Saturday, September 25, 2010

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Eric Myers

ERIC MYERS entered the publishing industry as an author and arts journalist. His Uncle Mame: The Life of Patrick Dennis was originally published by St. Martin’s Press (2000) and is now available in paperback from Da Capo Press. He co-authored (with Howard Mandelbaum) Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood (1985) and Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood (1989). Both books, first published by St. Martin’s Press, have recently been reissued by Hennessey and Ingalls, Inc. Myers joined The Spieler Agency in 2002. Among his authors are multiple Anthony and Agatha Award-winner Chris Grabenstein (Tilt-a-Whirl, The Crossroads, and the upcoming Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers), Charles Busch (Whores of Lost Atlantis) John Anthony Gilvey (Before the Parade Passes By: Gower Champion and the Glorious American Musical), Jonathan Weiss (Irène Némirovsky: Her Life and Works), Robert Hofler (The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, Party Animals) Seth Rudetsky (Broadway Nights, the upcoming Surviving Sophomore Year), Blair Mastbaum (Clay’s Way, Us Ones in Between) Derek Taylor Kent (the upcoming Scary School) MAD MEN’s Bryan Batt (She’s Not Heavy—She’s My Mother), Kim Stagliano (the upcoming All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa) Alonso Duralde (the upcoming Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas) and Ainslie MacLeod (The Instruction, The Transformation). His fields of specialization include genre fiction (particularly thrillers), middle-grade and young-adult novels, memoir, self-help, history, and pop culture.

Myers has written on art and entertainment for The New York Times, Time Out New York, Quest, Playbill, Variety, Art and Auction, and Opera News. He has also worked extensively in the motion picture industry, and bears credit as unit publicist on over 50 films including Sophie’s Choice, Wall Street, Fatal Attraction, Working Girl, Scent of a Woman, The First Wives Club, In and Out, Wonder Boys, Zoolander, Julie and Julia, and Doubt.

And now Eric Myers faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Kate Vaiden by Reynolds Price, The Immoralist by Andre Gide, and David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd. The last was a childhood favorite of mine, the story of a boy who becomes friendly with a phoenix and embarks with him on a series of fantastic adventures. I was happy to see that it was republished a few years ago.

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

In the end, doesn’t everything come right down to The Wizard of Oz? Seriously, it is one of the rare examples of the Hollywood studio system working at the very peak of its form. Not only is it one of the great American films, it is also one of the best musicals. And I don’t know anyone, man, woman, or child, who is impervious to its spell, not to mention its ability to zero in on so many of life’s basic truths. The Best Years of Our Lives is another favorite of mine—and Lord knows knows it’s more relevant now than ever-- and F.W. Murnau’s silent classic Sunrise (1927) has always placed very close to the top of my list. And this choice of three doesn’t even take into account all the great foreign films…..As for TV, the current scripted series I most admire are Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Weeds. (And I have to say I’ve always been a sucker for Survivor. I never miss an episode. Call it my Guilty Pleasure.)

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Patience, patience, and patience. Things move at a glacial pace in this business. It can take an editor a long time to respond to a pitch or a submission. I always appreciate it when a client understands that. It’s also great to have clients who are willing to work with their editors for the good of the book. I’m happy to say that every one of my clients, past and present, has exemplified these qualities, and I consider myself very lucky for that.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I’m always open to good thrillers. Unfortunately, I’m less open to mysteries these days, as they have become hard to sell. I’m always looking for good YA and middle-grade fiction. The non-fiction projects I take on tend to fall within the realm of biographies, pop culture, history, and self-help. The best way to query me is at If it’s non-fiction, you can attach your proposal, and if it’s fiction, your first two chapters as a sample. Regretfully, I’m not always able to personally respond to every query, but I can promise that if it is something I want to pursue, the author will hear back from me ASAP.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

I think my answers to these questions echo those of other agents who have participated in this survey. There’s nothing better than bringing a debut writer into print. And there’s nothing worse than having to break the news to a writer that publishers just don’t seem interested in his or her new book.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

This may sound harsh, but I would suggest that you constantly remind yourself that you are never quite as good as you think you are. By this I mean that you should not send your first novel off to an agent for consideration until it has been thoroughly work-shopped  either by a writing critique group (which every new writer should join) or by several objective readers who represent your target audience. Once you have weighed all the constructive criticism, and have done the tweaking that must inevitably result, and are sure that the manuscript is in the best possible shape—only then should you start sending out query letters to agents. Otherwise, you risk having us cast your manuscript aside after the first few pages. I would also go on to say that, sadly enough, even the best writers are weak when it comes to some of the most basic rules of grammar and punctuation. It’s worth it to have your manuscript AND your query letter thoroughly proofread by a professional free-lance editor before you make any submissions. If I’m having to constantly stop and re-read sentences in order to understand them because they’re missing the necessary commas, hyphens and semicolons, I’ll be spending twice as much time with a manuscript as I should, and I’ll be gnashing my teeth.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Having written the biography of Auntie Mame author Patrick Dennis (whose real name was Pat Tanner), I've felt that I've come to know and love the man for his mind, his heart, and his sense of humor. He died thirty-five years ago, but he would be the one I’d most like to have lunch with--not to mention a martini!

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