The one "un-put-able-down-able"
and Answers with
By Kate Sullivan
Jeff Kleinman says, "Selling a first novel that a writer had
been working on for about eight years," is a shining moment
of his career.
attorney and a literary agent with The Graybill & English Literary
Agency, Kleinman comments, "I open my eyes every morning,
thinking that I can work on something incredible and cool that
day, and I go to bed each night brooding on the problems and
issues confronting the project I'm working on—it's creative
With the recent bidding war surrounding one of his clients,
the nights are longer and so are the phone calls. Kleinman's
cell phone rings constantly and he answers it instantly. For
the business he is in, and for the current wave of enthusiasm
over a particular client's unpublished but in-demand manuscript,
Kleinman is accessible.
In a recent book publishing news report, Kleinman commented
about one of his clients (actor and writer Ron McLarty) that
we've "already turned down multiple pre-empts and floor
offers." The enthusiasm Kleinman has for McLarty's manuscript,
titled MEMORY OF RUNNING is evident. "He's a remarkable
writer," Kleinman says, "and everyone who reads it
calls before they've finished the last page. Usually, they are
crying --it's so poignant." He is expecting to close a
deal for McLarty that ensures a very sustainable writing career.
"When I get a book like this, before I take it on, it has
to be the kind of book that makes me miss my subway stop."
everything Kleinman accomplishes, whether as an attorney or
as an author's representative, he firmly believes that an essential
characteristic for success is to remain patient with the publishing
and writing process.
it is fiction or nonfiction, he compares writing to running
when he says, "You may be a short-distance sprinter or a long-distance
runner; the issue really is to be effective at whatever category
you choose. And that means focusing on really writing well."
To write well, Kleinman believes that a writer must have the
basics. He says, "An understanding of structure, pace, momentum
and an ability to tell some kind of story, even in the most
technical nonfiction is critical."
Kleinman not only loves and believes in what he does, he insists
that writers do the same. "If you really love what you do—if
you write because you love to write, because you've thought
deeply and well, and have important and compelling things to
say, if you've worked hard and lovingly at honing your craft
to the best of your ability—if you do all that, I think
that passion and that power comes out in
every word, every sentence. It might not be the best word
or the best sentence, but something behind those words will
come through—and I think that passion is infinitely marketable."
Being "marketable," however, can be a tricky thing. A writer's
work is affected by a whole slew of circumstances, much of which
are out of the writer's—and the literary agent's—control.
Take recent events, for example. Kleinman says the events of
September 11, 2001, "And the ensuing events in Afghanistan and
Iraq have certainly, and unfavorably, impacted the business.
Books are harder to sell, harder to promote. More books are
being returned and publishers are acquiring less and less, which
makes everyone a little jittery."
For Kleinman, the worst part of his job comes when he's unable
to sell manuscripts that he says, "Are wonderful, saleable,
and marvelous — but the publishing world doesn't agree."
What advice would he give to an aspiring writer—what advice
would he give to his four-year-old daughter if she someday pursued
a writing career?
"Associate with all the smart, funny, talented, creative people
you can, learn to write beautifully, but don't stay locked in
your room to do it: go out and try new things, meet new people,
have a wonderful, rich, compelling, and interesting life—and
then tell me about it in the most beautiful prose imaginable."
~ * ~
We write with the
porch light on, expecting at any moment
that either truth or irony will appear on the doorstep.
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