Wind up for the Pitch: Meet Serene Hakim
As we get ready for the 2018 Pitch Conference (April 20-21) here at the Loft, we're getting to know some of the agents and editors who will be in attendance. They can't wait to hear your pitches and read your work. If you have a finished manuscript to pitch, here's your chance—register now!
Prior to joining Ayesha Pande Literary, Serene Hakim worked at Laura Gross Literary Agency in Boston. She has also interned at David Godine Publisher and Chase Literary Agency. Serene holds an M.A. in French to English translation from NYU and a B.A. in French and Women’s Studies from the University of Kansas. She loves to read anything she can get her hands on, but is particularly drawn to fiction with strong female voices, both YA and adult fiction and non-fiction with international themes, and LGBTQ and feminist issues. She is always on the lookout for great YA sci-fi and fantasy, realistic YA, and anything that gives voice to those whose voices are underrepresented and/or marginalized. As a child of Lebanese immigrants, she is especially interested in stories dealing with the Middle East and the variety of immigrant experiences out there.
We asked Serene a few questions about books, reading, and her perspective on publishing.
What's the best book (or books) you've read this year?
I read Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory and just loved the creativity and all the characters. It's one of those books that references little details all throughout and that cleverness is really fun. In YA, I read (well, listened to as an audiobook, which still counts!) They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, and thought it was a very thoughtfully written book, one that certainly pulls at your heartstrings and managed to keep me hooked, even though you're told exactly how it ends!
What's the most common misconception about agents?
I think agents often seem like scary gatekeepers or like we're here to take advantage of an author, but that couldn't be farther from the truth for most of us. We want the best for authors. That means turning down projects that we know we can't do right by and when we do sign an author, we're with them every step of the way. An author's success is our success too and we will work as hard as we can to make sure that author gets the best deal and the best editorial guidance from the first book until their last.
What's the most rewarding part of your job? What's the most difficult part?
The most rewarding part is getting to tell an author, "We did it!" They've worked so hard and we've worked hard together, and to get that 'yes' from an editor just feels amazing. The most difficult part, on the other hand, is dealing with the rejections—both the ones we receive from editors and the ones we have to send to querying authors. It's never a good feeling from either end but is unfortunately just part of this industry.
If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
The pace. It's a very slow industry, which makes sense given how much everyone has to read and you don't ever want to rush through a manuscript or publish a book that isn't ready. But it can often be several years between an initial query and a pub date, and that's a very long time.
When you aren't out finding the next literary superstar, what keeps you busy?
I have a new baby girl, born in March 2017, and so basically every waking (and sleeping) moment I have outside of work is devoted to her! She keeps me on my toes constantly.