Good morning, LitStackers! We’re continuing our 10th-anniversary celebration with the relaunch of our popular LitChat segment. Today, we sit down with Meredith Bernstein with Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency.
Meredith has been a literary agent for over 30 years. Prior to becoming a literary agent, she worked as a story editor for film producers on both the East and West Coasts, as well as a freelance reader.
In addition to being a literary agent, Meredith Bernstein has packaged two romance lines and co-authored SEXUAL CHEMISTRY with Julius Fast (M. Evans/Pocket).
Thanks for chatting with us, Meredith!
LS: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in terms of publishing business models and practices during your career?
Among the biggest changes is the merging of houses and the proliferation of agents. This means selling a book is harder than ever. On top of that, an author must now have some way to stand out in the marketplace: be it platform, social media, or any means to bring eyeballs to their book.
LS: As someone whose career is focused on great fiction, are you ever able to read for pleasure without critiquing?
I LOVE to read for pleasure and do it all the time. I cannot help but noticing all the things I’ve trained myself to see in my career. However, as I’m not “agenting” said book, I’m very forgiving!
LS: Business models are changing with the popularity of independent publishing and the ease of distribution. Do you think this is something that will significantly change the future of publishing?
It has already changed the landscape and will continue to do so.
LS: What in your childhood informed your love of books? Did that love influence your decision to get into publishing?
I wrote a full-length novel when I was 13 and my homeroom teacher had me stay after school to help me with it. After I read The Diary of Anne Frank I decided I wanted to be a writer. I majored in English..but never thought about publishing as a career. I wanted to work in advertising or some “glamorous” field like that. I wound up as an agent somewhat accidentally- but very gratefully as it suits me and I love it!
LS: What advice do you have for emerging writers who would love to join the Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency family?
Do your homework! Only present me with your most polished version of whatever I’ve requested. Make your “platform” clear and provide me with any ammunition that will help me sell your project.
LS: What do you look for in a book as a reader that makes you take a second glance? Is this the same for all the genres you represent?
In fiction, I’m looking to be captivated by the voice, the pacing of the story, the development of the plot, and particularly the characters! Make it something I won’t want to put down.
In non-fiction, I’m looking to see if the person writing about their subject is bringing something fresh, enlightening or unique to that subject. What edge does it have that makes it saleable??
How strong is the platform and what are the social media connections?
LS: What upcoming project are you most excited about?
I am always most excited about what I’m trying to sell next..at this moment in time it is a historical trilogy.
LS: What are you not seeing enough of in terms of genres and what would you love to see in your Inbox?
I’d like to see a lot more diverse non-fiction in general. In terms of fiction-BIG women’s fiction: psychological suspense, family sagas, historical fiction, unique love stories, and anything I can’t put down!
LS: What are you reading right now?
I just finished Klara and the Sun and am reading What Could be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
LS: Finish this sentence:
My dream manuscript would be a lot like A Gentleman from Moscow or Deacon King Kong.