Leonard Lopate: Inside Publishing on WNYC
Mary Gannon, Editor of Poets & Writers Magazine, Becky Saletan, Editor in Chief of Harcourt, and literary agent Stuart Krichevsky, from the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, discuss the business of publishing relationships, and how the roles of editors and agents are changing in an increasingly market-driven literary landscape.
WNYC, the Leonard Lopate Show, May 5, 2005
Pitching an Agent: The Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency
It’s a successful, one-man operation—five New York Times bestsellers in its first five years—looking for narrative nonfiction and commercial fiction.
By Jill Singer – September 21, 2004
Number of agents: One
Number of clients: About 75
Notable clients: Perfect Storm author and National Magazine Award winner Sebastian Junger; 2000 National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick; New York Times bestseller Linda Greenlaw; novelist and Edgar Award nominee Mary Kay Andrews; and best-selling author, critic, and University of Delaware journalism department director Ben Yagoda.
Percentage of unsolicited material accepted: About 1 percent.
Fiction vs. nonfiction: 30 percent fiction and 70 percent nonfiction.
Background: In 1980, Stuart Krichevsky was about to graduate from NYU, so he got a job – like so many matriculating seniors do – about as low on the totem pole as one can possibly go without sliding off: He was a part-time mailroom clerk at the Sterling Lord agency. Today he represents the likes of Sebastian Junger. Somewhere, amid furtive glances at mailed manuscripts, Krichevsky “got the bug,” as he calls it, and worked his way up from clerk to assistant to full-time agent in just a few years. In 1995, after 15 years at Sterling Lord, he struck out on his own and founded an independent firm. The single life, he says, suits him: “At a big agency, I found that I was distracted by the excitement of what was going on with clients I did not represent. Having my own agency makes me really focus on what our clients need.” In addition, he says, running a solo operation has helped him market his clients’ work more effectively and has made the publishing community more aware of what’s special about his client list as distinct from a larger agency.
This increased focus also translates to the way Krichevsky deals with clients. He devotes his time not just to each individual project but also to his clients’ long-range career development. “We spend a lot of time talking about what the client should be writing,” he says, or “finding the project that really plays to his or her strengths.” The agency has also developed a reputation for only sending out the strongest, most polished material. “If we get the material right,” he says, “selling a book is the easiest part of the process. Publishers have come to recognize and expect that material we send out is likely to be good of its kind.”
The number of books Krichevsky takes on from the slush pile each year isn’t overwhelming, but it’s certainly a viable source in his search for great books. “One of our surprise hits this summer is a book called The Secret Life of Lobsters, by Trevor Corson,” Krichevsky reports. “Trevor wrote out of the blue. Knowing that I represented Linda Greenlaw, who’d published The Lobster Chronicles, he wrote a letter that began: ‘I don’t know if you can bear to represent another book about lobsters.’ He sent me the galleys of a piece that was about to appear in The Atlantic Monthly on some of these lobster scientists and it was absolutely riveting. It’s up to seven printings, still going strong.”
Who to pitch: Krichevsky mostly handles a mix of narrative nonfiction and commercial fiction. On the nonfiction side, the agency is particularly known for narrative journalismsuch as John Falk’s forthcoming Hello to All That: A Memoir of War, Zoloft, and Peace , in which Falk, as a young man newly recovered from depression, puts himself on a plane to Sarajevo in the early ’90s to fulfill his dream of becoming a war correspondent and narrative histories and biographies like the forthcoming subject biography by John Vaillant, called The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed. Vaillant frames the story of a single tree in British Columbia that became a spiritual symbol for Native Americans and was later destroyed by a logger in the context of deforestation and timbering in North America. In addition, Krichevsky handles books about natural history and science as well as some practical nonfiction that falls under the categories of business, health, psychology, and self-help. In all of these areas, Krichevsky is looking for books with a strong sense of narrative storytelling and a distinctive, unique voice.
Aspiring novelists should know that Krichevsky is primarily drawn to crime fiction, and he’s also recently developed a strong presence in commercial women’s fiction. In fiction, too, “it’s always the voice,” he says. “Mary Kay Andrews is writing funny, Southern women’s novels of manners, which have real emotional depth. Nina Killham, who wrote How to Cook a Tart, also does this. Commercial women’s fiction that is literate, intelligent, fun, and has real depth of character is an area we’re looking for more in.” Krichevsky does not frequently represent YA novels and children’s books, but its not a category that he rules out either.
Authors On The Web literary round table in 2001: Stuart and seven other agents answer a dozen questions, talking about their careers, proudest moments, and their changing roles in the publishing industry:
Behind almost every author, there is….a literary agent. While an agent is invisible to most readers, his or her hand is the one that guides an author through the publishing process from the signing of the deal to book promotion. Read on for their stories and get a look behind the scenes at how these 8 prominent literary agents make books happen.
Authors on the Web, 2001
Linton Weeks’ Book Report in the Washington Post
Looking for someone to blame for the recent tidal wave of sea stories? You can start with literary agent Stuart Krichevsky. In the past few years, Krichevsky has flooded us with an ocean of ocean books. He represented Sebastian Junger, author of THE PERFECT STORM, in book and movie deals. He was the agent for Nathaniel Philbrick’s IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Another of his clients is Linda Greenlaw, author of last year’s success THE HUNGRY OCEAN, and he recently sold a series of 18th-century sailing novels.
We caught up with Krichevsky on the island of Manhattan. Is he responsible for all of the nautical works? “I am perhaps guilty of that,” he admits. “I am truly an armchair reader of these books.” One of his friends quipped: “I don’t see you in yellow rubber.” The truth is, he admits, “I do not go out on the ocean.”
His love of briney lit comes from summer forays to the wilds of Nantucket and some of his remembrances of things past. “Probably starting with Kon-Tiki,” he explains, “which my father gave me as a young kid.” He was hooked. He spead through the Horatio Hornblower series and the works of Patrick O’Brian. When Junger approached him about doing a book on dangerous jobs, Krichevsky suggested that the writer pick one dangerous story and tell it. That became THE PERFECT STORM. “This is not a new genre,” Krichevsky is quick to point out. “It’s been around since Homer.”
Washington Post, August 13, 2000