BARBARA COLLINS ROSENBERG
Agent, The Rosenberg Group
WG: Hi Barbara! Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
BCR: My agency, The Rosenberg Group, will turn ten in June. I’m located in Marblehead, MA, about 15 miles north of Boston and a quick plane ride from NYC.
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an agent and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
BCR: I was an acquisitions editor for the college division of Harcourt Brace and believed that textbook authors were in need of guidance when negotiating their deals. I opened the agency solely with the intent of working with academics, but my clients soon led me astray. One of my rhetoricians confided that she wrote romance and wanted me to represent her. I knew nothing about the romance market but read romance quite a lot. I did some research, went to my first RWA in 1998 and took about seven months to learn the market before taking on a romance client – not my original rhetorician.
WG: What genres do you currently represent?
BCR: I represent romance (both single title and category) and women’s fiction, and then I represent college level textbooks for the first and second year courses along with commercial non-fiction.
WG: Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
BCR: No, I’m not expanding.
WG: Tell us a little about the non-fiction side of the business.
BCR: Nonfiction authors have to have a solid platform from which to launch their book writing careers.
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
BCR: I would say that I sell more non-fiction than fiction, but not by much. I think my sales kind of remain steady.
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?
BCR: NAL; Celebra (a new Penguin/Putnam imprint); Harlequin; Skyhorse; University of Nebraska; McFarland – to name a few.
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?
BCR: I have sold two works by first time authors, but one of the two was a successful journalist.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
BCR: I am always looking for new authors. I think authors that understand publishing and their market catch my eye. I’m always surprised by some of the query letters I get, people writing “category” without an understanding of the lines; people writing single title without a clear vision of their genre, etc.
WG: How would you describe your agenting style? What is your involvement with the author’s creative process? With his/her career planning? Or is your relationship strictly the business side of contract negotiation and as author/editor interface?
BCR: I read all of my clients’ manuscripts before they go in; even when they’re submitting their 25th book. I talk a lot with my authors during the sale process and try to guide them to good decisions.
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
BCR: Not really; I like the entire process.
WG: Given that you feel an individual author’s manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to represent it?
BCR: I don’t represent works that I don’t like.
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions? How specific is the feedback?
BCR: I scan the rejection letters as they arrive and email them to the client. If there are comments that can be helpful we have a chat, but more often than not there’s not too much feedback in the rejections.
WG: What is your process for submitting work to editors?
Is this different if the editor is one you’ve had no prior contact with as opposed to one you’ve already built a working relationship with?
BCR: I look at who is buying what these days, make a list of all the possible editors and houses and then I call the editors to see if they’re interested in taking a look. I never send work out without first having chatted with the editor.
WG: How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
BCR: In fiction I always send out multiple submissions.
WG: Once a work has been sold, do you provide any input to the author and/or editor in the area of marketing and promotion for the book?
BCR: I am willing to act as a sounding board and I can make referrals to publicists, but I don’t have an expertise in publicity.
WG: What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?
BCR: I have a excellent understanding of the writing process and am able to get authors to recognize their manuscripts’ strengths and weaknesses. Editors tend to find that my clients’ submissions come in very clean.
WG: Do you feel that writers’ conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?
BCR: I like going to conferences because I like talking with writers. I don’t talk much to editors at conferences because they’re present to talk with the authors – it wouldn’t be very fair if I monopolized the editors’ time.
WG: Have you ever been involved in the sale of movie rights? Foreign rights? If so, did you handle this yourself or did you work with someone more specialized in this field?
BCR: I have sold film options and foreign rights. If the deals are simple I’ll handle them myself, but if they’re too complex I have a couple of folks I like to do business with.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
BCR: I respond pretty quickly to query letters and when I ask for a partial or a full I let the writer know what my estimated time frame will be – it depends on the time of year and what else I’m up to in the agency.
WG: I see you are not based in New York. Do you feel that this impacts your effectiveness as an agent in any way?
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent’s role is?
BCR: That an agent can tell the author what they’re writing; if you’re not clear about your audience from the start you won’t sell.
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author’s career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
BCR: In non-fiction when the author has a saleable idea with a solid platform and well written proposal. In fiction, when a manuscript has been written, revised and edited.
WG: What piece of advice or ‘pearl of wisdom’ would you like to offer authors who are considering approaching you (or any agent) for representation?
BCR: Know your stuff.
JUST FOR FUN
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
BCR: Sometimes the acceptances are as irrational as the rejections.
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
BCR: I like being with my family. We’re skiers and golfers.
WG: Other than your client’s work, what do you enjoy reading?
BCR: I read two newspapers each day, The New York Times and the Boston Globe and I read the sports section from the New York Daily News online.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
BCR: I like watching sports (football and NY Yankees baseball). I like quirky art films like I’m Not There.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
BCR: My favorite novel ever is Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the agency?
BCR: No, I think we’ve covered it.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency??
BCR: I am always planning on updating my website but there is never time. My url is rosenberggroup.com.
WG: Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit in this month’s spotlight. It was delightful ‘visiting’ with you here.