Thursday, July 14, 2011


Meow, and thanks to all for the wonderful response to the first part of my interview with the human's agent, Josh Getzler!

Onto Part Deux:

R: Welcome back, Josh.
J: Thanks Rocco.

R: What’s your idea of the ideal client?
J: That’s not a question I can really answer. There are many different ways a client can be “ideal.” He or she can write amazing books (preferably one a year ), that many publishers want to publish; always be cheerful, optimistic and understanding; and send me vodka for the holidays . But you see, ultimately no client, like no agent, is perfect-perfect. And really they don’t need to be. Just good writers, with a certain amount of patience. If we become friends as well, all the better.

R: I’m going to repeat one question from yesterday, because it had a lot of information: What is it about a query that grabs your attention?
J: In a nutshell, here’s what I’m looking for in a query letter (which is how, basically, it’s going to get my attention. I read a query, decide whether the subject is one I like, whether the author is a good writer, and whether the first bit of plot has a voice I want to follow):
1) I want to know that you are approaching me because you think I specifically would be a good fit for you. That’s not ego talking, that’s simply an initial filter. If you are a serious writer, and want to get an agent to pay attention, you need to do research and see which agents represent your kind of book. If I do, and you think I’d be a good fit, then by all means, try me. If you have a Christian picture book, though, and tell me that you’ve done research and think I’d be perfect, then your credibility is strained.
2) I want you to conform to my guidelines: A letter and the first five or six pages. Not the first 25 pages. Not the whole MS. Not a synopsis (you hate writing them and I hate reading them). Again, it’s not ego, but merely that this is the way I really like to start the process. If the letter and beginning pages are compelling, I’ll ask for more. Gladly!
3) In the letter, I want to see
a. That you are approaching me specifically (see #1)
b. What genre your book is, and a SHORT description: “Hi Josh. I’ve written an 80,000-word historical mystery set in Renaissance Florence, where a young priest hooks up with a Medici daughter to solve the mystery of the sudden, violent death her father—the Pope.”
c. Whether you have a background that will help you sell: “I have dual Ph.D’s in Italian history and Theology, and my grandfather was Pope (oops!)”
That’s it! Then the first five or so pages (wherever it ends reasonably well. It shouldn’t stop in the middle of a sentence!). Not five pages from the “good part” in Chapter 7. A reader will not know to begin there. He will begin on page 1 and need to be hooked. Me too.

R: Would you represent a book written by a cat?
J: Sure!
(Side note from Rocco: Hmmm….ok, time to begin writing my memoirs….or would that be a conflict with the human?)

R: Is there any author that you wish you’d have gotten the chance to represent?
J: JK Rowling…OK, seriously…Faulkner (kind of, though I suspect he’d have been pretty high maintenance. But, I mean, the chance to read those books first…). No, on second thought, JK Rowling!

R: The book market is ever changing. What are your views on the “indie” market? The future of e-publishing as opposed to print?
J: I think we’re in the Wild West in terms of “indie” publishing. There are a lot of speculators panning for gold, and most will find sand and stones. But there are intelligent ways of going about it. One of the tricks is going to be for authors to figure out what their priorities really are. How much time and effort (and money) are they going to want to spend establishing a real platform, setting up editorial, design, and distribution support, and promoting their products after they go out in the world. Is your goal to sell 500 copies? 5,000? 15,000? 50,000? What’s more important, sales or revenues? My job, and I think all agents’ jobs, is going to be to set up sufficient infrastructure to assist our clients who wish to publish independently, and allow them to continue to do what they really are in this to do—namely, write.

In terms of the future of epublishing vs print, I think they will coexist. I think that ebooks will take (actually have already taken!) significant market share from some genres in particular—thrillers, mysteries, romance, business books, many others, particularly those with mass market paperbacks as the primary printed edition. And I think more books will be published as print on demand, including from traditional publishers, particularly as brick-and-mortar bookstores contract in size and number.

R: At one point in your life you owned a minor league baseball team, which seems a pretty long stretch from pitching books to editors. (although both do involve pitching, don’t’ they??? :) Which do you prefer, managing a baseball team or being an agent?
J: Being an agent, almost all the time. I miss the games themselves mostly, and dealing with the fans and players; not the headaches, though! But it was the baseball part that was an aberration, not the books—I was an English major and an editor before going to b-school and getting into baseball. Coming back to publishing was incredibly natural. And now I read for a living, and what, really, can be bad about that.

R: You are a history buff. If you could have ten minutes with one figure from history, who would it be and why?
J: Depending on his mood, Henry VIII. He had SO much going on, and he juggled it brilliantly (much of the time). Not necessarily someone you’d want to be too close to, because one false move and you get your head chopped off. But fascinating.

R: Meow! So true! And now, just for fun:
Baseball or Football (that’s a loaded question)
J: You bet it is! Baseball (R: oh, gee. SHOCKER!)

R: Cats or Dogs: (another loaded question)
J: This time, I think I might disappoint you, Rocco! I grew up with a dog, then my wife and I had one for 12 years. It’s almost not fair, since I’m allergic to cats, but…dogs. (R: There are pills and shots for that, ya know!)

R: Beach or Mountains?
J: Beach, except for ski slopes.

R: Pool or Ocean?
J: Ocean when it’s warm enough!

R: Favorite Movie(s):
J: My Cousin Vinnie, Bull Durham, The Godfather

R: TV Show(s):
J: Top Chef, Masterpiece Mystery

R: Drink:
J: Vodka on the Rocks
(Side note from Rocco: Hmmm…second time he’s mentioned vodka. Note to human: Vodka for Josh for Hanukkah. Note to Josh: Gray Goose if you sell the human’s book!)

R: Finish this sentence: If I could be granted one wish, it would be for :
J: World Peace! (R: Who are you? Sandra Bullock? Just kidding :)

Meow, what a great interview Josh! I’m sure our readers will love all your answers! And now we’ll let you get back to work (with this subliminal thought: Rocco wants a jungle gym: Sell my human’s manuscript :)

Josh blogs every Tuesday at There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room: (If It’s Tuesday it must be dead guy)

For information on where to send queries, check out Josh’s page at Publisher’s Marketplace (as the HSG website is still under construction)

Thank you, Josh! Now get back to editing those manuscripts, and making those deals, meow!

Toni's note: For the first part of this post, click on Wednesday’s entry: Literary Agent Josh Getzler in Rocco’s HotSeat.

Well Kitties, have a wondrous weekend! the Human is off to visit her cousin in Toms River where there are no computers to distract her, so I have the weekend to myself to plan next week's blogs (and maybe get in a bit of bird watching!)

Stay Cool!


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