• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Deep Inside My Heart I Know I Can’t Escape

Be afraid, be very afraid.

When I was an editor, everyone at the publishing houses feared a few agents, most notably Andrew Wylie who has gone on the record with his disdain for publishers. He was a bully, he didn’t play by the rules (or rather he played by his own rules), and he exacted huge advances for his clients.

In a Vanity Fair article he was quoted as saying, “When I got into the business, I saw that agents had…friends. Their close friends were publishers, and their second closest friends were their clients. Their friendships with certain editors, certain houses were important to protect the longevity of their profit margin…It’s a source of satisfaction…that editors do not recommend us to writers. They say, ‘No, no!” Whatever you do, don’t go with Andrew.’ Well, thank you very much, we’re doing our job.”

I realized then it was better to be feared than loved. Fewer people will attend your funeral, but so what. You’re taking a permanent dirt nap anyway. Unfortunately, I think the only I person I scare is myself.

When I left editorial for the dark side, a fellow editor took me aside and said he thought I was making the right decision, becoming an agent. He had observed that I fought too hard on behalf of the authors, that I didn’t realize who “buttered my bread.” I couldn’t let anything drop. He said I wasn’t a good company girl. I took all these as great compliments, that I was a true champion of writers. Though I also felt vaguely accused of being…immature.

My parents had always accused me of never knowing when to stop, but why should I have stopped begging to go to that Peter Frampton concert? So what if I had a 102 degree fever. Why wouldn’t I want to go to my 34th Grateful Dead Concert? What is enough? I keep pushing because I believe in the these little fuckers known as books. And if they’re worth publishing, it’s worth trying to get it right. In the ten years I’ve been on Andrew Wylie’s side of the fence, however, I still find my stance is more collaborative than confrontational.

That said, I’d like to be feared. I want editors to tremble and publishers to faint. And please, don’t think of me with a referral. For god’s sakes, man, whatever you do, don’t go with Betsy Lerner.

19 Responses

  1. Betsy, you make me want to become an agent.

  2. Stop trying to make me fall in love with you. Sigh.

  3. Yes, you are a book lover. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you are on, you’ll always be advocating for writers!

    And 34 Grateful Dead concerts, that’s six more than my wife went to!

  4. I find you quite frightening.

    The single comment after this article makes me v. happy: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2007/12/andrwe_wylie_doesnt_care_who_y.html

  5. He may be wiley some of the time, but he’s Wylie all the time.

  6. It certainly wasn’t an insult that you weren’t “corporate” enough. Look how heads have rolled at the houses the past two years – that’s loyalty. It has to come down to the books. People are still out there writing them, agents are still out there looking for them. That, at its core, has to be what the business is all about or it’s nothing.

  7. Agents have a legal duty to represent the best interests of their clients. If that means hurting the widdle feewings of a publisher, so what?

    The suits are nothing more than agents for their particular houses, and rightly so.

    Spare me the whining on either side.

  8. I’m afraid of you, the way I’m afraid of getting on a plane— afraid of crashing, but knowing it’s the best way to get to my destination. I’m afraid the way a nerdy boy is before he asks his dream girl to the prom. The way an eight year-old is, the first time she jumps off the high board into the deep end. It’s good; something important is at stake, but something wonderful is to be gained if I succeed.

  9. I’m afraid people like you will fade away.

  10. OT – Nice write up in the New York Times: “Bohemian Soul Mates in Obscurity”

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