How long have you been agent and how did you get your start Felicia?
I've been an agent for 25 years (that makes me sound ancient). 10 in N.Y. at Writers Hosue, 15 or so here in the Bay area, with my own agency, Felicia Eth Literary Reprsentation. Initially I started working in the movie business in N.Y, in the Story Departments of Palomar Pictures and Warner Brothers, where properties get selected. I was the conduit for NY. publishers, so worked with sub rights people and agents who mostly handle movie/tv rights. I found I was much more interested in books as books, than as properties with potential for being translated to the screen. Oftentimes the best books make the lousiest movies and vice versa. But it was a great way to learn who was doing what.
There's only so many ways to be different, and given how many agents there are, I can't speak of myself as wholly unique. I'm a New Yorker on the West Coast so I bring both sensibilities to anything I work with. I'm sort of intellectual, but came out of a movie background, so there again I've a dual perspective, I'm a one person office, but as someone who knows the business for many many years, I work with books of diverse interest - from quirky narrative nonfiction to literary fiction. I try to be ahead of the curve in terms of what's hot, but not avant-garde, since no one in N.Y. wants that.
I wish I could find more literary writers who knew how to write incredibly compelling stories, ie. stories with dramatic drive and narrative and a plot that kept yo riveted, even as you are held by the writing.
I'd love to see more narrative nonfiction that was less memoir about someone's life, and more about someone's foray into exploring something that impacts all of us.
I'm tired of receiving memoirs by people who've overcome tough personal situations. I admire them for it, but don't necessarily want to read another book about it.
Be smart, be funny, show you've done your homework, have publishing credits or support from names who might ring a bell with me (and others), whether they be teachers of yours, friends of yours, other writers, etc.
That's easy. I run a small, personal agency, where I'm always happy to talk with a writer, so long as they hear me when I say I can't talk now, and respect my personal and professional needs.
That our interests coincide - books that I say aren't for me, aren't and thus I'm not the best person for them. Books that I say need work, do, and not because I'm trying to make a writer's life hard, but because if I see problems the editors will too and so following my direction makes sense for both of us. That I try to get the best offer all around so that the book will be well published and the author will be happy. If I advise an author to take a deal, it's not because it serves me, but because it serves the author.
Email is fine for a query, but not for a proposal or partial, hardcopy is fine for a query with sample pages and proposal (not a complete ms), and phone is rarely preferable since it's great if you are articular and smart and ideally that will make publishing the book more successful, but I sell books, so how you write and present yourself in writing, is first and foremost what I need to see.