Book Broker – an interview with Lauren Scovel
Agent: Lauren Scovel
Preferred genres: Literary fiction, upmarket fiction, narrative nonfiction.
Bio: Lauren Scovel grew up outside of Seattle and graduated from Emerson College with a degree in writing, literature, and publishing as well as theatre studies. She began her publishing career as an editorial intern at Aevitas Creative Management (formerly Zachary Shuster Harmsworth). Lauren's editorial work can be seen at the Millions and Pangyrus. She also worked as an indie bookseller for several years.
Lauren is looking to amplify underrepresented stories and voices, and is especially interested in both fiction and narrative nonfiction with a timely, distinctive story and a diverse cast of characters.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
I’m immediately engaged with queries that have a sense of both timeliness and originality. Stories that I either haven’t seen or would like to see more of in a traditional publishing space.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
If an author can’t summarize the premise/objective for a book, or insists that it gets better after a certain number of pages, I’d suggest they revise a bit more before querying agents.
3) How do you feel about personalization in query letters? Can you give an example of effective personalization?
I love a little personalization, without going overboard. Alluding to having read my bio or noting how my interests align with your project goes a long way. No need to do an internet deep-dive to get my attention!
4) How much importance do you give to comparable titles in a query letter? How do they help you assess whether a manuscript is a good fit for your list?
Comparable titles are a huge plus for me. They not only give me a preemptive sense of your work, but they also show that you have that clear vision for how your book fits into the marketplace, while also showing me that you are a reader yourself. Please don’t tell me that your book doesn’t have any comparable titles – of course your work is unique, but it will ultimately attract readers who have read similar books!
5) For writers without prior publications, what can they say in their "about me" query paragraph to catch your attention?
Anything interesting about you that would set you apart from other prospective authors, or anything that establishes your platform and potential readership.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
My absolute dream is to see livable advances given to debut authors. There has been a lot of reckoning within the industry as to how advances are calculated and distributed, which tend to prioritize established authors or authors with huge pre-existent followings. I would love to see the industry get less risk-adverse and distribute solid advances to new writers and all of their fresh, strange, and exciting new projects.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
Patricia Lockwood’s NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS absolutely floored me. It checks all my boxes: unfailingly original, immensely timely, and gorgeously written. I also can’t imagine any other author writing about internet culture with such an effective balance of understanding and critique.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Kasey Thornton’s novel-in-stories LORD THE ONE YOU LOVE IS SICK was released in November, and follows an interconnected cast of characters, all of whom confront large cultural issues such as drug addiction, mental illness, and abuse, within a small, conservative Southern town. I was initially connected to Kasey after reading one of her stories in The Masters Review, edited by Roxane Gay. That story, “Out of Our Suffering”, is an absolute showstopper, and I’m so proud that it is now the climactic story in her debut novel.
I’m also tremendously excited about Randall Horton’s memoir-in-essays, DEAD WEIGHT, which will be released as a lead title for Northwestern University Press’s Fall/Winter season. Randall is the only tenured professor in the United States with seven felony convictions, and his memoir traces his unlikely turnaround from a drug smuggler to a PhD, and how the “dead weight” of incarceration has stayed with him through it all.