An interview with agent Lindsay Edgecombe

\"\"Lindsay Edgecombe is an agent at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She represents journalists, debut novelists, crafty sorts, and cartoonists, among many others. She loves to uncover new talent and to work with her clients to develop great proposals from the spark of an idea. Her authors have contributed to NPR’s This American Life, written for the New York Times, and have been on Oprah and The Daily Show. She was interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

How did your time at Barnard College, Columbia University prepare you for your role at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency?
I loved Barnard and chose it because it was a place that has grown so many writers, from Zora Neale Hurston, to Mary Gordon, to Jhumpa Lahiri. I loved books before Barnard, but I was a much deeper reader by the time I left. The English Department was thrilling. There are some afternoons when I still long to sneak into lecture halls. The other thing that was incredibly helpful about Barnard was working as a writing fellow – helping other students talk through their papers. Great editorial training. It taught me to really believe in the process of turning a rough first draft into a great piece of writing. The work I do as an agent is very collaborative in that way.

Your client list is filled with socially conscious writers who tackle tough issues with fiction and nonfiction titles. Why are you drawn to this type of writing?
Hm, thanks for noticing that. I like tough, socially conscious, ambitious books. I think I like a challenge. But I also like and represent many other kinds of books – from stories that take me on some weird, internal, psychological journey, to illustrated books, to books that are just FUN and make me laugh. It’s wonderful, as an agent, to be able to work with such a range.

Can you describe your typical day?
Every day is different. Let’s see, I’m not a morning person, so every day starts with great coffee and the Times online. If the news is too terrible to wake up to, I highly recommend their travel slideshows. Once I get into the office, it’s a mix of pursuing writers I’ve come across and love, working with them to develop proposals (which I love doing), going out on submission, negotiating deals and contracts, and from there, working with editors and my authors on the editorial process, planning publicity, and everything else. Also dealing with any issues that come up, which they do, and working to get everyone on the same page. I’m also always meeting with editors – for lunch, drinks, etc, and thinking about what they’re looking for. Some of my favorite days, aside from the thrilling ones when I sell a book or something amazing happens, involve working at home and making the time to really devote to a proposal or think deeply about what to take on next.

Is there anything you are currently looking for?
Yes! I keep a running list of ideas. Any narrative nonfiction that’s almost too strange to be true. And great fiction.

What is one of the largest misconceptions out there about agents?
Tough question. Maybe that we’re all a little crazy? I’ve learned that I need to be an agent in my own way. Levine Greenberg is known for being tough negotiators, but also for being very collaborative and fair-minded.

How important is attending conferences when you are seeking representation?
Good question. I think that other agents may have different advice on this, but writers should know that I (and any agent) will read a fantastic and personal query letter. Email me; I may not be able to respond to everything, but if I’m interested, you’ll definitely hear from me. So I think conferences are most helpful not for meeting agents, but for learning how to craft a great pitch and for getting feedback about your project. Of course, many writers have found their agents at a conference as well. Another thing about conferences that can be helpful: get into a network of dedicated writers. Many of my authors say that that support has kept them going and made them better writers.

Do you have any advice for writers who pitch at conferences?
Publishing is a big game. (Your book is not a game.) Enjoy learning about it and don’t worry too much about critical feedback. Learn to take what’s useful, accept criticism gracefully, and then keep going.

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