Thursday, March 1, 2018

Meet my Agent - Jordan Hamessley

The first in series which will let me introduce you to the 
most important people in my writing life, starting with...

Jordan Hamessley
Literary Agent
New Leaf Literary & Media Inc

Pocket bio

Where are you from? 
     Born and raised in Austin, TX. Followed by twelve years in NYC.

Where do you live now?
The San Francisco Bay Area

What genre do you read for pleasure? 
YA Contemporary

Favorite book ever? 
     The Haunting of Hill House

How did you get to where you are now? Did you always want to work in publishing?
I moved to NYC right after high school to go to school for musical theater and spent several years in NYC performing. Eventually I found myself reading a book a day and wanted to find a way to use that skill, so I started looking for publishing jobs and never looked back. Apparently when I was a kid I told my aunt that when I grew up I just wanted to read all day, so I guess I got my wish. My other dream job as a kid was to be a talent agent, so I didn’t end up too far off from that dream.

What’s involved in being a literary agent? Do you have a ‘typical week’ yet?
There are so many emails! I try to spend my mornings responding to emails from clients and editors. My afternoons are usually spent reading submissions or prepping client projects for submission. I spend a lot of time on the phone, as well, whether it’s talking a client through a revision, getting to know editors, or pitching projects. I squeeze in reading queries when I can, but most of the time I read them after dinner and on weekends.

How many queries and submitted manuscripts do you receive/read each month, and what is it that you are looking for?
I’m getting several hundred queries a month and I request about three manuscripts a week, but it all comes down to selling me in the query and the pages. I’ve had moments where the query is on point and then the pages don’t live up to the promise of the pitch. Those are tough passes. For me, I want to know what the book is about from the query. If all I know is themes and find myself left asking “But what is the plot?” there isn’t much to excite me. Keep in mind what comp titles you are using for you book and that they actually convey the tone or genre of your book.

Of the authors you now work with, what key factors made you want to represent that particular writer over the others who queried you? (It’s fine if you only refer to your new signings, rather than your ‘adopted’ clients)

One of the first clients I signed had two perfect comps in his query and it made me go “I must read this book.” One of the comp titles was in my “top 5 books of all time” listed on my bio and it was a perfect comp.

Once you have taken on an author as your client, talk us through your process from start to finish for selling manuscripts to the books reaching the shelves and then beyond? And which is your favorite part of that process?
Because I spent so many years as an editor, I tend to be a very editorial agent with my clients. I do at least one editorial pass on a manuscript before I put it out on submission, sometimes more! Then the fun part of putting together the submission list starts and I get to start pitching. If all goes as planned and we get a deal, then I switch into more of a management role. I keep up to date to the author’s deadlines and keep in touch with the publisher on all things promotion/publicity. I love when we get cover designs in or find out what illustrators an editor envisions for a picture book. There are fun parts to the entire process, but I’m a big fan of seeing the finished book for the first time.

What is on your manuscript wish list right now?
I’ve gotten quite a reputation for being a horror editor, but my tastes have shifted a bit recently. I’m easily spooked these days, so I’m being very selective about the horror I take on and I’m much more excited to find great contemporary YA and middle grade fiction. Some of my favorite TV shows are Jane the Virgin and Friday Night Lights and I’d love to find stories that bring me the laughs and heart of JtV and the emotional tears of FNL.

I’m always looking for queer stories in the middle grade space, especially for young queer girls.

I’m a sucker for music and theater stories as someone who has spent a lot of my life performing.

What are the biggest mistakes that prospective authors make when they’re approaching you looking for representation?
There are a lot of times I see people trying to fit my bio their query and it just isn’t the best fit for their book. If you are going to reference something in my bio, make sure it’s really connected to your book. I mention that I sing and tap dance in my spare time and as a result I get a lot of queries telling me about the author’s high school musical from 15 years ago. If it isn’t relevant to the book and you as an author, I don’t need to know.

What advice would you give to a teenager who is interested in becoming a literary agent?
Read read read! The books I read as a teen are still the defining books of my life and helped form my tastes.

Do you write too? Would you ever write/have you ever written a novel?
Whenever I’ve thought I had the idea for a book, I sit down and end up writing one paragraph and say “Well, that was all I had to say about that.” So no, I haven’t ever written a novel of my own. Part of what I love about my job is helping authors decide what story to tell next and I get to flex my creative muscles in those moments. There are many books in the world that I’ve edited that have pieces of me in them from the editorial discussions I’ve had with authors and that’s fulfilling for me.

Of all the books you’ve worked on, which did you enjoy the most?
That is like choosing a favorite child! I have an eternal fondness for the first series I ever acquired, Adam-Troy Castro’s Gustav Gloom series. It set me on my middle grade horror for a few years. I’m also very proud of Kaitlin Ward’s Bleeding Earth. The two of us went on quite the journey getting that book published and I’m so happy that it’s out in the world.

Now that I’m on the agenting side of things, I have so many projects that I’m in love with and excited to share with the world.

With nearly a decade of experience working on the editorial side of publishing at Penguin Young Readers (Grosset & Dunlap), Egmont USA, and Adaptive Studios, Jordan Hamessley made the switch to agenting. Jordan had the pleasure of editing many award winning and critically acclaimed authors such as Sara Benincasa, Len Vlahos, Ilsa J. Bick, Adam-Troy Castro, E.C. Myers, Dori Hillestad Butler, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead, Michelle Schusterman and more.

Visit the New Leaf website for more information about Jordan, New Leaf Literary and its clients, and to find information on how to submit your manuscript.