“Agent Advice” is a series of quick interviews
with literary and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about
their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else.
This installment features Lisa Leshne of LJK
Literary Management. Lisa joined LJK in 2008 and
has over 20 years experience in the publishing business, including co-founding The
Prague Post, the largest English-language newspaper in Central Europe, in 1991.
She moved to Manhattan in 1999, where she worked in strategy and business development
for Dow Jones and was Executive Director, International, for the Wall Street Journal
Online. Originally from Champaign, Ill., Lisa has a BA in Sociology from the University
of California at Santa Barbara and an MBA from Harvard.
She is seeking: Lisa is especially interested in nonfiction, memoirs, literary
and popular fiction, sports, business, political and popular culture topics, as well
as some children’s books.
GLA: Briefly, how did you become an agent?
LL: I ran into uber-agent
Larry Kirshbaum on an Upper West Side playground and he offered me the job. Seriously.
Well, it was a little more involved than that … After a long career in newspaper
publishing, I was ready for a change and looking for something with a better work/life
balance. When I co-founded The Prague Post in 1991, I was fresh out of college,
single, and 22. By the time I turned 40, I was married with two school-age kids and
I wanted a career I could feel passionate about, while still making time for my family.
I serendipitously met Larry at just the time I was figuring out what I wanted to do
next and he told me he thought I’d make a terrific agent. I decided to give it a shot
and three years later, I’m very happy I did!
us about a book or two you repped that came out recently.
LL: Mina Samuels’ Run
Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives was recently published by Seal
Press. It’s a subject close to my heart. You can find me running on the bridle path
in Central Park most mornings before work, and if I’m not running, I’m likely spinning
or swimming! Part locker-room confidential, motivational manifesto, and personal memoir, Run
Like a Girl reveals how the confidence women build by participating in sports—whether
it’s running or rock climbing, swimming or yoga—can transform their lives in profound
The stories in Run Like a
Girl prove that physical strength lends itself to
psychological strength, that lessons learned on the field (or track, or slopes) can
help us face challenges in other areas—and that for many women, participating in sports
translates into leading happier, more fulfilling lives. Mina and several of the women
featured in the book will be on NBC’s “Today” Show, Monday, May 30, so set your DVRs
or tune in!
GLA: You have
a lot of publishing experience. How does the work you did before being an agent, including
your time in Europe, influence your agenting style today?
LL: Most of my previous
work was with journalists, and I’ve always enjoyed working with writers. I have so
much respect for them. I understand that writing is a creative endeavor, and it takes
time. I think I have a lot of patience and I especially enjoy helping writers shape
their ideas. I look at each project as an opportunity for me to dive in and learn
more about a particular subject, and I love the process.
profile said you’re an avid reader of newspapers and magazines. Do you find nonfiction
clients through interesting stories?
LL: All the time.
GLA: On the
same token, have you ever signed someone based just on their popular blog? If so,
tell us about the process and the factors that made you say yes.
LL: I signed up a
fantastic blogger, Jill Smokler, who blogs as Scary
Mommy, from an article she published on CNN.com titled: “Less than perfect moms
need to unite!” She had me at the title! You
can see the article here.
After reading the article, I went to Jill’s blog and saw
how fantastic it was. She recounts with humor and humility the travails of parenthood,
and also provides a great forum where other moms can make anonymous “confessions,”
which is very popular. I also learned she had an enormous following already, with
over 200,000 page views a month. Not only that, Target is featuring Jill as this month’s
Target Fashion Experiment and has created a Facebook app that lets users create a new
look for Jill each day. As we all know, editors are looking for authors with a
built-in audience, so I was pretty excited the more I learned. I got in touch with
Jill, signed her, and now she’s working on her book proposal.
you deal with a lot of nonfiction, you are probably evaluating a lot of writer platforms.
What are some unique ways your writers can reached out and built their platforms?
LL: Platform. Platform.
Platform. Yes, it’s true. I think blogging is a great way to build up an audience,
along with social networking in general. I can’t say enough good things about Facebook
and Twitter for helping writers connect with an audience.
GLA: Top mistakes
you see in queries?
LL: Spelling errors
or grammatical mistakes. They just make me want to stop reading.
GLA: You seek
literary and popular fiction. When you say “popular,” do you mean upmarket book club
stuff? Or genre fiction of some kind?
LL: I mean anything
that has the potential for commercial success! I want to see the kinds of books I’d
pick up in a bookstore, start reading, and not be able to put down. Either because
the writing is so engaging or because the story just grabs me and won’t let go!
GLA: I see
you also look for some kids’ categories. Can you tell us more about what specifically
you’re looking for as well as what you’re not looking for?
LL: I’m mostly interested
in kids’ chapter books and young adult. The same things I said about great writing
and compelling plot apply.
you be at any upcoming conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
LL: I’m participating
in QUERY ROULETTE, the Women’s National Book Association’s annual fundraiser, on Tuesday,
May 17, 2011, from 6 to 9 p.m., at The Association of American Publishers, 71 Fifth
Avenue between 14th/15th streets.
way to pitch/contact you?
LL: I can be reached
at LJK Literary, 133 W. 25th St. Suite 8W, New York, NY, 10001. Email is lisa[at]ljkliterary[dot]com
your favorite movie?
LL: Before the
Rain. It’s a 1994 Macedonian film by first-time director Milcho Manchevski that
I saw in Prague when it was first released and became mesmerized with it. I wish more
people had seen it.
else personal about you writers may be surprised to know?
LL: I’m a chocoholic
and have a crazy sweet tooth.
piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?
LL: Be yourself and always let your personality shine through.
the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents.
it here online at a discount.
Want more on
to Target Your Submissions to Agents.
You Post Your Work Online? Here’s One Opinion.
to Ask an Agent Before You Sign.
How to Collaborate
With a Co-Writer.
Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting
& Submitting Your Manuscript.
Read about What
Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
Want the most complete database of agents and what genres they’re looking
the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!