So you want to be a novelist? A New York literary agent, editor and author reveal how bestsellers are born
independent.co.uk – Sunday June 2, 2019
Stephen Barbara’s office is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a small, cosy space in Midtown Manhattan with a bookshelf in the corner and inspirational messages on the walls (“There is nothing new in art except talent” and “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge”). Barbara himself is a welcoming person. Though he does claim to be “very argumentative”, that side of his personality doesn’t manifest itself during our hour-long chat. He’s polite, voluble, and answers questions with the patience and precision of someone who loves the topic at hand. Yet most strangers who attempt to contact Barbara will agonise over their emails for weeks. They will ask their friends to proof-read their messages. They will hold their breath as they hit send. They will spend the next hours, days or weeks anxiously refreshing their email inbox. In other words, they will manage their communications with a level of anguish that seems irreconcilable with the perfectly pleasant person sitting in front of me. Stephen Barbara, you see, is a New York literary agent.
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