Inside the Mind of the Literary Editor


If you write books, Lauren Toor’s interview with literary agent Susan Rabiner is a must read.  They cover the art of making an argument, the practice of narrative history, and the topics that are “hot” right now in trade publishing.

Here is a taste:

Can you define what you mean by narrative?

Rabiner: Sure. You don’t create narrative by simply inserting lots of anecdotes, character portraits, or description. Those features are terrific but are not meant to stand on their own. They are part of a story that creates a kind of tension in the reader — a need to find out where the book is going and how it will add up.

And remember, the story doesn’t have to be a story about people. It can be the story of an idea — how and why we once believed something and now do not. It can be the story of an event that we have been interpreting one way but should be re-examining in a different light.

Read the entire interview here.

Are You Looking for A Literary Agent?

charlestonandtheemergenceofmiddleclasscultureintherevolutionaryamericaIn October 2016, Jennifer Goloboy, an independent scholar and literary agent, visited The Author’s Corner to talk about her book Charleston and the Emergence of Middle-Class Culture in the Revolutionary Era.

And yesterday The Junto published her post “Finding an Agent.”

Here is a taste:

As an agent and historian, I’m here to explain the process of finding an agent. Don’t worry—you can do this!

Before you initiate contact with agents, you need to collect the materials that an agent will likely request. If you’ve written a novel, you need to have the manuscript completely finished. Many agents will also want to read a synopsis of the novel. On the other hand, if you’ve written a work of non-fiction, all you’ll need are a book proposal and the first three chapters. The book proposal will compare your book to other books in the field, explain your plans for marketing the book, and outline the full manuscript. (You might consider writing a proposal for your novel, too—it never hurts to have a well-thought-out plan for publicizing your book.)

Then you need to write a query letter, which is the standard letter that you’ll send to all the agents who interest you. The information I particularly need to see is

  • The genre of the book, and its length (if unfinished, its projected length)
  • What the book is about.  
  • Your bio, with a focus on why you’re qualified to write this book.

Remember, the goal in this letter is to entice an agent to request more material from you. You don’t need to explain the entire book.  

Read the entire post here.

On Writing a History of the American Bible Society–Update #15

Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

I spent most of the day thinking about publishers.  The choice of publisher will be a tricky one for a book like this.  While I am confident that a university press would be interested in a book about the American Bible Society, I do not think I can afford to go with a university press because the book needs to be in print by May 2016.  This does not leave a lot of time to put the manuscript through the process of blind review. Most university presses must send proposals and manuscripts to outside readers to approve.  As someone who has been through this process as an author and a manuscript reviewer, I know that it can sometimes take up to three or four months (or more) before an editor receives reviews and makes a decision about publication.  

At the moment I am estimating that it will take a publisher one year to get this book into print.  This estimate does not include the blind review process.  I will not finish the manuscript until May 1, 2015, and hope it will appear on May 1, 2016, so there will be little time to ship the manuscript off to reviewers.  Of course this whole schedule will also make it difficult to land any publisher.

So while I have not completely written-off university presses, I think my best bet for this project will be a trade press.  Trade presses do not normally put manuscripts through a rigid review process and can often get books into print at a much faster rate.  

Yesterday I crafted query letters to a few religious publishers who I think might be interested in my project.  (I will send them out today or Wednesday).  Other trade presses will not look at unsolicited manuscripts from authors who are not represented by a literary agent.  I do not have a literary agent, but I have been exploring my options on this front for several years now.  Yesterday I wrote to several agents who have worked with authors who write American history and American religious history.  Most agents ask for an e-mail query describing the book and the author.  If they like the book idea they will usually ask for a full proposal.  

If I get a yes from any of these agents I will try work on a proposal and writing sample (in my case this will be the first chapter of the manuscript).  On a project like this I will need to move quickly. I need to secure a contract as soon as possible.

Stay tuned.