What are some upcoming trends?
I find these kinds of questions very problematic—whenever authors try to write to a “trend,” as opposed to what the authors are passionate and enthusiastic about, the novels come across as flat and unbelievable. So although I’ll answer the question, I’ll suggest that more important than a trend is to be writing in a genre that the author loves. That said, it seems like people are still looking for “literary genre” fiction—beautifully written novels that would otherwise be thrillers, mysteries, paranormal romances, and so forth. Before you even start writing, or certainly well before you’re deep into the manuscript, I’d suggest heading out to your local bookstore and figuring out exactly where your book will be shelved.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Something with a great, unstoppable, unique, wonderful voice—telling a story that feels unique and fresh. Apart from that, I’m not going to be specific: I know it when I see it. I don’t tend to represent books to fill a slot—I rep books that really take me to a unique and special place.
How are you working with self-published writers?
I’ve taken on several self-published authors, but the problem with most self-published books is that the writing, premise, or both writing and premise don’t seem quite fresh enough. That said, if an author can demonstrate an established and growing market, with a significant number of four- or five-star reviews, it’s very much worth taking their material very seriously.
What do you want to change about publishing?
I have two major concerns: first, that Amazon very much has its hand on the pulse of trade publishing these days—it’s becoming a bigger and bigger distributor of all publishers’ books and is also doing its own books. That’s too many books controlled by a single entity. And although I love Amazon’s convenience and low prices, I’d gladly [have] a little less convenience and pay a little more. The second issue I have is that editors in big publishing houses are paid a salary rather than sharing in the risk/profits of the book. If some of editors’ salary was contingency-based (meaning that the editor got a percentage of the book’s income), it might make editors more emotionally invested in the book’s success.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Agents work strictly on contingency—our taste determines our livelihood, which can be fun but is also a little scary and intimidating: we have to really learn to trust our instincts. On the flip side, this must be incredibly frustrating for writers: Agent A loves book X and book Y, and the writer’s book, which ostensibly feels like a combination of X and Y, leaves the agent cold. And Agent A can’t quite explain what the difference is, but Agent A knows it when he sees it. Crazy!
Jeff Kleinman is a founding partner at Folio Literary Management. He loves unique voices, magnificently strong characters, unusual premises, and books that offer up some new perspective on something he thought he already knew something about or never even dreamed existed. He’d particularly love to find some great dark upmarket or literary psychological suspense, if you have any lying around.