Agent Advice: Claire Gerus of Claire Gerus Literary Agency

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Clare Gerus of the Clare Gerus Literary Agency) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

This installment features Claire Gerus of Claire Gerus Literary Agency

She is seeking: Contemporary fiction, including mysteries and short story collections. Her nonfiction interests include biographies, memoirs, finance, current affairs, politics, history, military, health & fitness, psychology, religion, technology, and true crime.



GLA: How did you become an agent?

CG: When one of my positions ended, my authors asked me to keep working with them as an agent. I went to NYC and found a hole-in-the-wall apartment on East 52nd Street and hung up my shingle. First NY Times bestseller acquired that year.

GLA: What’s something you’ve sold that comes out now/soon that you’re excited about?

CG: All my books excite me. I’m excited about Real Moms Love to Eat by Beth Aldrich and Eve Adamson (NAL). Being able to love food and have indulgences but using a very clever approach. A military book I’ve just sold will reveal secrets that most Americans will find fascinating: Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds by Dr. Ronald Glasser.

GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?

CG: That I’ll fall in love with something in that pile. I’m looking for a good writer platform and a pressing reason for publishing the book. I shy away from self-indulgent memoirs and projects that are B-grade. These days, that isn’t good enough. 

GLA: Your Publisher’s Marketplace profile lists one of the fiction areas your agency seeks as being “contemporary.” Is this as broad as “Please don’t send us vampires or fairies—anything else is game”? 

CG: I like any book, fiction or nonfiction, that will change people’s lives for the better.

(See a growing list of fiction agents.)

GLA: Talk to us about your agency’s interest in short story collections. I’ve heard that’s a tough market—are these selling? Also, any advice on what you feel writers need to have/do in order for a project like this to succeed?

CG: I personally love them, and I think they’re coming back. People have shorter attention spans these days. Editors have indicated they’re open to them again.They have to offer a compelling story and make you feel as if you don’t want to stop reading.


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GLA: What are three instant turnoffs you often encounter in book proposals?

CG: Overconfidence, horrible grammar and punctuation, and resistance to being turned down.

GLA: Many of your clients are leaders in their fields (doctors, judges, former CIA agents, etc.). Because you rep so much nonfiction, and given your current client list, platform obviously factors into the equation when you consider a project. That said, what do you feel is the best way a writer can build his platform? What impresses you?

CG: Blogs, Internet activity of all types (legit, of course), and the willingness to hire a PR firm if the book is sold.

GLA: You’ve been in the book biz for more than 30 years. Given what you’ve seen and given its current status, what is your outlook on the future of the publishing industry? Bright or bleak—and why?

CG: As an optimist, I hope it’ll be bright. I know it’s not going to be the same tomorrow as it is today. But change can be healthy if the principles of honor, integrity, and good writing are constants in the business. I see lots more Internet activity and the continuation of hard copies. People love them for their convenience. Nothing can replace a bright, appealing cover and the sense of ownership and anticipation you get from holding a book. For me, iPads can’t even compete.

GLA: What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?

CG: I am quick to turn down projects because I hate to make people wait. I’m quick to pounce and maybe even phone an author if I feel a connection with material. I try to treat authors as I’d want to be treated. I’ve learned not to take on more than I can handle. My best two qualities are creativity and tenacity—once I accept a project, I’ll go all the way with it.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet and pitch you? (See a list of writers conferences.)

CG: I prefer West Coast and Southwest locations. [She will be at the Society of Southwestern Authors annual Wrangling with Writing conference Sept. 24–26, 2010.]

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

CG: If an agent suggests you get a freelance editor, do consider that … the right partnership could make the difference between acceptance by a publisher and publishing it yourself.


This guest column by Ricki Schultz,
freelance writer and coordinator of
The Write-Brained Network. You can
Visit her blog
or follow her on Twitter.


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