What I'm looking for in business books, both fiction and nonfiction

My grandfather was a bond trader on Wall Street. But why did he have three phones on his desk? I wish I'd asked him. If a trader today had three phones on his desk he would probably be a fast-talkin' wheeler dealer. But this is a neat desk, what I would expect of my grandfather who was calm and disciplined and self-made. When he was in his early teens,
he had to drop out of school and go to work to support his mother and himself: his father had abandoned the family.


My dad was a businessman. In the picture on the right, he's with my grandmother in New York City for the day for a visit to my grandfather's office. At ten or twelve here, in the early '40s, he already looks the part. He was a manager of many midsized companies and specialized in turnarounds. Eventually he bought a mill in southwest Massachusetts. Of all the businesses he managed, he loved factories and manufacturing the most.  



Both my father and grandfather were big readers--of the Wall Street Journal, newspapers, and bestselling novels with plots of intrigue. They always, always kept up with the news. When I read espionage novels, or fiction about businessmen or business biographies, I feel closer to them. Without their influence, I would have thought little of real world concerns like job training or money. Most of my life I've been preoccupied with books, literature, art or music, but I've always needed to feel financially secure before indulging in creative pursuits. 

My favorite business books? I'm drawn to characters: the financier in Dreiser's trilogy (The Financier, The Titan, The Stoic), Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, the personal story of Bezos in The Everything Store, and the madcap fun of Tom Wolfe's NYC novel, Bonfire of the Vanities. But as an agent, publishers have told me they want business books that will sell 10-20,000 copies in their first year. They want authors with name recognition who are active speakers or leaders of groups. While I have my personal tastes, I need to look for business books that appeal to business people. I understand they don't want a story that's a literary downer like Dreiser, or rehashes their day at work or what they've heard in the news. The book has to speak to a need or be their kind of entertainment. If you have such a book, send me a query to WaverlyPlaceLiterary@aol.com or pitch it to me in person at the Writer's Digest Conference in NYC. I'll be there all day on August 11th.