Book Broker – an interview with Lindsay Edgecombe
Agent: Lindsay Edgecombe
Preferred genres: I represent a wide variety of non-fiction, including narrative, memoir, health, science, and lifestyle, plus a small list of literary fiction.
Bio: Lindsay represents a wide range of titles, including narrative nonfiction, memoir, lifestyle and health, illustrated books, and literary fiction. She is drawn to projects with strong narrators, obscure journeys, and political backbones, but she is an eclectic reader and will take on any project that she’s passionate about.
Lindsay represents journalists, scientists, internationally best-selling novelists as well as debut novelists, New Yorker cartoonists, bloggers, and Instagram stars, among many others. She loves to uncover new talent and to work with her clients to develop great proposals from the spark of an idea.
Lindsay graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University where she edited The Columbia Review.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A good submission is very exciting because it introduces me to a big idea, teaches me something, has a clarity of voice, and is by an author who is an expert on the subject and may be one of the very few people who could write this particular book. That is probably most true for nonfiction; for fiction, it’s about falling in love with a voice on the page.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
I truly believe in Anne Lamott’s sh*tty first draft idea, and I have seen brilliant books come from that early stage. But if you haven’t been able to answer the “so what?” question at a certain point, you may not be ready. I should also say that sometimes great books take months or years to develop, and I’ve been in conversation with some authors for a long time as we have worked toward what their book needs to be.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
What a great question. I have long kept an avid list, but as a new parent, I’m working more selectively now, so I’ll just say that I welcome being surprised by a great query.
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
These are two sides of the same coin! I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do this work, and it is a privilege to work with authors to develop and sell and find an audience for their life’s work. To have a publisher’s enthusiasm, to have a book hit in a big way—these moments are so fulfilling. And then there is also heartbreak, as so many wonderful books go undiscovered. The consolidation of publishers and the landscape of bookselling are daunting, but I take heart that nobody knows what the next big book will be, and that every book has a chance to reach a wide following. Nobody, not even the publishing experts, know which book has the golden ticket. And you can’t necessarily buy or engineer it.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
For fiction, I think it’s about voice and the element of surprise.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
There is so much for us to change about the publishing industry, which at its worst, teaches us to think in categories, with rules rewritten every time a new type of book becomes a bestseller, opening the door that was closed to others like it. Publishing must become more diverse, both in terms of what we publish, but also in terms of those of us working in the industry. We need more BIPOC voices. We also need a healthy, competitive ecosystem of publishers and booksellers.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I had fraternal twins last year, and the first book I read as a new mother was Curtis Sittenfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say It. I read it in tiny snatches and the words glowed from the page—I was utterly consumed by it.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
It is so hard to pick just one, of course. Working with Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are, and her sister Amelia Nagoski, who co-authored Burnout, has been such a joy. They write great books that have largely sold by word of mouth steadily over the years, and it has been so gratifying to see their readership grow and grow.