An Interview with an Agent: Lauren Ruth

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Lauren Ruth is a Literary Agent for BookEnds, Inc, an agency that helps authors build their brands while focusing on activities to further their long-term careers. What began as a book packager in 1999, BookEnds became a literary agency in 2001 and has since been recognized for its representation of many award-winning authors.
Lauren has been with Bookends since 2011 and seeks both fiction and non-fiction works. I am grateful to Lauren for the time she was able to take to answer some of my questions about Bookends’ publishing process. I hope her answers will help set some realistic expectations about working with a publisher for your upcoming book projects.
Amy: Does BookEnds consider unpublished writers?
Lauren: Yes. While a published author is certainly a plus, BookEnds does represent debut authors; and in fact, there’s something very exciting about finding a brand new author.
Amy: Are there specific things you look for in a new author; if so, what are they?
Lauren: I have a deep respect for an author who is willing to revise and strong enough to take constructive criticism proactively. The author who gets a revision letter from me and then comes back a couple of months later with an overhaul has caught my attention, because this author is not looking for kudos above all else; this author has a passion and a drive and will do what it takes to achieve his or her own dreams. Also, I look for the author who is interested in a long-term career, not just the joy of getting published that first time.
Amy: That will give many of our readers lots of hope. And, what does a writer who wants to be considered by BookEnds need to submit in order to retain your representation?
Lauren: Hopeful authors must first submit at query letter by email. I am one of a minority of agents who accepts e-queries with a few pages pasted into the bottom of the email.
Amy: What would you consider to be the biggest challenges in selecting new clients?
Lauren: There are authors who have a great voice—compelling, memorable, different—and there are authors who have a great story to tell—compelling, memorable, different—but it is pretty rare to find the author who has both, and that’s my job. Beyond that, it gets even more challenging, because I’m looking for this rare author who also has enough drive and passion to turn his or her writing into a long-term career.
Amy: Under what circumstances, if any, would you encourage an author to self-publish?
Lauren: I would never encourage an unpublished author to self-publish. For well-branded authors, like those who own large, well-known businesses, I think self-publishing can be an excellent business tool for nonfiction topics that are not as mainstream as a large book publisher would need, and for authors whose platforms are not as strong as large book publishers need. But even then I would explore options for going through a publisher first. For fiction authors, I think it can be a great marketing tool for an author who has already built a large fan base to publish a short story or a very short novella, with good timing in order to either promote a publication date or to sate interest between publication dates, but again, even then I would explore options for going through a publisher first.
Amy: Are there any trends you can share about the publishing industry in 2015?
Lauren: There are, of course, trends in any industry, but I tell my authors to ignore trends and write whatever their passion is. If you write something because you think someone wants it, by the time you’re ready to send it off, it’s possible that no one wants that anymore. If you write what you are passionate about, you have a greater chance of being noticed than if you write what others are passionate about.
BookEnds represents authors in the following genres: mystery, steampunk, women’s fiction, many areas of nonfiction and YA, romance, and more. For more information about BookEnds and to learn how to make a submission, visit www.bookends-inc.com.
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About Author

Amy Day

Amy Day is the Associate Publisher and a contributing writer for Strategy Magazine. She has an MBA in Marketing Communications and Strategic Leadership from Southern Methodist University and has been on staff with Strategy for nearly a decade. She is an award-winning business executive with customer service credentials from the Disney Institute. In addition to editorial oversight, her regular beat includes business, customer service, publishing, and family/child wellness.

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