What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
The industry is still trying to make sense of the current political environment: specifically, how the unrelenting news cycle is influencing what readers want to consume. We’ve seen this in both fiction and nonfiction, and the fact that media space for book promotion is now scarcer and less dependable makes it that much harder for books to pop.
Once a trend has become obvious, it’s almost always too late to try and chase it, but it’s been interesting to see how some of the big breakout hits of the last year or two have been historical fiction, specifically stories that center on World War II. Those have always been popular narratives, of course. But I do think that they offer readers a rich, immersive escape, in addition to a way to think through questions and issues related to our current social climate, which makes them particularly appealing books for right now.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
On a broad level, I love to read fiction that explores the rewards and challenges of intimacy, and I gravitate toward emotional intelligence on the page. One of my clients jokes that I like my novels “dark and glossy”; I’d say what that means is that I want intensity and stakes on both the level of the story and the prose itself. I’m also seeking diverse voices and diverse stories and novels that deal with systemic inequality without losing their focus on individual characters. The work of the agency’s client Barbara Kingsolver is a wonderful example of the latter.
I’m actively looking to take on more nonfiction at the moment. I love narrative nonfiction with a gripping story, particularly work that takes you into the heart of a foreign culture or subculture. I’m also drawn to idea-driven books and cultural criticism that help us look at our environment and experiences in a different way. I recently sold a proposal by Kyle Chayka on minimalism and what drives our incessant urge to reduce; working on it really influenced the way that I see what’s around me, which to me is the mark of a great nonfiction project.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
While I’ll never rule out a topic categorically, I get a lot of memoir queries, and I don’t end up taking very many on. Memoir is a uniquely challenging genre, since a successful work combines the pitch and platform of nonfiction with the voice and plotting of fiction; it’s really the hardest parts of both worlds. Some of the stories break your heart, but you know that you’re just not going to be able to sell them. (That said, I do definitely want to keep seeing memoirs with great writing and an unusual hook.)
I’m generally not the right agent for YA, middle-grade, children’s books, romance, or self-help. And I love literary-leaning, crossover science fiction and psychological thrillers, but I’m also probably not the best person to query with most pure genre novels.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
The Frances Goldin Agency is unique in how it’s consistently strived to represent books that create a better world.We’re actually celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. Frances Goldin founded the agency in 1977 with the idea of championing books that would make a difference in the struggle against inequality and injustice in their many forms. We’re still very much committed to that mission, which matters now more than ever.
Caroline Eisenmann is an associate agent at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency. She joined the agency in 2017 after spending four years at ICM Partners; prior to her time at ICM, she worked in marketing at the digital publisher Open Road Media. Caroline grew up in the Boston area and attended Wesleyan University, where she obtained an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in literature, history, and philosophy.