Saturday, December 27, 2008

Laney Katz Becker - Literary Manager with Folio Literary

How did you get your start Laney ?
[LKB:] My background is highly unusual: Prior to becoming an agent, I was an award-winning advertising copywriter, a freelance journalist, and a published author (of both fiction and non-fiction). When I had children, I made constant *adjustments* to my writing career, in order to spend as much time at home as possible -- hence all the various hats!  But when my kids got older and prepared to leave home, I decided it was time for me to do the same. (TRANSLATION: I didn't want to spend the second half of my life alone, in my basement office, writing books.)  I (re)evaluated my skills, my interests, my passions -- and the rest, as they say, is history. I think my past writing and marketing experiences really helped me hit the ground running when I switched gears and started agenting, and frankly, my skills come in awfully handy when I work with my authors to get their projects ready for submission. Of course the obvious is also true: Having been "the author" I know what it's like to be in their shoes, which is not a bad thing at all!
  What makes your agency different than any others?
[LKB:] Folio takes a very different approach to supporting our authors. We have a marketing department, a speaker's bureau and relationships with various licensing agencies. We offer these additional services to our authors in order to supplement all the outstanding work publishers do to promote authors/books. It's really exciting and incredibly successful. (

What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?
[LKB:] I've been reading for (many) decades. I'm not excited to read something I feel like I've read a million times already. I love things that are fresh and smart. On the fiction side, I'm partial to book club fiction and psychological thrillers. On the non-fiction side I love memoirs. But again, I gravitate toward stories that expose me to something new. I also do a limited amount of prescriptive non-fiction and am always on the lookout for gripping narrative non-fiction. To see more about what I'm looking for, check out my bio page at 

Laney what are you tired of receiving?
[LKB:] Long, rambling query letters for topics I don't handle. 

How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?
[LKB:] A concise, well-written query that follows the guidelines on my bio page. It really is that simple. No kidding. I've signed authors from the slush pile, and I've sold their projects for 6-figure deals. It really can work that way. Promise.

How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?
[LKB:] All my writers are on my radar because I'm very selective about the authors I sign. I intentionally keep my list small; that's the only way I can give my authors the time and attention they need/deserve. That said, the author/agent relationship is like a good marriage. Communication is key. So, if an author is doing something that's annoying, it's part of my job to let the author know that's not how I prefer to work -- and I expect them to do the same.
NOW, I know the question is about a "signed writer," but let me tell you what drives me INSANE about unsigned writers:
* Writers who argue with me. I pass on something because it's too commercial for me (they've sent me a 3-book mystery series, for instance, and that's not something I handle). The author then sends back a rant about how commercial is what sells and don't I want something that sells?
* Writers who send back a note alerting me that I've just passed on what is sure to be a huge best-seller. (The fact the author bragged like that in his original query is probably why I passed in the first place. Why would I want to work with someone who has such an over-inflated opinion of himself? Especially since he's never been published before. This author is already broadcasting that he won't be easy to handle/deal with.)
* Writers who apologize. "I've never been probably won't be interested in this...I know you probably won't even take time to read this..."
* Writers who tell me that they've given their project to all their family/friends/students to read and everyone loves it. (First, your family and friends should tell you it's great; they're you're family and friends! And even if you've given the book to strangers -- their taste and mine may be very different. I'm not just looking for things I love, but for things I can sell. How could your strangers know that?)
* I could go on, but I'm sure you're catching my drift.

What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent Laney that they don't seem to?
[LKB:] This is a business. And while it's true there are a lot of emotions that get wrapped around anything as intimate as writing, it is still a business, and it is my job as an agent to sell. So there's no reason for me to sign a project I don't love, or a project I don't think I can sell. And no amount of begging/pleading will convince me otherwise. And you'll just have to trust me: You REALLY don't want an agent who is not super passionate about your project.
  What's the best way for a writer to reach you?
[LKB:] Email. I read and respond to every query. lkbecker (at)