What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Interpretations of both U.S. and world history, with a focus on European. I think that while we may not always learn from history, we do like to read stories that allow us to feel less like it’s the end of the world as we know it. Looking at the aggressive campaigns in the Middle East and Africa by European states, as well as the development of the Soviet bloc and Japan’s violent oppression of China, and so on, I expect to see literature—both fiction and nonfiction—swelling with narratives of conquests, social confusion and clarity, and cultural commotion.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
History and biography—American and Middle Eastern, specifically.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
How-to. And yet, I can always be surprised. I try to avoid absolute no’s because I never know what I might be drawn to at a particular moment. In general, I’m excited to work with writers who illuminate and educate while writing beautifully.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
As an agent, I read about a broad variety of topics every day, which I consider and mull as I walk, sit, and eat, etc. I’m fortunate, in my little corner, to be able to focus on whatever writing jumps out at me without being constrained by genre. For example, I’ve recently taken on a book about bread and baking, which is a first for me. From my corner, I’ve worked with Peter L. Berger on Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist and with Heidi Raykeil on Confessions of a Naughty Mommy—two very different books.
What do you see as the major differences between the U.S. and U.K. publishing industries?
Our interests do generally overlap, but one must not forget that the U.K. is a smallish country and that the U.S. is huge…with great cultural differences within it, so it can be difficult, as an industry, to market books the way they can in the U.K.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Gaining a broader readership is always an excellent idea, no matter the tools or bandwidth one uses. I mean that there are so many ways to access and absorb writing and ideas, in addition to books and newspapers and going to lectures. I encountered Allan Savory’s ideas for the first time on YouTube, and I encountered [bestselling author and client] Jodi Picoult’s when I read her undergraduate dissertation, which she sent me via mail after having typed it.
To the naysayers, the culture of books and learning is not being degraded: there remains a constant hunger for new information, new ideas, and beautiful prose.
Laura Gross of the Newton Highlands, Massachusetts–based Laura Gross Literary Agency has been a literary agent for over 25 years. She represents a broad range of fiction and nonfiction writers. She is captivated by beautiful writing, loves learning, and is particularly interested in reading about history, politics, and current affairs, as well as novels about families, no matter where they’re set. After completing a degree in comparative literature at Brown University, she began her publishing career as an assistant at two leading New York literary agencies. She then became the youngest editor at one of New York’s oldest publishing houses. She had a brief foray outside of publishing—in film—but quickly returned to working with books and with writers who inspire her. She grew up in London, where she worked for a prominent literary agent as well as for three members of Parliament.