This week, we spoke with Molly Friedrich, a top literary agent with over thirty years in the game, having represented the likes of Frank McCourt, Sue Grafton, Terry McMillan, and Jane Smiley.
Because you’re so established, do you still feel the need to keep up with industry trends?
I would never run my business according to any kind of trend. At writers conferences, people talk about what’s selling. You see people poised with pens, and you think, “By the time you write it down, it’s going to be over.”
Do you usually try reading the book of the moment?
If three people tell me to read a book, and they’re not in publishing, I make a point of reading it. Sometimes, like with Fifty Shades of Grey, it takes ten days. Other times it can take years.
. . . .
You mentioned Fifty Shades of Grey — when that was at the height of popularity, people outside the book industry were bemoaning it. As someone in the industry, did you share those concerns?
No, there were people who have not read a book since college reading it. But, often with a book like that, you’ll see moms reading it, and then the teenage girls will read it. The idea that your first sexual experience would be anything like an introduction to sex as illustrated by Fifty Shades is really sad. But, any book that rises above and beyond itself is, to me, a cause for celebration.
. . . .
I sold one book where the editor said, “This is the book I’ve been waiting for all of my career.” And everything that happened with that book went wrong. It didn’t get great reviews, the sales reps didn’t love it as much as he and I did. It just didn’t work. A lot of times when books seem to work, the author has secret help. There’s advertising money kicked in, or the author has an uncle who is famous and that rolodex is being pushed around. But I’m talking about the pure debut when the author has no MFA, no set of connections; just the book. That’s disappointing when that happens, because you don’t have anything to do except try your hardest. Some books are more successful than others. Sometimes there’s something that gets perceived as an unfortunate step, and you rebuild. That’s hard but incredibly important to be able to do. That’s the business of calling upon relationships and being profoundly collaborative with the publishing house to figure out how we can resuscitate this person’s book career. It can be done.
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As the industry is changing with the rise of ebooks, has that impacted you much?
Ebooks have been very healthy for publishers. They have not been healthy for authors. Publishers are making a load of money — very little of which is going to the author’s statement.
Link to the rest at Inverse and thanks to Matthew for the tip.