I am a founding partner of Folio, and am continually on the lookout for projects that can make a difference. I love unique voices, strong characters, unusual premises, and books that offer up some new perspective on something I thought I already knew – or never even dreamed existed.
I’m always interested in learning, especially through books (I spent enough time in the classroom, with a B.A. in English / Modern Studies from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in Italian from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law). Now I serve as a member of the Advisory Council for The Writer House in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Advisory Board for the Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program.
Over the course of my career I’ve represented a wide range of fiction and nonfiction (including many debuts).
At present I’m actively seeking new projects.
Here’s some of the novels I’ve worked on:
Garth Stein’s heartbreaking and amazing The Art of Racing in the Rain (HarperCollins), the New York Times and international bestseller, with film rights sold to Universal, followed by his wonderful A Sudden Light (Simon & Schuster), a New York Times bestseller.
Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child (Little, Brown). Pulitzer Prize finalist; B&N’s Discover Great New Writers program; New York Times bestseller; CostCo pick; ALA’s Winter Institute Selection Indie Next Pick, and a first novel – stay tuned for her next novel, out in 2016 – it’s extraordinary!
Robert Hicks’ The Widow of the South (Grand Central), a New York Times bestseller and a first novel, followed by A Separate Country (Grand Central) and the soon-to-be-published Book of Mariah (Grand Central).
Neil Abramson’s Unsaid (Center Street), a debut novel with film rights optioned by the producer of The Road and The Time Traveler’s Wife, followed by his soon-to-be-published Once Were Animals (Center Street).
Nick Trout’s first novel, The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs (Hyperion) followed by Dog Gone, Back Soon (Hachette).
Averil Dean’s first novel, a dark psychological suspense called Alice Close Your Eyes (Mira), to be followed by her brilliant Blackbird, out in early 2016.
Jake Smith’s first novel, Wish (Tyndale).
Jon Clinch’s award-winning first novel, Finn (Random House).
Ella Leya’s first novel, The Orphan Sky (Sourcebooks).
Ron McLarty’s The Memory of Running (Viking), a New York Times bestseller and first novel.
Here’s some of the nonfiction I represent:
Elizabeth Letts’s The Eighty-Dollar Champion (Ballantine), a #1 New York Times bestseller; rights optioned to MGM, an incredible story about inconceivable dreams coming true; followed by her upcoming Code Name Thoroughbred (Ballantine), out in early 2016.
Charles Shields’s Mockingbird, a New York Times bestselling biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt); its Young Adult adaptation, the award-winning Call Me Scout (Holt); followed by And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, the first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Henry Holt), with several new projects to be published soon.
Kenny Porpora’s extraordinary memoir The Autumn Balloon (Grand Central), about a boy from a deeply dysfunctional family who succeeds in educating himself despite staggering odds against him.
Mick Ebeling’s Not Impossible: The Art & Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done (Atria), an inspiring memoir that makes me believe that all – all – problems can be solved.
Patience Bloom’s Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last (Dutton), a charmingly brilliant memoir from a Harlequin romance editor who, despite her best efforts to the contrary, fell head-over-heels in love.
Dan Riskin’s Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You (Touchstone), a laugh-out-loud science narrative about the ruthlessness of the natural world where living things are trying to eat us, poison us, use our bodies as their homes, or have us spread their eggs.
Bob Tarte’s incredibly funny memoirs Enslaved by Ducks, Fowl Weather, and Kitty Cornered (Algonquin Books).
Neil White’s In the Sanctuary of Outcasts (William Morrow). Booklist Starred Review; Barnes & Noble Discover Award Finalist; SIBA Book Award Finalist. An extraordinary memoir about a man who discovers the true value of life and relationships while incarcerated in the last U.S. leper colony.
Jeff Deck’s and Benjamin Herson’s uproarious The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time (Crown). Boston Globe bestseller, Indie Next List; a memoir about friendship and punctuation (of course).
Lt. Col. Mark Weber’s Tell My Sons (Ballantine), one of the books that I’m proudest to be affiliated with, if in only a small way: the deeply moving, inspiring memoir from a father to his three young sons, to teach them how to be men after he was gone.
Carol Bradley’s Saving Gracie (Wiley), a heartwarming story about a dog rescued from a puppy mill, and then Last Chain on Billie (St. Martin’s) a narrative nonfiction account of an resilient elephant who defied the system even as she struggled to control her past.
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ Decoding Your Dog (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which gives scientifically accurate information about dog behavior problems and correct widespread misinformation.
Eric Helms’s Juice Generation (Touchstone) offers practical instructions for making restorative and great tasting fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and tonics.
Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the latest cookbook by an iconic author.
Why I Love Being an Agent
A book can be a powerful force. A great story can allow you to enter other people’s thoughts and lives – and, when you close the book with a sigh, leaves you transformed: maybe a little more grateful, or a little kinder, or a little wiser. A book can be a powerful force. I love books that inspire me to become better, smarter, more present. This has been the case with many of the books I’ve represented, and it’s something I seek in new projects. Books can make a difference. Good writing and smart ideas can change our world.
I’ve done interviews for several writers’ websites, including:
Where to find me:
I’ll be at the following conferences:
- March 11: Rutgers University Writers in Camden Series, Publishing Panel, Camden, NJ
- March 27-28: Chesapeake Writing Workshop, Baltimore, MD & Washington DC
- April 8-11: Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference, Minneapolis, MN
- April 25: University of Washington – Literary Agents on Writing, Seattle, WA
- June 7-12: Tinkers Mountain Writers’ Workshop, Roanoke, VA
- June 13: Publish Now! (The Writers Center), Bethesda, MD
- June 20: Poets & Writers Live, Chicago, IL
- July 16: University of Alaska MFA Program, Anchorage, AL
- September 12-13: Slice Literary Writers’ Conference, Brooklyn, NY
- November: Words & Music Festival, New Orleans, LA
- May 23-28, 2016: Salt Cay Writers Retreat, Salt Cay, Bahamas
About the Projects I Represent
Everyone will tell you that one of the most important criteria for a good agent is that s/he is enthusiastic about your work. Believe it. You must find someone who loves the project, and will fight to get it published. So only send your material to me when you think it’s as good as you can get it.
Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I’m particularly on the lookout for the following kinds of books:
- Books that make a difference. I really love books that make me realize something new about the world, or myself – books that will change me for the better. Maybe they celebrate some aspect of life, or inspire the reader to try harder. This doesn’t mean “inspirational books” (which tend to have a more religious slant, and would be better suited to other agents at Folio) as much as inspiring books – I like well-written, solid stories that charm me to try to do better and be a better person.
- Books with a distinctive, special voice. (For some examples of books that I think have a great voice, click here.)
- Books with a very unique, special, “I haven’t seen this before” premise that can be summed up in a sentence or two, but also doesn’t sound totally crazy. Try telling your book idea to someone who doesn’t know you – if, after you do, the person says, “Wow!” that’s the kind of thing I’d love to see.
- Upmarket / literary suspense / thrillers. I’d love to find upmarket psychological suspense stories with unique concepts and really strong writing.
- Escape stories that take us totally out of our world and into another. (But keep in mind that I don’t represent science fiction or fantasy.)
- Upbeat subjects. I avoid “misery memoirs” and books about terrorists bent on destroying civilization.
- History has always been a passion, so I’m on the lookout for something that brings the past to life and makes it relevant.
- Animals are another interest: I grew up in a house that had a lot of animals underfoot, so not surprisingly I find myself doing a lot of animal-oriented books today.
Fiction: Have you written a novel?
There’s no doubt about it – fiction is definitely harder to sell. I love novels, and do represent fiction. I’m looking for extremely well-written, character-driven books that make me absolutely fall in love with the characters and their world.
For fiction, I represent the following areas:
- Bookclub fiction (not genre commercial, like mysteries or romances)
- Literary; including thriller, suspense, legal, and historical.
I do not represent:
- Short stories or novellas (although will consider collections, if they have a common theme and if individual stories have already been published in reputable venues)
- Children’s fiction
- Young Adult fiction
- Christian fiction
- Genre commercial fiction (Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Westerns, Mysteries, and/or Romances).
Your novel should be between 70,000 and 120,000 words in length.
Nonfiction: Do you have a nonfiction idea and/or proposal?
For nonfiction, my interests are divided into two areas: “narrative” (a nonfiction story) and “prescriptive” (“how-to”):
Narrative: I’m particularly interested in narrative nonfiction, and have sold projects in a wide variety of subjects. Some of my areas of particular interest include, listed alphabetically:
- animals (especially equestrian, but certainly dogs and exotics, too)
Prescriptive: I’m particularly interested in parenting (for instance, I’ve done books about dealing with your kids in cyberspace, toddlers, pregnancy, Alzheimer’s, overweight kids, and a bunch of others) health and fitness, psychology, pop-culture, self-help, celebrity books, pets, some business, and other unique, intriguing subjects.
I do not represent:
- Children’s Nonfiction
- Young Adult Nonfiction
- Christian Nonfiction
- Prescriptive (“How to”) Travel books.
If it looks like your nonfiction project may be the kind of material that I’d represent, you should have:
- A proposal, or at least an outline and a sample excerpt; and
- Information (your platform, connections, experience in the field, etc.) on why you’re the best person to write the book.
What I’m Not Looking For:
Just to repeat, I do not represent Children’s, Young Adult, Christian, Poetry, or genre commercial fiction (Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Westerns, Mysteries, and/or Romances), or Prescriptive (“How to”) Travel books; nor do I represent short stories, novellas, original plays, teleplays, or screenplays.
Other agents in the firm do represent some of these areas, so be sure to check out their bio pages.
There are also some subject matter areas that I avoid. For example, I don’t read books – published or not-yet-published – about serial killers, children in peril (kidnapped, murdered, victimized, and so forth), or those dealing with the events of September 11, 2001. I also avoid subjects like rape, suicide, and manic-depression; and thrillers in which there’s some terrorist organization bent on destroying America or the world. You may have a super novel (or nonfiction subject) that deals with those kinds of issues, and that’s great – but I can tell you that I’m generally not the guy who will ask to represent it.
I wrote a short eBook that spells out why agents (and editors) often reject projects that seem, on the surface, perfectly salable. If you’ve grown frustrated with the traditional publishing process (i.e., looking for an agent to represent you to traditional publishers), or if you’d like insights into how agents and editors assess projects,check it out!
If, after reading all of the voluminous material on this page, you’re still interested in contacting me, you can reach me directly at:
jeff [@] foliolit.com
[NOTE: you must remove the brackets (“[” and “]”) around the “@” before you send the email.]
When reaching out, please include:
- A cover letter;
- For fiction: the first page or two of your novel;
- For nonfiction: the overview and/or the first page or two of your sample chapter.
Please don’t send hard copies. If you do, I can’t promise to respond to them (or return them).
I typically reply to email queries from within a couple of seconds to a couple of days. If you’ve sent me a query and haven’t heard back in a couple of weeks, though, drop me an email – I always try to respond, so if you’re not hearing from me, it’s possible that you’re getting trapped in spam. If you’re writing to follow up, please include a copy of your original query.
If I ask for your manuscript:
If I have your manuscript exclusively, and if I am enthusiastic about it, I’ll often line-edit as I go along, just to give you an idea of what your manuscript may need in order to work out some of the kinks. Because I do not require exclusivity, please don’t expect me to type comments directly in your solicited manuscript – unless, after I ask for it, you do provide it to me on an exclusive basis (say, for six to eight weeks).