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Andy Ross

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Literary agent Andy Ross has a very different background from most of his colleagues. Andy has worked in the book business for 37 years, 30 of which were as owner and general manager of the legendary Cody's Books in Berkeley, California, which has been recognized as one of America's great independent bookstores.

During this period, Andy was the primary trade book buyer. This experience has gave him a unique understanding of the resale book market, of publishing trends and most importantly, and uniquely, the hand selling of books to book buyers.

His literary agency specializes in narrative non-fiction, history, politics, current events, science, journalism and cultural subjects. Andy he particularly encourages submissions from scholars. He is the past president of the Northern California Booksellers Association, a former board member and officer of the American Booksellers Association and a national spokesperson for issues concerning independent businesses.

He's had significant profiles in the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, Publishers Weekly and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here's just a smattering of what Andy had to say during our sixty-minute interview:

"I've discovered some very great books from people with absolutely no platform. [Platform is a book industry term for being well-known by a significant number of people who will be interested in buying your book.] One was a travel narrative by a graduate student at Oxford, this 25 year old guy. He spent a year in the Marshall Islands and it's sort of a narrative of his life. It's a brilliant book and he's an astonishingly good writer and has beautiful a narrative art."

Andy has some good advice for people who are writing their memoirs:

"I tell people they have to look outside themselves... There is not a problem writing something in the first person and bringing yourself into a story. But it is a lot easier if it's focused somewhere else, if it's focused outside of you."

He also talks about how his bookseller background distinguishes him from other literary agents and almost anyone else in the publishing business:

"I spent 30 years talking to book buyers and so what I do understand is just the experience. I also know from ordering 50,000 different titles over those years and I returned a lot of them. So I have kind of a tangible, hands on experience about things that work and things that don't work."

Here's some good news for authors. Andy reads everything that comes into his office himself:

"I was just going through we call it the slush pile... the unsolicited queries... I found something today. I don't know if I'm going to do it or not, but I contacted the guy and said, 'This looks interesting, send me a proposal.'"

And finally, speaking of book proposals, here's what Andy has to say about them:

"I've gotten a lot of good book proposals that went nowhere, but if you have a really bad book proposal then you're really going to go nowhere. It's a sales job. It is a business plan really and it's got to be good. Frankly, if you can't come up with a compelling book proposal, in all likelihood you don't have a compelling idea. If you can't convince the publisher that you have a robust audience for your idea, then you probably don't."

For Andy's contact info, as well as a free list of more than 100 literary agents who are looking for authors at this moment, fill out the light blue form on the top right hand corner of this page.

And if you want to know how to write a book proposal that will really impress Andy, and to hear my full interview with him, (as well as interviews with four other agents), sign up for Agent University: The Ultimate Guide to Landing the Best Agent for Your Book and Your Career. You’ll get 6 CDs, plus an additional 9 hours of interviews (both audios and transcripts) for free.

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