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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Literary agent turns publisher

How interesting, and what a neat idea.  It's not absolutely new news, but it is new to me -- that New York literary agent Marly Rusoff should found her own press.

I've always thought it must be so frustrating for an agent to find a book she loves, only to pile up the rejection slips from publishers who don't share her enthusiasm.  Is that why Mary Rusoff brought the evocatively named Maiden Lane Press into existence?  I went onto the net and found the same questions being asked in Caroline Leavittville's blog.

So here, taken from her answers, is a selection of Marly's thoughts:

I spent twenty years on the publisher’s side of the desk and have no illusions about how difficult it is to publish well. When it comes to our clients, our first choice has always been and will continue to be working with publishing houses as we have so productively done in the past. We are now and will remain primarily literary agents. However, we know that in the evolving and dynamic literary marketplace, non-traditional publishing opportunities will arise to advance our authors’ careers, and, in partnership with our writers, we want to be able to move quickly to take advantage of these opportunities.

Like many agents, we may decide to selectively reissue out-of-print books by our clients. And I have been itching to produce a few beautifully designed small editions that will appeal to my current author’s fans or to collectors.

I have longtime relationships with booksellers around the country that I value and that have been extraordinarily meaningful to my authors and to me both professionally and personally over the years. The books I represent are what I believe are wonderful books that I would have enjoyed selling to customers if I were still a bookseller. We plan to publish the same kind of work through Maiden Lane Press. I hope booksellers will be proud to have them in store.

Gorgeous logo, don't you agree?  But why Maiden Lane?

There is a stop on the London tube called Maiden Lane and it always intrigued me. Quite honestly, I never got off at that stop, but the name stayed with me. I loved the sound of it.  Perhaps because I’ve always been fascinated by the mews and back alleys of London I well remember how happy I was to find streets named Maiden Lane in many of the oldest cities in America. One exists in Charleston, SC; there is one here in New York, and another in San Francisco.  But the one Maiden Lane I knew best was the little alleyway that ran near the large mansions on Summit Avenue in historic district of St Paul, MN, the place where I was born. I always imagined that these modest homes housed the working women and domestic help needed to staff these grand homes. Recently when I searched for the history of New York’s Maiden Lane I learned that it was the first busy market in Manhattan dating back to the early 1600’s. A river now buried under Manhattan ran along that lane; it was where local woman came to wash their laundry.  A now- buried river? What is it that good writers do but plumb the depths? Besides, publishing is hard work, and it is my nature to work hard so I can’t help but identify with those who do. And once I learned that Maiden Lane was the first street in Manhattan to have gas lamps, I had the idea for our lovely logo. Books: a way to light the darkness.

Books: a way to light the darkness.  Wonderful!  

Since this interview was published, Maiden Lane has published at least four books, including two by Cassandra King -- Moonrise and the Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life -- Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parkes League by Jonathan Odell, and  Envious Moon by Thomas C. Greene.

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