Behind the Scenes: Meet My Literary Agent, Elisabeth Weed!

Thank you all for following along in my Behind the Scenes series, where I am so excited to introduce you to the very important people who have been so instrumental to the success of my books. Be sure to read my interview with my editor at Penguin, Denise Roy, as well as my publicist there, Milena Brown. Today, I am so incredibly thrilled to introduce you to my literary agent, Elisabeth Weed. Elisabeth lives and works in New York. We’ve been working together for a few years and haven’t met in person yet, but guess what? She’s coming to Seattle in February to meet me, and I’m absolutely counting down the days! (Seattle friends, she’ll be at my Third Place Books-Ravenna reading for The Bungalow on February 15, so please come by to say hi!). Anyway, I cannot stop gushing about Elisabeth and what she has done to launch my career. She was the first person (aside from my husband) to read The Violets of March and, thankfully, decided it had a glimmer of something special. She took a chance on me, and I’m so glad she did! Here is a conversation between the two of us that I thought you might enjoy: Sarah: Most people don’t know the sort of comical story of how we began working together, and I think we should share it. I’ll start! So, after my old agent left the agency I was formerly with, I was on the hunt for new representation with a new project—The Violets of March. I’d heard so many amazing things about you, Elisabeth, and was so hopeful that you’d take me on as a client. I waited nervously as you read my manuscript, and then the email came, with a “thanks but … no thanks.” I was so sad! Then, two weeks later, you emailed me out of the blue and said something like “WAIT! I’m still thinking about your story! It must be a sign that we should work together. You haven’t signed with another agent, have you? If not, would you be up for doing some revising with me?” (Or something like that.) Of course, I was so thrilled (and surprised!). And today, I’m so glad you decided to take a chance on me! How often does it happen that you send a rejection letter and then change your mind? Elisabeth: I thank my lucky stars every day that I was able to win you over after my first misstep! I remember reading your book and falling in love with the Bainbridge Island setting and the love story, but feeling like the back-story needed a lot of revision and that maybe I didn’t have the perfect vision for it. But after I rejected it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I realized that together we could probably figure out how to make the book work.  And honestly, our experience has really changed how I work with submissions. Since then, I’ve had a few similar situations where after reading something and not thinking it was ready *yet* I’ve picked up the phone and talked to the author about what could be done to improve it. I figure, I’ve done the work in reading it and think there’s something there, why not give my two cents and if the author agrees and is able to take it to the next level, then it’s a win-win situation for all. Sarah: One of the things I love most about working with you is your editorial input. You read each of my drafts so carefully (along with your lovely assistant, Stephanie Sun!) and have big-picture ideas and also get down to the sentence level to help make my books better. Not all agents do this type of editorial work, and I think it’s so valuable. But I know you don’t do all of this work at your desk, so you must be doing a lot of reading and editing at night at home. Where do you do most of your work? Is your nightstand stacked high with books and printed manuscripts? Elisabeth: I was taught from an early publishing age that you edit at nights and on weekends and until I had a child, editing did take up a big part of my weekend. But since then, it’s done in the evenings and occasionally on a work from home day. You really need the quiet—away from email and phones and colleagues to edit well. I really believe that a novel has to be as perfect as the agent and the author can make it before it goes out on submission. Otherwise, you are making it too easy for an editor to say no. I always read the manuscript first, on my Kindle (I buy all published novels at my local independent but the Kindle is a paper saver for submissions and first reads) without editing and give the author my big picture notes. Then on the second read, I print it out, pen in hand. (I am not nearly as organized as our pal, Denise Roy, with her intricate system of laying the novel out on her living room floor.) My nightstand is manuscript-free. I am a bit of an insomniac so I’m under doctor’s orders I don’t bring work to bed. Anne Pachett, Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay and Jo Nesbo’s Headhunter’s are currently stacked on my nightstand. Sarah: Another thing I adore about you is the enthusiasm you have for your authors. I remember calling you on your cell phone before The Violets of March was published when I received a blurb from Jodi Picoult. I was so excited to tell you about it, and I think I caught you walking on the sidewalk in New York—in the rain—and you screamed (with joy!). It makes everything that much more fun knowing that your agent is excited about all the little, and big, milestones of your career, and genuinely so. So, in that vein, can you share some of the … Continue reading Behind the Scenes: Meet My Literary Agent, Elisabeth Weed!