MEET THE HEADWATER AGENTS
(he / him / his) Founder & Agent
After graduating with a B.A. from Knox College and obtaining a publishing certificate from the Denver Publishing Institute, Erik Hane began his career on the editorial staff at Oxford University Press and then as an editor at The Overlook Press. Along with Laura, he is a host of Print Run Podcast, which was Digital Book World’s 2019 industry award winner for best podcast. He and Laura were Publishers Weekly’s reader picks for “Person of the Year” in 2019 as well.
At Headwater, Erik’s client list features some of the sharpest and most essential critics, artists, novelists, journalists, essayists, and commentators working today. His projects reliably find homes across a diverse swath of the publishing industry, from Big-5 commercial publishers to prestigious independent houses to university presses. He is looking for writers whose work—in both style and rigor—is up for the challenge of saying something indispensable about our increasingly chaotic world.
Away from work, Erik is an ardent tennis fan, outdoor enthusiast, Magic: The Gathering player, and a writer and reader himself. He can be found on Twitter @erikhane.
PLEASE NOTE: ERIK IS CLOSING TO QUERIES FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17
ERIK'S REPRESENTATIVE CATEGORIES:
History, especially American
Literary nonfiction and essays
I’m looking for work from progressive writers that have something novel, rigorous, and provocative to say about contemporary politics. I do not work on books that rely on a current fleeting news cycle to be relevant or sounds like the sort of watered-down, surface-level argument I might find on cable news. I am interested in political nonfiction across a variety of fields of study: economics, race, history, sports, arts criticism, gender studies, political theory, and much more. Everything is political; show me the real-world stakes in whatever you’re writing about and I bet it fits this category.
Favorite recent reads: We Do ‘Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba; Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe
History—especially American history—feels up for grabs in our current political moment. I am very interested in history writing that critiques American domestic inequality or imperialism abroad, as well as historical narratives that center groups of people who have been severely underrepresented in popular retellings of this country’s past. I work on history that has at least a partial focus on labor struggles or capitalism as a fundamental force in American life.
Favorite Recent Reads: The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow; Fight Like Hell by Kim Kelly
Literary nonfiction and essays
I am very interested in essays right now—whether those contain arts criticism, culture critique, personal elements (with strong rationale for why), or any of the myriad other ways talented writers are currently exploring the form. This includes creative nonfiction as well; I love distinct structural choices or experimentation, as long as it serves the goal of the project and enhances it in either theme or voice.
Essay collections work best though as books that build off other published work, whether that’s in journals or magazines or elsewhere; I like when books like this feel like they’ve leapt from a writer’s existing body of work.
Favorite recent reads: Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison; How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Somewhat separately from the rest of my nonfiction (but only somewhat; science is political and so is good science writing), I love popular science, in particular books on neuroscience, evolutionary biology, or how science intersects with culture and politics. I’m drawn to writing on the emergence of life, extinction, evolution, natural selection, ecology, and climate.
Favorite recent reads: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert; I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
I love what might get classified in pitch terms as “adult literary fiction” and it’s what I read the most away from work. I have a hard time describing literal elements I look for in novels, but contemporary writers I love include: Karen Russell, Marlon James, Michael Chabon, Patrick Nathan, Garth Greenwell, Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Brit Bennett, Olga Tokarczuk, Ben Lerner, and Ling Ma.
I'm interested in unique structural or craft decisions, as long as they make sense and feel necessary. I like folklore, ghost stories, myths, religion; I typically pick up realist fiction, but I really love when things feel slightly surreal because of the prose. I really like fiction that's class-, race-, or power-conscious, that sets up shop in the many divides, contradictions, dangers, and inequities of the world. I really like understatement; the most important craft decision an author makes is what to leave unsaid but present just off the page.
I am probably not the right agent for projects that center the experiences of cops or military officers.
Favorite recent reads: The Overstory by Richard Powers; Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk; Severance by Ling Ma.
I do not represent thrillers, mystery, or children’s literature.
For over a decade, Laura has worked with books in every way from bookselling to editing to self-publishing. A literary agent since 2014, she finds the most joy in working closely with authors to build their long-term careers in ways that contribute positively to their financial and mental health, as well as the greater community. Since 2016, Laura has hosted Print Run, a publishing podcast, with Erik Hane and is increasingly passionate about teaching, mentorship, and the role books play in the fight for social justice.
In her spare time, Laura plays tabletop role-playing games, cooks elaborate meals, follows long-distance dogsled racing, and drinks a lot of tea. Connect with her on twitter @LZats.
Laura is closing to queries September 1, 2023.
LAURA’S REPRESENTATIVE CATEGORIES:
Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
Literary fiction with speculative elements
Select contemporary and historical fiction
I am actively looking to flesh out the adult side of my list but am always excited to read YA. I particularly love to work on books that appeal to readers of different genres or subgenres—if you’re querying something that crosses multiple areas of my list, I want to see it!
I’m interested in reading about standout characters I’ve never met before, clever twists on familiar themes, and compassionate writing. I’m also very interested in seeing marginalized creators take on “tired” tropes.
I’m not interested in dystopia/big government stories, but I’m very much open to anything else. This is a category where I don’t quite know what I want until I see it, so take the above and run with it!
I gravitate towards tropes that build conflict from the roles and expectations a character brings with them at the start of the book—think enemies (or rivals) to lovers, fake relationship, and coworkers. Put another way, I like the tension to come from forces outside the relationship versus forces inside the relationship (like accidental pregnancy, love triangle, miscommunication, etc.) Feel free to query me with contemporary romance, historical romance, romance with speculative elements, and romance in speculative settings.
I’m not a good fit for Christian romance. I will also not be a good fit for you if you describe your romance as “clean.”
I unintentionally work primarily with LGBTQ+ romance and am always excited to add more to my list in all subgenres! I particularly would love to see more f/f and would love more nb or trans characters.
I am particularly looking for series or standalone books that bring something fresh to the genre. For example, I’d love to see projects that play with romance or speculative fiction tropes as much as traditional mystery tropes, or that feature antiheroes. I am actively looking for projects that feature a BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ protagonist.
I am interested in mysteries and thrillers in contemporary, historical, and speculative settings. I am particularly drawn to cozy mysteries, thrillers that are built around long-standing relationships and unspool slowly and deliberately (a la Lucy Foley), and anything with Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher vibes.
I am not a good fit for police/law enforcement heroes or love interests. I am also not a good fit for plots that include gaslighting of female characters.
SFF will always be my first love, and as such, I’m very open to all subgenres, as well as horror. However, submitted projects must pass the Bechdel and/or the Mako Mori test.
Forever loves for me are heists/cons, fantasy that taps into gaming culture/fandom, witches, and reluctant, flawed heroes. I prefer to see traditional settings and tropes twisted on their heads. I’m drawn to seeing progressive, community-focused politics in my SFF and would love to have more decolonized worlds come across my desk.
I am less interested in dystopian/big gov stories, superheroes, steampunk, military SFF, and traditional Tolkien-esque high fantasy, but still willing to look at these books if they’re doing something new or have a twist.
LITERARY FICTION WITH SPECULATIVE ELEMENTS
The primary distinction between literary fiction with speculative elements and general SFF is usually a matter of sales, not content. I’m separating this section out only in the event that you, the reader, haven’t considered querying agents who rep SFF!
I’m looking for a wide range of speculative elements here—from something as fantastical as the Cthulhu monsters in LOVECRAFT COUNTRY to something as subtle as the earth’s slowing rotation backdrop in THE AGE OF MIRACLES.
SELECT CONTEMPORARY AND HISTORICAL FICTION
I am looking for historical fiction with LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC main characters.
I am also looking for historical and contemporary fiction that isn’t actually speculative but either feels adjacent to SFF (like LITTLE by Edward Carey) or appeals to related fandoms (like A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN by Sherry Thomas)
(she / her / hers) Founder & Agent