Tuesday, November 10, 2009

INTERVIEW: Vicky Bijur - Agent, Founder of Vicky Bijur Literary Agency

Vicky Bijur is a literary agent and founder of Vicky Bijur Literary Agency, in 1988. She has worked at Oxford University Press and with the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency.

Notable clients:
Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling novelist “What the Dead Know”

James Sallis “Drive”, optioned for film by Hugh Jackman

Larry Gonick “Cartoon History of the Universe”, “Cartoon History of the Modern World”

Margaret Maron, winner of Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards

Steven Greenhouse, NYT labor reporter “The Big Squeeze”

Robert Kanigel The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan NYT food writer Ed Levine “New York Eats”, “Pizza: A Slice of Heaven”

Ms. Bijur, also represents cookbooks, memoir, biography, parenting, self-help, psychology, science writers, environmental issues and health. She is interested in contemporary and historical fiction as well as crime fiction.

Her clients have appeared on The New York Times best-seller list, in The New York Times Notable Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times Best Fiction of the Year, Washington Post Book World Rave Reviews of the Year, and been nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award. Three of her mystery writers have won Edgar awards.

Ms. Bijur, has served as president of the Association of Authors' Representatives and chair of its ethics committee.

E.I. If you could choose the perfect manuscript you would want to see pop in through the mail slot tomorrow morning, what elements would it contain?

V.B. I want to be drawn in by the first page of the book. I can still remember reading the first page of Julie Smith’s NEW ORLEANS MOURNING in 1987 and Laura Lippman’s BALTIMORE BLUES in 1996 and Lisa Genova’s STILL ALICE two years ago.

I want to feel when I tear myself away to eat dinner that I can’t wait to get back to the manuscript. And when I do get back, I want the part of the book that I’ve read to come flooding back to me. It’s always a bad sign if I can’t remember much about setting, premise, character when I return to a book after an interruption. Iam partial to novels that have a strong sense of place. I would hope that the characters’ voices are distinctive, that they don’t all sound alike. I look for dialog that sounds authentic. I love being drawn into another world, the way I am when I read Margaret Maron’s novels, where you practically hear the crickets and smell the pine needles as you sit in your New York City apartment.

The plotting shouldn’t feel contrived; on the one hand you want events to make sense, on the other you don’t want to see developments coming a million miles away. Information should be conveyed in a subtle way, not through dialog that feels expository. All of the above are totally subjective responses to fiction. Every reader has a different set of criteria for evaluating and a different way of appreciating a novel. It’s a truism to say there is no right or wrong way to write. Two astute readers can have opposite reactions to the same book. But this is what I love in a novel.

E.I. A well written query letter is key to snagging an agent's attention. Can you briefly explain what components the ideal query should include? Should the writer attach a page or two of prose just so the agent can get a feel for writer's ability?

V.B. A query letter should be one page only, even if it’s emailed. It helps to have the first chapter of a novel included. I prefer the chapter to be embedded in the email rather than an attachment that needs to be opened. There should be one paragraph in the letter describing the book and one paragraph providing information about the author. I always pay closer attention if in the introductory paragraph the writer mentions that he or she is familiar with other clients of mine; it helps to know the writer has done some homework about the sort of books I represent. If the letter is sent through snail mail, the writer should include an SASE.

To learn more about Vicky Bijur please visit her Website at: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/vbijur/

Photo of Ms. Vicky Bijur by Allan Jacobson

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