Book Broker – an interview with Tim Wojcik
Agent: Tim Wojcik
Bio: Timothy Wojcik joined LGR in 2012 and is currently looking for literary fiction by new underrepresented and exciting voices, and a wide range of non-fiction including narrative journalism, cultural criticism, voice-driven memoir and essay collections, popular history and science, sports, and illustrated humor. His clients have been published in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Ringer, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Electric Literature, The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, The Oxford American, and Zyzzyva, among many others. In his free time, Tim supports Liverpool FC, hits tennis balls around with friends, plays music, and writes fiction.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
For fiction, it starts with the query letter. If the query letter has a succinct plot synopsis, some good recent comparative titles to situate the novel in the wider world of fiction, and if the writer has credits at reputable journals, I’m excited to dive into the manuscript. On the page itself, a compelling and original voice will always stand out, but I’m always looking for stakes. What will keep me, an editor and a customer at Astoria Bookshop, turning the pages?
For any category of nonfiction, I’m looking for new ideas or writers who have something new to say on a subject. A good nonfiction proposal should quickly answer the question: so what?
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
This also starts with the query letter: if it’s confusing, rambling, incomprehensible, it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the manuscript.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
As the son of two Polish immigrants, the brother of another, anything around the multi-varied subject of immigration and the immigrant experience. I’m always looking for multigenerational stories. Modern interpretations of westerns, literary mysteries that play with the form of the genre. That’s perhaps a very broad answer, but purposefully so: I often don’t know what I'll love until it crosses my desk (inbox). Just try me!
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
Finding a new client is always a thrill—reaching out to someone who’s published some great short fiction or a fantastic longform piece of journalism or doing something exciting and important in the world or someone who submitted a great sample through our website. Those first conversations are always exciting, and then watching someone’s idea slowly turn into a physical book in the world is incredibly satisfying and gratifying.
The most challenging aspect? Rejection. I’m deeply invested in each and every book I take on, so even though I’m an agent with a thick skin, every pass stings.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
I love being thrown right into the sea, with perhaps the glimmer of a lifesaver floating on a cresting wave off in the distance. What I mean is that a writer trusts their reader enough to not hold their hand, to simply drop them into the world they’ve constructed, but with a clear confidence in their execution so that the reader feels that, if they could just keep reading, they’ll find the larger meaning that the writer is building towards.
I often see writers clearing their throats—writing out information about a character’s background or past or over-explaining their situation instead of trusting their reader to piece things together for themselves. Those passages can be a useful exercise for the writer to figure out their character’s motivations, but are usually unnecessary for the reader, and, worse, make the reader feel like the writer is leaning over their shoulder, guiding their eyes across the page with an index finger.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
Publishing continues to go through a reckoning following the events of 2020. The lack of diversity throughout publishing is a real problem, and it’s heartening to see some changes being made—new imprints formed, new hires found from previously untapped sources—but there’s a lot of work to be done yet.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I recently finished Bewilderment by Richard Powers and was floored. A troubled son trying to make sense of a world in cataclysm; a struggling father trying his best to keep things together; astrobiology, another field of science being defunded for political reasons; the concept of an “empathy machine” and the profound potential for change it could make in our increasingly unfeeling world—all of it hooked me, along with Powers’ choice to keep chapters quite short.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I couldn’t possibly single one out—they’re all exciting! Maybe that comes off as a cop-out, but I can’t help how I feel.