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Agent Name: Ronald GerberRonald Gerber

Agency Name/Location: Lowenstein Associates/New York

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Nonfiction Genres Represented: Narrative, historical, true crime, memoir, biography

What is your best tip for new writers looking for a book deal?

Make sure you have a good idea of what your project is, how it fits into the market, and ensure that all the details and specs are appropriate and typical for the kind of book you’re writing. Even if the prose is terrific, a memoir that’s 20,000 words is not going to sell. You want to make sure that your project is not only eye-catching, but won’t be rejected automatically for something superficial.

What kinds of pitches catch your attention?

This sounds obvious, but anything that makes me imagine being able to read a full book on the subject. Even if the book concerns something outside of my personal area of interest, passion, enthusiasm, and a strong voice can all win me over. It also helps if the pitch highlights the ways in which this book will do something that has not been done before.

How important is platform in getting a deal?

Very. A nonfiction author’s social media, website, presence at conferences, and/or prior writing experience (especially previous books and articles in known publications) will all come into play. A book has to jump through a lot of hoops at a publisher in order to get a deal, and with each hoop come new sets of eyes that will all be looking at the author’s platform as a major indicator of whether or not there’s an audience for the book.

What do you look for in a writer’s platform?

Exactly what editors will be looking for: signs that the author knows the subject well, is a qualified writer, and has made an effort to build a following.

How should writers promote themselves right now (before approaching an agent)?

Debut authors should start with developing a social media profile—Twitter, preferably. It’s public, there’s a strong writer presence, and it’s easy to gain friends and followers using #amwriting and other book Twitter hashtags. A detailed, attractively designed website goes a long way, and the more external links the better! It’s always good to see other writing, especially on the subject of the book the author is going to submit.

What should writers know about book proposals?

First, proposals cover the entire book. An author should have a clear idea of what the book will look like start to finish, and preferably have most of it written, before starting a proposal. And second, proposals should be as exciting and compelling as your query! Think of it as an extended pitch. Don’t let up. Sell it all the way through.

What other steps should writers take before approaching an agent?

Make sure your manuscript/proposal is as polished as it can possibly be. Consider it a final product: what you send to an agent should be something you’d feel comfortable sending out into the world. The closer your project is to being ready to send to publishers, the more likely you are to land an agent. And do thorough research on where to submit! Don’t waste your time on agents for whom your project will be an automatic rejection because of the genre or style. Double check that what you’re sending out is in line with the potential agent’s areas of interest and submission guidelines.

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