Book Broker – an interview with Paul Lucas

Interview with literary agent Paul Lucas

Agent: Paul Lucas


Preferred genres:  science fiction, fantasy, graphic novel/memoir, science, history, narrative, politics, finance 

An interview with book agent Paul Lucas

Bio: Paul studied Canadian Poetry at McGill University and, after working as a paralegal for several years, started representing authors at Janklow & Nesbit Associates in 2011. He represents science fiction & fantasy (genre and with literary/crossover appeal), select illustrated projects and a broad swath of non-fiction. Clients include Robert Baer, Bruce Gibney, Stuart Schrader, Sofia Warren, Katherine Arden, Edward Ashton, Sarah Kempa, Andrew Rowe, Anthony Ryan and R.A. Salvatore. He likes snow and has mixed feelings about long walks on beaches. Found online as @canonizer.

1) What stands out in a good submission? 

For non-fiction, a good submission addresses an urgent question in need of answering. The author should have expertise and credibility. A good novel captures the reader’s attention from the first sentence.

2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?  

Excluding basic problems (typos, grammar, lack of focus), if it is hard to visualize the audience for a book then the manuscript or idea probably isn’t fully formed.

3) How do you feel about personalization in query letters? Can you give an example of effective personalization? 

If we haven’t met in person/online, effective personalization includes spelling my name correctly and identifying clients of mine that the writer thinks would make good comps for their book. 

4) What are the three most overused opening scenes that you encounter in submissions? 

Waking from a dream, descriptions of a character as seen in a mirror and any water imagery.

5)  For writers without prior publications, what can they say in their "about me" query paragraph to catch your attention? 

As far as I’m aware, this is something that agents think about less than writers. We are not afraid of debut fiction projects. For non-fiction, there should be evidence of authority – in this case there probably does need to be either prior publication or platform. 

6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why? 

I would disentangle every major publishing acquisition/merger of the past 30 or so years. I think it would make things weirder in a good way for things to feel less homogenous. 

7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you? 

I’ll offer two: (i) Rebecca Makkai’s THE GREAT BELIEVERS set some of the most beautiful relationships in progress that I’ve ever come across and (ii) N.K. Jemisin’s THE CITY WE BECAME, which energized me by making the setting into a fully realized character; there’s also a gothic quality to it.

8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment? 

I’ve recently sold new books by Edward Ashton (THREE DAYS IN APRIL), Robert Baer (THE PERFECT KILL), Erin Williams (COMMUTE), Andrew Rowe (ARCANE ASCENSION) and Anthony Ryan (THE WAKING FIRE). I’d highly recommend all of their backlists!   

An interview with literary agent Paul Lucas

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