Interview: Literary Agent Andrea Somberg

Romance writers’ Organization of South Africa is having their annual romance conference (for more info:, and this year it will be held in the lush wine region and university town Stellenbosch (go Maties! Yes I form part of the alumni *smile*). The conference will have a variety of sessions to choose from, and pitching opportunities with publishers and agents. Literary Agent Andrea Somberg was kind enough to come on Inside These Lines, and tell us more about herself, as well as what she’s going to look for at #ROSACon2015


Photo on 9-17-13 at 5.45 PM

An agent for over 15 years, I represent a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. My clients’ books have been NYTimes and USABestsellers, as well as nominated for RITA awards, The Governor General’s Award, the Lambda Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. I also teach courses for MediaBistro and Writers Digest.

1) What are you looking for in a piece of fiction?

For fiction I am looking for an engaging narrative voice and compelling, multi-dimensional characters.

2) When you’re looking at query letters/pitches, what are some things that make you sit up and pay attention?

There are two things that I’m most interested in learning from your query letter:
Who are your protagonists, and what makes them sympathetic and unique?
What is the primary conflict of your book?
I also love when authors include the opening pages so I can get a sense of their writing and narrative style.

3) Tell us five things in the query process that can make you want to reject something immediately.

I’m pretty forgiving! If someone is confrontational, I tend to steer clear, but other than that I give serious consideration to every query.

4) Describe the perfect approach from a prospective client.

The best way for someone to contact me is to send an email to including a query letter and some sample pages in the body of an email.

5) What’s your advice to the authors who will be pitching to you at #ROSACon2015?

Be prepared to tell me about your protagonists and the conflict of your book. There needs to be something keeping your hero and heroine apart–what is it? Other than that, have fun! I know that this can be a nerve-wracking process, but I understand that, just because you might not be great at talking about your book, doesn’t mean you’re not a great writer!

*Thank you Andrea for stopping by!*


Want to know more about Andrea, you can connect with her here:
Twitter: @andreasomberg


5 thoughts on “Interview: Literary Agent Andrea Somberg

  1. Thanks for this great interview Inge.

    I have a few questions for Andrea. Here goes. At which stage of their career should an author look for an agent? Up to now I have felt able to do it on my own but an agent should be able to submit your work to a wider choice of publishers. Would you prefer to work with authors who have a few manuscripts ready to go or would you look at someone with one good book written and well edited. Although i have many books written and at varying degrees of editing, I am a book a year author at this stage and will have to sacrifice quality if I work faster. What do you think of the trend of putting out a book every ninety days. Personally I think that’s a good way to burn out as a writer.
    Do you also negotiate foreign rights and audio versions of a book for the writer? One last question. For how many years do you sign an author.
    Thank you for taking pitches at our conference and I hope you can come in person and spend time with us in our beautiful country in future.


    1. All very good questions! We do negotiate foreign rights and audio versions for our clients (as do almost all agencies). As for how long I sign on an author, there is no set period of time–an author is free to seek new representation at any point. That being said, many of my clients and I have worked together for many years. I tend to take a career approach to agenting, vs. a book-by-book one. As for your question as to whether to pitch one book or many, I definitely suggest concentrating on one. You ask about releasing a book every 90 days–a lot of self-published authors have had great success with that route, however I believe we’re beginning to see a change in the market in which less books a year is better. And, certainly, if you are going to pursue traditional publishing, a publisher will most likely only be publishing one book a year, maybe two or three at the most (if it’s a series).


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