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How I Got My Agent: Robert Weintraub

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics. Robert Weintraub wrote The House That Ruth Built (April 2011, Little Brown), a book that examines the 1923 Yankees; it's a story Library Journal said all baseball lovers would enjoy. Robert is also a sports columnist for Slate and has written for ESPN.com, Play, the Guardian, Football Outsiders, and many other publications.

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics.

Rob is excited to give away a free copy of his book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Paul won.)

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Robert Weintraub wrote The House That Ruth Built
(April 2011, Little Brown), a book that examines the
1923 Yankees; it's a story Library Journal said all baseball
lovers would enjoy. Robert is also a sports columnist
for Slate and has written for ESPN.com, Play, the Guardian,
Football Outsiders, and many other publications. He lives
in Decatur, Georgia. See his website here.

COMBING ACKNOWLEDGMENTS PAGES

For me, procuring an agent hasn’t been a problem—getting the right one has. I first became aware of the proposal/agent process back in 2004, though I was a complete neophyte. My method of finding an agent who had handled sports books was to comb through the “Acknowledgments” section of several books on my groaning shelves, and see if any names repeated themselves. One did—Richard Abate of ICM. I blindly contacted him with an idea, and much to my astonishment, he called me back! I wrote a proposal for him, one that he liked and pushed around town. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell, mainly due to the fact that it was about ice hockey.

I put book writing aside after that disappointment for a few years to concentrate on television production, my main career. But I got the itch again in 2008. I tried to reach Richard, but it turned out he was involved in an Ari Gold-esque faction fight and had left to join an entertainment firm looking to branch out into literary. I wound up being taken on by his replacement (and old assistant) at ICM, Kate Lee. Kate was enthusiastic and informative, but not really sports-minded. Unfortunately, it took me 18 months and several failed ideas/proposals to figure that out.

AN UNEXPECTED ACQUAINTANCE

Intensely frustrated, I turned to a successful sports book author for help. I cold-emailed Jeff Pearlman, author of well-received books about the 1986 Mets and the 90s party-hearty Cowboys and a few others. I found his e-mail on his new blog—it wasn’t like we were pals. Anyway, he kindly gave me a kick in the pants, telling me that if I had any doubts about my agent for whatever reason, I should find a new one. Waiting for some magic melding of the minds wasn’t going to happen. He recommended that I check an agency noted for sports books: the Scott Waxman Agency.

That’s when the fates smiled kindly upon me. I saw that one of the agents in Scott’s firm was named Farley Chase. I knew Farley—at least I thought I did. My college roommate, who is still one of my close friends, had a cousin named Farley, and we used to pal around when Farley came to the New York State Fair when we were attending Syracuse University. And over the years, when I saw Farley off and on with my old roomie, he had mentioned that he worked in the publishing industry. This had to be him, right?

CONTACTING FARLEY

I double-checked with my buddy, and he confirmed that indeed, Farley was in the agenting biz, and he got us together. Farley then plucked the marketable idea I had grazing amid a hundred or so others, I wrote up a proposal, and only three months or so after that fateful day when I saw his name on the Waxman roster, we had a deal for The House That Ruth Built with Little, Brown.

This isn’t to say that knowing someone in either the agent or editorial field is going to get you a deal—only a good idea, proposal, and marketing strategy will do that. But the moral is that getting discouraged is natural, almost inevitable. Stick with it until the break comes, in whatever form, and be ready for it when it does. Unless you are a D-list reality show star, that’s the way it has to happen.

Rob is excited to give away a free copy of his book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Paul won.)

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