Book Broker: an interview with Lisa Grubka
Agent: Lisa Grubka
Agency website: fletcherandco.com
Bio: Lisa Grubka joined Fletcher and Co. in 2012. She represents a broad variety of authors, including a National Book Award winner and many New York Times bestsellers. Her clients’ books have been successfully adapted for television and translated into more than twenty languages. Lisa began her career at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and the William Morris Agency, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Preferred genres: In fiction, she is seeking literary, upmarket, and literary suspense novels as well as short story collections. She appreciates a strong sense of place, unique and diverse voices, and is often drawn to novels that explore complex relationships or family dynamics. In non-fiction, she is looking for narrative, science, journalism, and conversation-changing perspectives on current events.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
I’ll focus on the query here. First, clarity – a clear description of the book, including genre and comparison titles (if applicable), and information about the author. Make sure it’s a genre the agent represents, of course. For non-fiction, make a strong, concise case why you’re the best person to write about the topic. In addition, if there’s something about my clients’ work that makes you believe you’d be a good fit for my list, let me know! All that said, three paragraphs should usually be enough to get across the key information in a query.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
Typos, lazy dialogue, telling instead of showing.
3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Be absolutely certain the work is ready before you submit. Most people query before they’re truly ready. Before you hit “send” on the query, ask yourself how you’d feel if the agent immediately requested the full. Would you feel confident? Or panicked? Workshop the manuscript with a couple trusted readers if you can (it doesn’t have to be a formal workshop), and if you can’t, put it in a drawer for three months and give it a last read/edit before sending it out. I’d also advise submitting to agents in small batches – this way, if you receive any valuable feedback on your query or the work itself, you’ll have a chance to apply it going forward.
4) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
Strong writing and a unique narrative voice pull me in. Weak dialogue can break the flow for me.
5) Approximately how many query letters do you receive per year? Of those, how many will you respond to with a request for a full manuscript? And of those, how many are likely to receive an offer of representation?
I actually try not to think too precisely about the exact number of queries; it gets overwhelming. I do read them all, though.
6) What is your strategy for a client whose manuscript isn't selling?
First, compassion. It’s a blow when the expected and desired outcome doesn’t happen. I pretty quickly turn back to action, though. If editor feedback has been consistent, I’ll advise revisions, and then I’ll submit more widely.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
Can I cheat and do one fiction and one non-fiction? In the midst of year-end holiday craziness, after many friends recommended it to me, I read Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. It felt like the perfect balm for stressful times, just to immerse myself in the stories of the two families at the heart of the novel. The non-fiction book I couldn’t stop talking about in 2019 was The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. It is an urgent and terrifying analysis of climate change, yet it’s not entirely without hope.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Naturally I think ALL my authors are exciting! It’s been very fun to see Kathleen Barber’s book adapted for television, as Apple TV+’s show “Truth Be Told” (based on her debut novel Are You Sleeping). Barber’s second novel, Follow Me, comes out on February 25th, and is a very smart cautionary tale of oversharing in the age of social media.