aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Agents speak – sometimes off the record

Poets & Writers magazine held a roundtable with four agents. What do they wish they saw more? What leads to an automatic turndown? Some of the best bits came when they were allowed to speak off the record, as Publishers Lunch pointed out.

“Asked to list "some overrated publishers, in your opinion," the agents offer: Little Random ("I think the reputation they built in the era before we came into the industry has gone out the window in the past five years"); Spiegel & Grau ("They just care about the celebrity-type books"); Scribner ("I just can't think of anything of theirs that I've admired in a long time.... I can't figure out why that is because, you know, it's Nan Graham and that shouldn't be the case.); and Riverhead ("the books that have done well for Riverhead lately were under contract already").

“Votes for "underrated" houses include Algonquin ("They know the right amount to pay but they don't overpay. And they do great publicity.") and Norton ("They're an employee-owned company and everybody is invested in what goes on").”

And here’s another interesting exchange, on the record:

What are some of the common mistakes you see in the submission process?
STEINBERG: Don't say, "If you don't like this novel, I have many other I could show you." Don't say, "This will make a great movie, too." Don't do that fake thing where you pretend you know all about the stuff I've agented. It's funny because I think that's a piece of advice that writers always gets—research the agent and talk about the other work they've sold. But it always comes off as very false to me unless you've really read something I've sold. And I don't want you to waste your time reading something of mine just to write a query letter.

STEIN: I would say to go the other way around. Write to agents whose books you're actually in love with.

STEINBERG: But what if those agents pass and you still want an agent?

STEIN: Then you should read more books. [Laughter.]
Read more here.

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