Ask the Pro: Literary Agent Daniel Lazar

SEEKING: I never know, exactly, until I see it. Some of my previously sold titles are great examples: Juliet by Anne Fortier, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker, The Bells by Richard Harvell. … I also love funny gift books, like Mommy Prayers by Tracy Mayor and What Would Keith Richards Do? by Jessica West.

BIGGEST CAREER SURPRISE: Our industry is just endlessly unpredictable—for better or worse. My client Jennifer McMahon is a great example; her first book, Promise Not to Tell, was a battle to sell, and now she’s a bestseller.

MOST QUERIES ARE … too broad or unfocused. Query letters are always the most irresistible when they’re specific and evocative, without hitting you over the head with every detail of the book. Also, a modicum of research (“I’m writing to you because you represented X book, which I loved …”) is a nice touch.

MOST NOVEL MANUSCRIPTS ARE … not starting where the story actually starts.

not “one size fits all.” It can be incredibly useful if the author is Web savvy. If authors know how to network and promote themselves online, and not lose time writing, it can be a huge advantage. If not, the social media tools can often be just a brochure sitting in cyberspace. Of course, every author should have a website and a Facebook page at the very least. But not every author needs to be blogging and tweeting and updating their website every five seconds.

IS THERE A MAGIC BULLET TO SUCCESSFUL AUTHORSHIP? If I knew, I’d be on my yacht right now! I think … persistence. And the ability to play well with others. The art of writing is a solitary one, but the career of an author is often a very social one. When authors truly show they appreciate how many people are pushing their book through the process (agents, editors, sales reps, publicists, booksellers, etc.), it pays off in the long run.

I would love a modern-day witch novel, like a new Practical Magic. My dream client is one who is ambitious and patient and endlessly creative—someone who can keep surprising me with each new book, but who also understands how to keep whatever attracted his or her audience in the first place. 

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