I am one of the founders of Folio Literary Management, LLC. I wanted to establish an agency that is forward-thinking and able to offer services that “traditional” literary agents don’t provide, so in 2006 I joined with my partners to establish Folio.
Over the course of my career I’ve represented many successful books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts, Mockingbird by Charles Shields, and The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty. I have also had the privilege of representing the critically acclaimed And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life by Charles Shields, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White, Finn by Jon Clinch, Sacco & Vanzetti by Bruce Watson, and Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte. My list is comprised of projects with unusual premises; books that offer up some new perspective on something I thought I already knew or never dreamed existed; and wonderful, character-driven novels. That’s what I’m looking for.
Since I spent a great deal of my life in an academic setting (I have a B.A. in Modern Studies from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in Italian from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law), I often enjoy narratives revolving around a distinct community. History has always been a passion, so I’m on the lookout for something that brings the past to life and makes it relevant. Animals are another interest: I grew up in a house that had a lot of animals underfoot, so not surprisingly I find myself doing a lot of animal-oriented books today.
Some of the novels I represent include:
Stein, Garth: The Art of Racing in the Rain, the national and international bestseller, published by Harper.
Abramson, Neil: Unsaid, a debut novel with film rights optioned by the producer of The Road and The Time Traveler’s Wife, published by Center Street.
Clinch, Jon: Finn, an award-winning first novel, published by Random House.
Hicks, Robert: The Widow of the South, a New York Times bestseller, published by Grand Central.
Ivey, Eowyn: The Snow Child (Little Brown, February 2012). Spring 2012 selection of B&N’s Discover Great New Writers program, February 2012 CostCo pick, ALA’s Winter Institute Selection, February 2012 Indie Next Pick. Christian Science Monitor’s #1 of 6 Books to Read in 2012. Norway (pubbed Oct 2011) bestseller. UK Red Pages Hot 100 List.
McLarty, Ron: The Memory of Running, a New York Times bestseller, published by Viking.
Some of the nonfiction I represent includes:
Koenig-Coste, Joanne: Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s, an extraordinary practical guide to taking care of Alzheimers patients, published by Houghton Mifflin.
Hirshenson, Janet; Jenkins, Jane: A Star Is Found, Hollywood’s top casting directors tell how movies are cast, published by Harcourt.
Letts, Elizabeth: The Eighty Dollar Champion, a New York Times bestseller, published by Ballantine.
Shields, Charles: Mockingbird, a bestselling biography of Harper Lee, and And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, the first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., both published by Henry Holt.
Tarte, Bob: Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather, incredible laugh-out-loud memoirs both published by Algonquin Books.
Weber, Lt. Col. Mark: Tell My Sons, a moving memoir in which a highly decorated soldier and father hands down his legacy to his three young sons after he’s diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, published by Ballantine (Father’s Day, 2014).
I became an agent because I love books and believe that good writing and smart ideas can transform our world. So I’m selective about what I represent. That said, if I have your manuscript exclusively, and if I am enthusiastic about it, I’ll often line-edit as I go along, just to give you an idea of what your manuscript may need in order to work out some of the kinks. Because I do not require exclusivity, please don’t expect me to pencil in comments directly on your solicited manuscript – unless, after I ask for it, you do provide it to me on an exclusive basis (say, for six to eight weeks).
Everyone will tell you that one of the most important criteria for a good agent is that s/he is enthusiastic about your work. Believe it. You must find someone who loves the project, and will fight to get it published. So only send your material to me when you think it’s as good as you can get it.
- If you’d like to hear a podcast with me, click here.
- Prefer a different interview? Try here or here.
I’ve done interviews for several writers’ websites (Backspace is my favorite), so if you want to read some interviews and get a better sense of me, you can try:
- Here’s one from Slush Pile
- Here’s another from Lily Literary Review
- Still yet another from Algonkian Workshops
- And another from the Guide to Literary Agents
- Another in Editor Unleashed.
What I’m Looking For:
In these difficult economic times, I’m particularly on the lookout for the following kinds of books:
- Books with a distinctive, special voice. (For some examples of books that I think have a great voice, click here.)
- Books with a very unique, special, “I haven’t seen this before” premise that can be summed up in a sentence or two, but also doesn’t sound totally crazy. Try telling your book idea to someone who doesn’t know you – if, after you do, the person says, “Wow!” that’s the kind of thing I’m looking for.
- Upmarket / literary suspense / thrillers. I’d love to find upmarket, literary psychological suspense stories – again something voice-driven, with a unique concept and really strong writing.
- Escape stories that take us totally out of our world and into another. (But keep in mind that I don’t represent science fiction or fantasy.)
- Upbeat subjects. I think a lot of misery memoirs, terrorists bent on destroying civilization, and post-apocalyptic disasters are going to be difficult to sell.
- Inspiring (but not inspirational!) stories. Books that celebrate some aspect of life, or inspire people to try harder and work more. This doesn’t mean saccharine stuff, which I steer clear of (that kind of story I tend think of as “inspirational”) – but I do like well-written, solid stories that inspire and charm.
Nonfiction: Do you have a nonfiction idea and/or proposal?
For nonfiction, my interests are divided into two areas: “narrative” (a nonfiction story) and “prescriptive” (“how-to”):
- Narrative: I’m particularly interested in narrative nonfiction, and have sold projects in a wide variety of subjects. Some of my areas of particular interest include, in no particular order: art, history, espionage, military, business, memoir, animals (especially equestrian, but certainly dogs and exotics, too), nature, biography, humor, crime, health, and any unique, intriguing subject.
- Prescriptive: I’m particularly interested in parenting (for instance, I’ve done books about dealing with your kids in cyberspace, toddlers, pregnancy, Alzheimer’s, overweight kids, and a bunch of others) health and fitness, psychology, pop-culture, self-help, celebrity books, pets, some business, and other unique, intriguing subjects.
If it looks like your project may be the kind of material that I’d represent, you should have:
- A proposal, or at least an outline and a sample excerpt; and
- Information (your platform, connections, experience in the field, etc.) on why you’re the best person to write the book.
Fiction: Have you written a novel?
There’s no doubt about it – fiction is definitely harder to sell. I love novels, and do represent fiction. I’m looking for extremely well-written, character-driven books that make me absolutely fall in love with the characters and their world.
For fiction, I represent the following areas: upmarket commercial (but not genre commercial, like mysteries or romances), and literary; including thriller, suspense, legal, and historical.
Your novel should be between 70,000 and 120,000 words in length.
What I’m Not Looking For:
I do not represent Children’s, Young Adult, Christian, Poetry, or genre commercial fiction (Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Westerns, Mysteries, and/or romances), or Prescriptive (“How to”) Travel books; nor do I represent original plays, teleplays, or screenplays.
Other agents in the firm do represent some of these areas, so be sure to check out their bio pages.
There are also some subject matter areas that I also avoid. For example, I don’t read books – published or not-yet-published – about serial killers, children in peril (kidnapped, murdered, victimized, and so forth), or those dealing with the events of September 11, 2001. I also avoid subjects like rape, suicide, and manic-depression; and thrillers in which there’s some terrorist organization bent on destroying America or the world. You may have a super novel (or nonfiction subject) that deals with those kinds of issues, and that’s great – but I can tell you that I’ll be the wrong guy to ask to represent it.
How to contact me:
Effective immediately (and no matter what you read anywhere else), only contact me via email.
I am no longer accepting hard-copy submissions of any kind. Hard copies will be recycled, unopened.
If you’d like to send me a finished copy of your book, or you only have a hardcopy available, let me know that in the form, but do not send me the book or hardcopy unless I specifically ask you for it – save the paper and postage!
In an ideal world, this is what I’d love you to email me:
- A brief cover letter, describing your book and why you’re the best person to write it;
- If fiction: attach or paste at the end of your letter the opening two or three pages;
- If nonfiction: attach or paste at the end of your letter the overview/summary of your book proposal, and a page or two of the sample chapter.
My email address is: jkleinman(@)foliolit.com
Note: this is not a hyperlink. You’ll need to paste this email address into your email program and delete the parentheses ["(" and ")"] around the @ symbol.
Where to find me:
I’ll be at the following conferences in 2013:
April 18-20: Las Vegas Writers Conference
May 23-25: Backspace Writers Conference
June 14: Buy This Book Workshop at the Southern New Hampshire University
October 20-26: Salt Cay Writers Retreat
December 4-8: Words and Music Literary Conference in New Orleans
I’ll be at the following conferences in 2014:
February 12-17: San Miguel Writers’ Conference
My response time:
I typically respond to email queries from within a couple of seconds to a couple of days. If you’ve sent me a query and haven’t heard back in a couple of weeks, though, drop me an email – I always try to respond, so if you’re not hearing from me, it’s possible that you’re getting trapped in spam. If you’re writing to follow up, please include a copy of your original query.
If I’ve requested material from you, I respond within a couple of weeks for partials or non-fiction proposals, or a month for full manuscripts. If you haven’t heard from me by then, by all means, please follow up.