Inside A Literary Agency

Literary agencies serve as a bridge between writers and publishers. They are the ushers that help make book dreams come true. Have you ever imagined what it might be like inside the walls of a Manhattan literary agency? Today, literary assistant, Julia Collucci, gives us a peek inside.

First expectations of what working for a literary agency would be like
I expected a lot of reading and writing, which I was used to, being a recently graduated English major. It’s safe to say I was right! Additionally, I expected (and certainly hoped!) there would be a degree of intimacy with the rest of the agency team. Not only was my hunch correct; I forged close relationships with clients as well. Working in editorial development is, as Lucinda sometimes says, like being a doula—the process can be as vulnerable and important as bringing one’s baby into the world, and for this reason, intimacy and trust are particular qualities of a boutique literary agency like ours.

The day to day
Before COVID hit, my day began with a train ride into New York City. I’d use this early morning ‘trek on the tracks’ to read through proposals, manuscripts, and queries before I got to the office. Once there, I would grab a cup of tea (or a hot chocolate packet if I could snag one), and catch up with Lucinda and Connor, discussing our weekends and/or the projects we were working on for the day or week.

In our new socially-distanced world, I now grab a cup of tea from my kitchen and set up shop at the desk in my room or at my dining room table. Occasionally, one (or three) cats will join me in my workday. I do still get to connect with Lucinda, Connor, and Jackie on our daily tasks and projects, though now it’s over Slack and Zoom calls. We keep a Victory Thread for announcing any milestone, which can be as simple as finalizing a proposal or as major as selling a book.

One thing that was especially surprising about working for Lucinda Literary
I was most surprised by everything I’ve learned working so closely with all sorts of authors and thought leaders—knowledge I wouldn’t have otherwise had been exposed to. For example, while helping to develop Tanja Hester’s proposal for her second book, I learned more about what it really means to be a conscious consumer, especially in today’s climate. And I remember being riveted while reading Nancy Schwartzman’s proposal for ROLL RED ROLL, based on her groundbreaking documentary.

Something I’m proud to have helped with or called “my own”
Right around the time I started working at Lucinda Literary, Lucinda had just begun to plant the seeds of what would become our Letter Better programs. She was determined to get back to her roots by helping writers steer through the often unnavigable publishing waters. I had previously worked as a teacher, so I brought experience with creating lesson plans and organizing materials needed for classes or workshop events. This led to our creating Letter Better together, as well as a host of other services and tools for a wide range of writers. It’s amazing to think that it was just a year ago Lucinda and I were discussing this conceptually—and since then we’ve had over 30 people take our programs and are developing our first online course.

The last time a query, manuscript, or proposal really stopped me in my tracks
This is tough! I remember assisting in the development of Tonya Harris’s proposal for THE SLIGHTLY GREENER METHOD, one I was really excited to see become a full book. It had a perfect mixture of data with practical advice and insights, all told in a clear yet engaging voice that really proved just how important (and simple!) changing one’s habits for the greater environment could be. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear a few writers pitch really intriguing book ideas aloud during some of our Letter Better Workshops. I’ve loved listening to Connor and Jackie present a really quality manuscript or proposal for a project they’re thinking of acquiring on our weekly ed board call. I’m always amazed at how they manage to find and improve upon really clever book ideas!

A helpful word for writers trying to get their books sold

  1. Get informed about publishing. Whether you’re a writer trying to publish your book, or you’re someone who aspires toward a publishing career, it is truly a tough industry to break into.
  2. I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is to subscribe and follow industry sites and journals like Writer’s Digest or Publishers Marketplace, though it’s equally important to get a sense of what you’re specifically looking for within this industry and to find resources tailored to those goals. For example, since I was new to the field and was a recent college grad looking to break in, I often referenced Young to Publishing‘s website in addition to popular sites like Poets and Writers.

Writers need to have grit, but also enter with an open mind. If an editor or agent provides feedback to you, consider their advice, and see if it can be incorporated to meet your book goals. They’re the experts in this field, and you’re the expert for your book, so it’s beneficial for you to meet somewhere in the middle.