Feb 182015


Josh Getzler


OK, most of the time I don’t talk about any specific sales I make. I like to get into more general discussions of publishing, trying to give whatever insider impressions of the industry I can from my experiences without talking overmuch about any of my clients individually. It’s kind of like when my middle daughter tries to trick me into saying that I love her better than my other kids. I roll my eyes and say “Yes honey, you are the best middle child I have.”

So, 51 clients of mine, there are no favorites (except YOU…right. You.) Now I’m going to talk about two deals I was able to announce the past week. It’s remarkable that they appeared on the same weekly Deal Report from Publishers Marketplace, since I’ve been working with them, combined, for longer than I’ve been in Publishing! So congratulations Tania Roxborogh and Paul Goldberg—I’m incredibly proud to have sold your books.

I met both of these talented writers when I was still at Writers House, learning to be an agent. Paul Goldberg, a muckraking journalist in the world of oncology, had written…a novel about four Soviet intellectuals trying to kill Stalin. Tania Roxborogh, a teacher and accomplished author in her native New Zealand, had written a sequel of sorts to Macbeth, which was about to be published by Penguin New Zealand. She wanted to cross over to the United States, and approached me to represent her.   Her book, Banquo’s Son, was a top-five best seller in New Zealand and won several end-of-year awards, and the sequels also were best sellers Down Under.

Goldberg, in the meantime, co-wrote a nonfiction book about the over- and under-treatment of cancer victims with American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Dr. Otis Brawley, which was published successfully by St. Martin's Press. And we periodically showed editors Levinson’s Sword, as the novel was called, but while everyone recognized Paul’s writing skill, which is prodigious, it was such an odd, unconventional book that we knew it would take a particular kind of editor to take it on.

The issue with Banquo’s Son was a bit different; it had to do less with whether it would be read than where it would be placed on the shelves. That’s because it’s a coming of age story, but where the protagonist starts book 1 as a 21 year-old, he ends book 3 as a twice-married father. The series is, as we say, a Razzle: It’s not a candy, not a gum. Too old to be YA…but it feels like YA. We needed a publisher where shelf space was less important.

And in the end, right before we left for Christmas, we found our homes. For Goldberg’s cross of Lear and Pushkin, now called The Yid, we found James Meador, who’s the head of publicity for Picador and Henry Holt. James wanted an unusual, but brilliant novel to take on and edit as a special project. And getting to know James, I understand precisely why he loved and appreciated The Yid.

We ended up with Emilie Marneur at Thomas & Mercer with Banquo’s Son because of Emilie’s marvelous handling of another book I represent, Elaine Powell’s novel about a knight and a nun during the reign of Henry II. One day Tania asked me whether it would make sense to try Emilie for Banquo. I’d gone to Amazon’s children’s division when we submitted the book as YA. But it’s not a traditional thriller. But Emilie understood that Tania’s novel of politics, love and adventure could potentially find the kind of audience that Elaine’s The Fifth Knight and its sequel has.

I can’t wait to find out. Watch out in a year for The Yid and Banquo’s Son. And if you’ve been out with a book, either looking for an editor or an agent, discouraged at the wait, think of Banquo’s Son and The Yid.

Feb 042015

Josh Getzler

Last night I began teaching my class in the Role of the Literary Agent at NYU. It’s an evening class, and after two and a half hours of talking and trying to be both illuminating and entertaining about the job I love doing…my throat hurts. It was interesting and fun, and I look forward to the next five classes to establish a rhythm and really get into the agent’s role in the life-cycle of a book.

After introducing the course and myself and finding out the makeup of the class, we went through a number of query letters—both strong and weak—discussing the characteristics of more and less successful queries.

And what we discovered by reading eight of them out loud, consecutively, is this: In almost every case, even in the good ones, the description of the plot was overlong. The student reading the query would read the first few sentences, stop, take a breath…and then there would be more. Characters would be named, secondary plot threads would be explored in detail, adjectives would fly. As we went through them, I started stopping the student at the point where the author should have ended.

Ultimately we realized this: A query letter is designed to make an agent want to read the first pages of the actual book. To accomplish this, the author really needs only to do the following:

1)      Describe the genre and time period of the book (and be personally familiar enough with the agent to know that the genre and period are among those that the agent represents).

2)      Say how long the book is, roughly (a nice, round, 75,000 words is just as good to us as 74,386).

3)      Give a VERY short and pretty vague description of what the book is about (My 75,000 word contemporary young adult novel is about a spunky 17 year-old girl in LA who falls in love with the boy who plays bass in the hardcore punk band she’s auditioning for. When they are offered the chance to play in the Bumblecrumb festival the same week as final exams, her dreams of Harvard must fight it out with the chance to share the stage with Fugazi.)

4)      Tell a bit about yourself, keeping in mind that all the agent cares about is relevant details: Experience as a florist—meh. Experience singing in hardcore punk bands while at Harvard—good. “This is my seventh novel, though I’m still waiting for my first publication”—Too much. “This is my first novel”—fine.

5)      Then…get out of the way. We’re good. We want to read the first pages, and your writing will make the rest of the difference.

My students’ first assignment is to write query letters for famous books (Hunger Games, Murder on the Orient Express, The Fault in our Starts, and several more). I hope they remember that they need very little plot description, and that an A paper—or the path to publication!--can be much quicker than it would seem to be.

Jan 282015

Josh Getzler

So today was a snow day, after a Snowmageddon that wasn’t, at least in New York City (OK, at least in Manhattan). But since I don’t cross-country ski to work, I stayed home and watched Columbus Avenue be empty of cars. I thought I’d get a ton of reading done, but it was more phone calls with clients and wrangling recalcitrant children who didn’t want to do their homework when there was perfectly good loafing to be done instead.

The other thing this storm did was cause my first class of my teaching gig at NYU to be cancelled. It was awful. I felt like a marathoner who pulled a muscle walking to the starting line, or an astronaut when liftoff is aborted at “5…4…3…NONONO.”

I mean, I had BUILT to Monday. Wrote beautiful slides on OneNote (love that OneNote!), thought of the anecdotes to tell, emailed my students with guidelines and suggestions, carb-loaded…and then at 2 PM, “NONONO.” And now not only do I need to wait till next week, but I have to rejigger my syllabus completely. We’re being given permission to extend two classes by a half-hour each (our classes are already 2 ½ hours, so the students will be very excited, I’m sure, to go till 9:30 PM a couple of times), and we’ll be losing an hour and a half of class time. For a seven-session course, this is a serious issue.

The other thing is that I’d based the course (which is about the Role of the Literary Agent) on working through the life-cycle of a book from First Query through a year after publication, and had pretty specific places to end lessons. Now we’ll have to adjust, and it may not be elegant. My wife and mother, both veteran teachers, are looking at me with benign amusement. Apparently my stress-dream that I’m in the right classroom at the right time with only one student and nobody else showing up is both normal and adorable. What can I say? At least I wasn’t naked, too.

And it’s funny—I LOVE teaching. I spoke to a multitude of classes about baseball when I was in that part of my life, and have given so many Query Letter and Pitch seminars in the past 8 years that I have a patter and confidence. But I’ve heard my wife and mother talk so often about “their” classrooms—they have great ownership of their space, and it was one of the aspects of teaching that I’m most looking forward to feeling. Now I’ve got to wait a week.

And all because of a storm that, in my old stomping grounds of Watertown, NY, they would have called “flurries” and not even called for extra plows. (Yes I know, the radar was awful and I wouldn’t be so smug in, say, Old Lyme Ct or Cape Cod. And I’m GLAD the Mayor was overcautious. He’s in an impossible situation, and I am glad he chose to be aggressive about it. I just, for once in my life, was bummed to have a snow day.)

Jan 212015


Josh Getzler

Last night, Amanda and I took the whole family—eyes a-rolling and smartphones in hand, to see Selma in commemoration of MLK Day. And for two hours we were all gripped. There are all kinds of discussions and online complaints about what was added or emphasized or neglected in the story of the conflict, marches, and violence in that period of the Civil Rights Movement. But honestly, they were beside the point, and I think one of the real strengths of Selma the Movie was that the decisions Ava DuVernay made ultimately cast great relief on the biggest of the issues. It’s a big, broad, statement movie, and it works.

One of the most powerful scenes was when President Johnson appeared before both houses of Congress to urge them to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The kids understood extremely intensely what had gone into getting the President into that room to make that speech.

As we were leaving the theater, one of the kids mentioned that this evening was going to be the State of the Union Address. They know that Amanda and I watch it every year, talking to the television, keeping score of the points the president makes (ANY president) and when he falls flat. How often the Speaker or the VP falls asleep, how often one side or the other stands and claps. But this time, we’re watching a little differently, thinking about how inconceivable it would have been to both the majority of the marchers in Selma in 1965, and the people within and without politics trying to stop them, that a president who looks like Barack Obama could be giving a State of the Union Address.

Now it’s time for us to go watch. We’ll get back to publishing next week.


Jan 142015

Josh Getzler

I was talking to The Redoubtable Danielle this afternoon, not long after she got back to the office after having coffee with an editor from one of the bigger publishers out there. This editor had passed on one of Danielle’s submissions, a cozy mystery where the amateur sleuth is a sommelier, because it was too edgy. Danielle was frustrated—not so much at the editor, who liked the book (with good reason—it’s excellent!); but at the prevailing sense that the ability to sell these kinds of books is more and more difficult, and the requirements more and more specific.

“She told me that the only cozies she can sell are with crafts and knitting and cats and polite murders in book clubs,” she said.

NOTE! Before my successful cozy clients think that we are disparaging them: We are NOT. We love you. We sell you. You succeed. We are talking here about having the ability to expand what’s acceptable to be able to give readers a wider variety of books to read, so the market as a whole grows and there’s a bigger total readership for your books too. (Toni, we really do love you J)

Now mind you, cozies are only one type of crime fiction, as I’ve discussed before, and so have any number of other bloggers here on Hey Dead Guy. Terri Bischoff, whom I love and who publishes at this time four series I represent, just gave a very spot-on description of cozies this weekend, and is talking about other kinds of mysteries this coming week. There are procedurals, historicals, noirs (though, as my former colleague Dan Conaway told me many years ago, “noir will break your heart.”), and novels that don’t quite hit a formula head on.

But there are certain publishers, with particular imprints, that specialize in the cozies (many of which are mass-market paperbacks, and now many of which are e-first), and which, if you look at their New Release shelves at B&N, are indeed publishing one croissant-baker series after another carpentry series after a third driving school series (none of which are necessarily real series, but all plausible). They take place in small towns (a driving school mystery in, say, Boston would be too edgy, but not in Missoula), and they are comfortable.

Much of the time, they are also good. Again, that’s not my issue. My issue is that I think we’re glutting the market, and that cozy readers are going to become, frankly, bored.

So Danielle and I—after bemoaning the pass—started to spitball what would work, and here’s what we came up with.

We think there needs to be a chick lit for cozies—younger, more urban, maybe slightly sexier, maybe at times with greater darkness—aimed at the same market romance publishers were working toward with New Adult. We can call them the Hunger Games/50 Shades On The Subway readers (and yes, while it’s sort of funny to put those two together, they were the dominant books of that market for the past couple of years). It would allow for the post-grad-school sommelier solving a murder in Napa, or the actress in her first Broadway play whose rival falls off the rigging (did the hot stagehand do it?) or the young woman doing teach for America who has to deal with the disappearance of one of her students.

We feel like there is a model here that can work. We’re not trying to reinvent the industry. Just keep it from being wrapped in yarn.

One final word:  Again, please understand that this is NOT a screed against cozies. Far from it. It’s a plea for our creative colleagues on the Buy Side to break out of the box. Not a huge amount—just a little! But it could really make a difference.   

Jan 072015

Josh Getzler

This past weekend, two men died. Mario Cuomo and Stuart Scott were from different generations, with very different career trajectories, and other than both being fathers and public figures—a politician and a sportscaster—didn’t have much in common. Governor Cuomo was 83 and died of heart disease hours after his son followed in his footsteps and was sworn in for his second term as governor of New York. Stuart Scott, who has two teenage daughters, died of cancer—which he publicly fought for the past seven years—at 49.

I had a real reaction to these deaths. Not simply because they were figures in two of my longest-held pastimes, politics and sports. It was because Mario Cuomo and Stuart Scott, bridging decades, reminded me of Sunday nights.

When I was 11 or 12, I used to listen to a transistor radio under my pillow after lights out (c’mon, Mom, you knew). Most of the time I listened to whatever local New York team was playing, whatever sport. One Sunday night, though, it must’ve been football season, or the Knicks were on the West Coast, or the Yankees had played in the afternoon, because there was nothing on. As I flipped though the stations, I stumbled on a guy talking in this thick New York accent, not a newscaster. He said something like “This is Lieutenant Governor Mario Cuomo, taking your calls for the next hour. I’m here to help.”

The next thing I knew, it was an hour later and I was hooked. He was friendly to some callers, combative to others. He had a rough job—New York was going through tough times and lots of people were angry or depressed. But what I remember was thinking, in my pre-teen way, that he was smart and he was kind. Now certainly not everyone will agree with the kind part—read Jonathan Mahler’s masterful Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning to see a terrific take on the complexity of Cuomo’s early political career navigating the cesspool of local borough politics—but everyone knew he was smart.

From that point, I was a fan of Governor Cuomo, even when he seemed to dither about whether to run for president; even when he occasionally descended into the muck of negative politics. I think my obsession with the political process started those nights listening to a young Mario Cuomo tell Florence from Brooklyn that he’d look into why her neighbor was allowed to keep chickens in the back yard.

After I graduated from college and moved into my first apartment—a studio with a lovely view of the Hudson River until Donald Trump built high rises directly in front of my building—I began to watch SportCenter on ESPN, almost always The Big Show at 11 PM. I spent several years watching Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann revolutionize the highlight show, and it was as much a part of my night as listening to the radio under my pillow growing up.

Eventually ESPN started a second station, and Stuart Scott joined ESPN2 for a while, then shifted over to work The Big Show, mostly in those days with Rich Eisen. And while Dan and Keith and Berman and Craig Kilborn were in some ways the dorks who took over, with their catchphrases and snark, Stuart Scott was a whole different thing. He was as cool as the other side of the pillow, to use one of his own phrases. He brought hip hop to SportCenter, made it even quicker. And like Lieutenant Governor Cuomo, he was so clearly smart and, it certainly seemed, kind. Sunday nights as a twenty-something watching Stuart Scott on ESPN were like Sunday nights as a kid listening to Mario Cuomo on the radio. It was the end of the weekend. I was tired and a little tense because I knew the new week was beginning, but I wanted to listen or watch. I knew I’d be entertained, and I often learned something. After I got married, Amanda and I would watch SportCenter a bit less often (though I’m lucky to have married a woman who shares my twin obsessions), and we saw Stuart Scott’s health decline. We saw him a couple of months ago for the first time in quite a while and were taken aback by how gaunt he looked. But he still had a twinkle, still put over the catchphrases, still entertained.

Look, I didn’t know either Stuart Scott or Mario Cuomo, and my perception of their character was shaped completely by what I saw and heard and read about them. But I know that, decades apart, they affected me in similar ways, on Sunday nights.   

Dec 302014

Josh Getzler


As I do many years, I’m going to do a quick rundown of progress I made professionally this year. It was a very, very interesting year, 2014. For HSG, it was the year that we ceased being a startup and began a new phase: Going Concern. We had our frustrations, mostly involving either not getting love for submissions we felt deserved it, or not getting the kind of support for published books we thought could have done even better. We had great anxiety about the Hachette/Amazon fight, and felt some great relief when détente was reached in the fall (though not without apprehension as to how it will shake down.


On the good side, we made 13 deals in the past 12 months, the first time I’ve averaged more than a deal a month; and we expect to complete five deals in the first few weeks of 2015. We represented 18 books that were published in 2014, and we have 20 coming out in 2015.


Additionally, my redoubtable assistant, Danielle Burby, began to take on clients this year, and made her first deals as the foreign rights manager for HSG. And in the past month, we made our first expansion in three-plus years, when we hired a new member of the HSG, whom we will introduce in the new year. Finally, I got myself a new night gig (I know, I can’t stop talking about it), when I joined NYU as an adjunct to teach masters students about how to be a literary agent in these odd times.


Mostly, though, this was a year of hard work, lots of contact with smart, nice, people, and anticipation for an interesting, exciting, successful 2015. Happy New Year, everyone.

Dec 242014

Josh Getzler


So tomorrow morning the whole Newman-Getzler family is going on our annual pilgrimage to (right near) Miami, where countless Jews have descended over the decades. We’ve gone to visit Amanda’s parents for almost two decades now. And we’ve gone from newlywed explorations of the neighborhood to years of annual visits to Jungle Island and Monkey Jungle and Seaquarium, to what we expect this year’s trip to comprise: Many days of reading by the pool, watching our ridiculously grown-up kids sit and squint at their smartphones while binge-watching How I Met Your Mother and 90210 (the new, horrible version). I was thinking about this tonight as I packed, and then my Facebook feed bing-ed and I saw that I had my Year In The Life montage showing up. Yes, I posted it. But here’s my impression of 2014 in little nuggets of (mostly publishing-related—and to that end, mostly Amazon-centric) information.

1)      The Amazon-Hachette (and S&S/Macmillan/etc) fight illustrated that while retailers may want to treat books the same way they treat, say, corn flakes, there’s a lot more blowback when the creators of the product are people rather than extruded grain. Does that mean that the Preston group was 100% correct? Well, not necessarily, since it was making the fight personal when it really was, in Godfather terms, Only Business. And now we have détente. I don’t particularly think that the end result will be good for authors in the long run, since I see both publishers and retailers thinking of ways to maintain their margins, and that will inevitably come at the expense of the artists. But at least the books will be available for sale.

2)      While the Amazon  folks may have been the Dark Lords of retail, their (genre fiction) publishing divisions were rock stars, and were by a wide margin the most effective marketers and promoters of their books in the industry this year.  They understand how to create a long tail of sales, and how to use both older books to promote frontlist, and new books to breathe life into backlist. Of course, many people would say that they are able to do so because they are, you know, part of Amazon, and that’s a possible anti-trust issue. And, well, it may be. But this whole situation is complicated, and you know they will use whatever leverage they have to succeed

3)      That being said, the NON-genre-fiction divisions of Amazon publishing were…less impressive, and shed staff as the year went on. Many of my agent colleagues agree with the assessment that, while Amazon is awesome at promoting books with a specific audience, it is less effective when the market isn’t as apparent, when discoverabilitiy of a book is a bit more organic.

4)      That discoverability, in this new age of digital marketing, is still the Holy Grail. We can’t sell books effectively by tweeting or posting on Facebook or Tumbler—there’s simply too much chatter. That’s the challenge we’re seeing, and it’s getting us to very interesting returns to old-school book marketing—co-op dollars spent to get books placed on front tables or landing pages on websites. And who has the money to do that? Traditional publishers. Not independent authors (mostly), and not hybrid (Whatever)-Slash-Publishers (mostly). We may be seeing the worm turning back. Fascinating stuff.

5)      2014 also showed me how great it is to work in a real office, with my colleagues surrounding me, with the comfortable collegiality of popping into co-workers’ offices to collaborate on submissions lists or even to commiserate on a particularly painful pass. I spent 2013 in a kind of exile on 80th Street, working through the idea that “hey, you can do this job from anywhere.” But ultimately we humans are social creatures, and we need consistent interaction in order to be effective and—I think, anyway—happy.

6)      Finally, the combination of shoulder surgery, my daughter’s bat mitzvah, the increasing grey I see in my hair every time I change my Facebook profile (or look in the mirror in the morning J), and the fact that I’m about to go to my 25th college reunion remind me that…I’m just hitting my prime. Now I need to pack for winter break in Miami. Happy New Year!

Dec 172014

Josh Getzler

So I suppose it was inevitable. My wife is a teacher. My mother was a professor. I’ve always loved to speak in front of people (my friends reading this are rolling their eyes). When I was in baseball in my previous life, I spent a huge amount of time talking to kids (mostly about Derek Jeter, it turns out). It was only a matter of time before I got a gig teaching something somewhere.

This morning I submitted my final syllabus for NYU’s Master of Science in Publishing PUBB1-GC 3015 002 course, The Role of the Literary Agent, which I’ll be teaching for seven Monday evenings this winter. It’s a second semester course, and gives the agent’s perspective on how authors get represented, submitted, and published. It’s going to be 17 ½ hours of query letters, contract analysis, ethics, and the basics of Publishers Marketplace and royalty statements. My students will be second semester masters students, and they will presumably understand all the basics of the publishing industry in this changing era of digital rights and contracting houses.

When I was thinking about this evolution, one of the things that came to mind was the summer I spent in 1990 at the Radcliffe (now Columbia) Publishing Course. It was right after I graduated from college, and I knew I wanted to be an editor. I went to Boston to live in a (very warm) dorm at Radcliffe, where for three weeks I was going to get a crash course in book publishing and for three others, a primer on the magazine world.

I’d interned for a summer with an agency, and a semester with Philadelphia Magazine, but the information crammed into my head between cocktail parties and trips to Walden Pond was fascinating. At the end of each unit, we spent a week working as a group planning a season’s “list” of books or one month’s issue of a magazine. My publishing house was going to be called God and Mammon Press, but we were told we could include the Deity in our name (copyright?), so after a highly adolescent snit of a memo to our advisor (written at 2 AM after, if I recall, some extremely delicious burritos and perhaps a little tequila), we called ourselves Demiurge Press. We were clearly doomed. But very clever. And if you’d asked us we would have told you just HOW clever we were.

I was thinking about this because so many of our strategies and assumptions are no longer relevant in the marketplace today. Print advertising? Not unless your name is Danielle Steele and you continue to insist on the NYT Book Review Centerfold twice a year. Author tour? How’d that work for you, Jeff Cohen, from the perspective of moving the dial, sales-wise? (Not to say that author tours are useless—just different.) And, well, it was long enough ago that the internet didn’t yet exist outside academia. Mark Zuckerberg was six years old.

And yet, many of the aspects of selling books that we discussed in 1990 are evergreen, and my students will be discussing them in February. How do authors earn out their advances? How are books discovered in the market? (OK, so now we are sometimes looking at virtual bookshelves instead of physical ones. But then, Barnes & Noble was the Juggernaut, taking over the industry and putting smaller retailers out of business through economies of scale and lower price points. Sound familiar?) Is the Midlist going to disappear? (Been talking about it for at least 50 years, and still there are small domestic novels and cozy mysteries selling for $5,000 advances.)

My hope is that my students will get one thing that I got from my teachers that summer, and which my wife’s student’s get from her and my mother’s got from her: The thrill of learning something that the instructor loves. I hope that my enthusiasm for this industry shows up, and that I can hear in 23 years that one of my kids is still (back?) in the business, trying to keep publishing going for another generation.


Dec 032014

Josh Getzler

First, congratulations to my clients who released books this week: Toni LoTempio, whose MEOW IF IT'S MURDER came out two years after it was bought; Jeff Cohen's VERY CLOSE FRIEND EJ Copperman, whose INSPECTOR SPECTER--the sixth Hounted Guest House mystery, hit the shelves today; and Elaine "EM" Powell, whose sequel to 2012's best-selling THE FIFTH KNIGHT, called, fittingly, "THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT," was named a Kindle First pick in the UK for December and entered the Kindle UK charts at #10. Great week for three terrific writers!  


I had an author come to my office today. He is a possible client, and a very interesting fellow. If we end up working together (which I hope will happen), I will discuss his project in more detail. But that’s a lead-in, not the point of this post.


Rather, I want to talk about something he did at the end of our meeting, which I thought was very smart and which other writers ought to do when they are offered representation: He asked me a bunch of questions.


The first thing he asked was how many clients I have. That’s reasonable—if you work with an agent you want to know that he or she will have time to take sufficient care of you, and not be too overwhelmed to pay attention or have so many clients that he or she won’t recognize your name when it shows up in the inbox.


But that led to a different conversation, about Active Clients versus Inactive. Active clients are the ones we deal with (almost) every day, whether because they are about to go on submission, are in the initial stages of submission, have received an offer (In Play), or are otherwise in an active stage of being published. I have around 50 clients, of whom 15 or so are very active, another 10 are somewhat active, and the rest aren’t. They may be in the purgatory of waiting to hear from editors; they may be writing their next book. The names and faces change, but the proportions stay pretty constant. It’s a lot of work to maintain that number of people among our small staff, but we do recognize our clients when we run into them on sixth avenue.


The other question this prospective client asked was what we had to offer versus a large, more corporate place. Look, we are a boutique. There are four of us in the company—five, when our first new hire (whom you will hear about soon) joins us in January. We all have different roles, whether in bookkeeping, marketing, admin, foreign rights, legal, or generally getting our brand out there. At a larger agency, there is more back office. There are great resources and possibly a degree of leverage with publishers that a small shop can’t match. We do our best to be personal, to be our clients’ best advocates in a way that they can be comfortable knowing the name and personality of everyone working on his or her book. Some writers prefer the Big; some, the small. This author, I think, was trying to make up his mind about that.


Thankfully, there was one question he DIDN’T ask: How much money will I make for my book? That is a question and can’t, and won’t, answer until I hear it from an editor. And it’s a question that makes me shiver with apprehension. Agents are businesspeople, creative advisors, psychiatrists, occasionally the Voices of Doom (as one of my ex-clients called me right before he left me), and cheerleaders. What we are not, however, are financial prophets. So ask away—but don’t ask that one.