Book Broker—an interview with Eric Myers
Agent: Eric Myers
Preferred genres: Non-fiction—history, science, pop culture, health, personal finance, business, mind/body/spirit, memoir (but only if the author already has a strong pre-existing platform).
Bio: Eric Myers founded Myers Literary Management, LLC in 2017, following two years with Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret, LLC and thirteen with the Spieler Agency. A graduate of UCLA and the Sorbonne, Eric entered publishing as a journalist and author. Books he has written include Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood, Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood, and Uncle Mame: The Life of Patrick Dennis, all published by St. Martin’s Press. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Arts and Leisure sections, Time Out New York, Opera News, Art and Auction, Variety, and Quest.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A well-written query letter, ideally not over two single-spaced pages, that gives background not only on the book premise but on YOU, the author, and what you can bring to the table to help market the book.
2) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
A book on personal or psychological health that is groundbreaking enough to make a stir, preferably by a medical professional with an established reputation.
3) You used to represent fiction authors but are now focusing on nonfiction. What led you to make that change?
I love fiction, but I feel that at this stage of the game, I am more interested in nonfiction projects. Fiction means a huge commitment of time and energy, and often many drafts and edits. All of that time, for the agent, is on spec, and no matter how much the agent may believe in the fiction work he is representing, that is just not a guarantee that it will find a home with a publisher.
4) What is the biggest difference between querying fiction and nonfiction? And from the agent's perspective, what's the biggest difference between promoting the two?
Nonfiction these days demands a strong author platform. You may be an expert in your field, but if you do not already have a large following on social media and if you don’t make frequent public-speaking appearances, chances are that publishers are not going to want to acquire your project. That is why, if you are writing nonfiction, you should only query an agent if you have the platform to back your book idea up. The platform is far less important for fiction, though if you are a fiction writer, knowing how to promote yourself is always considered a plus!
5) In a query letter, the author's bio paragraph is said to be more important in a nonfiction pitch than for a novel. What are some things you'd like to know about an author who is submitting a nonfiction proposal for your consideration?
As stated above—it’s all about platform, platform, platform. I wish this were not so, but publishers do not want to have to be in the position of introducing you to the world. They don’t have the time or resources for that, which is why they expect YOU, the author, to handle the bulk of that job. They don’t want to be in the position of having to launch you; they want you to come to them pre-launched.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
We live in a Neilsen Bookscan world. If you have already had a book published, and a publisher is considering acquiring your next book, the first thing they are going to do is check Bookscan to see how your last book did. If they don’t like the numbers they see, they will usually turn you right down. There was a time when publishers allowed more leeway in this regard, but that time is long gone. This is why it’s essential that authors keep promoting their books, and getting as many sales as possible. I wish it were otherwise.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and what about it kept you turning pages?
For nonfiction, I’d say anything by Mary Roach. She deep-dives into subjects many of us don’t even pause to think about much—the alimentary canal, corpses, the conflict between humans and rampaging animals—and interprets them in a fascinating way. For fiction, I really enjoyed Paul Rudnick’s PLAYING THE PALACE. There used to be an entire market for humorous novels that went out of fashion around the 70s. Rudnick is one of the few authors who keeps that delightful tradition alive. On the rougher side, Carl Hiaasen has established his own genre of South Florida-based comic crime thrillers which are great nasty fun. Why is fiction now required to always be heavy and serious? Have sitcoms and stand-up comics completely cornered the market on all our available laughs?
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Jake S. Friedman has written a terrific new book for Chicago Review Press that was published last month and is now in its second printing. Entitled THE DISNEY REVOLT, it centers on a little-known episode of Hollywood history: During the late 1930s, the Disney animators rose up, formed a union, and made demands the otherwise kindly Walt Disney was unwilling to accommodate. It turned into a nasty battle that changed the course of Hollywood history—and its working conditions.