Book Broker – an interview with Ronald Gerber
Agent: Ronald Gerber, Lowenstein Associates
Preferred genres: Contemporary and historical fiction, literary fiction, romantic comedies, upmarket romance, psychological/domestic thrillers, horror, mysteries, grounded science fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, biography, true crime, and middle grade (contemporary, action/adventure, and mystery).
Bio: Ronald Gerber is a literary agent at Lowenstein Associates. Before joining the Lowenstein team in 2019, he spent several years in literary scouting and supported two agents at Writers House. Ronald’s clients have books forthcoming from Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s Press, and others. His focus is on cinematic stories with strong hooks and relatable characters, and he is always looking for projects from queer, BIPOC, and other underrepresented authors. He resides in Queens and is a proud graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock and Clark University. See Ronald’s manuscript wish list here, and follow him on Twitter @RGerberAgent.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A good query shows that the author has done their homework, both about the market for their book and about the agency they’re submitting to. Indicating that you read my agency website or MSWL is a big plus. The queries I’m most inclined to consider seriously are structured with the concept, genre, word count, and solid recent comps up front, followed by a couple of paragraphs of plot summary and an author bio at the end. Some people write very short bios because they’re not previously published—it never hurts to show a little of your personality!
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
A typical initial sign is the query missing basic information, or the author not having done their research on the market—no comps, an unclear grasp on the genre, and a very long or very short word count are all common in my inbox. Agents can also tell when the sample material hasn’t been beta read or proofread for errors. Authors should feel that their work is as polished as they can make it on their own before sending it off to agents.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
Diverse contemporary middle grade, narrative nonfiction, and both genre and upmarket fiction from BIPOC writers.
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
I love how hands-on it is! There’s nothing more satisfying than helping a client realize their dreams and being involved every step of the way. The most challenging thing is the same as the most challenging thing for most authors about pursuing professional writing—lots of rejection.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
Usually, a grounded narrative voice and good pacing are enough to immerse me in a story, but there are less tangible things that make me feel connected to a manuscript and want to keep reading. I think every agent knows the feeling when they read a full submission and can instantly imagine someone not in publishing picking it up in a bookstore and loving it—you can see it out in the world.
Things that take me out of the world of the book include stiff prose, tense or perspective mistakes, sudden tone shifts, and, in historical fiction, anachronisms.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
I would change the shift towards conglomeration, all the buyouts going on among the Big Five and mid-range publishers. It generally means that imprints close or downsize, agents have fewer places to submit their clients’ books, and the younger (and more diverse) generation of folks entering the workforce has fewer opportunities for jobs and promotions.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I’m constantly behind on pleasure reading, but I’m in the middle of V.E. Schwab’s THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE right now, and it’s wonderful! I love the twist on the classic Faustian bargain trope and the superb romantic writing.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
All of my clients are exciting, of course! But I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug my client Sonja Thomas's adorable middle grade novel, SIR FIG NEWTON & THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE, publishing from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in March 2022. It's an #OwnVoices debut about a 12-year-old's quest to help her parents out of their funk and raise enough money to treat her cat's diabetes. You can read more and pre-order here.