Thursday, July 31, 2008


It appears I hit a nerve with my question yesterday. I was whining about writing multiple "no thank you" notes to authors' queries and wondered if it was a worthy endeavor. I asked, "Would you rather have a form rejection from us, or would silence suffice?" All of you who responded said a word from an agent, even a discouraging word, is better than nothing.

I hate to admit Jon was right on this one, but you guys agree with him. So, we will continue to answer any and all queries. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Jon and I have been working feverishly for the past few days, reading and responding to the snail-mailed and emailed queries that we've received this month. Like all agents, we are flooded with queries. We are so glad, because that means people are writing; even better, the writers know about us and are interested in working together.

That's the good news. The bad news is that we sometimes feel overwhelmed with the wealth of queries we receive. We try to treat each one with the respect and the attention it deserves; when we feel our attention lagging, we stop and move on to another project. Now, here's the part none of you want to hear about and I don't blame you. We reject most of the queries we receive for a variety of reasons: the topic does not interest us; we don't represent the genre; the query is poorly written and unfocused; or, in the worst-case scenario, the query is awful and so is the book idea.

With the exception of gang-queries (the ones with all the agents in the world listed in the "to" section), or the queries where the author specifies that we answer only if interested, WE RESPOND TO ALL QUERIES, usually within 6 weeks. But maybe we shouldn't. The truth is, our responses are pretty boring and are not unique. We've learned that we have to be cold and perfectly clear about the turn down. I used to say, "...your project does not meet our agency's needs at this time." I don't say that anymore. " this time..." acted like an open door through which many a hopeful author shoved in a foot asking, "If not now, when will you be interested?" Shades of meaning are nothing but trouble in a turn down response.

Jon and I are of two minds here. He feels very strongly that every query deserves an answer.

I am not so sure. If I delete queries that do not interest me, how would you feel? (Jon handles all snail-mail, so if that's how you query us, you'll get an answer for sure.) I know lots of other agents don't respond to any but the queries that they want to pursue. Maybe most authors assume that a non-response is a turn down. But I'm just not sure.

The responses to queries I don't want take up a lot of time--time that I could spend reading manuscripts and chapters, visiting and pitching editors, and writing this blog.

How do YOU feel about that the dreaded turn down? Would you rather get a standard "so sorry" response, or would you prefer silence from me when I'm not interested? I'm just askin'.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Jon and I launched our literary agency about two years ago. "How's it going?" friends and colleagues ask.

We smile and tell them it's slow. We tell them that we've been learning as we go and that we've made lots of mistakes. Then, if they are not glazing over, we tell them that we're getting better all the time and that we're in this for the long term.

We've learned (ahem, I'VE learned) that:
  • I love too much too easily. Just because I love a book concept doesn't mean I can sell it. (On the other hand, I certainly can't sell something I don't love.) I'm vowing to think about publishing houses and editors first, then find the books I can get behind that will fit what the publishers are buying. It's simply putting the horse before the cart. If I can't envision a publisher's logo pasted squarely on the spine of a project I'm considering, I probably won't take it on. Within the past two years I've put the cart before the horse too often. I'm learning.
  • Good nonfiction is hard to find.
  • Most editors are overworked and sincere. They want to succeed. They want to find talented, hard-working authors. They want us to help them.

Jon has discovered that:

  • Almost everyone wants to write a book, but few have the tenacity and talent required.
  • Beginning authors think that a passion for writing will get them through. They are always surprised by the fact that this is a business. They must learn how the business works.
  • He must continue to read voraciously and widely in order to be a good judge of the things that come his way.
  • He can't read requested chapters and manuscripts fast enough and worries constantly that he's "sitting on" the next Great Gatsby and may lose it because he can't get to it in time.

We hope you're all having a wonderful summer.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I spent Wednesday in New York City. Hot, humid, just plain muggy--just how we like New York in July. The purpose of my visit was two-fold: 1. a meeting with the editor of a health publisher 2. yet another raucous dinner with my "old" PR buddies. Here's how it went--

The Editor Meeting
The editor was delightful. We shared publishing tales and I went away with concrete ideas about the books this editor is seeking. Note: If you are a doctor, RN or other health professional and have a book about how to cope with a specific disease, contact me. I am simply thrilled that this editor found me and am looking forward to working with her in the near future. (I'm also thrilled that she introduced me to Gregory's Coffee Shop--so much cooler than the S-place!)

The Raucous Publicity Mavens Dinner
I launched my publicity business 15 years ago and for at least 10 of those 15 years I've been dining in New York on a regular basis with three other publicists, all of whom run their own shops--two in NYC, one in New Jersey, mine in Pennsylvania. We originally met to share publicity stories and dish the publishing dirt. Our mission hasn't changed much in the past 10 or so years.

  • We've experienced health crises, the entry into college and graduation of two of our children, the marriage of two of our children, the birth of 4 grandchildren with another on the way.
  • We've travelled the country and the world--Italy, France, Turkey--just to name a few places.
  • We've experienced a complete overhaul in the way we run our businesses, from phone-based to Internet-based.
  • We've worked with the big name publishers, smaller independents and tiny houses.
  • We've been hired by authors, by publishers, sometimes by other businesses.
  • We've had great successes and hilarious mishaps.
  • We've counseled each other on how to handle dicey editors, nasty publicists, clueless producers and head-in-the-clouds authors.
  • We've tirelessly and dependably shared our precious media lists.
  • Mostly we've laughed, driven waiters crazy, drunk far too much wine and generally had a wonderful time.
Here's to you Carol, Donna and Mary Lou!

Now for a special side note for Friday, July 11. Those of you who read this blog regularly know our office cat Wylie. Wylie sits poised on the brink of stardom. Please visit "Galley Cat" , scroll down the "Adorable Summer Cats" photos and see Wylie the accountant. OK, you can see it on our blog as well, but he's in such good company in Galley Cat!