By Theresa Rizzo
Date: February 2012
Bio: Lisa Gallagher is a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates in New York. She is actively seeking new clients both in fiction and non-fiction, who are great storytellers, delivering both narrative urgency and dramatic tension, combined with multi-faceted characters and a transporting sense of place
Answer: Always double-spaced, no exceptions please. It’s not about being fussy; professional readers just get used to reading in a certain way, and you don’t want to do anything that stands in the way of a reader enjoying your work. Personally I don’t like synopses for fiction – a cover letter tells me what I need to know, making me want to read without giving anything away. I am not a fan of spoilers – I like the story to unfold without knowing what is coming, so that I can fully experience the journey. For non-fiction, I do like an overview as part of a proposal that also details how the chapters break down, so that I get a real sense of the narrative arc, as well as a sample chapter to demonstrate the quality of the writing. In terms of partials – length is less important to me now, given that most of us are reading electronically. If I have the whole manuscript, I can stop reading at any point without wasting paper. Rather than focusing on length, I would encourage think about making the opening of your manuscript as strong as possible – great material is what will keep me reading.
Answer: One never likes to see anything too derivative, and also avoid trying to write to fit what you think will be saleable. Remember that even as publishing lead times become shorter, even as you identify a trend, it is probably cresting and by the time your book is ready for submission, it may well be over or the market flooded.
Answer: This is such a subjective process, it is hard to isolate one specific element. In general I always think that plot is more easily fixable than voice or character development.
Answer: I always ask that if I have met someone in person, or if someone has come to me via a writer I know or have published in the past, I always ask that they make that clear in the subject line. I want to know in advance that we have a personal connection, because I appreciate them thinking of me, and I will be as thoughtful as I can be in turn.
Answer: It would depend on the book. Certainly a writer’s ability to reach an audience is something that should never be underestimated, but I would suggest highlighting anything in your submission letter that might grab an agent’s (or an editor’s) attention.
Answer: Being included as a “bcc” with two hundred of my favorite agent friends. Being addressed as “Dear Brian…” Mostly I respond adversely to an obvious lack of care and attention. Whilst it is true that the world isn’t going to stop spinning on its axis if you have a typo in your letter, what that tells me is that you didn’t take the care to proof-read your letter carefully. Remember that in taking on a client, I am entering into a business relationship, and why would I want to go into business with a partner who doesn’t take as much care as I do?
Answer: Exercising and really good food and wine. One allows the other. And reading of course…
Answer: I’ve always loved being an advocate for authors. In the shorter term I would love to go to Sweden and stay in the Ice Hotel and see the Northern Lights…
Answer: Of course it is a little bit like reading constantly, and your mind going blank when someone asks what you are reading….