The remaining impressions of passionate words
By Tim Ljunggren
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 formerly 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 and energizing." Kleinman recently opened a Manhattan
agency, Folio Literary Management.
bidding wars surrounding 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unpublished but in-demand manuscript, Kleinman is accessible.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 previous book publishing news report, Kleinman commented
about one of his clients (actor and writer Ron McLarty) and
that during that year's bid process, he had "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."
Some of the buzz for this book started because it's just a good
read, but publishing's pulse increased when Stephen King wrote
approving comments ("...it has a chance to be a breakout
bestseller") in Entertainment Weekly. Kleinman is expecting
to close a deal for McLarty that ensures a very sustainable
"When I get a book like this one, 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.
Whether 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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