• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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About Me

elizabeth-barrett-browningBetsy Lerner is the author of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES and FOOD AND LOATHING. She received an MFA from Columbia University in Poetry and was the recipient of a Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. She also received the Tony Godwin Publishing Prize for Editors Under 35. After working as an editor for 15 years, she became an agent and is currently  a partner with Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency.

(A few other things happened during this time. Things they don’t give prizes for.)

Betsy Lerner gives talks, workshops, and on-line discussions on all aspects of the publishing process. As an author, former editor and agent, she has worked in publishing for 25 years. She began her career as an editorial assistant at Simon and Schuster and then worked as an editor at Ballantine, Houghton Mifflin, and finally as executive editor at Doubleday.

She has given talks and workshops at Columbia University, Harvard University, Yale University, Pratt Institute, The City College of New York,  Emerson College, Goucher College, Breadloaf Writers Conference, Radcliffe Publishing Course, Goddard College, Tin House Summer Conference, Miami Book Fair, LA Times Book Fair, Florida Writer’s Conference, Denver Publishing Institute, Lighthouse Publishing Conference, Aspen Writers Conference, William Patterson University, Holy Cross College, University of North Texas, RJ Julia Booksellers, Salon.com, BarnesandNoble.com among others.

Frequently requested topics include:

  • How to get an agent
  • How to write a query letter
  • How to write a proposal
  • What should I expect from a publisher?
  • Titles Workshop – what is my work really about?
  • First Page Test – how to keep people reading
  • What should I look for in a contract?
  • Should I hire an editor, self-publish, e-publish?
  • Self promotion – do I need a blog, website, facebook; should I tweet?
  • After I get an agent, what’s the process?
  • After I get a publisher, what’s the process?
  • Should I get an MFA?
  • What if my agent stops returning my calls?

Please contact her to set up a program or talk for your school, conference or writer’s group.

A free examination copy of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES is available to professors for course-use consideration. Please e-mail academic@penguin.com with your shipping address, course title and enrollment, and decision date. Please include The Forest for the Trees 978-1594484834 in the subject line of your e-mail.



“Lerner doesn’t preach on how to write a book but rather tries to help writers and would be authors cope with such problems as ‘being alone with it.’ It’s a survival course. She wants to help the writer who cannot get started embark, the writer stalled between projects ingnite; She wants you to be an effective self-promoter and not a self sabateur. The book is also an affirmation that late bloomers can become successful writers.      –The New York Times

“Lerner has a wicked sense of humor. But don’t think that means her book isn’t brilliant. It is. Cleverly disguised as a sensible reference work, [this] is in fact a riveting safari throught the wilds of a writer’s brain, as well as an honest and unpatronizing guide to publishing from every angle. Its tone is singularly authoritative, compassionate, irreverent, and unafraid.” –Newsday

“Lerner describes the self-promoter, the natural, the wicked child, and the downright mentally ill. She explains the ambivalence that almost every writer feels about writing for oneself versus for the public…Her beautifully written book of observations and advice seems to be coming from a friend.” –Columbia Journalism Review

“Remarkably generous about inviting writers behind the editorial curtain, [Lerner] sings like a canary the trade secrets of editors and agents, offering solid, insider advice on every step of the publishing process…with this book, Betsy Lerner becomes what every writer hopes for — a friend in the business.” –Chicago Tribune

“Betsy Lerner’s style is economical and witty. The Forest for the Trees should become a permanent part of any writer’s or editor’s personal library.” –The Seattle Times

“With an early promise not to ‘Strunk you over the head with rules about style,’ Lerner, a former editor in New York’s top publishing houses, provides inspiring, uncondescending advice for writers.” –Entertainment Weekly

Here is a recent article from the McNally Jackson reading. Warning: some foul language is used.



“An object lesson in how women can lose themselves in the quest to lose weight…Lerner’s generosity and bravery illuminate every page of this masterful story of a worthwhile life. –USA Today

“Lerner’s writing has the ring of truth, and for many readers who live with eating disorders, this book will be a life raft.” –The Seattle Times

“The critically acclaimed Food and Loathing alternates between hilarious and heartbreaking. –People

“The author stares down the reader with her unblinking relentless truth…You never forget this is a bright and funny young woman engaged in a monumental struggle. ” –United Press Int’l

Food and Loathing is destined to take its place alongside the classics of adolescent angst, Girl Interrupted and The Bell Jar.” –Newsday



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