An Interview With Literary Agent Annie Hwang
March 25, 2018
by Greg Stewart
Annie Hwang’s story of becoming a literary agent is proof that adaptability pays off in the ever-changing field of publishing. She prioritizes growth, both in her clients and herself. According to Annie, the primary role of an agent is one based on connections. She connects with all sorts of people across the publishing industry in order to get a manuscript sold. Coming from a background in journalism, Hwang brings a deadline-oriented sensibility and a keen editorial eye to the job. And she’s right there with her client every step of the way, from manuscript draft to finished book, and beyond. Annie is particularly passionate about connecting with underrepresented voices who challenge stereotypes and expand worldviews. You can find her at several conferences this year, including the SLICE Literary Writers’ Conference in September. Find out more about her in this latest interview in the Encounters in Publishing series.
I see on Publishers Marketplace that you’ve got quite a few events listed for 2018 (including the SLICE conference in the fall). What’s the role of writers’ conferences in the life of an agent? What’s the best conference experience you’ve ever had?
I see my role as an agent being all about connections–with the work, with the writer, with editors. These connections are much easier to make in person and conferences provide an excellent opportunity to do just that.
I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of excellent conference experiences and the commonality among them was the high level of organization and the wonderful talent present.
- How did you become an agent? What was your biggest draw towards that position?
In truth, I got into the industry intending to become an editor. At the time, I didn’t even know what literary agents were or what they did. It wasn’t until I found myself interning at an agency that I inadvertently fell in love with agenting. What had started as a means to an end to get my foot in the door had become my life’s work. As an agent I have the freedom to build a list that represents and encompasses many of my own personal interests, everything from my obsession with the cosmos to exquisite literary fiction. I also have the privilege of being a writer’s first partner and advocate on the long road towards publication and towards building a lasting career–and it’s that knowledge that invigorates me, that inspires everything that I do.
- Where do you find most of your writers? Do you find gems in the slush pile, or do you actively seek out new talent?
I have a two-pronged approach to finding new talent: Certainly, I’ve been fortunate to find some gems in my queries, but because I am, by nature, quite impatient, I also don’t believe in waiting for new talent to come to me and I also actively seek out new voices. The latter is especially true if there’s something I’m dying to see but I haven’t yet come across.
- You used to work in journalism. What lessons have you carried over from that world to the publishing industry?
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. They can be your greatest enemy or your greatest ally. I’ve learned to let them be the latter!
- Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline, or that were recently released?
Absolutely–I have a number of projects in the pipeline that I am very excited about including a few from overseas that I believe will resonate with a wide audience here. Not quite ready to talk about those yet, but I’ve really sought to represent and champion underrepresented voices that I believe can and will make a difference in the world–ones that will challenge stereotypes, expand world views, and truly represent the full spectrum of human experiences that exist in the world.
- How would you describe your day-to-day work as a literary agent?
It varies day-to-day and from client-to-client, but the bottom line remains–finding strategic ways to grow the careers of my clients. I also try to keep things interesting by expanding my own arsenal of agenting tools, so that I can grow alongside my clients and continue to enable the growth of their careers.
Annie Hwang is a literary agent at Folio Literary Management where she represents literary fiction and select nonfiction. She is actively building her list and gravitates toward high-concept literary fiction featuring diverse characters and authentic voices; rich historical fiction where the setting takes on a life of its own; literary thrillers with dark psychological grit; and nuanced speculative/science-fiction that questions what it means to be human in the age of technology. Underrepresented voices occupy a special place in her heart and she is particularly drawn to braided narratives, complex characters, and layered plots. A California native and former journalist, Annie is constantly on the hunt for gifted storytelling that stretches its genre to new heights.
Greg Stewart is a writer and a student attending The New School in their Master’s program for Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism.