May 9th to the 15th: “What’s the one thing you love most about working with your authors?”

May is agents and publishers month at The Big Thrill! This week we ask Janet Reid, Jeff Kleinman, Molly Lewis, Victoria Sanders, Sandy Lu, Jill Grosjean, Kristin Lindstrom and Donna Bagdasarian what’s the one thing they love most about working with their authors? You won’t want to miss it!

Janet Reid is a literary agent at FinePrint Literary Management specializing in compelling fiction, particularly crime fiction, and narrative non-fiction.  She’s always on the lookout for fabulous projects. Her publishing background includes fifteen years in book publicity with clients both famous and infamous. In her spare hours she drinks scotch and stalks Jack Reacher.

Jeff Kleinman is a literary agent, intellectual property attorney, and founding partner of Folio Literary Management, LLC, a New York literary agency which works with all of the major U.S. publishers (and, through subagents, with most international publishers).  As an agent, Jeff feels privileged to have the chance to learn an incredibly variety of new subjects, meet an extraordinary range of people, and feel, at the end of the day, that he’s helped to build something – a wonderful book, perhaps, or an author’s career.  His authors include Garth Stein, Robert Hicks, Charles Shields, Bruce Watson, Neil White, and Philip Gerard. He looks for very well-written, character-driven novels; some suspense, thrillers; otherwise mainstream commercial and literary fiction.

Sandy Lu is a literary agent at the L. Perkins Agency and is seeking submissions that draw her in with a unique voice and a good yarn that will make her miss her subway stop and keep her up at night. In fiction, she is looking for dark literary and commercial fiction, mystery, thriller, psychological horror, paranormal/urban fantasy, historical fiction, and YA.  In particular, she is looking for historical thrillers or mysteries set in Victorian times and has recently fallen in love with steampunk.

Molly Lewis serves as the Publisher for ZOVA Books and is a partner with ZOVA, Inc., the parent company of ZOVA Books. Her vision for the company is to create the next generation business model for independent publishers by focusing on the partnerships between all parties involved. Her keen focus on finding talent, promotion of literacy and love for books drives ZOVA. Molly’s business acumen has been honed from working at all levels of the retail book industry, including being a published author. Molly received her Master’s Degree in literature from the University of Edinburgh.

A literary agent for well over a decade, Victoria Sanders counts among her illustrious clients the New York Times and internationally bestselling thriller author, Karin Slaughter, whose last five thrillers have debuted on the London Times, New York Times, Der Spiegel and Dutch Bestseller Lists and two American Book Award winners (Jeff Chang and Cecelie Berry). Ms. Sanders represents a multi-cultural roster of clients, who offer diverse styles, viewpoints, and storytelling. She finds it most rewarding discovering, fostering, and ushering great new voices into publication.

Jill Grosjeanhas been a literary agent for the past fourteen years, the last eleven as the head of her own agency. Prior to becoming an agent, Jill managed an influential independent bookstore for many years. She also worked at one of the top New York advertising agencies and in publishing. Jill’s interests are in literary fiction, thriller, mystery, suspense and women’s fiction, both historical and contemporary.

Kristin Lindstrom established Lindstrom Literary Management in 1993 and represents a range of fiction and nonfiction clients. She works closely with writers to prepare manuscripts and proposals for the scrutiny they will receive at a publishing house, and pulls upon a total of 30 years of experience as a literary agent, editor and marketing and advertising consultant.

Donna Bagdasarian is the President and founder of Publication Riot Group, Inc. She is particularly interested in almost all fiction: literary, women’s, historical, mainstream, ethnic, with the exceptions of sci-fi and fantasy. Her interests in non-fiction range from pop-culture to academic, sociological, scientific, political and memoir.

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  1. In my years as a literary agent, the majority of authors I represent have been first-time authors. This, of course, comes with its own set of requirements: teaching them about the publishing business, what I can and cannot do as their agent, working with them to polish their manuscript into the best possible form for submission and so on. For me, the real enjoyment is the enthusiasm these first-time authors bring to the table. Yes, there is often a learning curve, but it’s wonderful to start with an author and a first manuscript and then, down the road, see that author grinning ear-to-ear while standing alongside their published book at a bookstore.

    1. In July, I will have my very first experience grinning ear-to-ear beside my own published book, thanks to Jill. (Thank you, Jill!) Her belief in my writing, her willingness to submit and resubmit, to read and reread revisions, and most importantly, her emotional support over the many years it took to finally get a “yes!” kept me going when a sane person would have given up (of course, we writers aren’t what you’d call sane). I’m lucky I found her, and luckier still that my writing clicked with her. She’s tenacious and tender, a great combo for a literary agent!

  2. This is an easy question for me. In my career, I’ve worked with many fascinating, creative people whom I would never have encountered if I were not an agent. I’ve been exposed to a multitude of diverse worlds through the writing and background of my clients.
    There is something entirely engaging about helping an author edit and polish his or her work for publication. It allows me to stretch my own creative skills; it’s very satisfying to arrive at a good solution to plot or characterization problems together.

  3. I sincerely believe that one of the most important contributions a single person can make toward the greater cause of humanity is that of creative expression. That being said, I’m a book person. And certainly not a writer. For me, the best part of my job is: being able to find a person who DOES have that talent; being allowed and trusted to help them, in some obstetric fashion, bring their work into reality; then shepherding it into a form whereby the author both can be paid for it and the general public can participate in it. It’s not only a huge thrill, but a honor.

    In more mundane ways, there is nothing better than working with an author, then seeing their book new on a shelf, or finding a new work that is so good I’ll skip sleep to continue reading it, or entering someone else’s world that changes my view of reality.

  4. It’s almost impossible to pick one thing for all my authors. I really love seeing them take an idea and turn it into an amazing book. A lot of times when we’re at third or fourth book point in an author’s career, they’ll tell me about an idea for the next book. It’s rarely a honed, well-crafted pitch. It’s more like “I’m thinking of what would happen if David Trevallyen was stuck in hospital” or “How about a Daria book?” or “How about setting it at one of the first Olympiads?” We toss some ideas around, weigh the pros and cons, and then they go off to work. And they come back with these AMAZING novels. I’ve not a clue how they do it, but it’s really really fun to see it happen. Then they get edit notes, from me, from their editor, from beta readers, and they make the novels better. It honestly is like watching magicians. I know there’s a trick but I sure can’t see what it is.

    I love being able to hang out with several of my authors at once. Hearing them talk to each other, about writing, about books they love, it’s one of the (many, MANY) things I love about my job.

    But the best thing ever is calling a client to say I’ve gotten an offer for enough money that their lives will now be different. I’ve only been able to do that a couple times, but it’s so amazing and awesome that I want to do it as often as possible for the rest of my life.

  5. See, Janet Reid’s answer is why we should all have, or want to have, Janet Reid as our literary agent (I’ve been begging her to represent me for years, but she says that I apparently have to write something first. Literary agents are SO demanding!).

    Me, I’m only in it for the money and the presents. It’s gotten so depressing, getting electronic submissions, because I never get chocolate, flowers, t-shirts, or silver toast-racks anymore. Yeah, that was the day – especially the silver toast-racks. You can never have enough silver toast-racks. The best present of all, though, was the princess tiara. Which I gave to my three-year-old daughter, and which earned me a brief “you’re the best daddy in the world!” before it turned back to the usual refrain of “You ruined my life!”.

    Luckily there are still the author giveaways – which can still brighten my day. One author, for instance, the famed Karen Dionne (one of the Empresses of ITW), has given me all sorts of fabulous goodies – chapstick with her novel’s cover emblazoned on it; bits of volcanic rock from her trip to research her next novel; a cool mug that my wife immediately appropriated…

    What happened to the good old days when literary agents worked not to better people’s lives, or learn something new and fresh, or read something extraordinary, but simply because they’re easily bribed?

    1. I can be had for a silver toast rack. Of course, you meant rack as in torture device, right? Cause torturing Jeff Kleinman for his secret to success is very high on my to-do list. In fact, I’m stalking him now.

  6. I love the creativity, the partnership, the common goal of doing something to be proud of and enjoying the process. I love riffing with clients about ideas, teasing each other, and getting down to good hard work and creating a project worthy of publication. I love talking about marketing and p.r. ideas, positioning, and sales goals. I love working to get my authors valued by their community of readers, and paid for their talent. And lastly, I love authors who want to be published for the long term, and recognize that their agent, editor, and publisher – are on their team.

  7. As a student waiting to receive my Bachelors degree in English literature and writing, I remember considering all the career options in front of me. None of them looked very bright. All I had ever heard about the publishing industry were stories of jaded, bitter editors tired of reading and rejecting the same bad manuscripts over and over again.

    Looking back, I’ve no idea where those stories came from. They have certainly not been my experience. My favorite thing about working with authors is always that first moment when you make the discovery. When, in a hum-drum day of reading and emailing and editing and meeting and making phone calls here and there, you stumble across something golden, a brilliant new idea – or an old idea with a fresh face – and you just know that readers will love it. Perhaps it needs a lot of editing. Perhaps the grammar isn’t up to snuff, or the bulk of the story is all weighted in the second half, or the last chapter needs a major overhaul . . . but it is very good. And there’s a whole community of readers out there who have no idea you’ve just discovered their future favorite author.

  8. I love discovering a new talent. There is nothing like the excitement of reading a wonderful manuscript for the first time, one that makes me miss my subway stop and keeps me up at night. And after I finish reading, I cannot stop talking about it and want to share that wonder with the world. Then come the thrills I hear in the writer’s voice when I call and make an offer of representation, the gratitude I receive when my notes make the work stronger, the joy I bring when there is a deal on the table for publication, and the amazement when I walk into a bookstore and see the published book on the shelf, knowing what it took for it to happen and how I played a part in it. These are all gratifying moments in the work of an agent. They make me proud of my job and want to go through the whole process all over again, despite the frustrations and arduousness that can sometimes get me down. They make it all worthwhile.

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