Literary Scout

Literary Scout


New York, NY

Female, 0

Literary scouts work with foreign publishers to help determine which American books they should acquire. We spend our days (and nights!) reading manuscripts, writing reports, meeting with agents and publishers, and speaking with clients to keep them apprised of developments. Scouts don’t make much money, but the perks and fun help make up for that.

SubscribeGet emails when new questions are answered. Ask Me Anything!Show Bio +


Ask me anything!

Submit Your Question

31 Questions


Last Answer on April 11, 2013

Best Rated

What's your personal record for most manuscripts read in a day?

Asked by Ruxpin almost 9 years ago

Probably two is the max. Keep in mind manuscripts may be between 250-800+ pages. I'm a pretty quick reader and could maybe somehow manage three, but you also want to be paying enough attention to what you're reading that you can write a 3 page report on it and discuss it in detail.

If you were designing a high school curriculum and could hand-pick the the books students would read, name 5 that would make your list.

Asked by Kyle almost 9 years ago

Is there a particular theme? If we are just talking in terms of great books that provide high schoolers a range of genres and concepts and are extremely readable, I'd go with the below. 1984 - Cinematic and an engulfing read that demonstrates the dangers of fascist governments. Also a good jumping off ground to discuss our society's willingness to destroy our own privacy with Facebook and such. Rebecca -A beautiful gothic novel that is well-written and creepy. It shows "literature" doesn't have to be intimidating. Go Tell It on the Mountain - Good jumping off point to discuss race, social class, and generational confusions between parents and kids. Death Of a Moth - Collection of short, very readable essays that provide a good example for a personal essay writing lesson. My Name is Asher Lev - Exposure to a world most kids are totally unfamiliar with and a good opportunity to discuss kids being torn between getting their parents' approval and finding their own identity.

I'm currently a freelance reader. What would be my next step toward becoming a scout? Thanks!

Asked by Nicole almost 9 years ago

There are very, very few scouting agencies, so positions are hard to come by. Try talking to any agents you know and looking on Publisher's Marketplace and Media Bistro.

Are you evaluated on anything other than the commercial success of the books you get published?

Asked by Hutch almost 9 years ago

I would say that a successful scout needs good taste, an understanding of what makes a manuscript commercially viable, a nose for tracking down sources for the next big thing, and the ability to form strong, long-lasting bonds with clients. When clients are in town it's the scouts who typically arrange their schedules, go to some meetings with them, and meet with them frequently throughout the day. During books fairs we spend days with each other, going out for drinks, dinners, more drinks, etc. That friendship is what keeps clients with scouts for years and may cause them to follow a scout who leaves an agency.

Can a novelist achieve success through self-publishing, or is a traditional publisher required to really make things happen?

Asked by Mark almost 9 years ago

There is the very rare story of a breakout self-publishing hit like The Shack, but it’s atypical. There are so many self-published books out there that it is almost pointless to spend time trying to weed out the good from the bad. This is why we really only work with agents and publishers. For example, scouts started reading The Shack only after it had been acquired by a large publishing house.

What's the best way to get my manuscript to stand out among the rest?

Asked by Celia almost 9 years ago

It’s really the agent or editor’s job to provide a strong synopsis to a scout and convince us that of the huge pile of manuscripts to get through, theirs is a priority. A manuscript definitely does not need to start off with a punch to the gut if the writing is good. If the writing is bad, then it just needs to have a commercial enough synopsis that we know it will probably do well. For example, after The Da Vinci Code there were a ton of similar thrillers being read, after Kite Runner everyone was reading heart-wrenching novels about that region, and after Twilight it was a scout’s job to look for the next great vampire/werewolf book. Whether the writing is good or not, there has to be some commercial element to it. If no one is going to read it, then our clients are not going to acquire it. Because we work with an international audience, we also need to know what different regions love or hate, plus the individual tastes of the editors we work for. For example, Germans do not want outsiders writing about the Holocaust, the French are sick to death of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and Italians do not think anyone can write about their country as well as they can.

What recent best-sellers do you think are TOTALLY overrated??

Asked by Tried and Trudy almost 9 years ago

I have to say that I really, really disliked Sarah's Key. The Tiger's Wife was pretty good, but didn't blow me away. A Visit from the Goon Squad was terrific, but the last few chapters really disappointed.