Interview With Literary Agent Tamar Rydzinski
Today I am thrilled to introduce my superstar agent, Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency! I signed with Tamar in February 2015, and what a whirlwind two years it has been! Last June, she sold my YA Asian fantasy FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS in a three-book deal to the amazing Brian Geffen at Philomel Books (read my Pub Crawl interview with Brian here).
I feel so fortunate to not only have an excellent business relationship with Tamar, but to also count her as a friend. She kindly agreed to hop on over to Pub Crawl today to answer a few questions, so if you're interested in querying her one day, read on!
Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview, Tamar! I know a lot of querying writers are interested in you! To start off, how did you get into agenting? How did you know it was the right career for you?
I was in college and unsure of what I wanted to do. My mom had an old friend (since kindergarten!) who is a published author and thought agenting would be a good fit for me, as I was an English major with a business minor who loved to read. She then introduced me to her agent at Curtis Brown and I interned there that summer. An intern only gets the funnest parts of the job (reading!), but I was able to watch the other agents at work and after that, I could imagine doing anything else. So basically, the super talented Gail Carson Levine is the reason I got into agenting.
Sounds like it was meant to be! Do you have any advice for teens who'd like to be literary agents one day?
When I am interviewing candidates for internships, I am always most excited by those who read books that are currently being published, by candidates who have favorite authors (currently writing and publishing) whose books they just can’t wait for. I can tell you that War and Peace is one of my favorite books — no lie — but I read a classic like that perhaps once a year.
I also have favorite books and authors that are currently publishing. LDLA clients aside, I loved The Hate U Give. I will read anything and everything Melina Marchetta writes. Although I am late to the party, I read Where’d You Go Bernadette a few months ago and loved it. I loved Uprooted by Naomi Novik, even more than the Temeraire novels. I can keep going, but I think you get the picture.
Like many college students, I don’t have a ton of time to read outside of work. But books are my passion and I would be miserable if I didn’t make some time for books outside of those represented by LDLA (or those I am considering for representation). So I guess that’s my other piece of advice. Go into this business knowing that you will have to carve out that time, but it will definitely be worth it.
With all of the time agents put into reading manuscripts, it makes perfect sense that they'd need to read for pleasure, too!
What's a typical day in the work life look like for you?
One of the things I love about agenting is that there is no typical day!
Some days (like those in early April), I might be combing through royalty statements looking for oddities, missing payments, etc. Some days I am reviewing contracts. Some days I am going back and forth on a cover. Some days I am following up on marketing and publicity plans. Sometimes I am talking to an author that is having a bit of writers block and trying to help her through it/give a pep talk.
There is very little reading in the office, that is done almost entirely off hours (at home and on the LIRR for me). My favorite days are submission days and days I get to call an author with an offer!
What about a query or pages makes you the most excited to request a full manuscript? (plot? characters? voice?)
This is such a hard question to answer! Because there isn’t just one element that makes a great query letter. The writing has to be amazing. But I have requested manuscripts where the writing in the query letter wasn’t great but I wasn’t sure if that was because a query letter is an inherently awkward thing to write and the person just didn’t have enough practice. And it has worked out!
The plot has to draw me in. But I have again requested manuscripts where the writing was superb and I wasn’t sure if there was really a lack of plot or the author just didn’t know how to describe it in a query letter. So this is the unhelpful way of saying that there’s some indefinable quality that draws me in.
Do you have a "proudest moment" you can share in your career as an agent?
I have so many proud moment! The one where I sold a book a really really really long time after it was first submitted. Or the one where the author revised her manuscript according to letters from two different editors after we first submitted, then one left the industry and one passed. But I resubmitted that book and it sold at auction! And of course being able to bring Forest of a Thousand Lanterns to the world.
You were so happy when you called me the day we sold to Brian! It makes me smile to remember it (except for the part where I was crying hysterically).
Fun question: what famous, now-dead author would you have liked to have represented?
Dorothy Parker because she is hilarious. Or Willa Cather because I think few authors can capture a scene and mood and way of life the way she was able to.
Oh no! You are in a furious battle with another agent over an amazing manuscript. What is your weapon of choice?
I have a lot of experience in subrights (translation rights and audio rights and film rights) which I think is really helpful to my clients. I also have an incredible team here at LDLA — I am on the international committee of the AAR and Laura Dail is head of the royalties committee of the AAR, Elana Roth Parker has worked at a packager, which brings some really interesting perspective — so we have lots of resources and experience in different, important areas of the industry. Also, I have incredible authors, so I am always pointing to them!
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Tamar! You're awesome!
For more information about Tamar and the other agents at LDLA, please go here.