There’s always a lot of grumbling among authors and wanna be’s about the cold, cruel people who are literary agents. The complaints include:
- They take too long to read manuscripts.
- All they care about is their commissions.
- They’re harder to snag than a publisher.
While some lit agents do take weeks, even months, to read (or have someone else read) a manuscript and it’s very difficult to find one who will represent you if you’re not established, they love books and writers and wouldn’t be in the business if it were all about their commissions.
As I mentioned in last night’s post, this week is the annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference and that means I get to see two old friends who are literary agents. (One of the most popular events at the Conference is the day when aspiring authors can pitch agents and, hopefully, land one.)
Paul Fedorko, who runs the literary division at N.S. Bienstock, a New York talent agency representing lots of on-air news people (Steve Kroft, Dan Rather, Bill O’Reilly, etc), is one of the nicest guys around. He and I used to work together at NAL when we were both on the publishing side. He’s full of enthusiasm, makes every book he represents sound like it’ll be a sure-fire bestseller and genuinely loves his job. Plus, he’s funny. Not a bad combo.
Angela Rinaldi owns her own literary agency in Beverly Hills and gives new meaning to the term “full service.” She not only sells aggressively to publishers but puts time and energy and intelligence into editing a manuscript before she submits it anywhere. Remember the humungous bestseller “Who Moved My Cheese?” That was Angela’s book in every way. She helped conceive it, coaxed it out of the author, found it a home and made sure it was marketed properly. She and I worked with Paul at NAL back in the day and it’s always a treat to see her.
As for my own agent…
I’ve been with Ellen Levine, executive vice president at Trident Media Group, for 15 years, since the days when she had her own agency. I only wish she’d fly out for the Conference – or on one of her very occasional visits to L.A. – so I wouldn’t have to wait until August to see her in New York. She’s not only one of the smartest people I’ve ever met as well as the most hardworking, but she’s also one of the most caring. She has her authors’ best interests at heart. She makes us each feel as if we’re her only client. She’s a gem. I’m just so grateful that she took me on when I was starting my career and that she’s still in my life…although now that I really look at her picture and the books on that shelf next to her, I’m wondering why I don’t see any of my books there. Hm. I’ll have to ask her.