Jeff Gerecke has worked with numerous best-selling authors and is an active member of the Association of Authors Representatives. He has worked as an agent with the JCA Literary Agency from 1987 until 2004 when he joined the Gina Maccoby Literary Agency. Before that he worked as foreign scout (representing such publishers as Hodder & Stoughton, Rizzoli, and Heyne), and as a publicist for the University of California Press.
At JCA he worked with the best-selling authors W.E.B. Griffin and Ernest J. Gaines. His client David Ellis was the winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 2001 and he represented Derek Nikitas’s PYRES which was also nominated for Best First Novel in 2008. Another client, Gwen Hunter, won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award for Best Contemporary Mystery novel last year.
Gerecke is an active member of the Association of Authors Representatives where he has chaired and worked on the Royalty Statements Committee since its inception. Currently he is representing mostly serious history and all kinds of crime and suspense fiction with the occasional literary novel along the way. He now works independently with his own agency, G Agency, LLC. Gerecke offers a snap shot into how a book gets published, what drew him into the world of agenting, and what genre’s he is currently interested in representing. He is attending Killer Nashville 2010 this weekend.
PC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JG: I, at first, thought of myself as a writer and wrote the beginnings of some awful epic novel, but then became more fascinated by history and began to think of myself as a history professor. The one thing that always stuck with me was my love of books and bookstores. My mother always used to say if she lost me at a shopping mall she always knew where to find me…in the bookstore.
PC: What drew you into the world of agenting?
JG: I first worked as a foreign scout and thus was able to meet a wide range of agents and see how they did their job. At the same time, I found that many of my friends were writers so becoming an agent seemed a natural direction.
PC: You are now, after over 20 years in the business, heading your own Agency. What inspired you to pursue The G Agency? (And what does the G stand for?)
JG: G is just short for my last name which no one ever pronounces correctly anyway. I just felt it was time that I took the big step of forming my own company, so I alone would be responsible for every part of my business.
PC: Do you write – or have any desire to become an author?
JG: It’s a distant dream since I don’t actually have a spare moment of time in which I might write anything longer than e-mails.
PC: Most aspiring authors are not privy to the inner workings of the publishing industry. Would you take us through the steps of how one of your author’s books gets published?
JG: First, you have to write a really good query letter that will attract someone’s attention (more below). Then you have to be prepared to listen to what your agent wants in the way of marketing your novel. You will likely have to make at least some revisions before the agent makes submissions, because every agent will have a particular angle they want to emphasize in their “pitch” for your book.
Once you get interest from editors you try to close the deal. Sometimes an editor will ask for some changes to the book or proposal which you may well want to do if they seem right. Other (more fortunate times) it’s just a question of picking between interested bidders. Most often it’s a bit of a slog until you find just the right editor match for your book. When that happens you can feel a little over the moon, but the giddy feeling won’t last long as the nuts & bolts of publishing are too depressing.
Now that you’re on the road to publication you’ll have to deal with the actual line editing and copy editing of your ms, which can also be a tedious process. Once the book is finalized you have to prepare for publication by brainstorming marketing with your editor (and hopefully a dedicated publicist). This is very much a hands-on game and an author is expected to bring at least as much, if not more, to the table than your publisher will. You need to have contacts in the media world, or ideas for getting noticed, so that magazines, newspapers, and random people on the internet will find out about your book and want to buy it.
Physical tours of book stores are becoming increasingly rare (publishers are too cheap) but you the author should be prepared to travel as widely as possible pitching your book to every store you ever drive by. Even more important these days is knowing how to use the internet to drive traffic to your blog, Tweets, and Facebook pages. Publicists are deadly serious these days about how important the internet is at a time when publishers’ marketing budgets have been even further whittled down.
The key is not to ever believe the publishing process is Out of Your Hands. It is always up to you The Writer to keep pushing your book as long as you’re upright and breathing.
PC: Would you share any do’s or don’ts of mastering the dreaded query letter?
JG: Be professional, never informal.
Try to stick to one page even in an email
Give personal background, as well as a brief synopsis
Try to think of a comparable author for marketing purposes
PC: What advice would you share for aspiring writers?
JG: Read a lot and observe the marketplace so you know where your writing fits in.
PC: Any cautionary advice-don’ts of the business?
JG: Don’t fantasize about hitting the best-seller list and certainly don’t tell anyone your work is better than some best-selling author. Writing is hard work so you have to be prepared to work at it for a long time and suffer much rejection without losing your self-confidence or your sense of humor.
PC: What genres are you currently seeking to represent? Is there anything you specialize in, or seek most actively?
JC: In short, history and mystery. But I like thrillers, women’s’ suspense, and literary fiction. I also do lots of serious non-fiction by academics and journalists.
PC: You’re attending Killer Nashville this year, what drew you to this conference?
JC: Many of my clients have attended over the years and Nashville is an interesting destination.
PC: Which aspect of the conference are you most looking forward to attending?
JC: I always enjoy meeting new writers and hearing about what they are doing both in their writing and personal lives.