Agent Advice: Sheree Bykofsky of Sheree Bykofsky Associates, Inc.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Sheree Bykofsky of Sheree Bykofsky Associates, Inc.) 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 Sheree Bykofsky of Sheree Bykofsky Associates, Inc.

She is seeking: prescriptive nonfiction with a fresh idea and a twist on standard advice. She also seeks narrative nonfiction with a sharp voice, a point of view, and a reason for readers to discover it: weird, intelligent, funny pop culture, and music. Also, popular reference with an edge to it. She does very little fiction, but would love to find a wonderful new voice. No sci-fi, horror, romance, or juvenile.  “At this time, we request only e-mail submissions sent to with no attachments.”

: How did you become an agent?

SB: I used to be the executive editor of The Stonesong Press, a book packaging company.  We were most famous for the New York Public Library Desk Reference, for which I served as co-editor.  When authors would approach us to represent them, we would send them to agents. My boss at the time said, “Why don’t you become an agent so you don’t have to turn away good writers?” I think I surprised him when I took him up on his suggestion.

GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold? 

SB: Just out, Mike Matusow’s Check-Raising the DevilHere are some other books out now: Don’t Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman (Griffin/St Martins); and Am I the Only Sane One Working Here: 101 Solutions for Surviving Office Insanity by Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D. (McGraw-Hill).

GLA: You say you’re open to finding a fresh new fiction voice, but it seems like you don’t want genre/commercial or kids submissions. Does this mean you’re seeking literary and mainstream voices, perhaps?

SB: That’s correct. We like mainstream fiction with a literary quality. I also like the mystery genre.

GLA: You specialize in nonfiction. Let’s talk about a book proposal – specifically, the Overview section that agents see right away.  When you look over a proposal, what do you want to get out of Overview or you’ll stop reading? 

SB: I want to know what the book is about right away. I would like to see a thoughtful title, even though it will change. I like to believe from what I’m reading that not only is this a great new idea but that this author is the bes author to write this particular book.


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GLA: You wrote an edition of The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published.  When you were writing that book, what are some good, general points of advice you wrote down that you think everyone should know?

SB: It is a best-selling book, now in its fourth edition.  The five reasons authors need an agent: 1) contacts; 2) contracts; 3) money; 4) guidance; 5) subrights.  Truly, I believe every author should read that book before approaching agents.

GLA: On that note, I see another “Idiot’s Guide” on your sales list.  Are you looking for more queries that are for the Idiot’s series? 

SB: We represent many Idiots authors. None of them is an idiot!  (That doesn’t sound right, but it is correct grammar.)  The publisher usually likes to suggest titles for the series, and then we find the author. But sometimes we do submit authors and ideas to them, and so the answer to your question is yes.

GLA: You seek prescriptive nonfiction.  The first thing that comes to mind with me is something like “How to Stay Healthy,” but certainly prescriptive nonfiction expands past the category of health/wellness.  Can you give me/us some examples of prescriptive nonfiction not in that category? 

SB: Other perennial topics are business, parenting, relationships, personal finance, how to play poker, etc.

GLA: You’ve repped poker books and even written a few.  Two questions: How did your love for poker come about, and would you be willing to rep even more poker books?

SB: Yes, I would be willing to look at more poker books.  I used to play tournament Scrabble (R).  My Scrabble friends (the national champion and other top players) formed a poker game over 25 years ago. We played very seriously. By the time the lipstick camera was invented and poker became a big spectator sport, I was already an expert at it.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

SB: I will be teaching doctors how to get their novels published at the SEAK conference in Hyannis in October.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?

SB: Do it right the first time.

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