Laura Yorke is a veteran book editor, publisher, literary agent and writer who has worked in the publishing industry for over 30 years..
A native New Yorker, she graduated magna cum laude from Duke University in 1985.
I began my career at Simon & Schuster, where I worked- and thrived- as an editor at three different imprints: Fireside Books, Summit Books and Simon & Schuster Trade. At that time ( in the late 1990’s), I was the youngest editor to ever attend the Editorial Board and buy my own books ( as opposed to editing for other senior editors). Some of those books, including Michele Weiner-Davis’ DIVORCE BUSTING became long- term bestsellers. After 8 years, I moved to G.P. Putnam where I was also profoundly happy for 4 years. CEO Phyllis Grann frequently announced that “I brought non-fiction to Putnam.” That was, needless to say, a gross exaggeration. And ironic given that one of my most celebrated authors at Putnam was novelist Jodi Picoult. From Putnam, I went on to co-found the Golden Books Adult Trade Division with a former colleague from Simon & Schuster. We published books for women and the family in every category- from Steven Covey to Maria Shriver, to a dozen books from the editors of Parents Magazine. I then moved on to become the editor-at-large of Regan Books/HarperCollins.
Some of the other numerous bestselling and prominent authors I published during my years as an editor include Mary Tyler Moore, Marilou Henner, Sylvia Earle, Barry Paris, Carol Felsenthal, Tracy Thompson, Daniel Coyle, Lionel Tiger, Maxine Chernoff and Nelson George.
I left Regan Books/HarperCollins because I wanted to experience other parts of the publishing industry. Having recently had a premature baby, I co-authored Why Motor Skills Matter (McGraw-Hill 2004) with my son’s sensory integration therapist. It is an extremely worthwhile book for parents on the relationship between sensory integration and motor development as they relate to overall intelligence. (Don’t ask my why, but I still get royalty checks from its sales in Brazil!)
I subsequently became a contributing editor to Reader’s Digest, where I wrote cover stories on people such as Phil McGraw and Uma Thurman, and brought the magazine’s editorial team to meet with all of the New York publishers and their Subsidiary Rights associates. It was a wonderful education to be “on the other side of the fence” so to speak; becoming an author of both a book and magazine pieces, as well as being part of the team of selling books for subsidiary rights, gave me a much broader landscape from which to understand the business.
Then one day within that first year of working for Reader’s Digest, the wonderful Carol Mann said to me, ” Laura, you are one of the best editors of your generation. If you don’t want to do that any more, then come be an agent with me. You’ll still be doing a lot of editorial work.” And so it was- for almost 20 years. And yes, I still do a ton of editorial work- my truest passion. I also have my own literary agency.
As a literary agent , my clients include: Henry S. Lodge M.D. and Chris Crowley, bestselling authors of the Younger Next Year books which have sold almost 4 million copies in the U.S. as well as in 28 languages; George Vaillant M.D , eminent Harvard psychiatrist, long-time director of the famed Harvard Grant Study and bestselling author; Jane Alexander, former NEA Director and Emmy and Tony award winning actress; Aneesh Chopra, first CTO of the United States; Ping Fu, Obama adviser, world-renowned tech superstar, founder of Geomagic Inc. and former CSO of 3D Systems Inc ; Jimmy Soni, former managing editor of the Huffington Post and author of Rome’s last Citizen, A Mind at Play, and the bestselling The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Outsiders who Shaped Silicon Valley; Willow Bay, broadcast news reporter and Director of the School of Journalism at USC; Judy Estrin, Obama adviser and former Cisco CTO; Oz Garcia celebrity nutritionist; Michael Tonello, author of the cult classic Bringing Home the Birkin; Alison Thompson, volunteer worker awarded the Medal of Excellence by the US Army and knighted by Queen Elizabeth for her work after the Tsunami and in Haiti ( where she started and ran Sean Penn’s relief camp); Janice Macleod, best-selling author of Paris Letters; Richard Kirshenbaum, famed advertising CEO and creator of guerrilla marketing as well as innovator of branding; Eric Hollander, noted autism researcher and former chief of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Hospital; Jackie Leo, former Editor-in-Chief of Child, Reader’s Digest and Consumer Reports; World-renowned neurosurgeon Allan Hamilton M.D., author of The Scalpel and the Soul and the forthcoming Cerebral Entanglements among other book. Frank Ostaski ,world renowned Zen Master and founder of the Mette Institute and the author of The Five Invitations, Stewart Harvey, award winning photographer, brother of Burning Man founder Larry Harvey and author of the definitive book on Burning Man, Playa Fire ; John Kim, well known psychologist, The Angry Therapist, and author of the trilogy , I Used to be a Miserable Fuck, Single; On Purpose; and the forthcoming It’s Not me, it’s You; Erin Brokovich, renowned consumer advocate who continues to bring power to the people in climates of crisis and her book Superman Isn’t Coming; Renowned Conde Nast journalist Graham Boynton, author of the forthcoming Wild One: The Story of Peter Beard; California’s first and still only female Chief of Fire Protection, Clare Frank’s Burnt: A Firehouse Life; famed real estate doyenne Elizabeth Stribling’s The City and me; Marianne Legato M.D., renowned Columbia and Johns Hopkins physician, pioneer in the filed of gender specific medicine.
I am deeply passionate about the written word, and about books. I love helping writers mold their words into creation- whether I am acting as an editor, a publisher, or as a literary agent. I have remained this passionate since I wrote a novel in college as my honors dissertation ( which was politely rejected by a number of houses and George Plimpton). My passion has never flagged. Even so, the publishing industry has undergone radical changes in the past two decades. E books- a wonderful additional portal for readers, and a spectacular addition to the ways of being published-are a double-edged sword as they have also drastically altered the publishing industry’s financial model. As has the online universe.
Today, a book that would have been readily published a decade or so ago very well might not be – at least not through traditional publishing. The bar has been set much higher; in the quality of the writing, the platform of the author, and the commercial marketplace. Publishers are far less willing to take a chance on an unknown author, and they rely on the author to reach his audience as much as they rely on their own staff. Furthermore, Nielson Bookscan now gives a fairly accurate report of any book’s sales. Hence, a previously published author’s advance is linked to how well her last book sold, regardless of the quality or social impact of the new book. Authors’ advances are smaller in general. Of course, major advances are still very much in existence, but mostly for repeat bestselling authors and those with very high profiles- which today must include a widely viewed platform conceived largely of social media.
Finally, even if an author sells his book to a traditional house, it is far less likely to get the editorial attention it once did; publishers don’t buy novels “that need a lot of work.” They buy manuscripts that are already polished. The same holds true for non-fiction proposals and for memoirs. Which is why so many writers today hire freelance editors.
Because of this, as a literary agent I must select a mere handful of books a year that I believe I can sell for six figures. But my truest love, editing, is something I still do frequently and consistently. I find it intensely gratifying. I love to help authors who have projects that I would have bought when I was an editor, and help these projects become competitive in today’s marketplace. I contextually edit and line edit proposals as well as full manuscripts, ghostwrite proposals, and consult with clients on what I think are the best avenues for them to consider in getting their work published. If, after reading about me, you feel we would enjoy working together on your project, please look at the “Services” section of this site and contact me!