Saturday, September 24, 2005

NYC literary agent Jeff Kleinman

I first learned of Jeff Kleinman at the 2005 ASJA annual conference, where he was a panelist. Then, a couple of months ago, he was a guest on my show. Last week I wrote to Jeff and asked him if he'd be interested in doing a Q&A and he was. Here you go:

BDB: I happen to care for my agent very much but agents, in general, it seems agents have a bad rap. Why?

JK: See how clueless I am--I didn't even know we have a bad rap. You probably shouldn't talk to me--I'm an agent and* a lawyer, so I guess my place is somewhere near the 8th or 9th Circle of Hell.

I can imagine, though, that we have a bad rap for a couple of reasons. First, writers have put us up on pedestals, so we (or some of us) believe that we're particularly special, so some of us are arrogant, difficult people to work with. Second, because there are a lot of unpublished (and not very good) writers in the world, they can't get an agent to represent them--but a lot of times, as I said, the projects aren't quite ready to go, yet. I don't know if there are other reasons that we're hated--it sure
would be intriguing to learn why!

BDB: What does being an agent do for you?

JK: Gets me free books, sometimes, from publishers.

BDB: You're funny. Okay, then, what sort of material do you handle?

JK: Nonfiction: especially narrative nonfiction with a historical bent, but also memoir, health, parenting, aging, nature, pets, how-to, nature, science, politics, military, espionage, equestrian, biography. Fiction: very well-written, character-driven novels; some suspense, thrillers; otherwise mainstream commercial and literary fiction. No: children's, romance, mysteries, westerns, poetry, or screenplays, novels about serial killers, suicide, or children in peril (kidnapped, killed, raped, etc.).

BDB: How do you think your clients would finish the following sentences: On a good day, Jeff __________

JK: ... wears a tie.

BDB: On a bad day, he _______

JK: ... wears a tie.

BDB: What is one myth writers entertain about agents?

JK: That *all* of us lead rich, glamorous, successful lives, jetsetting with all the Beautiful People and dining out hourly at impressive, fancy restaurants. I think only Kristen Nelson lives that life.

BDB: What do writers need to know about agents?

JK: Their favorite foods and home addresses. NO--I was joking. NOT home addresses.

BDB: What do you listen to, and when?

JK: NPR, pretty frequently. Otherwise lots and lots of audio books.

BDB: And what do you read on your own time?

JK: I don't have my "own" time, I guess--I read books that I've been wanting to read because the industry's been talking about them, for one reason or another.

BDB: How can people find you?


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