What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Everyone’s looking for big books, a perennial source of frustration for any agent who can’t define one for her authors or convince editors she has one. A clear hook is more important than ever, where the elevator pitch (or title itself) immediately establishes what the book is about and who will buy it. “Quiet” has become the kind shorthand for “not big enough for my list.”
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’m always looking for tightly focused memoir à la Barbarian Days, fresh narrative nonfiction with an accessible angle like All the Lives I Want, humor with heart and introspection like You’ll Grow Out of It, high-quality YA that makes you rage like The Female of the Speciesor cry like Salt to the Sea, or compulsively turn pages like The Queen of the Tearling.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I fear this question because the moment I say “a protagonist waking up in a white room to discover she’s been inducted into a school for secret agents,” I’ll get an awesome novel that proves me wrong.
How are you working with self-published writers?
When a self-published author wants to try traditional publishing, I’ll work with them to answer the question, “What am I doing that’s bigger and better?” Agents (and editors) will want to be convinced that there’s a larger audience for their work that hasn’t already been tapped and will look for higher concept, better quality, or bigger market—sometimes this will happen during the natural progression of a writer’s career, and sometimes it helps to have a coach.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
The gossip. Agents know which editors loved horses as a child, their marital (and extramarital) status, how many kids they have, how they voted, and, obviously, books. We know who edits nonfiction but holds a flame for epic fantasy, who the underbidder was on something similar to a book we have, who ghosts on auction days, etc. It’s creepy, I suppose, but useful!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Make time to read for pleasure!
Adriann Ranta Zurhellen is an agent at Foundry Literary + Media. She represents New York Times bestselling, award-winning authors, journalists, illustrators and graphic novelists, as well as cultural commentators, stuntwomen, makeup artists, and many other pioneering creative thinkers and leaders in their fields. She is actively acquiring all genres for all age groups with a penchant for edgy, dark, unusual voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin. She loves gritty, realistic, true-to-life stories with conflicts based in the real world; women’s fiction and nonfiction; accessible, pop nonfiction in science, history, and craft; and smart, fresh, genre-bending works for children.