Archive for July, 2009

Literary Agent Grace Freedson on What Book Publishers are Choosing Based on Today's Economy

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

In an interview with literary agent Grace Freedson,  it’s evident that one way to get published is to filter your self-help or how-to book through the lens of the economic realities we face today: “I think I would say there is a trend towards frugality not only in the way business is conducted but in the types of books we’re seeing published . . . when I say frugality, it impacts the business sector, it impacts the way we cook and choose the foods we eat. It might impact the way we plan our weddings [etc.] and that’s reflected in the kinds of books that are published.”

She also mentioned that  she had several books on the use and misuse of credit cards, as well as dealing with collection agencies, which are topics that pretty obviously relate to today’s rough times.

Freedson started her own literary agency after she left Barron’s, famed for their SAT and GMAT books, as Director of Acquisitions.  She mentioned that  one of her bread and butter categories is particularly hot today:

“. . . Test preparation [is] still a very fertile category, people are staying in school if there are no jobs, graduating college seniors might opt to further their education. Those who are not furthering it are trying to improve their skills. So there are many skill-based books, whether it’s how to manage your time better to how to interview better for a job. I think those skill-based concepts are pretty good right now.”

Here are some recent deal as of this month that reflect what Freedson talked about with me.

In terms of saving money:

Ellie Kay’s THE LITTLE BOOK OF BIG SAVINGS, ways to save money every day in twelve  categories

In terms of skills for work:

Michelle Lederman’s THE 11 LAWS OF LIKABILITY: Building Authentic Relationships for Business Success

Jodi Glickman-Brown’s GREAT ON THE JOB: 11 Essential Strategies for Succeeding in the Workplace (also about relationships and communication)

If you can figure out a way to make your topic relate to the economy, you have a better chance of getting a literary agent.

Want free publicity? Tie your story to current events

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


How potent is tying your subject matter to current events?

Potent enough to turn Carol Burnett from a little known night club singer into a national star.

According to Tom Shales of the Washington Post, this is how Carol Burnett got her big break:  In 1957, she was appearing at the Blue Angel nightclub. Teen-age girls were obsessed with Elvis Presley. Burnett’s friend Ken Welch wrote a song about a young girl totally obsessed not with a rock star but with the secretary of state: “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles.”

Jack Paar heard about it, booked her on the “Tonight Show,” and it created a frenzy. Ms. Burnett says in Shales’ original article, “The phones were ringing off the book. I went back to the Blue Angel to do the midnight show and there was a man on the phone who said he was Mr. Dulles’ television adviser, and he said, ‘Mr. Dulles didn’t see it. Could you possibly go back on the Paar show and do it on Thursday?’ I said, ‘Fine by me.’ But of course I didn’t know. But they called Jack Paar, who had a great show, and he brought me back on Thursday. Then Ed Sullivan called and I did it on his show that Sunday. So it was three times in one week.”

A week later, Burnett watched “Meet the Press” because Dulles was to be the interviewee. “And the very last question was, ‘So tell me, Mr. Dulles, what is going on between you and that young lady who sings that love song about you?’ And you know how dour he was. I got up close to the television set and he said, ‘I make it a matter of policy never to discuss matters of the heart in public.’ Isn’t that sweet? Wow.”