Agent Advice: Danielle Svetcov of Levine Greenberg Rostan

Danielle Svetcov
From the May/June 2015 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

To submit a question for the next featured agent, e-mail or write to Editor, Poets & Writers Magazine, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10004. Questions accepted for publication may be edited for clarity and length.

Areas of interest: Fiction, journalism, science, adventure, sports, memoir, illustrated, food, humor

Representative clients: Taffy Brodesser-Akner; Jodi Angel; Kasper Hauser; James Nestor; Eben Weiss, aka Bike Snob; State Bird Provisions

Looking for: Chatty query that conveys your abilities as a writer and tells me who you are and why you have written what you’ve written, plus proposal and/or small sample from the book

Preferred contact: E-mail

Agency contact:
Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency
307 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2407
New York, NY 10001
(212) 337-0934

How strongly do you believe in paying to have a manuscript edited? 
Richard from Wichita, Kansas

One way or another, you need to have your manuscript edited before you send it to an agent. That edit may come from your writing group (free) or from a talented writing friend who owes you a big fat favor (free), or it may come from an experienced editor, ideally one who’s worked as a professional book editor for a long time (not free). The thing about the last option is: You usually get what you pay for. A paid editor will think about grammar, syntax, main and secondary characters, theme, plot, chapter length, order of events, etcetera, and will hopefully point out some of your unfortunate tics. It’s a rare writing group or friend-bound-by-favor that hits all those…on every page. There’s no shame in hiring an editor either. The best of the best pay editors to improve their work. (Yes, you read that correctly: Famous authors with advances from big houses pay freelance editors to clean up their work…and then they send their work off to their assigned editors at the publishing houses.) It doesn’t make a person less of an author; it doesn’t reduce your ownership of the text. If you have a burning desire to get your book published by a big press, and you have the money to pay an editor, spend it. It’s worth noting that once you land an agent, he or she will likely edit your book too (free, but often bloody).

Are queries sent via snail mail viewed any differently than those sent via e-mail? 
Marcia from Uniondale, New York

When I began working as an agent’s assistant in 2002, my boss was still receiving queries by snail mail. They stacked up on her side desk, looking wretched and appropriately yellow. It was obvious that the envelopes and queries in them had been mailed numerous times before arriving at our door. Bent and worn SASEs. Wite-Out over addresses. Were we the second recipients? The thirty-third? Many of the queriers used typewriters to prepare their letters and address their envelopes. Some handwrote their queries. The Internet hadn’t been around all that long, but already it was clear that madness resided in the snail-mailed queries, and sanity was reserved for the e-mailed variety. Do I believe in snail mail? Yes, I do. For postcards, love letters, notes from camp, condolences, thank-yous, and estimated taxes. But when it comes to queries, send them by e-mail. It’s a modern convenience that has eliminated the indignities of the SASE (which no honest human can claim to miss). And when we agents love something sent via e-mail, we can reply immediately; we can transmit our unbridled joy and surprise with the speed of our unromantic cable connections.

Can I send a query for my book to more than one agent? 
Russell from Coral Springs, Florida

You bet. And if, later, you find out that multiple agents are reading and loving your book, e-mail all of them (separately) and say something like, “Most exciting news to share! You are not the only agent enjoying my manuscript. Let’s set up a call as soon as you’ve finished reading, as I’m in the most unexpected, thrilling position: I get to choose my agent.” Avoid maniacal glee. You get the idea.