Book Broker – an interview with Danielle Svetcov
Agent: Danielle Svetcov
Preferred genres: heavily reported non-fiction, including art history, science, technology, sports, biography, and personal essay. Also illustrated titles, humor, and quirky fiction.
Bio: Danielle Svetcov is the author of Parked, a “quirky” “big-hearted” middle-grade novel that “explores what happens when homelessness and helpfulness collide.” Before Parked, Danielle wrote for the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune Magazine. She joined the Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency in 2002. Her clients tend to be oppositional but reasoned, serious but amused—preferring their rabbit holes deep.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
Voice. Economy of words. Confidence (not overconfidence). An understanding of the market you’re writing for and who your competition is. And some savvy about how this bonkers industry works.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
The query letter reads, “You are the very first person to read this.”
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
Deeply reported journalism about science and culture and history.
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
I love working with the words and the humans who make them. I love the education I’m constantly getting from my authors. I love the thrill of the sale. I love geeking out with editors about a great book (all editors and agents are geeks, no matter how they portray themselves). And I’m absolutely tortured by the difficulties of getting attention and sales when a book finally publishes.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
Authority mixed with a slightly off-kilter, sharp detail is usually what wins me over. What usually scares me off: a character waking up in the very first line of a book.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
I wish it didn’t have to recreate the cat-mouse publicity-media chase with every single book; I wish there were a way for books to get more attention, all the time, without constantly fighting for it.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
Simon the Fiddler. Paulette Giles is just magic. In a past life, she must’ve been the indentured servant to a carpetbagger.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I have to pick one?
There’s a humor/gift book called A Big Stink, by Edward H. Kafka-Gelbrecht and Sophia Vincent Guy that wholly satisfies my inner ham and was written for New Yorker readers with gas… which is all of us, of course.
There’s the bestselling Breath, by James Nestor.
And, forthcoming in March 2022, Vagina Obscura, an anatomical voyage through women’s reproductive systems like you’ve never read before; the author, science journalist Rachel Gross, is Ms. Frizzle crossed with Dr. Ruth.