Betsy Amster is a literary agent and president of Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises.
Her areas of interest — all for adult readers — include:
- literary fiction
- upscale commercial women’s fiction
- voice-driven mysteries and thrillers
- narrative nonfiction (especially by journalists),
- memoirs (including graphic memoirs)
- social issues and trends
- popular culture
- women’s issues
- history & biography
- lifestyle, careers
- health and medicine
- cooking and nutrition
- and quirky gift books.
“We do not represent romances, screenplays, poetry, westerns, fantasy, horror, science fiction, techno thrillers, spy capers, apocalyptic scenarios, self-published books, or political or religious arguments.”
Before opening her agency in 1992, Betsy spent ten years as an editor at Pantheon and Vintage and two years as editorial director of the Globe Pequot Press. A frequent panelist at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Betsy has also run publishing workshops at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, the Loft, the SDSU Writers Conference, and many other venues. In addition, she has been profiled in Poets and Writers, the Los Angeles Times, and on the Web del Sol/Algonkian Writer’s Workshop website.
The agency works with both first-time and established writers and is known for its expert attention to every aspect of the publishing process.
Rachel Beck is a literary agent with Holloway Literary.
Rachel is interested in representing:
- Women’s fiction, especially upmarket/book club fiction, such as Emily Giffin, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain
- Contemporary romance with a humorous voice and subplots in addition to the romance, such as Kristan Higgins
- Young adult, especially emotional/deep issue (even dark) stories (no historical, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi or middle-grade please), such as Jandy Nelson and Courtney Summers
- Psychological, character-driven women’s suspense/thrillers, such as Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and Mary Kubica
- Southern fiction, such as Elaine Hussey
- Nonfiction — particularly memoir, true crime, and select health and self-help books (such as professional/career development).
Rachel Beck has been in the publishing industry since 2009. After completing an internship with two literary agencies, reading mostly young adult and thrillers, she then worked as an editor for Harlequin, acquiring category romance, contemporary romance, multicultural romance and women’s fiction.
Rachel’s career highlights include helping her authors achieve prestigious romance book nominations and two selective awards, including the National Readers Choice Award, and several top reviews in Romantic Times magazine for her books.
In her free time, Rachel likes reading first and foremost–mostly women’s fiction, psychological suspense and young adult–as well as traveling with her husband, spoiling her cat, Ginnie, and watching football (go Steelers!).
Rachel is drawn to voice-driven fiction, particularly in young adult; quirky, three-dimensional, flawed characters, including and especially secondary characters; beautiful writing; dark themes; books that explore good people in morally complicated situations; and complex, detailed plots.
Rachel is NOT interested in:
no children’s/picture books
no middle grade
no science fiction/fantasy
no romantic suspense
no action-driven suspense (prefer character/psychological-driven)
no heavily faith-based/inspirational material
If you are coming to the 2019 Writing Conference of Los Angeles (May 4, 2019), you may be thinking about pitching our agent-in-attendance or editor-in-attendance. An in-person pitch is an excellent way to get an agent excited about both you and your work. Here are some tips (from previous instructor Chuck Sambuchino) that will help you pitch your work effectively at the event during a 10-minute consultation. Chuck advises that you should:
- Try to keep your pitch to 90 seconds. Keeping your pitch concise and short is beneficial because 1) it shows you are in command of the story and what your book is about; and 2) it allows plenty of time for back-and-forth discussion between you and the agent. Note: If you’re writing nonfiction, and therefore have to speak plenty about yourself and your platform, then your pitch can certainly run longer.
- Practice before you get to the event. Say your pitch out loud, and even try it out on fellow writers. Feedback from peers will help you figure out if your pitch is confusing, or missing critical elements. Remember to focus on what makes your story unique. Mystery novels, for example, all follow a similar formula — so the elements that make yours unique and interesting will need to shine during the pitch to make your book stand out.
- Do not give away the ending. If you pick up a DVD for Die Hard, does it say “John McClane wins at the end”? No. Because if it did, you wouldn’t buy the movie. Pitches are designed to leave the ending unanswered, much like the back of any DVD box you read.
- Have some questions ready. 10 minutes is plenty of time to pitch and discuss your book, so there is a good chance you will be done pitching early. At that point, you are free to ask the agent questions about writing, publishing or craft. The meeting is both a pitch session and a consultation, so feel free to ask whatever you like as long as it pertains to writing.
- Remember to hit the big beats of a pitch. Everyone’s pitch will be different, but the main elements to hit are 1) introducing the main character(s) and telling us about them, 2) saying what goes wrong that sets the story into motion, 3) explaining how the main character sets off to make things right and solve the problem, 4) explaining the stakes — i.e., what happens if the main character fails, and 5) ending with an unclear wrap-up.