Book Broker – An interview with Harvey Klinger

Interview with literary agent Harvey Klinger


Agent: Harvey Klinger


Preferred genres: Literary or commercial fiction, just no sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, or zombies; broad non-fiction categories by individuals who already have national recognition in their field of expertise.

Harvey Klinger, literary agent

Bio: Harvey received his M.A. in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He began his publishing career at Doubleday where he expected to become the next Max Perkins among editors. Instead, he left and worked for a literary agent for eighteen months and began forming his first client list. A two-year stint followed in association with an independent publicist. Harvey created his own independent operation in October, 1977 and has never looked back. He personally loves great adult commercial and literary fiction; and in non-fiction, books with a strong narrative voice in all disciplines, but written by an author who already has an established professional platform in one’s field of expertise.

1) What stands out in a good submission?

A relatively brief, objective summary of the manuscript if it’s a novel and comparisons to well known authors is fine; for non-fiction, it’s heavily about the author’s credentials for the subject with his or her national ‘platform’ being paramount.

2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?

Badly written query letter, poor English, grammatical errors, and too much of a sales pitch.

3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?

Be honest; be modest!

4) How do you weigh the importance of each submission component (query letter, synopsis, writing sample) when determining whether you will ask to read a full manuscript?

I read the first five pages. If they show promise, I ask for the next few chapters, and if I’m still enjoying the material, I will then ask for the entire manuscript and whether or not it’s out with any other agents.

5) Approximately how many query letters do you receive per year?

Hundreds… I lost count years ago.

Of those, how many will you respond to with a request for a full manuscript?

Roughly 10-15%

And of those, how many are likely to receive an offer of representation?

Approximately 10-12. I would say that I am extremely selective about offering representation at this point in time.

6) What is the average length of time it takes to place a manuscript with a publisher, and what is your strategy for a client whose manuscript isn't selling?

This is a tricky question. If you’re very lucky, it can be a week or two. For a client whose manuscript isn’t selling, it’s just a matter of continuing the submission process unless or until I think I’ve exhausted all possibilities, which is extremely unpleasant, but in this day and age, the simple reality of the publishing industry.

7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?

Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens). I was really curious to see what all the ‘hullabaloos’ of the book were about. It’s an engaging read virtually from page one. I didn’t find it memorable, but am glad I read it.

8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?

I’m very excited about a first novel, Other People’s Children by Jeff Hoffmann, which I sold to Simon & Schuster in a major pre-empt in four days. They will be publishing it in 2021. It’s the story of a couple who want to adopt a baby after the wife has three miscarriages and what happens when the biological mother decides to reclaim after the baby’s birth and release to the adoptive parents. It’s wonderfully dramatic, suspenseful, an emotional roller coaster, and one of the most accomplished first novels I’ve read. Jeff is currently working on his next novel about which I’m equally enthusiastic!

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