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.)
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.
I was part of a 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.
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.