Interview with literary agent Michele Rubin of Writers House.

We have a special treat today here on my blog. My fabulous and wonderful agent has agreed to be a guest and do an interview! Please welcome Michele Rubin of Writers House!


Me: How did you become an agent?

Michele: I started a PhD program in Seattle, but left the program after getting my masters degree in English to take an entry-level job at an east coast publishing company. Before that, I did mostly ghost writing and editing. My first formal publishing job was as an assistant in the Rights Department at Little and Brown, before leaving to work under Al Zuckerman, the agent that started Writers House.

Me: What kind of education, background, or interests do you need to become an agent?

Michele: You need to love both reading and the process of what it takes to produce a good book.

Me: What are some things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading a manuscript?

Michele: I personally don’t want a manuscript that’s based on text messaging. Sometimes an author might sprinkle the texts throughout a traditional type of manuscript. That might be more to my taste; however, if the entire book is in the style of texting, it won’t work for me.

I also veer away from books that despite being in English, somehow feel like they have been written in another language and then translated. Manuscripts that feel convoluted or have no fluidity don’t work for me, as will books that have a violent scene in the first 10 pages – though, this is a personal preference. It may be that another agent doesn’t mind this.

Me: What are you looking for right now in contemporary fiction submissions and not getting – and what are you getting too much of?

Michele: Right now I’m getting an enormous amount of derivative dystopian fiction, and I feel like if I’ve read one, I’ve read them all. Instead of paranormal fiction, I’d love to see a book that I could classify as “magical.” I’d also like to come across a book that involved real witchcraft (like Wicca), something with a mystery, or a YA author that I could call the next Diana Gabaldon. I also have a strong affinity with historical novels – and even would like to see a historical with a touch of, magic. When I was young, I loved a book called Jane Emily, and I would love to come across something like that.

Some of the genres that I think are over and done? Dystopian, definitely. Also, I get a lot of submissions involving bullying – but the problem I see is that there is not enough plot supporting the bullied character. It’s not enough to make a social point, you need to have characters you can fall in love with and a strong plot as well.

Me: What is something about you that my readers would be surprised to hear?

Michele: I’m a very serious cook and love to read cookbooks. I also am a serious needle worker. I love to needlepoint, cross stitch, and embroider. I also love old television.

Me: What’s the best piece of advice you can give a writer?

Go out and read an enormous amount of books. Find the ones you love and re-read them with a critical eye. The education of the artist involves reading and absorbing the writing. Don’t just read literary books – read what you love. Let them educate and re-educate you on narrative, plot and characters. Read across all genres, and read good writing and bad.

Me: Are you open to submissions?

Michele: Yes – writers interested in submitting should check out the guidelines on the Writers House website.

Thanks so much for being here, Michele! We appreciate your taking the time to talk with us.

You can find Michele, her fellow agents, and their submission guidelines at Writers House.

On a personal note, I’m still having some difficulties with my pregnancy, so my posts will probably be sporadic. Sorry!


3 thoughts on “Interview with literary agent Michele Rubin of Writers House.

  1. Very interesting to learn more about what agents do and what impresses them when it comes to the manuscripts that cross their desks. Thanks for the insight, and hope the home stretch (no pun intended) with your pregnancy will improve. 🙂

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