Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Four Young Literary Agents

Comments

JAFO says...

An incredible article. I'm certain the wine helped to open up these agents/owners/literary business people. I learned a great deal about literary agents from this article. They came across as open and honest in their responses. Some of those responses had me laughing out loud--not because I have any experience with being a literary agent, but rather because they were such human reactions; they reacted to questions the way my friends in business would react. It is a business after all. Cudos to the author of this article. His approach to this project was magnificent.

 

ejjjjder says...

Thank you, i have read all of it takes 30 minutes completely and i liked this part very good. "I have a trick that works every time. I use it a lot, so I should probably retire it at this point. But I write in the subject line, "People who owe me a phone call." Then they open the jokes e-mail and number one is "The Pope." Number two is "Britney Spears." Number three is "You." Then I'll say, "If you can explain numbers one and two, that would be great, but I'll settle for number three. I'd love to hear from you." They always get back to me. [Laughter. Compliments.] It's good because it's a little passive-aggressive, but it's also polite.
BARER: I know an agent who once sent an editor who wouldn't call the client a fake phone and phone card and a whole little package of messages. Like, "Hello? Pick up the phone!" It's just astonishing and insulting.

YianniD says...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this conversation with the four agents. I learned a lot, especially as one who is currently looking for an agent for my first novel. However, I must strongly disagree with Barer's statement that men do not buy fiction. As a man, I can tell you I both buy and read fiction, and I know of other men who do the same. I also liked the discussion about technology, which I think is a great tool to use for marketing a book. I do not think that the printing of books will go away because of Kindle or Nook. I just think those mediums are another way to attract people to books. Both will continue into the future. Anyway, thanks again P&W for making this dialogue possible. It's nice to get a glimpse into the thoughts of agents, and it has helped me find at least two more agents I'll be sending my query letter to. Best!

downeyr says...
@journalissimo I think that political correctness stuff is crap...didn't Kleinman say that he tried to buy 'The Kite Runner'...just because there's not an agent of color in this interview doesn't mean that writers of color are being shortchanged--on ande of the other agents in this interview said that they got sent a book dealing with Sri Lanka and she loved it. This doesn't sound like a group of people who look to reflect their own demographic.
journalissimo says...
Very disappointing piece. Looks like every agent on this panel is white. Not one agent who happens to be a person of color in the bunch. Where are the HIspanic agents? Or Asian-American agents? It just gives one a good idea of why the industry is so bland these days, because the gatekeepers, like these four being interviewed, spend most of their time navel-gazing, picking out prospects who reflect their own demographic. PW, surely you can do a lot better than this.
greatpoobah says...
Just read Jan/Feb issue and enjoyed the interview with the four young agent-turks, Barer, Kleinman, Lazar and Zuckerbrot. I found their comments candid and informative. How about a follow-up article with four aspiring writers, not anyone with an agent or who has been published, but four writers who have been struggling to land an agent? Maybe these four agents might learn something that would make them a little more understanding of those query letter writers, and in the end, better agents. I would love to be one of the four struggling writers.
mullenjd says...
As I read the musings of The New Guard agents, an image formed in my brain where it remains today. It is no doubt unfair, and for that I apologize, but I relay it to you anyway on the theory that among your readers I am not alone. A small party of prepsters is sent, for reasons of minor miscreance, to the starving population of a remote and unfamiliar tribe. Their task? To distribute a steady albeit inadequate and dwindling supply of food. As they pinot-up each evening after five, they talk of how they select the lucky recipients, the few who depart that day with a cup of rice and a pint of powdered milk. Eventually the party formulates a list for the benefit of their charges, those for whom they are the agents of the new guard: "The ten things in the begging process that make an agent want to reject an entreaty immediately." John Mullen -- Gloucester, Massachusetts
RSMellette says...
I just happen to be working on a screenplay about radio DJ's back when they actually got to choose the music they played and could champion new bands or new songs, and this article reminds me of that same symbiotic relationship. I suppose in all of the Arts there are the creators and the champions. Visual Artists have galleries. Play/screen writes have producers. Musicians have managers. Dancers have... whatever dancers have. And writers have agents. I'm sure one could find drafts of query letters from artists in the 16th century to potential patrons. Very little changes, even as it all goes digital. Speaking of the digital revolution - there is a great story of a screenwriter who got fed up with hearing about "The (Frank) Capra Touch" when he felt the director was taking too much credit for what his writers had created. This disgruntaled scribe is said to have put brads into 100 blank pages, tossed it on Carpa's desk and said, "Put your touch on that!" The same could be done for those touting digital. Toss them an empty ream of paper and say, "Turn that into ones and zeros." And has no one noticed that the main interface between computers and people is the written word? Maybe I have because I'm dyslexic.
little lord says...
This was fun to read. I laughed out loud enough times that my three-year-old left the Island of Sodor to come drool on my Mac. Anyway, a few references were made to the music industry, and I don't think they should be left unturned. I am a lowly singer/songwriter, and the similarities I noticed are eerily familiar. It's not about the "next literary iPod," although I have run into a few passionate electronic book owners. Nor is the issue simple: writers need to not suck, and readers won't buy crap. But I think that these large publishing companies are doing the same kind of preliminary homogenizing that the big record companies did not too long ago. "Indie" houses, the smaller joints, are going to eventually eat the big fellas' lunches. The ingredients are all there - frustrated and underpaid writers, passionate agents who are tired of running between the talent and "the man," as well as editors who want to be part of something significant. All of whom would love to get paid. Sooner. Just some thoughts...
quiquepolo says...
I find a lot of matters in this article useful and interesting in the sense that it really shows the way the world of literature is now a days. I don't generally write comments about articles because I feel they have no repercussion on the greater purpose, but I am just baffled at how blatant the market is. Literature is an ART and agents freely discuss how a writer should be willing to sell. Writing is not enough? Unawareness in the XXI century really lets me down. There is such a lack of understanding of the very essence of art from agents, who are supposed to understand it. Art lives though and it is not about selling or making millions, in fact the greatest stories are never published. Life itself is the greatest art and agents should realize that the greatest writers are not crazy about publishing, chances are they don’t even care much because they have a day job.
kristanhoffman says...
I always enjoy these Q&As with editors and agents, but I especially appreciated hearing from a younger crowd this time, the kinds of people I (hopefully) would be working with soon. Naturally I found myself nodding in agreement to much of what they said, and cringing on occasion. I suppose it's comforting in a way to realize that they get us frustrated as we writers do -- although it can be disheartening at times as well... Ultimately, though, I agree with petetarslaw's comment about their passion. It's enough to make me a little less scared about sending my work to people like them, enough to give me a little more faith and hope.
petetarslaw says...
This conversation may have taken place over Mexican takeout and wine. But listen to the passion here. The words. Fight. Love. Make me see things I'd never seen. Show me new worlds. These agents may indeed just sit at desks, checking emails, making phone calls. But they are devout members of a religious order. The Order of Books. Like wandering monks, like samurai, like holy fools passing through some Russian forest, these are men and women pledged entirely to a cause. Writing. And because of them, and those like them, the light of Literature has never gone out. And never will.
youfunnytoo says...
On page two of this article, one of the agents describes quite clearly, and in very negative terms, the opening scene of an unpublished and unrepresented novel that he's heard about on some web forum. How is that ethical, either for the agent or for Poets & Writers?