Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Erik Hane of Headwater Literary

Erik Hane is a literary agent with Headwater Literary.

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 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.


  • Literary fiction
  • Political nonfiction
  • History, especially American
  • Literary nonfiction and essays
  • Popular science

Political nonfiction

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

Popular Science

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

Literary Fiction

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.

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