Ask the Pro: Literary Agent Ted Weinstein

Founder of Ted Weinstein literary management, this agent says he loves being surprised by great projects on topics he hasn’t thought about before. by Kara Gebhart Uhl
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BEST ENCOUNTER AT A WRITING CONFERENCE: A slightly wild-eyed writer sat across from me with a haphazard stack of papers and proceeded to pitch me the proposal he had stayed up all night working on at Kinko’s after his own printer had run out of ink. I agreed to read the proposal and called him back a few days later to say I’d be interested in representing it if he would work with me to cut it in half. We revised it together, I sold it to an imprint at Simon & Schuster that published it well, and it was even optioned for a movie. Only later did I find out that 26 other agents had already turned down [Bob Welch’s] proposal for what became American Nightingale.

That’s a bit like asking a parent who their favorite child could be. But I will say that I love any clients who cultivate their strengths and talents in their chosen area and who eagerly take advantage of mine. Ideally, authors and agents work as a team.

Lack of professionalism. Publishing is a business, and authors who treat their work and their careers with anything less than total focus and seriousness just aren’t going to succeed.

BEST QUERY RECEIVED: A gorgeously written query for a biography from a university professor, which compellingly summarized every key element of a full book proposal. As Renée Zellweger said in the movie Jerry Maguire, she had me at “hello.” Several of us vied to represent the author, and after I sold her book it went on to sell nicely and win a prestigious academic prize.

WORST QUERY RECEIVED: Too many to count—most make it immediately clear that the author didn’t even bother to read my agency’s website before querying.

PERFECT DAY IN THE OFFICE: In any week I have countless fascinating conversations with clients, prospective clients and editors. I get to immerse myself in all kinds of intriguing topics and help shape and sell proposals for books across an amazing range of subjects and genres. Closing a deal (or two) is of course the best way to cap any day—luckily there’s a wonderful wine merchant near my office, so good champagne is never more than a few minutes away.

BEST PUBLISHING ADVICE RECEIVED: The best advice I hear isn’t directed at me but at authors: Butt in seat. There are no shortcuts and there is no substitute for doing the hard work of writing and revising and revising again.

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