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SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Rachel Beck from the Liza Dawson Associates

Good morning, everyone!

Today I’m excited to share an exciting interview with Rachel Beck!

Rachel Beck is a literary agent at the US based Liza Dawson Associates. She has been in the publishing industry since 2009 and worked at Harlequin editing romance novels for nearly 6 years before transitioning her skills to the agent world in order to be an advocate and champion for authors.

Rachel believes that the right book can change or heal a life, and she wants to find those. But she’s also interested in lighter fiction that helps you escape or simply makes you laugh after a tough day. Or nonfiction that teaches you something about an obscure topic, thus opening up a new world.

Rachel does Agent One-to-One sessions at Jericho Writers and has sessions in May. If you think Rachel would be interested in your work, or you’d love to get an agent’s feedback on your submission pack, then be sure to book in for your one-to-one here.


Check out some highlights from our interview with Rachel below.

 



image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=702&dpx=1&t=1650917293Rachel Beck

“It’s about being partners in the whole process, having strong collaboration, communication, and trust.”

 

Good afternoon Rachel, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! We would love to know more about how you became an agent, what you’re looking for in submissions, and more about your role as an agent.

 

Q. What brought you to agenting? 

I started my career in publishing on the agenting side as an intern for two literary agencies in New York City in 2009, and then I got hired as an editor for Harlequin Books. I edited books for almost six years, but I found that I wanted to work on a broader variety of books. When you're an editor and you work for a publisher, you're kind of restricted to what they publish in terms of what you can work on. So I was drawn to agenting because of the flexibility with being able to take on anything you’re interested in; fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, adult books. I really liked the variety and options available as an agent. 

 

Q. What is your favourite thing about being an agent? 

I would say that's pretty easy to answer. For me it's my relationships with my authors and just feeling like their biggest champion and supporter and advocate. I sign them up as a client because I fall in love with their words, and then I build a relationship with them to try and get their books published and into the hands of readers. It's just so rewarding and fulfilling, and I have so many authors that I consider dear friends. 

 

Q. What is at the top of your fiction wish list? What are you really looking for at the moment? 

I'm definitely on the hunt for a really strong upmarket book club fiction, something that would be likely to be picked for Reese's Book Club or GMA Book Club. Something with really interesting depths and themes that touch on what we’re facing in the world today, or on a lighter note, a feel-good romantic comedy with heart. Something that speaks to readers and something they can escape into for a few hours to block out the noise of the world. 

 

Q. What are you looking for in non-fiction? 

I’ve always found, with non-fiction, that the project finds me rather than that I put out what I’m looking for. I’ve signed books I never thought I’d work on, like some really interesting business books.  

I would say that I’ve been on the hunt for a book on athletes, sports, marathon runners and triathletes, or extreme sports. Not necessarily memoir but something that looks into the psychology behind the athletic drive. 

 

Q. Are there any genres of themes that you don’t work with? 

I don't really do sci-fi, horror, epic or high fantasy (although I will accept light fantasy in young adult), poetry, or short stories. The youngest I’ll work with is YA, so no children’s books, picture books, or MG. In terms of themes I’m pretty open, just nothing too violent. 

 

Q. What is an average day like for you as an agent? 

A lot of it is emailing with authors and brainstorming with them, talking about their next project. If there’s a book in progress I will be emailing the editor, publisher, the publicity team, or the marketing folks. Dealing with miscellaneous things that come up in the life cycle of both production and editing. I do a full edit on every client manuscript that I send out to editors. Then there’s putting together a pitch letter for when I submit to editors and putting together editor lists for a particular project. I spend time scanning databases of publishers and editors and seeing who’s published books recently that are similar to this project that might be interested in taking a look at my client’s manuscript. I spend a lot of time reading through the submissions inbox and through all my partial requests and full requests. Updating records, keeping notes on current projects. I have meetings with editors and internal agency meetings where we check in every other week. I spend a lot of time as a middleman, communicating with authors, publishers, publicity and sales teams, fielding requests and dealing with any issues. It’s never the same from one day to the next which is really nice because I get that variety.  

 

Q. What would you say makes for a successful author-agent relationship? How can both parties get the most out of that relationship? 

Communication is key. I really like authors to be over communicative rather than under communicative; I want them to feel comfortable emailing me or calling me or reaching out at any time with any questions. Trust is important too. I trust them to work hard and write a really strong book, they trust me to have their book’s best interest at heart and their best interests as an author and that I know the market and have the expertise. It’s about being partners in the whole process, having strong collaboration, communication, and trust.  

 

Q. Are you able to tell us about any recent deals?  

Today (22/3/22) is actually release day for one of my favourite nonfiction projects I've taken on. The author is Britt Frank and she is a therapist who has written a book called The Science of Stuck. It looks into why we can’t move forward with certain aspects of our life that we feel we should be able to, like losing weight, career changes, getting things in order. The book focuses on really ground-breaking research and how people are not lazy or unmotivated, and she really gets into trauma, and healing. I think it’s a really important book for these times when we’ve been in a pandemic for two years and people are feeling stuck. 

 

Q. What are some of your favourite authors and books? 

One of my favourite authors that I go back to all the time is Emily Giffin. She writes women’s fiction and always has a really interesting premise and explores and asks a lot of questions and has really interesting characters. 

I also really like Jennifer Weiner, and Diane Chamberlain. They are in the same genre of women's fiction, focusing on women figuring out life and dealing with issues that we all face. They’re very relatable. And then on a lighter note, I really like Kristan Higgins. I laugh out loud every time I read any of her books, she's just so funny and she can make you go from laughing to crying in a second, there's just so much heart in her books.  

I also love domestic suspense. I love B.A. Paris, Kimberly Belle, Heather Gudenkauf, Mary Kubica, Chevy Stevens. I'll pretty much read any domestic suspense author. 

 

Q. Do you have any final words of advice for authors who are in the querying process? 

My first piece of advice is definitely to keep at it and keep persisting, because you can get so many rejections before you get a yes and it’s important to know that you shouldn’t take it personally. You just have to keep going and keep at it, you only need one yes. And if you’re seeing the same sort of feedback over and over in your rejections you might want to take a look and apply that advice. Maybe take a writing course or pick up some books on writing. It’s hard to teach how to write but there are definitely resources and takeaways that you can use to improve your writing.  

My second piece of advice is to read, read, read. Read the authors that you want to be like, authors that are in the same genre that you see yourself in and apply what they do. Take what makes their books so good to you and apply that to your own. 

 


The full interview can be found on Rachel’s AgentMatch profile.




In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!

 

 

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