Category Archives: NYC

Friday Five: Getaway Edition

Reading: The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King. Here is a screen shot of all the books my queue (my virtual nightstand). But I was craving a mystery, and I’m a sucker for anything with “Paris” in the title.


Watching: September brings not only a new school year, but a new TV season. Hooray! My favorites start this weekend. Fortunately, I’ve had Ray Donovan, Broadchurch and my old standby, House Hunters International on HGTV to get me through the summer. I am addicted to HHI — so formulaic! Having lived in NYC, LA and Boston — apparently, if the rental prices on the show are accurate, the most expensive cities in the world — I get a kick out of people bemoaning the prices of rentals in, say, Berlin or even Rome.

Cooking:  The children are still eating greens and couscous and chicken and stuff, but between travel schedules and Back-to-School-Nights and work events, I am neither cooking nor eating. All I can muster up is my new favorite breakfast, but at least it makes me feel like I’ve done something healthy for myself: Fage Greek yogurt with flax seeds and a bit of granola mixed in. Berries & peaches.

Listening to: Katy Perry’s “Roar”. Look, the girl can write a hit song. Extra credit for one appropriate for both mother and first-grade daughter to sing at the top of their voices.

Doing: Off to Nantucket. My dear friend Lindsey describes in words more lovely that I ever could what I will be doing this weekend.

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Filed under Alma Maters, NYC, Read This, What I'm...

Free Advice (FWIW): What is a Literary Agent Anyway?

Beethoven_cartoonI plan to offer publishing industry advice every Thursday. As with all advice you get what you pay for. Still, I believe in writers helping writers, lawyers helping writers (though I can’t of course give actual legal advice here), karma, etc.

Before I do that, however, I thought I’d start with some basic background because I get asked this question often: “What does a literary agent actually do?” In short: we act as the liaison between writers and publishing houses. The major publishing houses (Penguin Random House [yes, they are one entity now], HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, etc.) generally will not accept un-agented manuscripts. So if you have a book idea, you find an agent.

That agent will help refine your proposal (for nonfiction) or manuscript (for fiction). This can take a long time. Months, even (ask some of my writers!). Then, your agent will carefully consider the “submission list” — the list of editors to whom he or she will send your proposal. A good agent will have personal relationships with most if not all of the editors on that list. The publishing world is still one of the last relationship-based industries, which is why as a true extrovert I love it so much. I wrote a post here, on my former blog about what I do when I go to New York to meet editors, which I do at least once a month — more if I’m actively pitching and selling a project.

Once an agent sells a book, he or she will negotiate the contract (this is where being a lawyer comes in handy — I love contracts! Really!) Then the agent will act as the liaison between the writer and the editor/publisher during the publication process: reading drafts and edits, consulting on cover choice, and acting as the “bad guy” if there are any issues. Come publication time, the agent turns into the writer’s biggest cheerleader, offering as much support and publicity as possible.

And, then, the agent will start nagging the writer for ideas for the next book… and the process beings again.

Many agents “come up” in the publishing world. They begin their careers in entry-level/assistant jobs either at agencies or in publishing houses. Eventually they start to acquire and sell projects until they have built up their “list” and can make a go on their own. My route in was lateral — I had the editing and writing experience but not yet the inside-industry experience, which was both a benefit but also the steepest part of my learning curve. But, as I zip to New York for coffee and drinks and lunch dates with editors, the most fun.

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Filed under Free Advice (FWIW), NYC, Publishing