Agent Advice: Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Jeff Kleinman of Folio 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.

Looking back through the 2006 edition of Guide to Literary Agents, I reread a great interview with agent Jeff Kleinman, previously of Graybill & English. A few years ago, Jeff acted as one of the founders of Folio Literary Management, LLC.

I’ve pasted some of that interview here below:




GLA: There are many qualities a writer must possess in order to be a successfully published author. What quality do you find most important?

JK: Besides wonderful writing and storytelling abilities, I really hope to find authors that realize all of usthe agent, editor, marketing folk, copyeditors, etc.are all on the writer’s side. We all want to create a good book, and we all want to find the next book we can fall head-over-heels-in-love with. It’s that helpfulness, that willingness, that “Sure, I’ll go the extra mile,” that can really make a difference.

GLA: If an agent is interested in a manuscript, he’ll sometimes ask for an exclusive read. What does an exclusive read mean for both the agent and the writer? Under what circumstances might an agent request an exclusive read?

JK: Agents assume, in this marketplace, the writer has simulatenously queried an unknown number of agents. That said, when some agents want to read your project, they want to be able to read it and know they’re the only person reading it … So, the first agent will ask for an exclusive read.

I think an exclusive’s a fine thing, if that’s what the agent needs, but the writer needs to be aware he’s giving something up by giving that agent an exclsuive readso, the agent should provide something in exchange, perhaps the assurance he will read it quickly. Think of it like a bargain: “I (the writer) am giving you (the agent) a certain time with my manuscript, and you won’t have to worry about someone else competing for it. In exchange, you agree to read it quickly because other agents are also interested in reading it. What’s “quickly”? It depends on the agent. I think, though, about two months for a novel and about three weeks for a proposal is fair.

GLA: What’s the biggest mistake a writer can make when he submits to you?

JK: The biggest mistake is not acting professionally enough. Writers need to keep in mind as soon as they enter the publishing business that they need to treat it as a business. Treat it as a job interview. Handle your interview like a professional: be courteous, concise, helpful and provide the kind of information the guy on the other side of the desk needs to have. Desperation rarely works; your potential boss might run the other way. Discourtesy (i.e., writing” Dear Agent” or “Dear Sir/Madam”) may make it seem you haven’t bothered to do your homework.

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