Friday, December 26, 2008

GumboWriters Interview with Literary Powerhouse Agent, Tina Wexler from ICM Talent

How long have you been agent and how did you get your start, Tina?
I got my start at the Ellen Levine Literary Agency in 2001, assisting agents Elizabeth Kaplan (who's since started her own agency) and Louise Quayle (who's now Director of Domestic Rights at Doubleday).  I then moved to the Karpfinger Agency for a brief stint in foreign rights before landing at International Creative Management (ICM) in 2003, where I started building my own list of clients. 

What makes your agency different than any others?
ICM is one of the world's largest talent and literary agencies, with offices in New York , Los Angeles , and London .  ICM represents creative and technical talent in the fields of motion pictures, television, books, music, live performance, branded entertainment, and new media. Our clients include the only living American Nobel Prize winner – Toni Morrison, recent National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winnersRichard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, E.L. Doctorow, and the most lucrative writer in publishing history – Dr. Seuss.   We also represent a high portion of today's consistent #1 bestsellers – Patricia Cornwell, John Sanford, Suze Orman and Carl Hiaasen.

What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?
I'm always looking for new ideas backed by top notch writing, but who isn't looking for that?  In general, in the adult marketplace, I'm interested in up-market women's fiction, accessible literary fiction, memoir, and other narrative nonfiction, particularly re: popular science, gender issues, pop culture, and food (not cookbooks).  In children's, I'm keen to acquire middle grade and young adult fiction, with the occasional non-fiction project thrown in.  I'd really like to see more action/adventure stories or mysteries with ensemble casts.  I love magical realism, but am up to my neck in fantasy.  I enjoy tall tales or fairy tales retold for contemporary readers, but don't know that Cinderella can handle any more re-imaginings.  I love near-future dystopia stories for both markets, and would love a great gothic love story.

Tina, what are you tired of receiving?
I'm tired of receiving first drafts, manuscripts that aren't nearly as well-crafted as the query letters that prompted me to ask for pages in the first place.  I'm also not sure why I keep getting queries for political thrillers or screenplays, neither of which I represent. 
How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?
Take the time to do the work.  Read what's being published within your genre (and outside your genre).  Finish the manuscript.  Revise. Revise. Revise.  Take time writing the query letter.  Be courteous and professional while dazzling me with your ideas/story.  Research agents, our interests, our clients.   Realize that getting published is an undertaking, not something done on a whim.  There are books and websites and conferences and graduate programs and retreats and writers groups and magazines all dedicated to the craft of writing and getting published. There's no excuse, with all the information out there, for not knowing.  Educate yourself.  Someone who's taken the time to learn about the business while honing his or her writing skills will always get my attention, even if the project he or she describes isn't right for me.

How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?
I'd hope that my clients always feel comfortable contacting me, regardless of the frequency at which they do so.  Indeed, if I haven't heard from a client in a while, I'll drop him or her a "Just checking in, hope you're well" type of email, and I appreciate it when they do the same.  Beyond that, I think it's common sense.  No one wants to feel badgered.  At the same time, no one should be so afraid of contacting his or her agent that important information or updates aren't passed on.

What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent, Tina, that they don't seem to?
I wish writers understood that agents aren't the enemy. I know it can feel like we're the bullies of the publishing playground, refusing to let you join our game of t-ball.  But we're not.  We're book lovers who are doing what we can to get the manuscripts we feel most passionately about published in today's competitive market.  Trust me when I say, I want to fall in love with your manuscript.  I want to get that tingly feeling in my gut when I realize I'm holding something wonderful.  I want to stay up far too late reading your pages.  I want to make that phone call offering you representation.   
What's the best way for a writer to reach you?
Writers may contact me by sending a query letter either by email ( or post: ICM, 825 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10019.  Please note: I do not open queries sent as attachments, and I do not follow links to online queries.  Thank you!