Book Broker – An interview with Dana Newman
Agent: Dana Newman
Practical and narrative nonfiction books in the areas of memoir, biography, business, technology, science, history, current affairs, travel, popular culture, sports, lifestyle, wellness, and mind/body/spirit; a selective amount of literary fiction and women's upmarket fiction.
Dana Newman is an independent literary agent based in Los Angeles. She's also an attorney, advising content creators, authors, and businesses on publishing law, contracts, and intellectual property. Dana is a member of the California State Bar and the Association of Authors’ Representatives, and holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco. Before founding her literary agency, she worked as in-house counsel in the entertainment industry. She’s always on the lookout for compelling voices, ideas, and stories, and is a passionate believer in the power of books to connect and transform us.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A concise, professional query letter that clearly identifies the project, hooks me in, tells me briefly about the writer, especially their platform (for nonfiction), and notes that the appropriate additional materials are available upon request.
2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?
A description of a project in a genre or category that I don’t represent.
3) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
When it’s an early draft, and apparent that it hasn’t been edited both for content and grammar/typos. An excessive word count, a long prologue, or an opening that starts with a cliché such as a dream.
4) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Revise! Then, do your homework. There are a lot of resources available to writers to help them learn how the publishing business works; target the right agents, craft an effective query letter, and be prepared with a polished book proposal (for non-fiction), or a complete and edited manuscript (for fiction). Be persistent yet polite, and don’t get discouraged by rejection – it’s an inherent part of the process, not just for writers but for agents and editors as well.
5) Are there any recent changes or trends in the publishing industry that you think authors should know about?
For the best chance of getting a traditional publishing contract, authors need to come to the table with an established platform and plan to help market and promote their book. The majority of books are now discovered and purchased online; it’s critical that an author have a presence on social media, a website or blog. Formats and distribution methods have evolved, but the core basics remain the same: a compelling story or message, or a voice that entertains, informs, inspires, or moves the reader.
6) You've just decided to represent an author and the contract is signed. What steps do you take to prep the manuscript for submission to publishers?
If it’s a non-fiction project, I’ll work with the writer to polish the proposal and ensure the sample chapters represent their best writing. For fiction, I usually won’t take it on until the writer has already been through several revisions, ideally working with a professional editor, writing critique group, and/or beta readers. I’ll do a light developmental edit, looking at overall content, structure and style, and then a line edit, to clean up inconsistencies and proofread.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It’s my favorite kind of non-fiction: an emotionally truthful, gripping, relatable personal narrative that’s impeccably woven together with a bigger-issue aspect of society or the greater human experience. Plus, I know Lori (we went to high school together), and I remember hearing about the evolution of this book a few years ago, so it was fun to be able to read the finished product and see it be so well-received.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I’m excited about journalist Christina Adams’ book CAMEL CRAZY that’s coming out in October 2019 from New World Library. It’s a fascinating story about her discovery of the health benefits of camel milk for her autistic son, as well as for many other conditions, and her immersion in the mysterious world of camels and the people who care for them around the world. It blends memoir, travel and animal narratives, and health.
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