Monday, December 27, 2010

Agents Don’t Bite: How to Maximize Your Experience at a Writers Conference

To novice writers, agents are mythical creatures that live in a distant paradise of tall skyscrapers, café lattes and furry boots; a wonderland where dreams come true and books get published: New York City.

Fortunately, we don’t all have to travel to the Big Apple to meet them. Nowadays, they come to our distant locations with regularity, displaying their charm and wisdom on panels filled with top industry professionals. Nothing could be more intimidating, yet exhilarating for the novice writer. (I know a writer who was unable to perform a bodily function just knowing that the agent of her dreams was in the adjacent bathroom stall.*)

Opportunities like this simply don’t come by every day (they’re not cheap, either.) So we’d better make the best of them. But how do we do this? How do we overcome the fear of sounding like stuttering fools with the eloquence of an orangutan? How do we grab their interest and get those five little words that are the object of our obsession and prayers: “Please send me your manuscript”?

After attending six conferences in the last few years, I can tell you that speaking to agents and editors does get easier with time. At first the idea of sitting down and talking to a real-life agent or editor in a one-on-one scenario is as appealing as chewing on a shoe sole. You would rather sit in the back row, as far away from their prying eyes as possible, and listen—memorize—every single word. You take so many notes you could write a book, you analyze every gesture, every scoff and giggle, all along fearing and dreading the moment when you will sit across the desk with this person for your pitch session.

Then, during a lecture you've been halfway listening to, you look at your watch (you did it ten seconds ago) and you realize you must face the two-headed beast (no offense to agents/editors, I know some of them are very cute.) Along the way, you forget everything you were going to say, and the novel that you’ve been slaving over for months (or even years) becomes a blur in your mind.

You introduce yourself to the agent/editor, offer your cold, sweaty hand and remove your notes. Here comes the worst mistake of the novice conference-goer:

You read your notes.

I have to admit that in my first encounter with an editor I did this, but she was so kind and understanding that she listened (and even requested a partial.) However, in my second conference, the agent was not so patient. The minute I removed my index cards, now typed and organized with numbers, the agent started darting questions in my direction. Every time my eyes lowered to read my notes, the agent would assault me with another question. In the end, I set them aside and listened—she had a lot to say. Another partial request followed (out of pity, I think.)

What is the problem with reading? You may ask. Well, I don’t know about you, but when I read, I’m not really thinking about what I’m reading, especially when I’m nervous. The problem is that unless we are trained in reading for say, an audio book or a performance, we read in a very monotone, rapid fashion, with our cheeks burning and sweat building in copious amounts under our armpits.

After these two experiences, I concluded that I shouldn’t be reading. And I came up with a better idea: I was going to memorize my pitch.

As it turns out, when you memorize you don’t think much, either. Even worse, if you lose your train of thought, by say, the agent/editor asking a question (how dare they?!), it becomes extremely difficult to resume your flawless pitch with the fluency you had when you practiced in front of your spouse (or cat, or canary, whichever applies.)

You may have also heard about the X meets Y pitch. Well, I heard about it too. Twenty minutes before my pitch session, when an editor grabbed the microphone during the panel and announced that all she wanted to hear was a clever comparison of your novel with two blockbusters (from the last ten years) in a combination that sounded so appealing and complete that the editor in question could already picture your novel in the book shelf. “And then you shut up and listen,” she concluded.

Needless to say, the next few minutes turned into a nervous explosion of writers trying to come up with appropriates X and Ys to describe their books, and attempting to help each other out without any knowledge whatsoever of each other’s plots.

I didn’t get a request during that conference.

Conclusion? I was going to have to actually talk about my novel.

And this, my friends, was the best idea I ever had. I know it’s nerve-wracking to imagine sitting in front of a stranger who holds the key to your dreams. What if you forget? What if your mind goes blank? Well, I’m living proof that these things won’t happen. After all, you’ve only obsessed with your novel for one, two, five or even ten years, right?

So that is the key, it’s that simple. Talk about your novel as though you were telling your best friend about it. Just keep in mind there are some very important facts you must tell the agent/editor:

  1. Title
  2. Genre
  3. Setting
  4. Word count
  5. Who is the protagonist and what is his/her goal?
  6. What is the main conflict in the story?

Another thing that helps is to mention any recurring themes throughout the novel, if you have any. (For example: the world of wine, music, dance, photography, etc.) Also, if you’re pitching a Women’s Fiction novel, do mention if there is a love interest. I know this was a big hit with the agents I pitched to.

After I implemented this new “pitch philosophy,” I got one partial (from an agent) and two full requests (one from an agent and another from an editor) in ONE single conference.

Mission accomplished!

A few random things to keep in mind (you’ve probably read this just about EVERYWHERE, but I saw it done WITH MY OWN EYES) and this wouldn’t feel like a complete guide if I didn’t mention this very important rule:

  • DO NOT harass/approach an agent with a story idea IN THE BATHROOM.


  • DO approach them during lunch.
  • DO talk to other agents/editors that interest you even if you don’t have a pitch scheduled with them. In my experience, they are very open to listening.
  • Try to sit at the table of an agent that interests you but you don’t have an appointment with (even if it means pushing all the other writers out of the way—forgive me, colleagues.)

One last thing: enjoy yourself. Don’t simply obsess with agents and editors. You may meet wonderful people in the business that may enrich your lives in many other ways. I met a good friend of mine at a conference, the lovely Aurora. So keep your eyes open for other writers.

And now, let’s hear about you—have you had good or bad experience at conferences? Which approach has worked best for you? Does the idea of meeting an agent in person give you nightmares?

*names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

** Correction: the writer with “bathroom stage fright” has recently clarified that said agent was not really “the agent of her dreams.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You Getting Your Money's Worth At That Writers' Conference?

You better save big if
you want to attend
Conference X!
A couple of posts back, I wrote how I have an aversion to writers' conferences. And for good reason. A little over a year ago, I attended my last conference. It was one of those big splashy ones, where they promote the idea of getting on the right track and getting published. I'd qualified as a finalist in the annual contest, so, I thought, now's my big chance! There had to be an agent there who would definitely take me on. Here is a breakdown of my three and a half day journey at what I will refer to as Conference X.

  • Day One -- Arrive at airport, find my lost luggage, track down shuttle to hotel, check into said hotel. Slightly disappointed because, considering the price I'm paying for the room, one would imagine some updated technology, such as Wi-Fi and a flat screen TV. Perhaps the inside of said hotel room shouldn't look like a Motel 6? The conference is being held in the same hotel and they pushed the idea of 'discounted' room rates.
  • Day One, 2:00 P.M. -- Conference X begins. I learn how to choose sessions that are right for me, and since I don't write nonfiction, nor do I need to start a writing group, I skip the first session and don't attend one until 4:00 P.M., which involves pitching to agents and editors. Although I learn about the Elevator Pitch, the room is packed to suffocation. There has to be a fire code being broken, here, especially since I'm stuffed into the window sill in the back of the room. I can barely see the bobbing head of the guest speaker.
  • Day One, 5:30 P.M. -- Evening Break. I'm starving, and since there is only a dessert reception at 8:00 P.M., I head back to my room and order in a $20 hamburger and water.
  • Day One, 8:00 P.M. -- The evening's keynote speaker. He talks for about ten minutes and then tells the aspiring writers in the room to go to the bookstore next door where he'll be doing a book signing. Stunned silence falls on the room when he leaves the podium as we all think, "What the heck was that?" What the heck was that?
  • Day Two -- I get my continental breakfast with all the other early-riser writers. I meet a few of them and chat while waiting for the morning session to start. At 8:00 A.M. it's Conference X's annual business meeting and I sit in. But what good is this doing me since I don't even live in the state? So I chat for a while with an aspiring YA writer.
  • Day Two -- Agent dos and don'ts session. They basically knock down the self-published a notch or two and then proceed to regale the crowd with stories about the wildest queries and proposals they've received. Oh, and they let us know who pays for lunch when they get wined and dined by editors. That's about it.
  • Day Two -- Agent and Editor Forums -- There are about thirty agents/editors in all and I learn what each one represents. Only one truly represents what I write, so I'm basically up a creek. Except for one, all editors inform the aspiring writers that they don't take on new writers unless represented by an agent. That's about 99.9% of the group. "Why are the editors here, then?" one guy boldly asks. No one on the panel has an answer to that one. Seriously, no one.
  • Day Two, 2:30-6:00 P.M. -- Afternoon sessions. I pick one on the Romance genre (I don't write Romance, but nothing else looked overly helpful) where I learn every sub-genre of Romance and that Romance is hard to break into. Couldn't I have just Google-searched that one? During my session on screenwriting (which, in a roundabout way, informs all attendees that you have to live in California to even think about screenwriting), I have my agent meeting. I wait with about fifteen other hopefuls in what I call the 'Cattle Call' area. We are called in for our ten minute sessions. I sit in front of my agent who, from reading her bio earlier, has little to no interest in representing my genre. Her glassy eyes, frantic bounce to her knee, and unprovoked lack of interest annoys the heck out of me. After a couple of questions, I get, "Here's my email. Send me twenty pages." I'm ecstatic until I compare notes with other Conference X attendees. Every agent in there asks for twenty pages.
  • Day Two, 7:00 P.M. -- Another keynote speaker. Another shameless plug for the roomful of aspiring writers to buy his book.
  • Day Three -- After another continental breakfast, I head over to a session on effective historical research. Yeah, this is my kind of thing! It was interesting, but I only walked away having learned one new thing while a majority of the time the group spent arguing over the use of proper slang. Hmm . . . My second session deals with writing sex scenes. I could use a little help in that area. During this time I have my editor meeting, which ends up consisting of me and five other individuals all pitching in a roundtable-type format. Every one of us writes a different genre and our editor focuses primarily on Romance. It's a bust all around. Unlike with my agent, the editor never replied to my query.
  • Day Three -- Afternoon sessions. I vaguely remember these because I couldn't stop thinking about those query letters I needed to write when I got back home. I know that one dealt with writing the perfect pitch. That's nice, since I've already met with my agent and editor.
  • Day Three, 6:30 P.M. -- The awards ceremony. I'm pumped! The finalists get to eat first, there's wine at every table, we sit with the other finalists in our categories (although half of our table doesn't show), what could be better? I don't place in the top three. I straggle off to my hotel room and tearfully call my husband. After all, this was the whole reason why I came.
  • Day Four -- I have a plane to catch, but decide to sit in on the winners' readings. Very enlightening. There is some good stuff out there. I'm still sulking a bit, but in all I'm enjoying the stories. By pure luck, I snag a few precious minutes with a departing agent. She quickly tells me to query her and she'll go from there. I catch my plane and fly home.
You might be asking, what exactly did I get out of all of this? Well, for one, I became highly disenchanted by the supposed 'glamour' surrounding the writing world. Let's not fool ourselves. Those who make it outrageously big in the writing world are just a small raindrop in the mighty ocean. I struggled to connect with many of the writers around me, mainly because they seemed clueless when it came to the writing industry. One man sitting next to me even told me he'd lost his job and was only writing a novel to 'make the big bucks.' What? And nobody at the conference seemed about to dispel that myth to attendees. I spent close to $2,000 (flight, hotel, conference, etc.) to attend Conference X, but when I got into the thick of things, it was easy to see that they were in it to make a buck. I would never have spent that kind of money if I hadn't expected to, at least -- at the very least -- walk away with something worth my two grand. I expected the agents and editors to show a glimmer of interest, if not in my work, then at least in someones, but they were too busy dodging conference goers as if we carried the plague. At times, some of them were short with writers, as if how dare we approach them outside the allotted agent one-on-one times. Don't get me wrong. Agents and editors are only doing their jobs, just like anyone else, but if Conference X is any representation of the pool the majority of them come from, then why do they waste their time attending conferences in the first place? Do they receive free lodgings and food that, in the end, I suppose I'm paying for with that $600-$700 conference price tag? I'm not sure, but I don't really see the motivation behind most agents attending conferences, and even less so for editors.

Just out of curiosity, I checked back at the prices for Conference X this year. If you pay day of, at the door for the three and a half days, it's almost $800. Last year, when I attended, it was reported that sixty people paid the premium day-of price. If the same holds true this time around, that's a whopping $48,000 that Conference X is bringing in on just one day. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it? Especially when over 300 aspiring writers attend this specific conference. On top of that, they collect annual membership fees, contest entry fees, class fees, etc. Why, in a world where so many people are scraping together money just to make mortgage payments, and in an industry that considers reading fees to be scams, are these high conference fees allowed?

Here's my advice:

  • If you want to attend a conference, first, do your research. If your work is ready to pitch, and I mean really ready to pitch, then find an agent who will really work for you. If you get stuck with an agent/editor who doesn't even represent your genre (and soooo many conferences do this) then either back out of the conference or insist on who you have in mind. Anymore, I honestly believe the only thing I'm paying for when it comes to a conference is that meeting with an agent or editor. I've heard enough keynote spiels to last me a lifetime. So, you should ask yourself, "Do I really want to pay to meet that agent?"After all, what is the point of one-on-ones since most agents don't take you seriously until they see how you write your query? Some agents will actually say that to you straight up.
  • If your state/community has a good writing organization, join it. The local conferences where I live feature the exact same speakers that speak on a monthly basis at my local writing meetings. There is no reason to pay an almost $200 price tag to listen to someone I've either heard speak or has nothing new to add to what I write. I pay my $60 membership fee and I'm good for the whole year. It's the gift that keeps on giving all year long!
  • Many of these local writing groups offer specialized classes. They can be hit or miss depending on the class, but if you're really struggling with a roadblock in your writing, keep an eye out for one that would be helpful. I did, and it turned out great for the struggles in which I'd found myself.
  • Be careful when it comes to joining a national writing group or one located in a different state. Although enticing, what good will it do you if you can never attend a meeting? If there is a local branch, like with RWA or SCWBI, then by all means, join. But please attend the meetings. Otherwise it's kind of like getting a membership to a big box store. After a while you stop shopping there because who needs twenty pounds of spaghetti? If they don't have what you need, then don't join. If you do, put your membership to good use.
  • Have an active critique group to add to that writing group. I don't think I can stress this one more. No, I don't mean your sister, mother, husband, or attentive dog. You need to have writers, others like you actively writing and querying in the writing world. People who aren't so close to you that all they say is, "Nice story. I like it." Your group should be comfortable with what you write, open to suggestions, and easy to relate to. If you find yourself pulling teeth just to get your work read or to get a point across, then find another one.
  • Know your genre inside and out. Only you know what kind of agent you're looking for. Don't be caught flapping in the breeze when it comes to a one-on-one with an agent or editor.
Here's my question to all of you, dear readers:  Are conferences really worth your time and money? Why or why not?

Mary Mary

P.S. If you're interested in a different view concerning conferences, then be sure to read Sister Lorena's post next week!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dreaded and despised: the uses of backstory

The renowned literary agent, Donald Maass, advises to push backstory to the 100th page of a novel. Most writing manuals agree that that no backstory should find its way into a first chapter, otherwise the story would slow down and the reader will be bored. I have to disagree. As a voracious reader, I seldom throw away a novel even if the first chapter is dull, and backstory in an introductory chapter never puts me off my reading. I must be odd, but I need to know a little about the past and family history of the main characters.

Backstory means to interrupt a narrative in the present in order to go into the past. Whether via flashback, recollection or dialogue, backstory explains why a character is in such a place at a particular moment. Some people don´t know how to do it, others like the late Jacqueline Susann were masters in its usage. However, contemporary consensus says that opening chapters should be grounded strictly in the present.

This rule tends to confuse novice writers who bend over backwards in order to avoid the dreaded pitfall. What they don´t understand is that unless you are beginning with the protagonist’s birth (a la David Copperfield) a little backstory will always creep into those first pages. Even a plot-driven novel will require some characterization, and you have to give characters a little background in order to make them appealing.

By the time I finished Twilight’s first chapter, I didn´t know about the vampires, good and evil, about to cross Bella’s path, but I knew I liked her, and that was due to the backstory that explained her relationship with her parents and why she was on her way to Forks.

Stephanie Meyer found the perfect way to artfully interweave the past into present events. As artfully as Margaret Mitchell introduces her heroine to the reader while subtly letting backstory infiltrate into that first paragraph.

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father”.

We are instantly interested in Scarlett, but we also care to know about these parents. Coming from such diverse backgrounds, what would bring them together? Does that misalliance affect Scarlett´s nature as well as her physical appearance?

In Jo Graham´s Black Ships, Gull does not start her story with her birth, but with her mother´s circumstances, who she was before and after Troy fell. The same happens in Jacqueline Carey´s Kushiel´s Dart, where Phedre goes to great lengths to tell us all about her pedigree, and her family´s lineage. In both cases, the heroines need the reader to understand their past and how it influences their personalities and lives.

Backstory could serve as a mood enhancer, and so even thrillers and adventure authors use it. Take for example Joseph Kanon´s The Good German that opens with the hero, Jake Geismar, in a flight to post-war Berlin. In that first chapter Jake, recalls his experiences during the war, then goes back further in time, reminiscing the days he spent in that city, covering the 1936 Olympics. That small dosage of backstory helps create a perfect setting and atmosphere for the somber tragedy that is about to unfold.

Of course we know better than to spill the beans in page one. Of course, we are conscious of the importance of withholding juicy tidbits till later, but there are ways in which backstory judiciously employed, could intensify the plot. For example, launching a tale with the past and letting it lead you to the present moment. In Across the Nightingale Floor, the first book in Lian Hearn’s series, Tales of the Otori, Takeo describes, in the first two pages, his relationship with his mother and their life in the mountain village of Mino. On page three, he returns from the forest and finds his village destroyed and his family murdered. The previous introduction adds pathos to this scene and helps us bond with Takeo.

It could be done the other way around. Begin with the present and move into the past. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer winning novel, opens with a common lie that Sam Clay uses to explain the existence of his comic-book character, “The Escapist”. Then the story takes us to 1939 to discover The Escapist’s real genesis. It is a powerful strategic device that lures the reader into the story.

Reading fiction is an emotional experience. I agree that plenty of action keeps your adrenaline pumping and too much exposition makes you doze, but caring about characters from page one, wanting to know more about them, and learning about the circumstances that shaped them is a wonderful way to hook a reader, and backstory could just help you do that.
Is backstory an effective device, even before the 100th page? Do you remember examples where it improved the plot?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview with Rights Manager Elizabeth Fisher

Have you ever wondered what happens behind closed doors at a Literary Agency? The lovely Elizabeth Fisher from Levine Greenberg Literary Agency has been gracious enough to answer this and other questions for us.

Elizabeth, welcome to the Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood!

Q: How did you start your career in publishing? Is it hard for agents to break in?

A: I came into publishing later than most. After trying my hand at various other things: bookseller, barista, waitress, nomad (to name just a few), I noticed that a lot of my friends were heading to grad school and coming to me to take a look at their entrance essays. It made me wonder if maybe I shouldn’t look into editing—which was the only job in publishing I knew existed at the time. I took an Intro to Publishing course at NYU with an instructor I immediately connected with. She was able to refer me to a literary agency looking for an intern to read unsolicited manuscripts. I couldn’t believe that someone would pay me (well, a stipend at least) for reading! That’s how I first learned about what an agent does and how a literary agency works. From there, I also first encountered subsidiary rights and all the various things that could happen to a book in its lifetime. My first full-time job was in the Subsidiary Rights department of a major publisher. But after a while, I missed the direct contact with authors that I had experienced at the agency and decided to go back to that side of things. I started at Levine Greenberg about six and a half years ago.

Is it hard for agents to break in? Yes and no. The beauty of being an agent is that anyone who has a head for what works and what doesn’t in the marketplace can fairly easily start a list. But building a strong list of clients is easier said than done. It’s hard to find new writers that have the talent and commercial viability to sell into the market. Mining through all the unsolicited manuscripts is a ton of work and very overwhelming. Once you have a few strong clients under your belt, you may start getting recommendations from clients and contacts in the industry or writers may approach you who write in the same vein, for instance. But before you sell a book, it’s hard to get your name out there and to get quality work in.

Q: Please tell us about Levine Greenberg. Is it an editorial agency? Do agents communicate with each other about their writers/query letters?

A: The great thing about LGLA is its collaborative spirit. We’re a mid-size agency now with several young agents in the process of building lists, but we were half the size when I started here. The agency works very hard to guide writers through the entire publishing process—from developing a strong proposal or manuscript for submission to publishers through publication, marketing, publicity and everything that makes up a book’s life. Our agents talk to each other all the time—we have a weekly editorial meeting where we hash out what we call “situations” and offer advice to help each other solve problems that we encounter along the way. We absolutely refer queries and writers to each other since everyone here, while able to work on whatever projects speak to us, also have a personal focus to our lists that reflect individual interests.

Q: What are your responsibilities as a Rights Manager? Are you still dealing directly with writers?

A: As the Rights Manager here, I am responsible for selling any subsidiary rights we might hold for a book: translation, audio, first serial, etc. Film would also fall under subsidiary rights, although agents typically handle film rights themselves or partner with a film agent. I often deal directly with writers to negotiate these deals or to help them coordinate international press, conferences, tours, etc.

Q: Do you also handle Foreign Rights?

A: Yes, most of my responsibilities involve translation rights for titles that we don’t sell those rights to the U.S. publisher. I work in conjunction with a network of agents around the world to help sell our titles into the international market. It’s a lot of coordination- I have to get the information about our books to our co-agents, who then submit to an appropriate list of publishers in their respective territories. We negotiate deals per territory and then help see the book through to publication. I also attend two international book fairs a year (London and Frankfurt) to meet with foreign publishers and agents. I also keep track of when books are published and when foreign licenses expire.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the process of selling American books to international publishers? What percentage of your writers end up selling their books to other markets? How about Film/TV rights?

A: One of the most interesting things about my job is learning about foreign markets- what works well where and what doesn’t work in some places. For instance, in my experience it’s incredibly difficult to sell American non-fiction into the French market. But I work hard to place our titles internationally and I would say that at least 80% of the books we have rights on sell at least one translation. A handful of titles have sold in over 30 territories!

Selling film rights is a bit trickier and MUCH more rare. I can only think of one title of ours that ever actually made it to the big screen and a handful that were developed into TV shows, specials or documentaries. Often, books can be optioned by studios or production companies and authors can make a little money from the interest, even if the film never gets made. Options can be renewed or studios can opt to purchase the rights down the line. If an author is very, very lucky, there could be a film at the end of it.

Elizabeth Fisher

Q: Have you kept your client list or have you passed it on to another agent?

A: I never had a large client list, but I have passed many of my former clients along to colleagues here or referred them to other agents who I thought might be a good fit for them.

Q: Back when you were an agent, what did you look for in query letters?

A: If an author could write a short, succinct summary of what the book was about and why they think they were the right person to write the book (especially for non-fiction), that’s what would catch my eye. Anything that touched a personal interest is a plus of course. Queries that seemed to indicate that an author did his homework and that he/she was approaching me for a reason would also be a good way to get my attention.

Q: Any tips for writers on how to make their query letters stand out from the crowd?

A: Again, do your homework! Don’t just blanket the industry with your query. Research who would be the best agents for your particular project and work from there. A query from an author that obviously knew who I was, what books I worked on, what my personal interests were, etc. always were a much better fit than a generic letter with dozens of agents in the heading.

Q: As an agent, would you take on a client based on their potential even if you didn’t think their manuscript was ready for publication?

A: Absolutely. Manuscript and proposal development are part of a good agent’s job and authors should want to work with an agent who has a clear vision of how to shape the book.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the process from reading the query letter to signing a writer, and what the agent/client relationship is like in your agency? Do you meet your writers in person?

A: It’s not always necessary to meet authors in person, although if it’s convenient, it certainly doesn’t hurt. For fiction, it’s really about what’s on the page, what sings to a particular agent, and who they think (editorially) it will appeal to at a publishing house. Non-fiction can be a bit trickier. You need to ask: why is this the best person to write this book? What does the author bring to the table in terms of media? It is, more and more, about the dreaded “p” word: platform. Meeting an author who is going to promote a book can be a big factor and sometimes it’s even in the author’s interest to set up meetings with potential publishers to see how they click as well. It’s important along every step to work with people who have that clear vision for your book.

Q: Please help dispel some myths about agents. Is it true elderly and novice writers have a harder time getting an agent?

A: Neither one was true in my case. Even on my small client list, I had both.

Q: Is it true agents favor clients with platforms and who would be able to do their own marketing and handle their PR?

A: As I touched on above, it certainly makes a non-fiction proposal more appealing to publishers (and therefore agents) if an author has a strong platform with some kind of media hook to help promote the book. More and more, authors are expected to do the bulk of the publicity and marketing of their books and it’s always in the author’s best interest to be willing and able to advocate their work. It can really make a difference in the success of the book.

Q: What is the “in” genre right? What is the industry looking for?

Anything can be appealing if it jumps off the page and takes you somewhere. I used to say I was looking for something that will transport me to another place, another time, or another life when I must stay put.

Thank you, Elizabeth!

For more information about Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, please visit their website: