Agent Interview: Mark Gottlieb

Q: Describe what you're looking for in 25 characters or less.

A: Fiction and nonfiction.

Q: What other agents do you admire most?

A: I have a lot of respect and admiration for my colleagues at the Trident Media Group literary agency in New York City. They have helped lead the way in making Trident Media group book publishing's leading literary agency in both volume of deals and amount of money for deals, consecutively since 2004.

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

A: Among some of the authors I have read over the years pleasure are: Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Burns, Hunter S. Thompson, Edith Wharton, David Mitchell, Craig Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde, Daniel Clowes, Salman Rushdie, Chuck Klosterman, Chuck Palahniuk, Chang Rae-Lee, Mark Twain, the Brontë sisters, Haruki Murakami, Alan Moore, Osamu Tezuka, George R.R. Martin, Guy Delisle, Jonathan Ames, Jacques Lob, Neil Gaiman, Don DeLillo, Henry Miller, Mikhail Bulgakov, Harper Lee, Kiran Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, John Steinbeck, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Graham Greene, David Foster Wallace, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Henry James...

Q: What sets you apart from other agents who look at the same type of material?

A: I would say that the literary agent Mark Gottlieb brand of representation is connected to the fact that Trident Media Group's business goes to the bottom line of most every book publisher, enabling submissions from TMG to be read much quicker by publishers. We are also able to get preferable terms in our book deals and in our contracts with publishers that some other literary agencies, with a smaller volume of business with book publishers, might not be able to get for their clients. TMG's stature in the book publishing world helps in all other aspects of the book publishing process with book publishers.

Q: What is the best advice you can give someone who is considering submitting work to you?

A: My suggestion is very simple in that I would ask that writers who want to make a submission to me use our online submissions form listed on our website. They can select the name Mark Gottlieb among the Trident Media Group literary agents listed on that form.

Q: Describe the ideal query letter.

A: An ideal query letter is a 1-2 sentence hook/quick elevator pitch, followed by a couple of body paragraphs describing the book's plot details (akin to book cover copy), followed by a paragraph about the author that lists relevant writing experience/credentials/author sites or social media pages. It should all fit on one page and include the author's contact details.

Q: Describe the ideal manuscript.

A: A manuscript should have a strong and dynamic plot to help drive the narrative forward. I also look for manuscripts that contain character development and well written or elegant prose.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Oftentimes manuscripts come in far under or far above normal word count range. It is important to check on what the normal word count range is for each genre and reading age. Another common mistake I see is from writers that do not commit themselves to writing a full query letter, which makes for anemic information and difficulty in knowing whether or not to request a manuscript based on a query letter.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: A short bio paragraph is usually enough of a starting point. That paragraph should contain relevant writing experience, writing credentials, and a link to an author website or author social media pages. It is fair game to mention what the inspiration was behind writing their manuscript, or how they first became inspired to become a writer in the first place.

Q: How much of a manuscript do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: If the manuscript is good, it is my intention to read it to the end. In the case of a manuscript that does not live up to the promise of its query letter, I will know very quickly whether or not the manuscript is right for me. That can sometimes be within the first paragraph or page; in rarer instances within the first ten or fifty pages.

Q: Once you decide to represent someone's work, what is the process?

A: In offering literary representation to a writer, I will first reach out with a phone call to them to share my enthusiasm for their writing and to discuss what their hopes and dreams for the future might be. We discuss what the editorial needs of the manuscript might be if there are any. I also like to tell the prospective client a few things that make our literary agency unique and I tell them a bit more about myself, beyond what they might have ready on our website about Trident Media Group and me. We then memorialize our working relationship in email or via an agency agreement. After that point, I set to the task of constructing a pitch and a submission list of editors at various publishing houses where the manuscript can be submitted.

Q: What is a day in the life of an agent like for you?

A: You are asking what a day in the life of Trident Media Group literary agent Mark Gottlieb is like? The fun thing about being a literary agent in that there really is no average day! I try to make every day new, exciting and dynamic. Working with creative people also helps to keep things interesting and avoid stagnation. Of course there are some day-to-day things in the life of a literary agent, such as: reading query letters, reading/editing manuscripts, meetings/calls with writers, meetings/calls with publishers, pitching books to editors/TV & movie companies/foreign publishers/audio publishers, performing contract review and helping with accounting, etc.