“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Adam Friedstein of Anderson Literary Management) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.
This installment features Adam Friedstein of Anderson Literary Management, LLC. He was previously at Trident Media Group.
He is seeking: He primarily represents debut literary fiction, literary thrillers and suspense, young adult fiction, memoir, and narrative and serious nonfiction (politics, education, biographies and more).
GLA: How did you become an agent?
AF: It wasn’t my plan after getting my B.A. in Comparative Literature. I thought I was going to be a tweed-sporting academic, but I ended up moving to New York and using my only employable skill to get a job as a painter. It was a nice intellectual respite but I soon felt myself wanting to be involved with books as I had my whole life. Academia wasn’t it, though—I wanted to be close to the writing process and have a hand in the dissemination of great books. I applied for an internship at Writers House and though I wasn’t accepted, I went to work part time in their accounting department, and soon after in the foreign rights department at Harold Ober Associates. I realized then that I really did want to be an agent—to be involved in the first stages of the representation process, so I moved to Trident Media Group where I came to get excited about the relationships built with authors and the entrepreneurial aspect of agenting. when an opportunity to build my own list came along, I knew it was what I wanted, though I do own some tweed.
GLA: You seek literary fiction and even thrillers in a literary style. What draws you to literary writing? Is this your first love?
AF: What draws me to literary writing is a certain reverence for and inventiveness with language that’s on par in resonance with the attention to the novel’s arc and structure. There’s a creative, artistic intent you could say, and great literary fiction can transmit truths no other writing can. My first love, though, was nonfiction, particularly philosophy and psychoanalysis. I spent a lot of time in middle school and high school devouring the likes Freud and Kant at the public library. As far as fiction goes, my first loves as a young Jewish boy from Massachusetts were Kafka and Elie Wiesel, so even my fiction tastes were historical bent.
GLA: Besides “good writing,” what, specifically, are you seeking that never seems to land in the slush pile?
AF: I love the sport of pool, and hustler lore. I’d love to see a novel centered on that. I’d also love to see a narrative nonfiction book about the pool tables, bars, and halls of New York City. I’d also like to see a humorous novel about the transition from college to the workplace.
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GLA: Some agents love the synopsis; some hate it. Where do you stand and why?
AF: I can understand both perspectives. I don’t hate synopses, though I do prefer to experience a story for myself, especially if it’s already piqued my interest with a well-written and creative pitch.
GLA: You’re looking for “serious nonfiction.” Does this mean any kind of nonfiction written by a qualified pro?
AF: Terms like “serious,” or “literary” are pretty malleable terms in publishing, and memoir can be serious … or not so serious. What I consider to be serious nonfiction are biographies, histories, extrapolated critical essays, travel books, etc. Books researched and written by authors with appropriate qualifications, sure. While I’m not that interested in celebrity memoirs or prescriptive dating and weight loss books, I am interested in pop science writing, idea books in technology, politics, education. Memoir, and pop culture books as well.
GLA: With memoir, do you like to see the full ms, or a proposal?
AF: If it was something came in that I wanted to see more of, I’d request a full manuscript rather than a proposal.
GLA: You seek YA. Any category within YA?
AF: I have never been a big sci-fi or fantasy guy. I do go for YA on the historical side. I like YA on the darker, older side as well—quirky stories that remind me of the pathos of adolescence in a creative way.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming conferences where writers can meet/pitch you?
AF: Unfortunately I don’t have anything planned at the moment, but I encourage authors to check out our website and submit to me via e-mail that way: adam[at]andersonliterary[dot]com.
GLA: Something personal about you writers may not know?
AF: Hm. I’m a trained jazz percussionist.
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