Agent Advice: Meredith Bernstein of the Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency

This installment features Meredith Bernstein of Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency. Meredith has been an agent for over 25 years and has run her own agency for most of that time. She is looking for: both literary and mainstream fiction, with a focus on psychological suspense, medical and legal thrillers, and love stories. In terms of romance, she’s looking for contemporary, historical, paranormal, and suspense. For nonfiction, she seeks authors who are leaders in their field with strong commercial ties.
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Agent Interview by

contributor Ricki Schultz.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Meredith Bernstein of the Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency) 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 Meredith Bernstein of Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency. Meredith has been an agent for over 25 years and has run her own agency for most of that time. (She has no agency website.)

She is looking for: both literary and mainstream fiction, with a focus on psychological suspense, medical and legal thrillers, and love stories. In terms of romance, she's looking for contemporary, historical, paranormal, and suspense. For nonfiction, she seeks authors who are leaders in their field with strong commercial ties. She does not accept e-mail queries. Please query with SASE: Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency, 2095 Broadway, Suite 505, New York, NY 10023.

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GLA: How did you become an agent?

MB: It happened organically. I was working for another literary agent as a Gal Friday (not to date myself), and I really did basic secretarial-type things. A friend called and suggested we meet the following weekend at a writer’s conference in Long Island—and I asked my boss if he would “send” me.

As it happened, I met a writer who seemed like another Anne Frank incarnate, and she had written a book about the impact of keeping a journal. She gave me her “book” to read on the train ride home—and I fell in love with it. I knew one publisher because he was also a client of my boss, so I told him about the book, messengered it over, and he called me the next day to make an offer.

GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?

MB: Because I have been doing this for a long time, the things I have most recently sold are new deals for existing clients. That said, the most exciting “new” thing is the House of Night series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast, which is in the YA category. It’s about a vampire finishing school and has been near the top of the New York Times bestseller list for well over a year now—and going strong with the latest title, Tempted. I have also just sold another parenting book in the bestselling No-Cry series by Elizabeth Pantley to McGraw-Hill.
And, I’m just completing an audio deal for my 2009 National Book Award nominee, David Carroll, for Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook from Houghton-Mifflin.

GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?

MB: I am always looking and praying for very compelling narrative nonfiction; and an unforgettable love story; and fiction that has a voice that you not only never want to walk away from—but that begs you to turn the page. If you are writing any of these—send them my way! I am also looking for literary fiction that has a haunting effect??

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GLA: You represent a wide array of categories in both fiction and nonfiction, but I didn't see anywhere online listing you as accepting juvenile literature—yet the House of Night series is huge. Are you currently seeking young adult or middle-grade lit?

MB: Because of my success with the Casts, I am now getting and seeking more YA. As for middle-grade, I still don’t feel confident I really know enough about it.

GLA: Do you notice any trends in what you tend to represent? Subgenres or elements that particularly grab you?

MB: I am extremely eclectic by nature, so whatever I represent that is of a “genre” is because I have responded to some element of that author’s creativity more than anything else.??

GLA: Any topics that don’t capture your interest?

MB: Military history??

GLA: How do you prefer to be queried?

MB: Snail mail, please?

GLA: If you were teaching a class on nonfiction writing and submitting, what would be item number one on your syllabus?

MB: An inside-out knowledge of one’s subject matter. I also think that when one loves what they are writing about, it shows—and the reader can feel it. For example, when I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, I was simply transported. I look for a writer who can transport me??

GLA: What would writers be surprised to know about you personally?

MB: That I am extremely artistic—and I do a mean “Hokey-Pokey”??

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

MB: RWA (July 28-31 2010) in Nashville is the next one??

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

MB: I respect people that work really hard at what they do. If you want to stay successful in this business, you have to understand that there is always someone else ready to move into your limelight. If you look at some of the names on the bestseller lists that have been there for years, I assure you—it is no accident. These writers deliver the goods that the public wants. It is their job to keep the readership wanting it!

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This agent interview by Ricki Schultz,
freelance writer and coordinator of
Shenandoah Writers in VA. Visit her blog
or follow her on Twitter.

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