An Interview With… Rachel Beck

rachelburkotThis week we’re chatting with literary agent, Rachel Beck. And we’re talking career change, submission wish lists and advice to writers.

What drew you to agenting?

The fact that you get to be an author’s advocate, guide their career and help their dreams of publication come true. That you get to work intimately with authors from book to book and help them shape it, then work with publishers to find the best home for their words.

What are you currently seeking?

I’m on the hunt for women’s fiction, particularly upmarket/book club fiction, i.e., Emily Giffin, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain; young adult (no fantasy or paranormal unless it’s very light); contemporary romance, i.e., Kristan Higgins, category romance with unique, memorable plots, i.e., Natalie Charles; southern fiction; “dark” women’s fiction/thrillers, i.e., Gillian Flynn or Mary Kubica; urban fiction or literary fiction.

I’m especially drawn to voice-driven fiction, particularly in young adult; quirky, three-dimensional, flawed characters, including and especially secondary characters; beautiful writing; books that explore good people in morally complicated situations; and complex, detailed plots.

What are you currently reading, any recent releases that have blown you way?

I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter series because it is brilliant and such a treat to revisit. The last book I read that blew me away was The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain. Her books are so insightful of human nature, compassionate and heartbreaking. The characters are flawed but ultimately, incredibly realistic. Their reactions become the readers’ reactions; their internal struggles the readers’ as well. She’s also able to switch gears so seamlessly between many different types of characters – men, women, teenagers, people who do the right thing and people who do terrible things. I missed the characters when I finished the book!

Any advice for authors who are submitting work to you?

Spell my name right. Be sure your genre is one that I represent; if it’s not, I’m not the best agent for you. Tell me about your book and your relevant writing experience. Keep your query succinct, but go into appropriate detail. Tell me how it’s different from everything else on the crowded market. Tell me how and why I’m going to fall in love with the characters. Name some authors or titles that this book is similar to.

What about a query makes you excited to read more? Makes you want to hit delete?

What makes me want to read more? If it’s well-written and in a genre that I represent, with a compelling plot that’s up my alley, and if the query draws me in from the first line. What makes me want to hit delete? Hmmm…if it’s obvious that it’s not something I represent right off the bat (paranormal, vampires, fantasy, sci-fi, children’s…) If the writing is littered with misspellings and typos.

What about the first pages of a manuscript makes you want to read on? Makes you want to pass?

Makes me want to read on: If a compelling and interesting plot is set up in such a way that I instantly care about what happens; if the characters feel likable and relatable and I’m immediately concerned about them; if the writing is strong. Makes me want to pass: If the writing is amateur and not developed; if there are several typos and the writing is sloppy; if the characters and plot feel clichéd or unoriginal.

What would be your dream manuscript?

The observations and musing of an Emily Giffin premise, combined with the heart and soul of a Diane Chamberlain drama, combined with the moral dilemmas of a Jodi Picoult plot. And throw in Emily Giffin’s secondary characters.

You’ve won an all-expenses paid vacation to anywhere. Where do you go? Why?

Amsterdam. I’ve failed to see this city on two different trips to Europe. I’ve heard it’s a beautiful, vibrant and unique place, and I’m dying to see the Anne Frank house.

Outside of reading, what are some of your favorite things to do?

I love living in a big city, and enjoy taking advantage of the amazing culture, food, music, nightlife, etc. I’m never bored! In the summer I can be found at a beach or park. I also enjoy hanging out with my boyfriend and friends, seeing live music, going to comedy shows and traveling.

Coffee or Tea? 🙂


To learn more about Rachel check out her page or follow her on Twitter @Rachel_C_Beck !