Ed­i­tor’s Note

Poets and Writers - - Departments -

LIT­ER­ARY AGENT ERIC SIMONOFF SAID SOME­THING NEARLY five years ago that I still think about of­ten. As part of our Agents & Ed­i­tors se­ries of in­ter­views, he spoke with ed­i­tor Michael Szczer­ban about his role at Wil­liam Mor­ris En­deavor as well as his take on var­i­ous as­pects of the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the typ­i­cal writer’s im­pres­sion of what goes on be­hind the scenes. “The writer who’s out­side of the busi­ness views [it] as this fortress de­signed to keep him or her out,” he said. “And in fact, what I see is an in­dus­try in which we want noth­ing more than to dis­cover an amaz­ing new voice. Who wouldn’t?” I re­mem­bered Simonoff’s words re­cently while talk­ing to a writer at a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val I had the priv­i­lege of at­tend­ing. The writer had asked for my ad­vice to au­thors con­sid­er­ing self-pub­lish­ing, hav­ing her­self suc­cess­fully self-pub­lished a mem­oir. I spoke about the im­por­tance of fo­cus­ing on the writ­ing first and wor­ry­ing about pub­lish­ing only af­ter ful­fill­ing one’s vi­sion of the work, and how self-pub­lish­ing is an at­trac­tive op­tion for writ­ers who want com­plete con­trol of their pro­ject, or who want to pub­lish quickly, or who’ve been un­suc­cess­ful go­ing the tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing route. The writer laughed and re­ferred to agents and New York pub­lish­ers as just a se­ries of closed doors. In other words, the im­pen­e­tra­ble fortress. I can sym­pa­thize with this view of the whole en­ter­prise, cer­tainly, but I think it would be a mis­take if writ­ers didn’t at least knock on those doors, maybe try the knobs to see if they’re locked. My ex­pe­ri­ence has shown me that while those doors may be closed, there are pas­sion­ate peo­ple on the other side, not very dif­fer­ent from you and me, who are read­ing manuscripts with the hope of find­ing, as Simonoff said, an amaz­ing new voice.

But some­times those doors are open, as is the case with the agents fea­tured in “We Mean Busi­ness: Twelve Agents Who Want to Read Your Work” (page 47), in­clud­ing Allison Hunter, an agent at Jan­klow & Nes­bit who also hap­pened to be at that lit­er­ary fes­ti­val lis­ten­ing to pitches from at­ten­dees. “I’m al­ways grate­ful to have the chance to con­nect with writ­ers in per­son,” she told me. “See­ing a writer’s face as he or she tells me why they write and what in­spired that story moves me... and oc­ca­sion­ally it’s that per­sonal con­nec­tion that per­suades me to take on an au­thor.” That’s the kind of ap­proach we’ve tried to high­light in this is­sue. So, best of luck with your writ­ing—and, here, let me get the door for you.

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