Book Review: Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents

jh-guide-2017-front-242x300This is the second time I’ve been given the opportunity to review this book, which is updated annually, by the publisher (New World Library). I always jump at the chance, not because I need the listings (I have a wonderful, amazing, fantastic agent) but because I love reading the articles that are included. More on that in a minute.

The heart of the book, and the reason why most people probably buy it, are the listings, which encompass publishing conglomerates (the Big 5), independent presses, university presses, Canadian book publishers, literary agents, and independent editors.  Herman’s book is an insider’s guide to the publishing world, with the scoop on everything. He’s an agent himself and knows whereof he speaks. What I most appreciate, though, is that I feel that he’s on the side of the writer all the way through.  The listings are funny, opinionated, even arrogant at times. But I always trust that Herman is delivering the truth.  And that he’s got the writer’s best interest at heart–he’s writing this book for you, for your use and benefit, and the tone of the articles reflects that.

In the agent listing section, Herman features interviews with agents. This is a goldmine, because through these you can glean tidbits about potential agents that may well help you find the right one for you.  My only quibble is that I’d love a rundown, with his typical insider’s view, of each agency itself.  Which would likely make the book run t0 800 pages (‘nearly 700 already).

I can’t quite figure out how Herman manages to write and update this book every year and still run a literary agency. But indeed somehow he does and he’s got a way with words as well. I just have to share a couple of his classic sentences.  On the slush pile: “But trying to get published through the slush is like trying to pay for college with lottery scratch-offs.” On email: “Dealing with inboxes today is like flossing teeth after a corn-eating orgy.”

The articles are my favorite part, as previously mentioned.  The essay, Literary Agents: What They Are and What They Do is excellent, as are his pieces on the query letter and the book proposal. Geez, even the glossary is helpful.

I like getting this book because as an author, its part of my job to keep up with what’s going on in my industry, and Jeff Herman helps me do that.  Bottom line, if you’re looking for an agent or a publisher, you need this book. If you’re not, it’s a good reference, but probably not vital.

Thanks to New World Library for sending a review copy of the book.

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