What are you anticipating for 2015?
I’m starting to think we’ll see a big shift in the new-adult category next year. As an agent, I’m seeing a greater variety of projects that seek to redefine the way the general reading public currently views new adult, and I’m hopeful that this transition is successful in refocusing perceptions. While romances that focus on sexual exploration have certainly helped to increase visibility for the category, it has also led to the false assumption that new adult is just another name for steamy novels with college-aged characters. Many readers and industry professionals alike have misconstrued new adult as “young adult with sex,” which has, in turn, been a sort of call to arms to explore the potential of the category. In addition to seeing more speculative, historical and suspenseful new adult, I suspect that 2015 will be filled with darker, more mature new-adult content.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d love to represent a plot-driven commercial novel that takes a taboo subject and turns it on its head—think Jodi Picoult with a really dark edge. In nonfiction, I’m on the hunt for a mindful parenting guide from either a medical professional or a leader in the mindfulness community. While I’m not into the “tiger mother” mode of parenting, I want to find something that espouses emotionally supportive care while still saving space for discipline.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Themes and topics tend to be recycled over time—Shakespeare certainly wasn’t the first one to write about forbidden love. The reason certain topics come up time and again in literature is because these ideas are universal to the human experience. That said, there is a certain fatigue in the reading community with romances involving billionaires and virginal college students because the market has been inundated with those types of stories over the past couple years. Even this idea isn’t wholly original or new—it’s simply an updating of the “Cinderella” narrative—yet many of these novels have done extremely well because they feel timely and relevant to contemporary society. To answer your question, I’ll never definitively rule out a specific topic, but I also won’t take on a story that hews too closely to a recent best-seller.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
To me, the best part about being an agent is the process of discovery. There’s nothing better than cracking open a book (or manuscript, as the case may be) and finding a new voice or a page-turning story. As an agent, however, our discoveries can often be a catalyst for change in the industry. The idea of being a tastemaker has always appealed to me, and it’s really what drew me to the agency side of the industry in the first place. This is why I feel particularly compelled to champion quality new-adult fiction: There is a clear need for content featuring characters in this transitional stage of life, and I hope my position as an agent and passion for quality commercial writing can be used to advance the category and increase its visibility in the industry.
Cassie Hanjian is a primary agent at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency with a passion for compelling commercial fiction and feel-good nonfiction. Prior to joining Waxman Leavell, Cassie held positions at the Park Literary Group, where she specialized in author support and foreign rights, and at Aram Fox, Inc. as an international literary scout for publishers based outside the United States. She holds a B.A. in English/creative writing from the University of South Florida, a graduate certificate in publishing from the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University. Follow her on Twitter: @Cjhanjian.