I recently received a private message on my Facebook page asking about an interview I’d conducted with NYC literary agent Molly Friedrich for an assignment with Writer’s Market. Here is the original blog post about that interview.
Originally published November 22, 2008
When Molly Friedrich, a respected power-house literary agent, calls me in the late afternoon, she is just back from one of those famed New York City “publisher’s lunches” with one of her high-performing clients. “I don’t get to meet with her all that often, so, yes, it was a wonderful lunch,” she says. In a town known for being brusque and down to business, Molly is a refreshing blend of straight-forward honesty and next-door-neighbor warmth. Named one of the most influential literary agents by Portfolio.com, Molly can lay claim to almost a handful of Pulitzer prize-winning authors and a long list of titles on the New York Times bestseller list.
I’ve arranged this interview to gain her valued insight for an upcoming feature in the Writer’s Market 2010, and from my initial emailed request she is surprisingly accessible and willing to share advice. I have a list of questions I want to get through during our interview, and she answers them all and even manages to take off on a different tangent or two. She talks about some of the more outlandish queries she’s received. When I ask her what a good query letter is like, she jostles the phone, “Hold on,” she says, calling to her assistant. “Bring me that letter, the one that …” her voice trails off as she moves about her office.
Soon she is back with me. “Okay, here it is.”
“Dear Ms. Friedrich, “ she says, and then stops reading. “See? She doesn’t try to buddy up with me. She doesn’t know me, so she addresses me with professional courtesy. Ms. Friedrich,” she enunciates the name again for emphasis. “Also, she spells my name right. There is nothing more annoying than having someone send a query when they haven’t even done enough research to get the name right. Get the name right. It’s important.”
I type fiendishly on my Mac to keep up as she talks a mile a minute. Molly continues reading the letter, detailing why the different parts appeal to her and even asking what I think of it. She is right, of course. Not only is it well written, the concept is a winner – a modern-day dilemma delivered in a fresh perspective with a compelling voice. And I realize that on top of an excellent interview, I’ve just been privy to a one-on-one mentoring session with one of today’s most coveted literary agents.
I thank her for her time and promise to get back with her at a later day for a follow-up. We are not off the phone five minutes when an email arrives in my inbox with a quick note to tell me one more piece of advice she wants to share. I hit the reply button and then panic. How do I start? Molly – … we’ve just talked, but is that too familiar? Dear Ms… no. That’s just stuffy. Leave off the salutation altogether? I finally settle on Molly and thank her for her generosity of time. After all, I’m from New Mexico, where formal means you wear you new Levi’s as opposed to the comfortable ones.
Be sure to check out Molly Friedrich’s stellar advice in the 2010 Writer’s Market.