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Sep 1, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Andrea Somberg

Andrea Somberg Spotlight picture
We are thrilled to kick off our Agent Spotlight series with Andrea Somberg, a literary agent for almost twenty years. Ms. Somberg’s books have been NYTimes and USABestsellers, winners of ALA’s Alex Award and the Nebula, nominated for The Edgar Award, The Governor General’s Award, the Lambda Award, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Ohioana Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and named best books of the year by NYPublic Library and Book of the Month Club. Ms. Somberg also teaches courses for MediaBistro and Writers Digest on topics such as middle grade, nonfiction, memoir, mystery and thrillers, fantasy and sf.

Andrea Somberg picture
CM: Addressing the elephant in the room… COVID-19. Should writers reference the pandemic in their manuscripts set in the present time?
Andrea: Publishing can be a long process– even if you were to sell your book this week, it would take a year, if not more, before it hits the shelves. And while COVID could still be with us a year from now, we might, as a society, be dealing with it in a very different way. So, I highly suggest either not mentioning it or, alternatively, referring to it briefly as something that happened in the past. Otherwise, I think you run the risk of dating your book.

Please Use modern Browser to see this SVG! CM: In a world where many people have to social distance, virtual events are increasingly important. Are there any virtual events you recommend for writers in the querying trenches?
Andrea: Pitch Wars is a great program, and a lot of agents find new clients that way. There are also a host of Twitter contests that can help authors find representation, such as #PitMad, #PitDark, #SFFPit, #IWSGPit, #DVPit, and #QueryKombat. And then there are a lot of online conferences, such as WriteOnCon, or other organizations that may have held in-person conferences in the past, but have switched to online because of COVID. Local author organizations and different chapters of MWA, SFWA, etc. are a great place to start. Many are offering events with virtual pitch sessions with agents and editors. Another great site to check out for virtual pitch sessions is Manuscript Academy, which is hosted through Manuscript Wishlist (MSWL).

CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing?
Andrea: This is something that is very important to me and, while I have always represented books that I have felt passionate about by writers of color and by marginalized voices, I’m even more committed to helping bring these projects to market. In the past it has been challenging to get traction for some of these books, but I’m happy to say that things, at least in the present moment, seem to be changing. My client, Melva Graham’s memoir, Your Black Friend Has Something to Say, is going to be optioned for tv, and my client, Barbara Binns’s new biography about a man who helped to end desegregation in the army, has received multiple offers from publishers. I’m also excited for my client, Dr. Mary Hill-Wagner’s memoir, Girlz ‘n the Hood, to hit shelves next year, and I’m happy to announce that Abrams recently acquired Black Girls Sew and Lesley Ware’s new book on sewing and fashion. Of course, the tragedy would be if this moment in time passes and the call for diverse voices becomes not as loud, but I plan to continue to do everything I can to champion books and authors I care about.

Andrea's Clients
(This list includes affiliate links)
Regal House Publishing - 20202
Ace/ Penguin - 2020

Please Use modern Browser to see this SVG! CM: Your wish list includes several genres. Do you also have an interest in stories that combine multiple genres, and if yes, which ones?
Andrea: I do! I love books that take a genre and turn it on its head, or that surprise me by layering in subplots that add extra dimension. SF or fantasy with a driving mystery or strong romance, historical novels with a thriller or romantic element, mysteries with a magical realism twist, book club fiction that has an otherworldly element – these are all things that interest me. That being said, it’s important that I have a clear idea on how to place the manuscript. Booksellers – both online and brick and mortar – need to know where to shelve the book and so it’s important that, even if the manuscript does mix elements of various genres, it can firmly fit into a category.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Andrea: Trust and communication. This is a partnership, and it’s so important that my clients feel comfortable sharing their hopes, their dreams, and their concerns. The publishing industry can be challenging, with lots of ups and downs, but my job is to help make the journey as smooth and as rewarding as possible. It is easier for me to do this if authors feel comfortable being completely honest with me – and vice versa!

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Andrea: Very hands on, but every project is different. Sometimes a manuscript will come in and the author and I will work on edits on an overarching level. Other times, the bones of the story are good, but I end up doing a line-by-line edit to make the manuscript even stronger. I have clients who prefer to wait to send me their manuscript until they’ve finished a first draft, and others who want me to be involved every step of the way, during the initial brainstorming and conceptual stages, and then as each chapter takes shape. Each author and manuscript is unique! But I’m always happy to help out in any way that I can.

How to query Andrea:
Please send a query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript included in the body of an email to: