Book Broker—an interview with Samantha Fabien
Agent: Samantha Fabien
Preferred genres: Book club fiction, adult and YA rom-coms/romance, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, horror, and fantasy for adults, young adults, and middle-grade readers. I’m also always looking for fun genre blends or mash-ups.
Bio: Samantha Fabien is a literary agent at Root Literary. Before joining the Root Lit team, Samantha worked as a literary agent and international rights manager at LDLA. Her background includes a bachelor’s in PR and journalism, a certificate from the Columbia Publishing Course, and internships/part-time work at Ayesha Pande Literary, Writers House, and Chalberg & Sussman. From these experiences, Samantha has fostered her love for sharing diverse, lasting, and inclusive stories with the world —both in the US and abroad. Samantha can also be found working with events and organizations like DVcon, #Edits4BlackSFF, Gotham Writers, SCBWI, and the New York Writing Room, among others.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
For queries, I love a great use of comps (when applicable), clear stakes, and a great sense of tone as well as character(s). In a good submission, I love a distinctive voice, unique and dynamic character(s), and a strong sense of setting and pacing that makes you speed through the pages. I’m a visual person, so I love being able to see events effortlessly unfold as I’m reading!
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
Typically, a warning sign that a manuscript isn’t ready for representation is when there are small but consistent mistakes and/or a lot of information is dumped in the beginning. That’s why we always encourage sharing your writing with beta readers or critique partners to make sure you’re avoiding those small mistakes.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
I’m hungry for mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and horror for adults and young adults. I’d love to find someone open to working in all of these categories across age ranges, ideally with a fresh perspective, setting, and characters with resonant messaging and branding in their stories.
4) What's the funniest or cleverest tactic an author has used to try to get your attention?
I’m not sure if it’s the funniest or cleverest, but I’ve really enjoyed queries that have included aesthetics for projects, or a soundtrack used while writing the book. It feels fun and makes for a more immersive experience. It’s not mandatory, but if you already have it, I’d probably like to see it!
5) When you sign a new client, to what extent do you work through additional revisions together before their manuscript is ready for submission to publishers?
I’m a very editorial agent. Often on the offer call, I’m candid about what changes I’d like to see in the manuscript. That way, the author has a chance to decide if we’re a good match and if my editorial style aligns with their creative process. I often pose a lot of questions to get their brains thinking of solutions. I’ve found the authors hold all of the answers and we work together to make sure it also appears on the page. It’s truly a collaborative process that is calibrated to each author’s style to help them come out with the strongest version of the story that they feel confident in.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
If I could change anything about the publishing industry, it would be the pay and work distribution. Those two areas seem to be the most common causes for burnout and why industry professionals leave. We’re all such passionate creatives that I wish the pay could more closely match our passion and willingness to give 150%. There are also a lot of responsibilities for any one job in publishing and there are cases where more employees across all departments could help balance it all better—project managers, administrative liaisons, etc. That might be an ambitious request, but I hope we get closer to it every year.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I recently read Vaishnavi Patel’s Kaikeyi and I absolutely loved it! I’m drawn to fantasies that explore lesser-known perspectives and non-Western mythology, so this ticked a lot of boxes for me. It also has such stunning writing, beautiful magic, feminist themes, and such a great portrayal of having the best intentions but often becoming the villain in someone else’s story.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I’m so fortunate to have an overwhelming number of clients and projects that I want to shout from the rooftops about! But at the top of my mind is my client, Jessica Joyce’s debut romance novel—YOU, WITH A VIEW which comes out with Berkley on July 11, 2023. Its stunning cover does the book so much justice and I can’t wait until readers get their hands on it and fall in love with it as much as I did.