Please Note: I won't be accepting any unsolicited queries until the end of September. Until then I'll just be deleting them unread.
So this is what I love more than anything else in the world (except, my family): I’m sitting on the couch reading, and then I’m gone – living in Narnia, breathing Middle Earth air, dodging passers-by in turn-of-the-century New York City. There’s nothing else like that moment. Sometimes (ok, true confession here) I’ll get so caught up that my hands go numb (which makes scrolling down almost impossible). Once my diaphragm seized up and I had to stop reading so the black spots would disappear in front of my eyes. That’s what books can do: they can transform you. They can transform the world. (OK, so I’m a bit of an idealist.)
I’m on the hunt: I want projects that can make a difference. I love unique voices, magnificently strong characters, unusual premises, and books that offer up some new perspective on something I thought I already knew something about (like Alaskan exploration) or never even dreamed existed (a racecar-loving dog, for instance). I’m always interested in learning (I spent a lot of time in the classroom, with a B.A. in English / Modern Studies from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in Italian from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Yeah, that was definitely enough schooling for anybody), and I love it when someone can teach me something organically so it doesn’t feel like I’m even learning.
While I’m hunting for that next amazing book, I’m also a founding partner at Folio, a Manhattan-based agency – we pride ourselves on nurturing new talent and developing a strong, supportive, professional relationship with our clients. (You won’t get shunted off to an assistant, for instance.)
Folio offers the best of both worlds (OK, so maybe I’m a little biased?). With over 15 agents, we have the experience, expertise, and strength that you'd expect from a larger agency, but we have the spark, ingenuity, and personalized attention that you'd want from a smaller agency. And the best part: everybody at Folio is really, really nice. (Seriously. Not kidding.) (But they’re all bulldogs for negotiating contracts – just warning you.)
I’m looking for:
Fiction: I’m looking for extremely well-written, character-driven books that make me absolutely fall in love with the characters and their world. I represent bookclub fiction (not genre commercial, like mysteries or romances), and literary fiction, and am particularly on the lookout for very well-written thrillers and suspense novels, or novels with a great, quirky, fun voice – like Melissa DeCarlo’s The Art of Crash Landing.
Nonfiction: I’m particularly interested in narrative nonfiction and memoir, and have sold projects in a wide variety of subjects.
Types of Projects I'm on the Lookout For:
* Books that make a difference. I really love books that make me realize something new about the world, or myself – books that will change me for the better. Maybe they celebrate some aspect of life, or inspire the reader to try harder. This doesn’t mean “inspirational books” (which tend to have a more religious slant, and would be better suited to other agents at Folio) as much as inspiring books – I like well-written, solid stories that charm me to try to do better and be a better person.
* Books with a distinctive, special voice. (Not sure what I mean? Pick up The Art of Racing in the Rain today!)
* Books with a very unique, special, “I haven’t seen this before” premise that can be summed up in a sentence or two, but also that don’t sound totally crazy. Try telling your book idea to someone who doesn’t know you – if, after you do, the person says, “Wow!” that’s the kind of thing I’d love to see.
* Upmarket / literary suspense / thrillers. I’d love to find upmarket psychological suspense stories with unique concepts and really strong writing.
* Escape stories that take us totally out of our world and into another – for instance, The Snow Child, set in the far reaches of 1920s Alaska. (But keep in mind that I don’t represent science fiction or fantasy.)
* Upbeat subjects. I avoid “misery memoirs” and books about terrorists bent on destroying civilization.
* History has always been a passion, so I’m on the lookout for something that brings the past to life and makes it relevant.
* Animals are another interest: I grew up in a house that had a lot of animals underfoot, so not surprisingly I find myself doing a lot of animal-oriented books today.
For a peek at what agents look for:
Here is a video from a talk that Folio agents Erin Harris, Dado Derviskadic and I gave at Columbia University's Fiction Foundry.
I’m not looking for:
* Children’s, middle grade, young adult.
* Prescriptive (“how to”) travel books.
* Genre commercial fiction (science fiction and/or fantasy, westerns, mysteries, and/or romances).
* Plays, teleplays, or screenplays.
* Novels less than 60,000 words.
* Books on serial killers, children in peril (kidnapped, murdered, victimized, and so forth), or books dealing with the events of September 11, 2001. I also avoid subjects like rape, suicide, and manic-depression; and thrillers in which there’s some terrorist organization bent on destroying America or the world.
* Books that deal, positively or negatively, with the present political climate - this includes fiction and nonfiction.
Folio has just launched a company newsletter! Every first Tuesday of the month, we'll be sending it out to update our subscribers on our agency and authors, as well as offering up some publishing news that we find interesting. To subscribe, click here for the signup form. To view this month's newsletter, please click here.
I'm really thrilled to be part of the new podcast series which is a partnership between Folio and the Salt Cay Writers Retreat. Really cool interviews, including my chance to interview Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher Series. Sign up and listen here.
In other podcast news, my Artists Podlight Podcast is now live on their website. Click here to listen!
We recently launched a new webinar series, Writer to Agent, which is a partnership between Folio Literary Management and the Association of Writers & Writing Programs to teach today’s writers more about the publishing business. The 17 presentations feature agents, editors, and industry professionals, with upcoming topics including how to build momentum and create stronger characters; query letters; contracts; and working with editors; plus there are sessions specifically for YA, children's, women's fiction, and some genres. Check them out on the AWP homepage, under Careers.
April 14, 2018 | Florence, Italy | 2018 Florence Writers Publishing Day
May 15-21, 2018 | Montpelier, Vermont | Vermont College of Fine Arts Novel Retreat
June 9, 2018 | Annapolis, Maryland | 2018 Writing Intensive
June 10-16, 2018 | Roanoke, Virginia | Tinker Mountain Writers Retreat
June 23, 2018 | Bronxville, NY | 5th Annual Publish & Promote Your Book Conference
July 17-29, 2018 | Sewanee, Tennessee | Sewanee Writers' Conference
September 13-20 | Oxford, UK | Columbia Publishing Course Workshop at Oxford University
October 30-November 5, 2018 | Cozumel, Mexico | The Yucatan Writing Conference
November 5-11, 2018 | Kauai, Hawaii | 2018 Kauai Writers Conference
December 7, 2018 | New York, NY | 2018 Literary Writers Conference at The New School
To sum up:
A great story can allow you to enter other people’s thoughts and lives – and, when you close the book with a sigh, transform you: maybe you’re a little more grateful, or a little kinder, or a little wiser. I love books that inspire me to become better, smarter, more present. This has been the case with many of the books I’ve represented, and it’s something I seek in new projects. I believe strongly that books can make a difference. Good writing and smart ideas can change our world.
years experience: 18
*July, 2018. Ravishly's "Ask Erin" advice columnist Erin Khar's HEROINE, about one woman's decade-long battle with her opioid addiction that explores the very nature of why people do drugs, casting light on the larger opioid crisis, written with the intention to destigmatize the topic of drug addiction, to Laura Brown at Park Row Books, at auction, by Jeff Kleinman and Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management (world).
*June, 2018. Brooke Fossey's YESTERLAND, set in an assisted living center, about an elderly man who, when his roommate's illegitimate granddaughter climbs into the window, risks everything he has left in order to discover what it really means to live, to Kate Seaver at Berkley, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (NA).
*June, 2018. Ana Johns's THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE KIMONO, a novel based on her own experiences, which tells the braided stories of an American journalist who discovers her father's long-buried secrets while, in 1950s Japan, a girl's life-altering choices have far-reaching consequences, to Erika Imranyi at Park Row Books, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management on behalf of Lorella Belli Literary Agency Ltd (NA).
*June, 2018. MFA from the Michener Center at the University of Texas, Lara Prescott's WE WERE NEVER HERE, an historical novel based on true events surrounding the publication of Boris Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago—which had been banned in the Soviet Union—and the role the CIA played in translating the book, smuggling it behind the Iron Curtain, and orchestrating its use as a weapon of propaganda for the West, to Jordan Pavlin at Knopf, in a major deal, for seven figures, reportedly for $2 million, at auction, for publication in spring 2020, by Jeff Kleinman and Jamie Chambliss at Folio Literary Management (NA). Rights to Selina Walker at Hutchinson, in a major deal, at auction, by Lorella Belli at the Lorella Belli Literary Agency (UK/Commonwealth, excl. Canada). Rights in Germany to Aufbau, in a pre-empt, by Thomas Schlueck Agency; in Italy to DeAgostini Planeta, in a pre-empt, by Susanna Zevi Agency; in France to Robert Laffont, at auction, by Michelle Lapautre Agency; in Spain to Seix Barral, in a pre-empt, by International Editors'; in Holland to The House of Books, at auction, by Marianne Schoenbach Literary Agency; in Norway to Gyldendal Norsk, in a pre-empt, and in Sweden to Norstedts, at auction, both by Sebes & Bisseling; in Poland to Otwarte, in a pre-empt, by Graal; in Israel to Modan, in a pre-empt, by The Book Publishers Association of Israel; and in Serbia to Laguna, by Prava I Prevodi, on behalf of Jamie Chambliss, Jeff Kleinman and Melissa White at Folio Literary Management.
*May, 2018. Author of Pen Award winner The Perfect Horse and The $80 Champion Elizabeth Letts's FINDING DOROTHY, describing the twin origin stories of the Wizard of Oz book and movie: how Frank Baum wrote the book as a love story and apology to his wife Maud; and how, 50 years later, Maud tried to rescue a young Judy Garland from predatory Hollywood producers, to Susanna Porter at Ballantine, on exclusive, for publication in spring 2019, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (world English).
*May, 2018. Astrophysicists and scholars Neil deGrasse Tyson, J. Richard Gott, Michael Strauss, and Robert Vanderbei's WELCOME TO THE UNIVERSE IN 3-D, a 3-D astronomy book depicting the most dazzling images of the universe in true depth and brilliance, to Ingrid Gnerlich at Princeton University Press, in a major deal, at auction, for publication in Fall 2020, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (world).
*April, 2018. Author of Mockingbird and And So it Goes, Charles Shields' biography of Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright of the most anthologized and performed play of all time, A Raisin in the Sun, placing Hansberry in the context of twentieth century American history, to Serena Jones at Holt, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (NA).
*July, 2017. Keena Roberts's WILD LIFE, a fish-out-of-water memoir, pitched as Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight meets Mean Girls, about a young girl who comes of age spending half of each year in a primitive "baboon camp" in Botswana with her primatologist parents, the other half dropped into a ritzy private school in a Philadelphia suburb learning a very different kind of social hierarchy, to Millicent Bennett at Grand Central, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (World).
*Apr. 2017. John Greenya's GORSUCH: The Judge Who Speaks for Himself, the first biography of Neil Gorsuch, the newest Supreme Court Judge, to Natasha Simons at Threshold, for publication in September 2017, by Steve Troha and Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (World).
*Feb. 2017. Kathy McKeon’s JACKIE’S GIRL: My Life with the Kennedy Family, a memoir about how in 1964, 19-year-old Kathy, a poor farm girl from Ireland, found herself working as former first lady Jackie Kennedy's personal assistant and spent the next thirteen years at Jackie's side, helping to raise young Caroline and John, and witnessing some of the twentieth century's most significant events, to Jennifer Bergstrom at Gallery, by Jeff Kleinman and Steve Troha at Folio Literary Management (World).
*Nov. 2016. Rhiannon Navin’s ONLY CHILD, narrated by a seven-year old boy, about the immediate and lasting effects that a school shooting has on his family and community, to Carole Baron at Knopf (NA) on a pre-empt by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management. UK rights to Sam Humphreys at Macmillan UK/Mantle, in a preempt, by Lorella Belli; Dutch rights to HarperCollins Holland, in a preempt, by Neeltje Smitskamp at Marianne Schoenbach Agency; Polish rights to HarperCollins Polska, in a preempt, by Justyna Pelaska at GRAAL; simplified Chinese rights to Beijing White Horse Time, in a preempt, by Gray Tan at the Grayhawk Agency; Portuguese rights and world Spanish rights to HarperCollins Iberica, both in preempts, by Jennifer Hoge at IECO; Hebrew rights to Miskal, in a preempt, by Beverley Leavitt at TBPAIL; with auctions pending for Germany, France, Italy and Brazil, and more territories expected shortly; international rights with Molly Jaffa at Folio. Dramatic rights with Steve Fisher, APA.
*Sept. 2016. Stephanie Land's MAID, a memoir based on a Vox essay gone viral about a young single mother who worked as a maid for five years and what she learned about life from cleaning other people's houses, in a pre-empt to Krishan Trotman in her first acquisition for Hachette Books, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (NA).
*July, 2016. Sophie Chen Keller's THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS, in which a lonely 12-year-old boy with an uncanny ability to find lost objects launches the most important search he’ll ever undertake (accompanied by his best friend, an overweight golden retriever), descending into the dark underbelly of a slightly fantastical New York City and befriending the extraordinary and forgotten in his quest to save his mother’s magical bakery — the only place he’s ever called home, in a pre-empt to Tara Singh Carlson at Putnam for World rights (except German); German rights sold on a preempt to Ullstein by Molly Jaffa at Folio. Italian rights sold on a preempt to Nord.
*June, 2016. Author of Adopting the Racing Greyhound Cynthia Branigan's FLYING LESSONS FROM A DIVING HORSE, about how the author, lost and adrift, bought at a slaughter auction the last of the Atlantic City Diving Horses that leaped off 40' platforms into a 10' tub of water - and of how rescued horse and owner were profoundly transformed by the other, to Victoria Wilson at Pantheon, in a pre-empt, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management (World English).
*May, 2016: Founder of Backspace writers organization and Salt Cay Writers Retreat Karen Dionne's THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER, about how, when a notorious child abductor escapes from prison, his daughter must use the wilderness skills her father taught her to hunt him down before he can kidnap her and her two young daughters, to Mark Tavani at Putnam, in a two-book major deal, at auction, by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management. Rights previously sold to Verus in Brazil, in a pre-empt, by Riff Agency, Lindhardt & Ringhof in Denmark, in a pre-empt, by Ulf Toregard, Juritzen in Norway, by Ulf Toregard, De Fontein in Holland, at auction, by Marianne Schoenbach and Neeltje Smitskamp, and Altin in Turkey, by Molly Jaffa at Folio Literary Management. Dramatic rights: Sylvie Rabineau at RWSG.
*March, 2016: Charles Shields's substantially revised and updated edition of his 2006 bestseller MOCKINGBIRD, the biography of Harper Lee, re-framed from the perspective of the publication of Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN, with new details and reporting about the decade between 2006 and Lee's death, to Serena Jones at Holt.
*February, 2016: Benjamin Ludwig's debut novel FOREVER GIRL, pitched as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime meets Room, told from the perspective of an adopted autistic teenage girl who's plotting to get herself kidnapped by her birth mother, to Liz Stein at Mira, in a major deal, in a 3-day exclusive pre-empt. Foreign rights sold to Holland, Poland, Italy, and France.
*November, 2015: YouTube Head of Culture and Trends Kevin Allocca's WHEN WE PRESS PLAY, an examination of the democratization of culture and art, to Bloomsbury, at auction.
*November, 2015: Actor and singer-songwriter Val Emmich's debut novel, THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF NEVER FORGETTING, the laugh-out-loud, heartbreaking story of a little girl who can't forget who befriends a man desperate to remember, sold on an aggressive preempt to Little Brown; translation rights already sold to Germany, Italy, Denmark, China, Israel, Brazil, and Holland; U.K and Commonwealth rights sold at auction to Picador U.K.; with several more deals in the pipeline.
*October, 2015: The "Sleep Whisperer" W. Chris Winter, M.D.'s SLEEP REVOLUTION, a game-changing approach to fixing your sleep, once and for all, to Berkley, at auction.
*October, 2015: 52 LESSONS FROM A CHRISTMAS CAROL author Bob Welch's CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY, the true story of the founding of America's first theme park, Santa's Workshop—heartwarming inspiration for the dreamer in all of us, highlighting enduring values like hope, joy, faith, wonder, giving back, and reaching for the stars, to Convergent.
*October, 2015: Celebrity dog trainer and star of the Emmy-winning CBS show Lucky Dog, Brandon McMillan's MAKE YOUR DOG A LUCKY DOG, which uses the author's 7 Common Commands to train—-playfully, carefully, and kindly—-any dog, of any age or breed, even the most problematic, in just 7 days, to Harper One, in a major deal, in a pre-empt.
*July, 2015: Journalist Herb Frazier, historian and College of Charleston professor Bernard Edward Powers Jr. Ph.D., and Poet Laureate of South Carolina Marjory Wentworth's FINDING GRACE: The Story of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church & The Story of All of Us, which examines the Charleston Church's seminal role in U.S. history to understand the extraordinary selflessness and perseverance of its congregants, with in-depth interviews of victims' families and the survivors of the recent massacre, with a percentage of all proceeds going to the Pinckney Scholarship Fund, to Thomas Nelson, in a pre-empt.
*May, 2015: Ethel Rohan's THE KINGDOM KEEPERS, following a morbidly obese man who, in the wake of his teenage son's inexplicable suicide, begins a weight-loss campaign as the first step in his ambitious plan to rid the world of suicide, a plan that embarrasses his family and shocks his neighbors, but ultimately proves that with courage and love, one big man's small acts can change the world, to St. Martin's, at auction.
*April, 2015: American literature professor J. Aaron Sanders's SPEAKERS OF THE DEAD: A Walt Whitman Mystery, the first in a planned series featuring Walt Whitman as the protagonist; in this novel, a young Walt Whitman struggles to exonerate his friends from murder charges as he uncovers the dark world of grave-robbers who steal corpses for medical colleges, to Plume, at auction.
*January, 2015: NYT bestselling author Garth Stein's next two picture books, ENZO'S VERY SCARY HALLOWEEN, narrated by the lovable dog from Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, with artwork by illustrator R. W. Alley, to Harper Children's, in a two-book deal.
*August, 2014: Melissa DeCarlo's THE ART OF CRASH LANDING, about a young woman who returns - penniless, pregnant, and homeless - to the small southern hometown she never knew she had, to Harper Perennial, at auction, in a two-book deal.
*July, 2014: Alex Sheshunoff's BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO PARADISE, a humorous memoir of a guy who drops out of the rat-race and moves to the South Pacific in search of the capital-P in "Paradise," and along the way learns how to wear a loin cloth, build a thatched hut, diaper a baby monkey, fall in love, and ultimately find Paradise - but not the way he expected, to NAL, at auction.
*March, 2014: TREES MAKE THE BEST MOBILES author Jessica Teich's THE FUTURE TENSE OF JOY, a half-mystery, half-memoir, exploring the suicide of a beautiful young woman -- a woman whose life eerily echoes her own; what she learns is jarring, forcing her to confront her own demons, in this story of the human heart in search of its own peace, to Seal Press, in a very nice deal.