Book Broker – an interview with Rachel Beck
Agent: Rachel Beck
Preferred genres: Women’s fiction, romance, domestic suspense/thriller, young adult, select nonfiction.
Bio: Rachel Beck joined Liza Dawson Associates in 2020 after working at a boutique literary agency for four years. She has been in the publishing industry since 2009 and worked at Harlequin editing romance novels for nearly six years before transitioning her skills to the agent world in order to be an advocate and champion for authors. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, two young sons, and endlessly entertaining cat.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A firm grasp on writing and on hooking a reader into a story with creative/unique setup and wordplay while also still feeling grounded, accessible, and interesting.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
Lots of typos, poor handle on sentence structure, no clear sense of plot, unlikeable characters that are hard to root for or sympathize with.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
A really strong family saga, either contemporary or historical—something like Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland or The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, where the characters—and what drives them, given their circumstances—really shine.
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
My favorite thing is the relationships I form with my wonderful authors—and getting to read amazing books before anyone else! The most challenging thing is how it’s becoming more and more of a struggle to get favorable terms from publishers for authors to make a real living.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
What draws me in first and foremost is the voice. I’ll follow a very lively, bold, and saucy voice anywhere. Common snags are poor writing (or weak dialogue) and typos—those things will quickly take me out of the story.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
That it would be less of a one-percent industry, meaning publishers would allocate more resources to midlist and debut authors instead of spending the majority of their marketing and publicity dollars on the top few that bring in the most money for them. That way newer authors, or authors who write books with quieter premises perhaps, would have more of a fair shot to keep writing and publishing rather than getting dropped by their publisher for poor sales.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I couldn’t stop thinking about The Dilemma by B.A. Paris after I read it. It hooked me right away by the stark premise and the complex family dynamics at play. The characters all made choices that they couldn’t undo, and they had to live with the incredibly messy consequences. Absorbing the fallout, and analyzing the grayness in the situation rather than seeing black and white, was fascinating and heartbreaking for me. I’ve been telling everyone about this book.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Yes! Sara Goodman Confino’s book, For the Love of Friends, is out August 1 with Lake Union Publishing. It’s an incredibly fun, sassy ride about your average millennial woman trying to survive a summer of being a bridesmaid in FIVE weddings—and all the bridezillas and spanx that go along with it. It’s a fun beach read that will make you laugh out loud, but also contains lots of heart and important reflections on loyalty and friendship.