Blind Submission

( 10 )

Overview

Books can be a dangerous business . . .

Angel Robinson loves books, loves reading, loves anything to do with the written word. But when Blue Moon Books, the Bay Area bookstore where she has worked since college, is squeezed out of business, Angel is forced to find a new job. She lucks into a position as the assistant to the world-renowned literary agent Lucy Fiamma.

Angel soon learns that working for Lucy is no picnic. The agent has a ...

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Blind Submission: A Novel

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Overview

Books can be a dangerous business . . .

Angel Robinson loves books, loves reading, loves anything to do with the written word. But when Blue Moon Books, the Bay Area bookstore where she has worked since college, is squeezed out of business, Angel is forced to find a new job. She lucks into a position as the assistant to the world-renowned literary agent Lucy Fiamma.

Angel soon learns that working for Lucy is no picnic. The agent has a blockbuster ego to match her blockbuster success and Angel must juggle both her boss’s prima donna demands and the strange quirks of her authors. But Angel soon becomes indispensible to the agency and develops a keen understanding of big projects and the writers who create them.

What she doesn’t realize is just how far one of them will go to get published.

One day, a chapter from a mysterious manuscript by an anonymous author arrives at the office. Set in a New York literary agency, the novel, titled Blind Submission, centers on the ambitious assistant to a successful literary agent. Angel is pulled in by the plot—but her initial curiosity soon turns to panic. As the story unfolds—with chapters e-mailed in one by one—it becomes clear that the mystery author is writing the story of Angel’s own life, including secrets she thought were deeply hidden. Someone is watching her, even plotting against her. Could it be her backstabbing coworker, her jealous boyfriend, or her seductive new client?

When the novel’s plot turns to murder, Angel knows that if she doesn’t discover the author’s identity before the final chapter is written, more than just her career will be cut short.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Wicked fun and suspense from a talented new writer with an original, clever voice.”
—Lisa Scottoline

“If you’ve ever considered a career in publishing, read Blind Submission, a ‘boss from hell’ story that’s as funny as it is frightening. It will make you love your job.”
—Harley Jane Kozak, author of Dating Dead Men and Dating Is Murder

“A wonderful read from start to finish. Ginsberg’s writing is clever and seductive as she spins this tale of psychological peril and illumination.”
—T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Fallen

“Ginsberg brings a fresh voice to her offbeat fiction debut, a novel about novels and the novelists who write them. It’s a taut, fun, complex tale that will keep you guessing till the last page.”
—Patricia Gaffney, author of The Saving Graces

"Juicy...A combination of 'bite the boss with 'bit the assistant'' fiction."
Kirkus

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
Memoirist Ginsberg (Waiting; Raising Blaze) gracefully transitions into fiction with a fresh twist on the aggrieved publishing assistant. Angel Robinson is a voracious reader excited to land a job at the prestigious Lucy Fiamma Literary Agency in San Francisco, but she quickly finds herself overwhelmed in the maelstrom of an office. Angel, forever lugging manuscripts home, discovers she has a knack for turning mediocre manuscripts into moneymakers, a talent Lucy handsomely capitalizes on. When an anonymous submission set in a Bay Area literary agency is e-mailed in, Angel begins hammering it into salable shape. At first, the parallels between the manuscript and her life are innocuous enough, but as subsequent chapters appear in her inbox and she corresponds via e-mail with the author (coyly called "G. A. Novelist"), the story begins to reveal intimate details about Angel's life and to contain thinly veiled threats. Could her foundering writer boyfriend be the culprit? A jealous co-worker? Another of Lucy's clients? A game of e-mail cat and mouse unfolds as Angel continues working on the manuscript and her dragon-lady boss angles to sell it. Though not nail-bitingly suspenseful, the plot is twisty enough to keep readers guessing to the end. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"The conventional wisdom is that books set in the publishing world don't sell," Angel Robinson tells her boss. Angel's new job at a California literary agency requires submitting reader's reports to agent extraordinaire Lucy Fiamma. Intrigued by a manuscript set in a fictional literary agency, Angel begins corresponding with its anonymous author. When chapters from the novel begin to parallel Angel's real life, she suspects the author is someone she knows. Meant to be a more literary The Devil Wears Prada, this debut novel by memoirist Ginsberg (Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World) includes every item on the "bite the boss" checklist: boyfriend trouble, hostile and incompetent co-workers, and a demanding boss who blurs the line between driven and demented. The book-within-a-book hook adds a clever twist to this tale of entry-level angst. Angel is a likable protagonist, and the reader will be pleased when she finally gets her happy ending. Recommended for most fiction collections. Karen Kleckner, Deerfield P.L., IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From memoirist Ginsberg (About My Sisters, 2004, etc.), a romantic satire about the publishing industry that combines what the heroine herself calls "bite the boss" with "bit the assistant" fiction. Spurred on by her aspiring-writer boyfriend Malcolm, Angel takes a job as personal assistant to powerful San Francisco literary agent Lucy Fiamma. Lucy, who gained prominence by discovering the wildly successful Alaskan memoir Cold!, by the reclusive author Karanak, gets the job done for her authors, but she is a vicious, heartless slave-driver with no real love for books or writers. But Lucy is no fool, and she quickly discovers that Angel, who worked in an independent bookstore until it closed, has a natural gift for finding promising manuscripts and whipping them into shape. Soon, Angel discovers Damiano Vero, a handsome Italian pastry-chef whose memoir recounting his drug addiction and recovery sells at auction for $500,000. Angel has a few more promising manuscripts in process when she receives an anonymous submission, a novel called Blind Submission, about a literary agency. Angel recognizes that the book is trashy but highly saleable, and Lucy quickly decides to represent the still-anonymous author. Then the chapters Angel begins receiving by e-mail have an increasingly familiar ring. Meanwhile, she and Malcolm break up after his book is rejected by the agency. Angel becomes involved with Damiano. As the chapters of B.S. (hint, hint) pile up, Angel realizes that someone is far too familiar with her life. Who is the author and why is he or she out to get Angel? Ginsberg comes across as an insider who is having a lot of fun skewering the seamier aspects of publishing. Although Angelmentions more than once that books about publishing don't sell, Ginsberg's own novel-The Devil Wears Prada meets All About Eve-wants to entertain the masses. Juicy, if superficial and guilty of many of the very tricks it skewers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307346384
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/25/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

DEBRA GINSBERG is the author of the memoirs Waiting, Raising Blaze, and About My Sisters. This is her first novel. She lives in southern California.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

ONE

It was Malcolm's idea that I apply for the job at the Lucy Fiamma Literary Agency. Without his prompting, it never would have occurred to me. Which was peculiar, he pointed out, not only because I was about to become unemployed, but because of my almost fanatic love of books and anything to do with them. And it was true; I was a passionate reader, able to devour whole tomes in a single sitting. My unquenchable appetite for books was something I'd developed very early in my life. It seems a cliche now to say that books were a welcome escape from reality, but in my case this was the truth. It wasn't that I had a miserable or neglected childhood, but it was unstable. My single, hippie mother could never stay in one place ("place" being defined as various communelike encampments) for very long. She was on a relentless quest for enlightenment and never found it, unsurprisingly, outside of herself. Not that this stopped her from searching, or from dragging me with her. I had little in the way of continuity in my schooling and next to no contact with kids my own age. What friends I did make I soon had to abandon when my mother decided that a Buddhist retreat in Arizona was spiritually superior to an organic foods cooperative in Oregon, or that an artists' colony in California was morally preferable to a Wiccan enclave in New Mexico. My mother seldom had a man in her life to tie her down, and that included my father, whoever he was or might have become. My mother claimed she never even learned his name on the one night they spent together.

Books were the one constant in all this flux and I turned to reading whenever I wanted to be rooted and still. I loved my mother fiercely but never shared her enthusiasm for perpetual change. Nor did I fully trust the revolving groups of people (almost always women) she surrounded herself with. My mother chose to search for her truths in people and places, but I preferred to search for them in books.

But reading was only part of the thrill that a book represented. I got a dizzy pleasure from the weight and feel of a new book in my hand, a sensual delight from the smell and crispness of the pages. I loved the smoothness and bright colors of their jackets. For me, a stacked, unread pyramid of books was one of the sexiest architectural designs there was. Because what I loved most about books was their promise, the anticipation of what lay between the covers, waiting to be found.

Malcolm knew my passion very well. We met, after all, in the aisles of Blue Moon Books, the bookstore where I worked. I was immediately and embarrassingly attracted to him. He was extremely good looking--tall and tan with chiseled jaw and cheekbones- but there was something else about him that made me weak-kneed and fluttery and willing to drop all pretense of professionalism just to talk to him. He was a writer, I learned, which explained the depth of my instant crush on him. Malcolm was looking for a reference book that would help him get his novel published, so I pulled out several guides to literary agents and small publishers and went through every one of them with him, desperate to keep talking to him, about books, about his writing, and, not least, about whether or not he'd consider having coffee with me next door when I got my break.

"How is it you know so much about books?" Malcolm asked me when, to my trembling delight, he took me up on my offer. "Are you a writer?"

"Oh no," I told him, attempting to flip my hair in a sexy gesture without dragging it through my coffee. "That's not my thing at all."

"Really?" he said, nonplussed, raising one blond eyebrow. "Not even screenplays? Or poetry?"

"No, no," I said, giving him what I hoped was a beguiling half-smile, "I don't write at all. I can write, of course, if I have to. Like letters, and, um, I wrote papers in college, naturally, but, anything else, you know . . ."

It was a valid question. We were living near San Francisco, a city that seemed to contain, among many other things, a plethora of writers. To be more specific, I lived in Petaluma- the wrist-wrestling capital of the country- and Malcolm lived a little farther south, in Novato. For my mother, Petaluma had been at least three stops ago, but I'd come of age after we'd landed there and had just stayed. Despite the lack of panache our cities had, both Malcolm and I considered ourselves "Bay Area" denizens, although Petaluma, especially, was pretty far removed from the San Francisco Bay. Still, there were plenty of aspiring writers dotting my landscape. The ones I met came into Blue Moon, located in an otherwise bland strip mall in Corte Madera, searching for books on how to get into print and were usually doing something else to pay the rent. That "something" was often food service. Such was the case with Malcolm, as he went on to tell me, who waited tables in a high-end Marin County restaurant while he crafted his novel.

I was simply a book lover, I told Malcolm. I had no aspirations to write one myself. I was happy in my job as manager of Blue Moon Books, where I had unlimited access to the stuff of my addiction. I even liked Elise, the owner of the store, who paid me more than she could afford in order to keep me afloat and had always been more like a mentor and friend than a boss. Because I quickly developed a good sense of which books would sell well in the store, having read most of them, Elise had even put me in charge of buying for Blue Moon, a responsibility I truly enjoyed. I'd already been working at the bookstore for four years when I met Malcolm, but the job still felt as new and fresh as if I'd just started.

"It's like being a kid in a candy store," I told him.

Malcolm must have found this charming because, when we'd finished all the coffee we could hold and I reluctantly informed him that I'd have to get back to work, he asked if I'd like to continue our discussion over dinner. I couldn't believe my luck. The good-looking, confident guys never gravitated to me, especially not the guys who had Malcolm's level of sex appeal. It wasn't that I was unattractive myself. Although, like every woman, I found aspects of my face and body that are too long, short, wide, or narrow, I knew that I couldn't really complain. I'd even done some modeling, which had helped pay for college. So it wasn't my looks that turned off the self-assured, handsome men and drew in the socially insecure, less-than-anatomically-perfect, and vaguely desperate ones. There was something else about me, although I'd never been able to figure out what, that repelled men like Malcolm.

I'd complained about this to Elise on more than one occasion, most often after being hit on by dentally challenged musicians or would-be philosophers with marginal hygiene who'd wander into Blue Moon.

"You're easy to talk to, honey," Elise told me, after she finished laughing at my tales of woe. "And you don't have a bit of snobbishness about you."

"So that makes me a target?" I asked her.

"Not at all," Elise said. "These people- these guys- feel that they can trust you, open up to you. Hell, everyone opens up to you. That's how you can sell books that people didn't even know they wanted to read!"

"That's all well and good," I said, "but why can't a great-looking, successful guy open up to me, too?"

"Don't you worry, honey," Elise had assured me, "it will happen."

And, with Malcolm, it finally had.

It didn't take long for the two of us to become an item and for me to give Malcolm his own key to my apartment, which was where we ended up spending most of our time together. It was there, on the queen-size bed that took up the lion's share of my small studio, that we compared the notes of our days, where we shared our bodies and our dreams. Malcolm's dreams involved getting published and making it big as a novelist. My dreams mostly involved him. I wanted him to succeed as a writer as much as he did, and I was more than willing to support him in every way I could. If my social life was a bit limited (Malcolm made up most of it and Blue Moon accounted for the rest) I didn't mind. While I wasn't exactly a loner, I'd always been able to entertain myself. Reading a good book, after all, was still my idea of a great time. I suppose that somewhere in the depths of my consciousness I knew that I wasn't really making enough money at Blue Moon and that, much as I enjoyed working there, it wasn't turning into what one might consider a career. And I was going to need a career eventually. Although we didn't discuss it that often, Malcolm and I were planning to get married at some point in the future and one of us was going to need to make some decent money.

Otherwise, though, I was content with my life. There was no reason for me to change anything. That is, until Elise told me that she was closing Blue Moon and that I'd have to find another job.

I wanted to believe that Elise would find a way to keep the store open, and so, even as she began liquidating, I held on in a state of denial for several weeks. That denial might have carried me all the way to the unemployment line had Malcolm not come up with a plan.

I came home from work one evening, in what had become my usual dazed do-nothing state, and found a want ad circled in red and taped to the bathroom mirror. I went to brush my teeth and peeled it off, watching my own curious expression reflected behind it. There was barely any text to the ad.

"ADMIN ASST WANTED," the ad began, "FOR BUSY, SUCCESSFUL LITERARY AGENCY."

I didn't like the first line. The dreaded "administrative assistant" title was just a glorified term for slave. Still, the rest of the ad was very intriguing:

CANDIDATE MUST BE SMART, DETAIL AND MULTI-TASK ORIENTED. PREVIOUS PUBLISHING EXPERIENCE VERY HELPFUL. LOVE OF BOOKS A MUST. FAX RESUME ATTN: CRAIG AT LUCY FIAMMA LITERARY AGENCY.

Under the ad, Malcolm had scrawled, A--This is the perfect job for you! xxx, M.

Malcolm was right. I had all the bases covered on this one, I thought. By the time he arrived home from his dinner shift that night, I'd added Blue Moon to my old resume and printed out a copy. I faxed my resume from the bookstore the next day and, within a few hours, there was a message for me from someone named Anna requesting that I call to make an appointment for an interview.

"Lucy and Craig would like to meet you," the tired voice said. "Please give us a call so we can set up a time."

When I called back, Anna gave me complicated directions to the office in the same listless tone. In the background, I could hear what sounded like an entire bank of ringing phones.

Elise was encouraging, if not exactly enthusiastic, when I asked for a morning off to go to the interview.

"Well, well. Lucy Fiamma," she said. "That's the big time, isn't it? Of course, you know I'll help you in any way I can." A whisper of a frown crossed her features. "Just be careful, dear," she said, and walked away before I could ask her what she meant.

Malcolm, on the other hand, was thrilled to hear that I'd landed an interview. He was so excited that he took me to dinner at Postrio, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the city that was way out of our normal budget.

"You know I don't have the job yet," I said as we toasted with glasses of Chianti.

"Oh, you'll nail it, baby," Malcolm said. "I have no doubt."

Preparing for my interview turned out to be a nightmare. It took a full hour in front of the mirror to come up with an outfit I didn't even like. I'd settled for a blue dress, the most conservative of the three in my closet, and the only one that covered the tattoo- the small but vivid angel wings on the top of my right breast. I'd gotten the tattoo when I was seventeen and angry at my mother, so after downing a few shots of vodka supplied by my bad-girl friends of the moment, I'd allowed myself to be talked into being poked by an inky needle. Getting that tattoo was the only overtly rebellious act I committed in my tame teenage years and I regretted it almost immediately. My mother couldn't have cared less, for one thing, which completely undermined my purpose in getting it in the first place. I hated the way it looked for another thing and always ended up trying to cover it. Every time I looked at those wings I couldn't believe I'd been stupid enough to brand my own flesh.

Malcolm, however, thought my tattoo was cute- "Angel's wings," he called it--and made a point of kissing it whenever possible. "It's so conveniently located," he always said with a smile. But because we were usually in a state of undress when he delivered these kisses, I was usually focused on things other than my ill-advised tattoo.

My hair was another problem. Up or down? Barrette or free-flowing? At the best of times, I didn't know what to do with my wild mass of curls. It was a difficult color- mostly red, but with enough gold to allow me to classify it as titian when I was being both generous and literary about my appearance- and it fell halfway down my back. In the end, I twisted it into a librarian-type bun at the back of my head and hoped it didn't make me look too severe.

Makeup was an issue as well. I didn't wear much to begin with since, unlike many redheads, I had a smooth, almost olive, complexion, with eyelashes and brows that were dark enough not to need mascara. I searched through my pitiful supply of shadows and decided that none of them really matched the hazel of my eyes, the red of my hair, and the blue of my dress. I'd have to go bare, I thought, but made a vow to go shopping for both cosmetics and clothes if I got the job.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. How long would you have lasted as Lucy Fiamma’s assistant? Who was the worst boss you ever had? How does that person compare with Lucy?

2. Describe Angel’s relationship with her mother. With Malcolm. What do these relationships have in common? How do they impact her relationship with Lucy?

3. What was your impression of Angel’s co-workers Anna and Craig? Why does Kelly/Nora allow Lucy to rename her? What kind of atmosphere does Lucy’s attitude create in the office? Why would a boss pit her staff against each other? What does Lucy have to gain?

4. Lucy takes credit for turning Cold! into a bestseller by adding the exclamation point to the end of the title. What do you think this says about Lucy in light of what we discover at the end of the novel?

5. What was your first impression of Malcolm? Both Angel’s mother and Elise dislike him. Why? Do you think his motivations for showing Angel Lucy’s ad were selfish?

6. Who did you think was the mystery author? Why?

7. Why does Lucy bring Angel to New York? Does she have reasons other than selfish ones for doing so? How does this trip set up Angel for success on her own?

8. How is Damiano different from Malcolm? Do you think Angel’s love of books–and writers–plays into her attraction to him? If so, is Malcolm’s mediocre talent a turnoff for her?

9. Angel gives Lucy Malcolm’s book without reading it herself. Why? Why does Angel tell Lucy the manuscript was written by her boyfriend? Was she trying to hurt Malcolm’s chances of getting published or was it an innocent misstep?

10. Lucy’s dinner party is painfullyawkward. Why have it? Why hire Anna, Angel’s co-worker, to serve? Why serve only meat?

11. Lucy offers Angel a spa day during their trip to New York, but the whole event is canceled when Angel refuses to cut and color her hair to look exactly like Lucy’s. Why would Lucy suggest this style change in the first place? Is this about control or creating a protégé?

12. Why is Angel convinced that Blind Submission is about her life? How does her growing paranoia about it affect her life?

13. Why does Lucy follow Angel home from New York and then lie about it?

14. Why does Lucy seem to hate writers even though she’s supposed to be working on their behalf?

15. At the end of the novel within the novel, the main character, Alice, recalls a famous line about writing: “It was something someone had once said about writing . . . that it was so easy . . . all you had to do was sit down . . . and open a vein” (page 313). What does that phrase mean? How does it relate to the experiences of the writers in Blind Submission?

16. On page 320 Angel says that Alice is part her and part Lucy. In what ways is she like Angel? How is Angel like Alice? What aspects of Lucy’s character are evident in Alice?

17. Why does Lucy give in to Angel’s demands at the end of the novel? When does the balance of power between the two begin to change? How much control over the outcome of the novel did Lucy have?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Terrible...save your money

    I thought it sounded good but it was bland and dry. It started out good but dies by 1/3 in. I was able to guess this plot by that time too so no real mystery. Even Nancy Drew gave us more as kids. Where are the good writers?

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  • Posted January 19, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A writer to watch!!

    I picked this book up thinking it sounded interesting and wanted to try a new author. I was absolutely enthralled!! Ginsberg's writing style is great and the story is super! There will certainly be comparisons to Devil Wears Prada because it involves a brassy boss in the publishing world. Story takes place within the walls of a very busy literary agency. If you are a bibliophile , you will love this behind the scenes look into the cut throat world of publishing! I have now purchased all of Debra Ginsberg's books and I am shocked she is not on every best seller list yet! Great writer!

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  • Posted September 24, 2010

    Unique,interestig, but unrealistic

    This book is realistic-fiction but by the way the main character, Angel Robertson,handels her experience and feeling that her life is in danger is quite like the stupid girl in the scary movies who isn't scared. Even though her life is clearly in danger. When angel had the feeling someone was in her hotel room and knew about her life she would have, like any other person, went to the police or told someone she trusted. But No! She convinced herself that she was just over reacting. Even though it was unrealistic that she kept ignoring the obvious threats that some anonymous writer was emailing her throughout the story. The ending and the beginning were far from disapointment. In the beginning Angle was taking a risk, taking a job, being independent despite the butterflies and fear which was very realistic. And the ending was supriseing and humerous, but I wont give that away. ~ColleenHellenYost

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  • Posted May 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great new idea

    This story is an interesting new concept. Not a thriller but interesting enough to have me reading it an entire day (doesn't happen often with me). Great escape book and a great look into how you really do not know someone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2008

    A breezy read

    A fun, breezy read through the world of literary agents. I liked finding out just what goes on behind the scenes before a book makes it into print. The best part is the main character's surprise as she begins to realize that the newest submission is eerily following her own life!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2006

    Outstanding!

    I picked up this book because it was a recommendation at a local independent bookseller and was not disappointed. The characters are outstanding and the protagonist is endearing. It's a fun read that I was sorry had to end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2006

    Another great read from a very talented writer.

    Having read all of Ms. Ginsberg's previous books, all memoirs. I was quite enchanted by her latest, her first foray into fiction. It's a suspense novel that is loaded with Ginsberg's trademark humor. She keeps the pace moving and the reader guessing, as Angel Robinson, a new employee at the Lucy Fiamma literary agency, begins reading a manuscript that eerily begins to reflect her own life. Angel likes what she initially reads of this rough manuscript, which comes in through the mail, and encourages the author G, short for Great American Novelist (as the authors pens himself), to continue submitting a few chapters at a time. As she reads more and more of the proposed book, she finds it closely resembling her own life. Ginsberg uses this novel within a novel to build the suspense. Is the author some disgruntled, rejected author out to get Angel, or is it someone in the office watching her too closely? The suspense builds as bad things begin to happen to G's protagonist. Is Angel in danger? How will it all end? The author keeps you on the edge of your seat and you'll love the insider's look at the how books get published and howl with laughter as you see society reflected in Ginsberg's very real look at the publishing industry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2006

    A MUST READ

    I'm one of those readers who doesnt want too much information about a book before I read it. Many times just the title can convince me to give it a shot. That was what prompted me to purchase BLIND SUBMISSION. From the first page you are drawn into the world of publishing agents and its pages are filled with dynanmic characters and a story that draws you quickly from page to page. I am an avid mystery reader and I can't reccomend this book enough. I will anxiously be awaiting Ms. Ginsbergs next endeavor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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