Q&A with Agent Christina Hogrebe

Was it our mutual love of books and good writing that compelled Christina Hogrebe and I to start talking? The love of the craft?  What’s going on in the industry today?  Nope.  Folks, today I bring you the coolest literary agent ever.  Why? Well, anyone that loves ZOMBIES as much as I do has to be cool, right?

You know it!! So, I invited Christina Hogrebe here today to dish on everything from books to writing to The Walking Dead.  Join me and please welcome, Miss Christina!

Christina Hogrebre

JF: If you had a crystal ball, what do you think it would tell you about the state of the publishing industry five to ten years from now?

CH: I hope in ten years there will be a crystal ball!  But I think it’s safe to say that a handful of things will be true in ten years–or a hundred and ten years: 1) readers will still desire compelling stories and 2) they will seek platforms to discuss those stories.  3) Storytellers will feel compelled to tell stories.  4) Some of those writers will be able to find the readers on their own;  5) other writers will prefer to devote their time to the exercise of writing, necessitating a staff of professionals to connect writer and reader.

JF: If you were not a literary agent, what job would you do? 

CH: I’m a lifelong Girl Scout (I have the badges to prove it), and for years I romanticized the notion of working for the U.S. Forest Service.  But in the end, I was always better at selling cookies.    

JF:  Ah, now I know who to hit up for more Thin Mints!  So, we all know you read a ton.  What is your favorite book and why?

CH: I’m your basic fickle reader, so my favorites are always changing.  But I’ll say that the book obsessions that shaped the way I read today were the entire Anne of Green Gables series and Romeo & Juliet (and the Franco Zefferelli film) when I was younger, and more recently, the Twilight series  and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Do you see a theme?  For me, these books showcase the kind of can’t-live-without-you emotions I look for when I’m considering new projects.  

JF: So, then, what do you look for in a client?

CH: Of course I’m looking for writers whose work leaves me breathless.  But the ideal business partnership is when an author’s goals align with the services I can offer in the commercial fiction marketplace.  In addition, the clients for whom we’ve been able to achieve the most success are engaged in the business of publishing, they are dedicated to adhering to a commercial production schedule (meaning at least a book a year, usually more) and they are interested in being involved in their own promotional efforts. 

JF: What is your advice to new writers?

CH: Become involved in the book world.  With very few exceptions, authors can no longer produce a book and ship it off to the publishing team to shepherd into bestsellerdom.  These days, so much more is required of an author in addition to mastering craft.  Read your peers, digest their reviews, subscribe to deal newsletters and industry blogs, attend conferences, participate in critique groups, review others’ work online, create a dialogue with other authors, and read, read, read. 

JF: Do you see the attitude toward self-publishing changing now that more traditional published authors are taking steps in that direction?

CH: I see the attitude changing, but I would venture to say it’s more because technology has allowed for readers to become connected with the stories that appeal to them with less effort than in past. 

JF: Okay. Now, the real reason I asked you here today.  The Walking Dead.  Who is your favorite character?

CH: Now we’re getting serious.  Michonne.  She has figured out how to navigate the apocalypse but is a fish out of water when it comes to existing within the group.  More than any of the other characters, she’s the one I look forward to deciphering since she’s such a mystery.

JF: If you were stranded alone at the prison, which WD character would you want to have your back?

CH: Daryl Dixon, and only because he’s a slightly better conversationalist than Michonne.  You want someone to chat with after you kill that many walkers. 

JF: Good point.  And, you can’t count on Rick these days….chasing those ghosts and all…What would you enjoy most about being a zombie?

CH: Not having to pick out my clothes…?  Actually, this question of identity is one that Isaac Marion explores beautifully in Warm Bodies.

JF:  Thanks so much for Talking Dead with me today, Christina.  But before I let you go, this is what our audience really wants to know, are you acquiring new clients now?  If so, what genre are you looking for?

CH: I’m always on the lookout for new clients.  My areas of expertise include women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and mystery, but my biggest pleasure is finding a timeless tale set in a surprising setting, as in Courtney Summers This is Not a Test or Beth Revis’ Across the Universe.  Those teen reads might be described as paranormal or science fiction—labels I might typically resist—but the human story at the heart of those novels is precisely what blows my hair back.  

So much fun!  Thank you for being here today.  I’m sure our readership has questions.  So guys, topics include books to the industry to zombies….ask away!

15 thoughts on “Q&A with Agent Christina Hogrebe”

  1. Thanks for the informative interview Christina and Jen. Read your every word … carefully, for my edification. Incidentally, I am a girl scout too. Hooray for the girl scouts. I can make a bonfire and tie a slip knot and help an old lady cross Fifth Avenue, as long as she’s going to Tiffany. Sorry, I don’t care for Zombies. The everyday stuff in past centuries is what intrigues and gets me to write. But I love reading romantic comedy in this century, right along with the good old Scarlett and Rhett. Good luck finding that crystal ball.

  2. Hi, Christina! It’s wonderful to see you here at the Scribes today. It’s a heck of a long time to my publication date (two years!). Do you have any advice on how I can use that time to my best advantage (other than writing the books, obviously)? Thanks!

  3. Thanks for being with us at the Scribes, Christina. Have you taken on any authors who have previously self-published works they’d like to shop to the Big houses? What do you think the market has to offer those folks? Is there a certain number of sales you or publish er s are looking for before you consider taking on such a client? Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us.

    As for the WD, Rick better pull it together before the crazy pirate dude takes over the show. Loved the scene where Michon contemplates killing the psycho boyfriend as she stands naked over him with a knife. Totally primal and savage…

    1. The self-pub/tradition pub crossover is the prospect that excites me the most about today’s market. That said, I still want to be a tireless advocate for work that moves me, so you won’t find me stalking every author in Amazon’s top 100. I would love to hear from self-published authors who have been successful doing it themselves but are ready to have a team and whose work can survive when published at a moderate price point by the Big 6.

  4. Everyone tells me I need to watch WD and/or Downton Abbey (I bet no one’s ever used those two in a sentence before.) I’m liking the attractive zombies on the US version Being Human, who are becoming scary fast. I like the idea of “They Look Normal But … .” I guess they’re Entry Level Zombies or Zombie Lite for those of us who can’t look at regular zombies without thinking of the smell of decomp. 🙂 Thanks for visiting the scribes.

    1. Rhonda, you don’t have to love the gore, but I think WD–especially season 1–is an incredible lesson in character archetypes and internal/external conflict. That brings up a good point about any storytelling. It has to go deeper than the staging!

  5. Hi Christina!

    Welcome to the Scribes and thanks for being our guest. My sons love WD and tease me because I can’t stay in the room when it’s on. I read World War Z several years back and it freaked me out!! Funny thing is, I love Shaun of the Dead (one of my favorite movies), so I’m okay with funny zombies.

    As for publishing, what’s your take on the paranormal market these days? I’m hoping there’s still some life in it because I’m published, and write, in this genre!

    1. Hi Casey,
      I know all writers want to know how a particular subgenre is doing, but I think that tends to be the wrong question. There are subgenres of fiction that have become overcrowded lately–think dystopian, paranormal, and before that, chick lit–but the books that will transcend this sort of overcrowding are those that bring something new to the table. If you’re writing about vampires, create a new mythology. Play with setting and time period. Add a new element to an old tale.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts, Christina! I met you at a local conference – NECRWA – many years ago and had a wonderful conversation with you then about the state of mysteries. OF course, then everyone said cozy mysteries were dying. Not from what I am seeing!

    Anyway, I am curious about your thoughts on new authors and what they can do to get recognized by an editor, besides the obvious of writing a great book. There is a lot of talk about building your platform prior to being published and, as a full time worker, my spare time is very limited, which I try to fill with writing the book. There are so many things to do to build author platforms and its takes a lot of time. Which areas do you like to see authors already working on prior to you taking them on as clients? Facebook, blogging, twitter, other? And does it matter if they build a platform in something else, other than reading or writing?

    Thank you for being here!!!

    1. Hi Megan,
      Aren’t you glad those folks were wrong about cozies?
      I hear what you’re saying about your time being stretched thin. Unfortunately, I think it is important for an author to be involved in the world of publishing outside of her craftwork. Please don’t think it has to take a lot of time. Certainly it may take years to go from 0 to 100k Facebook fans, but you shouldn’t have to spend more than 20 min a day on social media. You’ll probably find it benefits you more than you know to be connected to the book community in this way.

      1. I certainly am, Christina! I completely agree with you about building a network and be involved in areas outside of just writing your book. I think, as writers, we can quickly get sucked into some of the social media or overwhelmed by it. Sticking with a couple and doing them (as Ms. Fusco once pointed out to me), might help us. Thank you for your response!!!

  7. Christine, I’m writing a Young Adult with supernatural elements–basically about a young girl who is as comfortable communicating with spirits as she is with corporeal beings. I keep hearing that publishing is simply not interested in ghost stories. Do you feel this is true?

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