Still Inventing Herself/New York Literary Agent Anna Ghosh Heads West

New York literary agent Anna Ghosh has opened the main office of her new agency in San Francisco, which makes perfect sense in an industry re-inventing itself.

MANCHESTER, N.H., Nov. 30, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- It's always something of an experiment when someone leaves an established New York literary agency to strike out on her own. It's much more of an experiment, though, if she hangs her shingle some three thousand miles from the heart of the publishing industry.
But Anna Ghosh is comfortable with that. "This is a period of great transition in the publishing industry—in production, distribution, marketing, publicity," she said. "Things are going to keep on changing, and I imagine some of the changes are going to be positive."

And you have to consider where those changes are coming from. "Not so much from New York," Ghosh said. "The innovation in digital technology is coming from the West Coast, and much of it from the Bay Area. With an office in San Francisco, I'm open to whatever's going to happen next, and well placed to tap into it early."
In fact Ghosh has always had an instinct for finding the right place. She left her native India to attend college in America, anxious to learn more about pretty much everything: literature, journalism, sociology, anthropology, and art, just for starters.

So she went to Hampshire College, founded in 1970 as an experiment in higher education, and dedicated to the proposition that students shouldn't declare a major, per se; that instead they should follow their interests throughout the breadth of its interdisciplinary curriculum.

You could hardly design a better academic preparation for a future literary agent—not that she knew that when she graduated in 1995. "Back then I doubt I knew what it was a literary agent does," she said. 

But she knew she loved the little bookstores that dotted the streets throughout Northampton, MA, and the area's literary culture, its high head count of writers and thinkers.

So she repaired to New York City, which was very much the right place, the only place—at least in 1995—if you wanted to work somewhere important in the publishing industry. 

She found a temporary job that paid the rent, studied up on the industry, and followed every lead. Soon a Hampshire connection led to a meeting with Russell Galen of what was then the Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency on Park Avenue South. 

Galen offered the engaging young woman a position on the spot, setting her up as—of course—the agency's bookkeeper. "'Well, I'll do it,' I said," Ghosh laughed. "I had no background in accounting, but I figured it out, and with that sort of job I also learned how the business end of an agency works—how the money flows, how the dots connect."

At the same time she ploughed through the slush pile. Her first find there was a debut literary novel she loved. All the New York publishers turned it down, but not the Minnesota-based Milkweed Press.  "That was for a modest sum," Ghosh said, "but it launched my career."

Later she discovered a fantasy author who hit the New York Times best-seller list, but she soon developed a focus on the books she really likes to read: literary fiction and well-crafted nonfiction on that ocean-wide span of subjects.

Many of these were by first-time authors she found and nurtured. "My projects ranged from things like 'The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell,' a memoir by an Iraq veteran that also became New York Times best-seller," she said, "to 'How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe' by a talented astronomer and storyteller."

In 2008, she became a full partner in what was renamed the Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. It was a good gig for someone who had majored in most everything. "You have to wear so many different hats in this line of work, and look with a different set of eyes at each book that comes along," she said. "I still feel an immense sense of privilege in being able to do this."

Now, at the helm of the Ghosh Literary Agency, she's gambling that all those hats, all those different sets of eyes, will serve her as well, or better, on the West Coast.

Of course she maintains ties to New York, and continues to serve on the board of Southern New Hampshire University's low-residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction program.  "With all that she knows, and all that she can do, Anna is just a brilliant resource for our students," said novelist and program director Diane Les Becquets.

And Ghosh continues to find books she considers important, and to connect them to readers—for example, "Hunting Season," by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mirta Ojito. Published last month by the Beacon Press, Ojito's account of the 2008 murder of an Ecuadorean immigrant by a group of Long Island teenagers has arrived with plenty of buzz and strong reviews.

It's a story of the tensions surrounding immigration in a white suburb—i.e., the story of a changing America, a country still inventing itself, still experimenting. 

Who better than Anna Ghosh to bring it to us?

A photo accompanying this release is available at:

anna ghosh photo1

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