Editor's Note

Partners in Publishing

During the early stages of
production on this issue—six days after the photo shoot that resulted in the image of the agents
on the cover, to be exact—I attended a media lunch that Farrar, Straus
and Giroux organized for Amy Waldman and her debut novel, The Submission, forthcoming in August. I remember the timing because Bill Clegg, one
of the aforementioned agents, who also represents Waldman, told me about the
event during the shoot. Lo and behold, an invitation from FSG showed up the next day. I don’t go to a lot of
these events—I’m aware that for every lead title that benefits from the
extra publicity push there are many others quietly making their way onto store
shelves and not as easily onto a reader’s radar—but sometimes I just
can’t resist. For instance, I attended one in 2006 for Norman Mailer’s last
novel, The Castle in the Forest. It was held at a steak house just off Times
Square and included a complimentary scotch tasting. (I met the legendary author
but I can’t recall much of what he said.)

The lunch for Waldman was
a slightly more refined affair. What struck me about it was the genuine
excitement and enthusiasm that filled the room. About twenty editors and other
members of the media listened as first the book’s editor, Courtney Hodell, then the author spoke about how The Submission came to be and what they were hoping readers would take away from it.
Then the author—and her agent—moved from one table to the next to
field questions. It was pretty impressive. Here was the American book-publishing
apparatus in action, and it was working.

My point is this: An
author shouldn’t have to go it alone. Not everyone needs a fancy lunch, but
publishing a book is a big deal and an author needs someone in her corner. In
this issue we highlight a group of professionals whose sole purpose is to make
sure their authors aren’t alone. As our special section (55) illustrates,
agents are in demand not because they can turn a mediocre manuscript into a best-seller (though some can) but because they have the
ability to get all the right people excited about what you’ve written.

And writers who neither
have nor want an agent can find support in the enthusiasm of countless authors,
editors, and other literary professionals represented in these pages whose
commitment to the written word offers cool inspiration during these long, hot
days. Here’s to an exciting and productive summer.