Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rachel Beck of Liza Dawson Associates

Rachel Beck, literary agent, joined Liza Dawson Associates in 2020 after working at a boutique literary agency for 4 years. She has been in the publishing industry since 2009 and worked at Harlequin editing romance novels for nearly 6 years before transitioning her skills to the agent world in order to be an advocate and champion for authors. She lives outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two young sons, and an endlessly entertaining cat.

What Rachel is looking for:

Rachel believes that the right book can change or heal a life, and she wants to find those. But she’s also interested in lighter fiction that helps you escape or simply makes you laugh after a tough day. Or nonfiction that teaches you something about an obscure topic, thus opening up a new world. More specifically, she’s looking for:

Upmarket/book club women’s fiction—Think of authors such as Emily Giffin, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Amy Hatvany, Liane Moriarty, and Diane Chamberlain, who explore sensitive, controversial, or morally gray areas in a complex, sympathetic way. Material that reminds us how difficult it is to be a modern woman, but also how rich and rewarding. Books that explore motherhood, fertility issues, addiction, sexism or sexual assault, and messy family dynamics are good examples—but with a fresh eye that brings something new to the conversations.

Light-hearted millennial fiction or contemporary romance—Authors like Kristan Higgins and Sophie Kinsella. A beach read, but with plenty of heart that might make you go from laughing to crying in an instant. Books that address the struggles of your twenties and early thirties, such as dating woes, career fulfillment/advancement, deciding whether to have kids or not, social media pressures, etc.

Domestic suspense—Character-driven, psychologically intense reads. This genre is saturated at the moment, so she’s very picky and will only entertain something that feels fresh from page one, with characters who are mind-blowingly insane or compelling or extreme or fascinating. Unlikeable characters are most welcome; she’d love to see a good classic antihero. Just give her characters and plots she won’t be able to stop thinking about. Please avoid clichéd plot-lines, twists for the sake of twists, predictable endings, or telling her that the story is the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.

Contemporary young adult—no fantasy, but apocalyptic, cyberpunk, etc., okay. She’s primarily drawn to heavy, issue-driven YA that goes after topics such as mental health, sexual assault, eating disorders, abuse, trauma, suicide, LGBTQ issues, dealing with death/grief, etc. She loves YA authors such as Courtney Summers, Amber Smith, Jennifer Niven, John Green, Ann Brashares, Kathleen Glasgow, Robin Talley and Jandy Nelson. She would love to find a book about a trans character going through the experience, or a book that highlights the importance of a movement, much like The Hate U Give did—perhaps for the MeToo movement or mass shootings.

Select nonfiction—feminist material; career/business/personal growth books with new focus points; extreme underdog, survival, accomplishment, or rising-from-poverty type stories; select health and wellness books (especially mental health, eating disorders, any rare or underrepresented conditions, Alzheimer’s/memory—she’s especially interested in the condition known as HSAM, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory); books about football/the NFL; marathoner/triathlete memoirs; parenting books that bring something new to the conversation; books that explore cult life or extreme religion; 9/11 survival stories; anything about Anne Frank

Anything featuring odd, eccentric, quirky or perhaps on-the-spectrum characters, treated authentically and with compassion (think Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, The Rosie Project)

Anything exploring complex sibling relationships, particularly sisters

Anything set in the South, particularly New Orleans/the Cajun region of southern Louisiana

Retellings of classics such as A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, As I Lay Dying, The Old Man and the Sea, The Tell-Tale Heart

Please do NOT send her: middle grade, picture books, epic/high fantasy, erotic romance, short stories, or poetry.

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