Betsy Lerner

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Betsy Lerner is the author of The Bridge Ladies (Harper Wave, 2016), Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories (Simon & Schuster, 2003), and The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers (Riverhead, 2000). She received an MFA from Columbia University in poetry and was the recipient of a Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. She also received the Tony Godwin Publishing Prize for Editors Under 35. After working as an editor for fifteen years, she became an agent and is currently a partner with Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency. Her website is

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Join us on Twitter on Wednesday, June 29, at 12PM EST for a live chat with Betsy! She'll be taking your questions about all things literary agents -- how to find one, what they look for, how to pitch your book, maybe even how to start your own career as an agent -- anything you want to know! You can tweet your questions to @BetsyLerner, and be sure to use the hashtag #agentadvice. See you on Twitter! 

    The following is a



The following is a transcript of our live Twitter chat on #agentadvice with Betsy on June 29, 2016. Read along, and feel free to continue the conversation here or on Twitter!



Poets & Writers ‏@poetswritersinc  

Welcome to our live chat with literary agent & author @BetsyLerner! Ask her your questions about agents using the hashtag #agentadvice!


Jenine ‏@jenine_holmes 
#agentadvice @poetswritersinc @BetsyLerner Dear Ms. L, is it okay to pitch more than one agent at the same time a completed CNF manuscript?


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@jenine_holmes @poetswritersinc ABSOLUTELY. Many agent websites say that must see work exclusively so be sure to see guidelines.


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@jenine_holmes @poetswritersinc But i believe in a free market. Like getting more than one doctor opinion



Jessica Kashiwabara‏@JessKashiwabara
#agentadvice @poetswritersinc @BetsyLerner When is a writer ready to meet with an agent? What should they have prepared/published?


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@JessKashiwabara @poetswritersinc the work should be as polished as possible. workshopped, read, revised, edited. And credentials!


The Gloria Sirens‏@thegloriasirens

#agentadvice if you're lucky enough to have an agent, but you're not always sure it's the best fit for your book, what should you do?


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@thegloriasirens tough call. first an honest conversation with agent. see where that leads...sorry tough spot #agentadvice


Laura King Edwards‏@lkedwards11
#agentadvice @poetswritersinc @BetsyLerner How long should writers wait after querying w/o a response before assuming it's a "no?"


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@lkedwards11 @poetswritersinc again, check the agency website for guidelines. otherwise I'd venture 3-6 weeks. #agentadvice


VC Linde‏@vclinde
@poetswritersinc @BetsyLerner As a poet, I've never worked with an agent but should
I try now I've written a verse novel? #agentadvice


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@vclinde @poetswritersinc with a novel in verse I would go directly to small presses. presses who do poetry. #agentadvice


Diane Asyre‏@DianeAsyre
In addition to great writing, what do you think is the no. 2 attention-getter for agents? Other than celebrity. #agentadvice


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@DianeAsyre A topic that has universal appeal. For me, something I think can win a prize. Quality. #agentadvice


Laura King Edwards ‏@lkedwards11  

@DianeAsyre My 2 cents: For NF/memoir, a great platform. For fiction, work that's on trend yet fresh. #agentadvice


Beth Kissileff‏@bethkissileff
#agentadvice @BetsyLerner I have a first novel coming out with a small press. How might this affect search for agent for second novel?


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@bethkissileff #agentadvice I think that's fine, but work your ass off getting reviews, etc. Doing events, social medial. Work it.


Beth Kissileff ‏@bethkissileff  

@BetsyLerner No pressure in other words! I thought small press and small sales better than high advance unrealistic expectations......


Kristine Crane‏@CraneKristine
#agentadvice @BetsyLerner what types of memoir/short essay collections do you look for? where are good places for beginning poets to submit?


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@CraneKristine #agentadvice Poets & Writers best place to find places to submit work. Really.


Sarah K. Carey ‏@SayCarey1  

@BetsyLerner @poetswritersinc @CraneKristine my former prof, David Kirby's best advice 2 me as a student 38 yrs ago: Read P & W classifieds.


Poets & Writers ‏@poetswritersinc  

.@BetsyLerner @CraneKristine We didn't tell her to say that, promise! Contests, Lit Mag & Small Press databases: 


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@CraneKristine #agentadvice This sounds obnoxious, but I don't really look for anything, I just know it when I see it. "IT" is a fresh...


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@CraneKristine #agentadvice It is a new way of looking at something, humor, literary quality, something that wakes me up.


The Gloria Sirens ‏@thegloriasirens  

#agentadvice We love your starter questions on your blog. Will you answer them?


Poets & Writers ‏@poetswritersinc  

#agentadvice @thegloriasirens we like them too. Who is the sexiest publisher in NYC, @BetsyLerner?


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

@poetswritersinc @thegloriasirens #agentadvice Sonny Mehta. Is, was, and always will be.



Melissa Petro ‏@melissapetro  

Psst~ check out #agentadvice for straight talk about #publishing from @BetsyLerner c/o @poetswritersinc! #amwriting #GetPublished #AgentsDay


Laura King Edwards ‏@lkedwards11  

@BetsyLerner Thanks for taking questions today! #agentadvice #amwriting


Poets & Writers ‏@poetswritersinc  
Thanks to everyone who joined our #agentadvice chat today with @BetsyLerner!


Poets & Writers ‏@poetswritersinc  

You can read @BetsyLerner's article from the new issue about being an agent, editor, & author here:  #agentadvice


Poets & Writers ‏@poetswritersinc  

And be sure to check out her new memoir, The Bridge Ladies: … Thanks again, @BetsyLerner, for all your #agentadvice!


Betsy Lerner ‏@BetsyLerner  

#agentadvice Thanks to P&W and everyone. xoxo