Monday, July 18, 2011

Interview with Agent Lauren Ruth of BookEnds, LLC

Today I bring another interview with a literary agent! I hope you enjoy this one ;)
Her name is Lauren Ruth and she's a new agent at BookEnds. LLC.

Lauren Ruth started her publishing career as an intern at Simon & Schuster's Touchstone/Fireside imprint while earning her B.A. in English language and literature from Pace University. Shortly thereafter, she completed her second internship at BookEnds, where she fell in love with the literary agency side of the publishing industry. In February 2011, she officially joined BookEnds. She will soon have her master's degree in book publishing. In fiction, Lauren is looking for literary fiction, romance, women's fiction, chick lit, young adult, middle grade, mystery, historical fiction, and steampunk. On the nonfiction side, she's looking for memoir, parenting and family, relationships, food and lifestyle, business, popular science, popular culture, and popular psychology.

Lauren blogs at
And you can also find her on Twitter!

1. How did you become an agent, and when did you start building your own client list?

I always wanted to be a book editor. When I took an internship at a literary agency at the last minute, I thought I was just getting a taste of the other side of the industry. And then I fell in love with agenting and any desire to wind up in a big corporate publishing house went out the window. I always say the difference between an agent's job and an editor's job it that an agent knows her audience very, very well because that audience--the editors at publishing houses--will actually tell us in plain words what they're looking for. But an editor's audience, essentially, is composed of readers who don't know what they want until they see it. I'm a new agent, so I've only been building my list this year. 

2. What genres are you looking for right now?  Would you rather represent a commercial book like Twilight or a more literary one, like The Book Thief—or both? 

Since I'm just starting to build my client list, I'm looking very broadly for submissions. Literary fiction is the love of my life, but I rarely find something that I can sell to an editor and that I enjoy reading myself. I represent and love romance (all subgenres), women's fiction, chick lit, steampunk, historical fiction, mystery, middle-grade, YA, science fiction and fantasy. I have a special affinity for YA, which has been some of the best reading I've enjoyed since breaking into the industry. I also represent nonfiction. 

My favorite kind of book is the kind that is a commercial success but is also literary and beautiful. 

3. What type of manuscript you definitely wouldn’t represent?

This is a difficult question, because I give everything serious consideration. Outside of genres I don't represent at all, like poetry, short stories and screenplays, there is nothing I would definitely not represent. There's no theme or issue that would turn me off so greatly that I'd stop reading the manuscript. I will say, however, that if I can't enjoy what I'm reading, I can't sell it. Sales takes passion and enthusiasm, and if I can't generate that, I shouldn't be the agent for that book. So if I'm falling asleep reading a manuscript and I start to dread getting back to it, I'll reject it. 

4.  Could you tell us about BookEnds, LLC, and your role as a literary agent there?

BookEnds is a smaller agency that is steadily expanding, adding new genres and agents and endeavors. I'm the newest agent, but I've learned from such smart, intuitive, talented people at BookEnds, so my transition was more seamless than I believed it could be. Because we're only four agents, as a literary assistant I was able to get right in the middle of things and help out. Every day was a learning experience and my foundation is definitely more solid because of it.

5.  Are you an editorial agent and a career builder agent, too? 

I believe in building the author's career, as well as her voice and talent. Any author can become a better writer, a better social-networker or a better speaker. I work with my authors to help them become involved in their own careers beyond writing as much as they want to be. Aside from that side of things, I suppose I'm also an editorial agent because I send manuscripts back to my clients with suggested revisions all the time. I want their work to be as polished and perfect as we can get it before we send it off to editors. I brainstorm, offer advice, nit-pick (sometimes), chat and champion for my authors. I'm very passionate about my work, and I'm just as passionate about theirs. 

Now some questions about querying:

6. What’s the best way to query you?

I do not accept snail-mail queries, queries over the phone or queries to my personal email address, blog or social networking profiles. I accept them only by email to my agency address ( The word "query" must be in the subject line so my extra-aggressive spam watchdog doesn't eat it. Many, many agents do not like pasted pages at the end of queries, but I really don't mind them. Sometimes I read them, sometimes I don't. My policy is, I'm not required to read your pages until I've specifically requested them, but I might if you tack them on. 

7. Now, this is something I loved to hear from agents when I was querying. Nowadays, how long (approximately) do you take to read a query and then a full?  Are you the no-answer-means-no type of agent? 

Unfortunately, because of the influx, I reserve up to six weeks to answer a query. It usually takes me about a month to answer a query, but occasionally I need more time. I'll reserve another six to eight weeks for requested material. I think no-answer-means-no is a very inefficient way of communicating. If I were an author, I would rather open an email that just said "No" than never hear anything at all. My email server sends an automatic response to queriers just to let them know their material is sitting in my inbox waiting for me to get to it. For rejections, I try to offer a reason (or some feedback if I have any) to the author. Just a courtesy. I answer all queries, so if within six weeks of querying me, you haven't heard anything, please feel free to resubmit and let me know you submitted six weeks ago.

Last question before the fast five: 
8. Can you tell us why writers would be thrilled to have you as their agent?

I am passionate about my authors. I don't take them on if I don't whole-heartedly believe in them and their careers. I have a tough eye, and the more my inbox fills up, the tougher I seem to get. But I want my authors to succeed. I want to be there for them, to answer questions, ease concerns and explain this intricate business. 

And now for fun:

Guilty pleasure?   
Reading, of course. I never get to read outside of work. A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD has been sitting on the arm of my favorite reading chair for months with a bookmark stuck somewhere near the first page.

Dream vacation?
Morocco. This is the most exotic place I can think of, and the one that is as different from boring ol' New Jersey as it gets.

Random fact about you that we probably don’t know?  
During the week, I eat precisely the same low-fat, low-sugar, low-calorie, low-taste food in exactly the same quantities, to maintain my weight. I'm a freak about it. I would never spontaneously get McDonalds for lunch. Then, from Saturday night to Sunday night, I go totally wild and allow myself anything I want in any quantity. Cheeseburgers and pizza and Chinese. Cake and cookies and candy galore! Thing is, I usually get through half a cheeseburger and some fries and go, "Ugh! I'm sooo full." Darn.

Professional food spiller or spick-and-span lady?
I like things clean, organized and in place. I'm definitely a neat-freak. 

I read on your blog that you have a two-year-old son. And that you like to make him laugh? How? Inquiring mommy minds want to know. ;)
Henry laughs all day long. He even laughs at me when he's in time-out. (At least he does his two minutes). But he has this belly laugh when something's really funny. He throws his head back with abandon and actually slaps his knee and points his chubby little finger. It's hilarious. I"m always trying to make it happen. My favorite way is surprise him with the absurd. Just this morning, I put his shoes on his hands instead of his feet. We showed up to daycare like that. 

Thank you so much for doing this interview on Love YA! 


  1. Best of luck with your blossoming career as an agent, Laura! I love your attitude, AND how you're raising your son with laughter. :)

  2. This is great. I was curious if agents ever got to read outside of their sub list and I'm glad that Lauren snuck one in.
    Great interview, Moni!

  3. Thank you Lauren and Monica for a wonderful interview! One surefire way to make my kid crack up is to pretend that her kiss turned me into a frog. I don't even go all out. Just a 'ribbit' will do it! Kids have the best sense of humor!

  4. Monica, thanks for introducing us to Lauren! She sounds like a lovely person and a passionate agent.

  5. "My favorite way is surprise him with the absurd. Just this morning, I put his shoes on his hands instead of his feet. We showed up to daycare like that. "

    now i'm even happier that you asked for a synopsis and the first three chapters of my humorous, MG steampunk book!

    -- Tom

  6. Thanks for sharing, Monica and Lauren.

  7. Thanks for the interview, Lauren and Monica! Lauren's at a great agency, and it sounds like she's got a good head on her shoulders.

  8. The whole interview was great, but I have to say Lauren's son was the highlight. He sounds so cute! Also I love the response to queries, even for rejections. The unknown is so much worse than just getting rejected.

  9. Thank you, Monica, for introducing us to Lauren. Loved Lauren's take on the different audiences for agents vs. editors. I'm sure I speak for my fellow queriers when I say how much we appreciate her policy on responses to queries even if it is a "No thanks." Ah, closure.

  10. Wonderful interview, thanks to both of you. We all want to know how the agent works, but it's nice to see a bit of the personal side, too.

    I wonder if that diet would work for me.

  11. Nice to see that she's a responder, even if it takes awhile - I would totally prefer a "No"m email to nothing! Thanks for the interview, Monica!

  12. I love these! It's always great to get to know agents more before we query them. Thank you so much for these Monica!

  13. Great interview! I love those bookends people - they run one of the best agents blogs :D

  14. Linda! YES! I Love how she's raising her son w/laughter, too!

    Christa, Julie, and Bane, THANKS! :D

    Hey Elizabeth! LOL about the ribbit thing! Yesterday I did some "magic" and made a cookie "appear" from my 2yo's ear. He laughed so hard, and still asks me to pull cookies out of his ear!

    Tom! Good luck with that submission!

    Hey Krista! Yes, you're right. She's at a good agency! I kinda <3 BookEnds! :D

    Mary, Erica, and Leslie, TOTALLY, I always preferred a "No" to a query than silence. Silence is harder, IMO.

    Petrea, yes! I also like learning something about the personal lives of agents :D

    Heather, thanks for stopping by! <3

    Jolene, YES! I <3 their blog, too!

  15. I love reading about new agents - great interview.

  16. Great interview and great agent! *waves hello*

  17. Great interview! I love hearing about new agents. :)

  18. Thanks for the great interview. I'm always happy to hear about a new agent who loves YA and who works with an amazing agency.

  19. Wonderful interview, Monica and Lauren! Thank you both. It's great to get to know more about a new agent.

  20. Monica, I love the refreshingly different questions you include as part of your agent interviews. You also had me hooked with the part of your bio that talks about your 11 chickens. Chickens rock! But please don't tell our 12 rescue kitties that I just said that, because fur rules too. :)

    I'm glad to be a new follower and subscriber. Wishing you a great rest of the weekend!

  21. Thank you for the lovely interview, Monica and Lauren.

    P.S. to Monica: Nice meeting you today on PK's blog. :-)

  22. Patti, Kim, Jenny, Shalle and Stina, thanks for stopping by!

    Michelle and Liz! I already stopped by your blogs ;D Thx for your comments! :D

  23. Thank you! Great interview.

    I plan on querying Ms. Ruth. I recently finished a chick lit novel.

  24. Good luck with that query, WhisperingWriter! :D