What are some upcoming trends?
I’ve always been perplexed by the “trend” question, because I’ve never chased them. The best books come from the minds of writers, and the best writers are so often those who see the world a little differently, who express the familiar in surprising ways, or who immerse us in worlds we haven’t seen before. Some of the most successful books I’ve represented, such as Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm or Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black,helped create trends. And it’s wonderful when a successful publication helps whet our collective appetites, creating new opportunities for writers, publishers, and readers.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Well, as you might guess from the previous question, the books that excite me are the ones I could never have imagined on my own. Much of my focus is on literary nonfiction and journalism, and there’s nothing more exciting than stumbling on an original voice. It’s a genuinely visceral thing—the heart beats faster, I find it hard to sit still, and I start writing down names of editors I can’t wait to call. I’ll read about warriors or spiritual seekers, about crime or love, about cutting-edge science and technology, or the challenges of the past, natural history, or traditional history. I’m interested in all these areas, but the larger point [is that] I’m interested in writers who are curious about the world, who are trying to understand something elusive, and who take me on an interesting journey. I’m equally interested in fiction that explores all these realms.
How are you working with self-published writers?
We’ve had great success with self-published authors looking to enter the traditional market. It’s also been really gratifying to help many of our clients self-publish their out-of-print backlist. It’s so important to authors that their work is available, and whether they find many new readers or only a few, there’s something special about helping to make those new introductions possible. In a handful of cases, authors have found new followings that have revived their careers.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
A query sent simultaneously to every agent in the known universe. Writers should approach agents selectively, and most agents appreciate being approached for a specific reason. I know I do.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
In the 35 years I’ve been in the agency business, the best of times has always been somewhere in the distant past—and yet we consistently find editors eager to publish good books. I’ve often said that being a literary agent is like being a Depression-era milliner; nothing cheers a publisher up more than a good book, the hope of another success. Auctions, debuts, and authors changing publishers may dominate the talk at the lunch table, but the mass of the iceberg in an agent’s work is in the long, ongoing conversations with writers about the courses of their careers. Often that happens in close collaboration with a dedicated publishing team. Nathaniel Philbrick has been with Viking since [2000’s] In the Heart of the Sea, and Mary Kay Andrews with St. Martin’s Press since [2011’s] Summer Rental; it’s hard to characterize partnerships like these except to say how rewarding it is to work with a team that is always pushing harder to give a little something extra and who truly partners with the author an agent. A big part of my day goes into those conversations.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m enormously proud to have two other energetic and talented agents working with me—Ross Harris and David Patterson—and of all the wonderful writers and books they’ve brought to the agency. And I’m grateful for the many good relationships, friendships, and good will we’ve all developed throughout the industry. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but publishing a book takes an entire community. When I think about the work we do, that’s what sticks with me: the tribe of authors, colleagues, editors, co-agents, publicists, marketers, and everyone else who works in the trenches with a shared determination to bring good books to readers. And just for the record: editors still edit. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t worked with the best of them.
Stuart Krichevsky has over 30 years of experience as a literary agent. Since 1995, he has been president of the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, an independent New York literary agency representing a distinguished list of fiction and nonfiction authors, with an emphasis on narrative nonfiction, literary journalism, and literary and commercial fiction. Clients of the agency have appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list (25 titles on the printed list in 21 years) and have been the recipients of major literary and journalism awards, including the National Book Award, the National Magazine Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the George M. Polk Award, the Livingston Award, the Michael Kelly Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Krichevsky is a native of New York City, a graduate of New York University, and is married with two children.