books do not cannibalize each other (so to speak!), and, (b) if a client wishes to explore another genre—(e.g., a young adult author wants to write fiction, or a how-to author wants to explore memoir), I am in a position to help guide them. However, this isn’t the best course for every agent. I was extremely lucky early on in my career in that the agencies I worked at—Don Maass Agency and Vigliano Associates—specialized in very diverse genres. As a result, I gained a lot of experience working with different types of projects, and I made contacts with editors from every subset of the industry.

GLA: With fiction partials, what makes you stop reading and start skimming—or stop reading altogether?

AS: Oftentimes it simply comes down to the narrative voice. If I’m not engaged, I know that I’m not the best fit for the project.

GLA: What are the primary mistakes you see writers make in nonfiction proposals?

AS: There are two things every nonfiction author needs to address: Why there is a demand for their book, and why they are the best person to write it. These two questions should be answered very early on in the proposal, and stressed throughout.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where people can meet/pitch you?

AS: Unfortunately, I have nothing planned at the moment. This year has been hectic, and so I’ve been laying off the conference route for a bit, however I hope to get back into it soon.

GLA: What’s the best way to contact you?

AS: Send me an e-mail at andrea [at] harveyklinger[dot]com. If you are querying me about a project, please include a short summary and paste the first five pages of your manuscript in the body of the e-mail.

GLA: Something personal about you writers may be surprised to know?

AS: At one point I thought I was going to become a social worker. But then I interned for a social worker, and I realized that that career route was just too hard.

GLA
: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?

AS: Develop a thick skin! This industry is full of rejection, at every step of the process. But it can be really rewarding if you power through.

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Agent interview by Donna Gambale,
who works an office job by day, writes young
adult novels by night, and travels when possible.
She blogs at the First Novels Club and
is the
author of a mini kit,
Magnetic Kama Sutra.

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