Hello, readers —
Finally, here is the last installment of my series on the agents scheduled to attend this year’s PNWA conference! If you are joining us late, and are interested in seeing my take on who represents what and why among the scheduled attendees, feel free to check out these posts in the archives on this site: the series has run from April 26 to today, May 17. Phew!
The final agent on our list is Joe Veltre of Artists Literary Group, and I have to say, apart from not having posted a blurb about himself on the PNWA website (and the fact that the name of his agency really ought to have an apostrophe in it, because the first word is possessive), he seems at first glance to be the kind of agent I like to see at conferences. He has broad interests, and a solid track record of taking chances on previously unpublished writers. He has a strong sales record — how strong, you ask? Well, he was able to start his own agency a couple of years ago. (If you are interested in the hows and whys of his setting up Artists Literary, here is are links to articles about him and it.) His sales are from across the publishing industry (rather than concentrating on just a few houses, as some agents do), and he has a history of taking positive steps to help aspiring writers. He has even written a series of articles for RomanceTimes.com, intended to enlighten those who would enter the industry.
Since he didn’t post a blurb on the PNWA’s website, I lifted one from elsewhere. Here’s what it says about him on Publishers Marketplace — or at least part of it; I weeded out the information that is primarily about the agency, was not relevant for our purposes, or could apply to any agency in the biz. The guy’s gotten around:
“Joe Veltre is the founder of Artists Literary Group… Veltre began his career at St. Martin’s Press, where he was a Senior Editor, overseeing several imprints, including the Dead Letter/Minotaur Mass Market Mystery program. At St. Martin’s, he acquired books across a wide range of genres, including literary and commercial fiction, thrillers, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, sports books, and pop culture. He then worked as a Senior Editor at HarperCollins, where he acquired and edited high quality non-fiction, working with business writers, journalists, and academics. From there, he went to Miramax, serving dual roles as Director of Development for Miramax Films and Editor-at-Large for Miramax Books. Immediately prior to founding ALG, Veltre served as a Literary Agent and the Foreign and Film Rights Director for Carlisle & Company, a boutique literary agency in New York. There he worked with a wide range of commercial and literary authors, built strong relationships with publishers overseas, and film and television producers, studios, and agents. Veltre’s depth of experience working with major publishers and film companies is the perfect combination for working with authors as their literary agent.
“As the head of ALG, Joe regularly speaks at conferences around the country on topics vital to both aspiring and experienced authors. He is constantly looking for new authors, focusing on a wide range of subjects, including: commercial fiction & non-fiction, literary fiction, thrillers, women’s fiction, mysteries, narrative & political non-fiction, academic and historical non-fiction, romance, suspense, business & how-to non-fiction, and young adult books. He works closely with artists on their literary needs, including: academics, historians, journalists, novelists, filmmakers, sports figures, photographers, doctors, interior designers, TV personalities, business consultants, and military personnel.
“Veltre graduated from Emory University and also attended the University of Alabama’s Graduate English Program, where he taught literature and writing.”
Okay, here’s a quiz to see who has been paying attention all along: who out there recognizes the code term in the last paragraph? And what does it mean? Hint: remember a month or so ago, when I was talking about author bios?
Pencils down, everybody: the code term is “attended,” as opposed to “graduated from.” Mr. Veltre is, I gather, a grad school dropout, which is actually QUITE common in the publishing industry. Especially amongst editors, who are often former English grad students who did not finish their dissertations — thus the nicknames ABD (all but dissertation) and professor manqué. (It is also quite customary for people who DID complete all of the requirements for a Ph.D., such as yours truly, to twit such people about it.) I don’t know at what point our friend Mr. V. left his program, though, or why.
I bring this up, however, not for twitting reasons, but because Mr. Veltre mentions in his blurb working with academics, which is rather unusual for an ABD; it is far more common for those who have fled academia screaming to be more than a touch hostile to your garden variety Ph.D. holder. For this reason, if you are an academic or writing for the academic market, I would recommend sounding him out a little before you pitch. You might, for instance, want to stand up and ask him a few pointed questions during the agents’ forum. If he is indeed someone savvy about academia who LIKES to work with academics, leap over people, if you have to, to give him your pitch. However, before you go to the trouble, let’s go through his recent sales to see if he is still working with academics on a regular basis.
Since Mr. Veltre lists SO many interests, a savvy writer’s first instinct should be to double-check that he sells consistently in all of those areas — that’s a pretty hefty array of contacts to maintain for someone who occasionally likes to pause in his networking long enough to sleep and eat. So here’s what I found for the last three years, broken down by category, in more or less the order he’s listed them himself. As usual, do bear in mind that the standard industry databases are not invariably infallible, and the dates listed are for the initial sale to the publishing house, not date of publication. Please note, too, that Mr. Veltre’s sojourn with Carlisle & Company ended in mid-2004 (mysteriously, he also lists a sale with Inkwell Management in that year), so sales prior to mid-2004 may reflect those agencies’ policies and preferences, rather than his own.
Fiction: PUG HILL author Alison Pace’s THROUGH THICK AND THIN, “about two estranged sisters — one a single, Manhattan workaholic, the other a newly suburban stay-at-home mom — brought back together as they embark on a mutual weight-loss quest that will either finally break them or bond them forever.” (Berkley, sold 2006); LITTLE and THE HIAWATHA author David Treuer’s THE TRANSLATION OF DR. APELLES, “in which a lonely translator discovers a manuscript written in a ‘dead’ language that only he understands and unravels a story leading to his own first true love.” (Graywolf, sold 2005); U Va. Poe/Faulkner fellow and NYT journalist Taylor Antrim’s debut THE HEADMASTER RITUAL, “focusing on the political machinations inside a prestigious prep school as experienced by a first-year history teacher.” (Houghton Mifflin, sold 2005); Robyn Harding’s first novel THE JOURNAL OF MORTIFYING MOMENTS, “about a young woman living two lives–independent and successful in her advertising career, an insecure wreck with her boyfriend–who writes down her worst moments with men over the years to see where she is going wrong, with those ‘moments’ serving as a structure for the book, as she strives to reconcile the two sides of her persona.”(Ballantine, in a 2-book deal, sold 2003; just once, wouldn’t you like to see a female protagonist who is good at BOTH her job and her relationships, or perhaps bad at her job and good at her relationships? Just for variety.)
Fiction: Thriller: Crown editor Jason Pinter’s debut THE MARK, “about a young reporter who becomes a fugitive after being accused of killing a cop, and who must team with a headstrong female law student to uncover a story that could shatter a city.” (Mira, in a three-book deal, sold 2006); Nick Stone’s MR. CLARINET, “set predominantly in the voodoo landscape of Haiti, an ex-cop turned P.I. travels to investigate the strange disappearance of a wealthy family’s missing son.” (William Morrow in the US, Penguin in the UK, for an amount of money I have heard nebulously described as hefty, sold 2005); Sarah Langan’s first novel, THE KEEPER, “in the vein of CARRIE, about two sisters – one who wreaks vengeance upon the small town that wronged her and the other sister who must find a way to stop her.” (William Morrow, at auction, sold 2005)
Fiction: Women’s/Romance (again, the official databases lump both categories together): “21-year-old former fashion model Amanda Kerlin’s SECRETS OF THE MODEL DORM, a year in the life of a young, aspiring model living in a small apartment rented by a modeling agency exclusively to its new clients, as she navigates close quarters among competitive strangers, fueled by alcohol, drugs and obsessive dieting habits.” (Atria, sold 2006; imagine being a former anything at 21.); Jennifer van der Kwast’s first novel POUNDING THE PAVEMENT, “in which a smart, cynical young woman fights to survive in the New York film world, as she looks for work and love, while trying to stay one step ahead of her wicked boss.” (Broadway, at auction, sold 2004, when Mr. Veltre was still at Carlisle and Co.); Grad student Lauren Willig’s THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION, “in which a young American grad student travels to London to research the famous Napoleonic spy the Scarlet Pimpernel, where she finds an even more alluring historical story…. and a ‘hero’ of her own.” (Dutton, in a 2-book deal, in 2004, while in the employ of Carlisle & Co.; one wonders if the reason she sours on the Scarlet Pimpernel is that she discovered in her research that he was a fictional character, not a real person — and that he was NOT a Napoleonic spy, but rather an English aristocrat, and thus on the OPPOSITE side from Napoleon, as well as being active years PRIOR to Napoleon’s coming to power, rather than during his reign. The protagonist couldn’t have been a very GOOD grad student without having discovered THIS much while still on THIS side of the pond, no?)
Fiction: Suspense: Journalist Bob Morris’ BAHAMARAMA, “about a guy who just left prison after serving two years on trumped on charges and wants to see his girlfriend, currently overseeing a magazine fashion shoot in the Bahamas, but he arrives to find her kidnapped and has to try and rescue her.” (Minotaur/St. Martin’s, in a three-book deal, sold 2003; he probably means “trumped-up.”)
Fiction: SF/Fantasy (which, please note, was not one of his listed areas of interest): Talia Gryphon’s SHADOW THERAPY, “the first of a series about a paranormal psychologist and sexy blonde, who is drawn into the case of a ‘Fangxiety’ ridden vampire who hopes to save his soul through therapy and, of course, her body.” (Ace, in a three-book deal, sold 2005)
Fiction: I have no idea how to categorize it (Chick lit? Paranormal romance?): Valerie Stivers’ debut BLOOD IS THE NEW BLACK, “about a young woman at a glossy fashion magazine who discovers that the reigning tastemakers have a thirst for blood, pitched as THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA & MEAN GIRLS meets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.” (Three Rivers Press, at auction, sold 2006)
NF: Narrative: Journalist Shana Alexander’s VERY MUCH A LADY, “looking at the dark truth behind the killing of Scarsdale Diet Doctor Herman Tarnower, the high drama of a sensational trial, and the fate of Jean Harris, a complex woman doomed by love and her own desire.” (Pocket, sold 2004)
NF: Political: Jennifer Abrahamson’s SWEET RELIEF, “about Marla Ruzicka, the 28-year-old American relief worker and founder of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict) killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber in April — after having collaborated on the first part of the manuscript.” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, following the sale of the film rights to Paramount, sold 2005; this is technically listed as a biography.)
NF: Business: Consultant and seminar leader Andy Wibbels’ EASY BAKE BLOGS, “a ‘business blogging cookbook’ on how to leverage blogs to build and market your business.” (Portfolio, sold 2005); NY Jets head coach Herman Edwards with Shelly Smith’s YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME, “the life lessons he lives by and uses to motivate others throughout his successful career.” (McGraw-Hill, sold 2004, with Inkwell Management)
NF: General: Ted Steinberg’s AMERICAN GREEN: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, “a historical and muckraking look at the lawn industry, a billion dollar subculture, including the disastrous environmental effects and the humorous lengths to which people will go to have the perfect lawn.” (Norton, sold 2005)
NF: Pop Culture (which, please note, was not one of his listed areas of interest): British photographer Alison Jackson’s DOUBLE TAKE, “an Americanized version of her successful UK book presenting satiric photographs of dead ringer look alikes of public figures in odd, compromising, and humorous scenarios, including look-alikes of President Bush, Colin Powell, Martha Stewart, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, and Michael Jackson.” (Crown, sold 2004 when Mr. Veltre was still at Carlisle and Co.); Julia Bourland’s TWIGS: The Go Girl’s Guide to Nesting, “a lively guide for smart, young women on decorating their first homes or ‘nests,’ be it a studio apartment or suburban home, featuring tips on making your ‘nest’ both a spiritual dwelling and an enjoyable place to entertain.” (Perigee, sold 2004, when Mr. Veltre was still at Carlisle and Co.; whew — aren’t you glad they went to the trouble of defining ‘nest’for us? We might NEVER have figured it out.)
NF: Memoir (which, please note, was not one of his listed areas of interest): Veteran producer Ed Feldman with Tom Barton’s TELL ME HOW YOU LOVE THE PICTURE: A Hollywood Life, “a revealing and humorous memoir by a producer who has worked with everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Harrison Ford and Glenn Close, on such films as ‘Save the Tiger,’ ‘Witness,’ and ‘The Jungle Book,’ ‘The Truman Show.'” (St. Martin’s, sold 2005); Blogger and photographer Stephanie Klein’s STRAIGHT UP AND DIRTY: The Life of a Young New York Divorcee, “a humorous tell-all tracing the author’s return to single life as a “firm, fashionable, and let’s face it — fetching” twenty-something, plus a memoir based on the author’s childhood experience at Fat Camp.” (Regan Books, for scads of money, sold 2005); Matthew Polly’s AMERICAN SHAOLIN, “a memoir from the first American — a 90 pound weakling at that — to study kung fu with monks at the original Shaolin temple in China, in a two-year martial arts odyssey that includes grueling days of training, a forbidden romance with a local woman, and ultimately a challenge match against a rival kung fu master with the Temple’s honor at stake.” (Gotham, sold 2005); T.J. Waters’s CLASS 11: Inside the Largest Spy Class in CIA History, “about how he was moved to action by 9/11, leaving the business world to join the CIA, becoming the eldest member of one of the Agency’s most diverse training programs at 37 (joining a pro athlete, a 9/11 widow, a chef, a single mom, and Navy Seals, among other trainees), providing an insider’s look at what it takes to become an elite agent in the revamped CIA.” (Dutton, at auction, sold 2005); First Gulf War veteran Buzz Williams’ memoir SPARE PARTS, “following his 28-day transition from a student on a college campus to a warrior in Kuwait, providing an inside look into the preparations and experiences of the hundreds of thousands of reservists who fought in the conflict-and who increasingly represent a core part of our military force strategy.” (Gotham, sold 2003); Journalist Malcolm MacPherson’s ROBERTS RIDGE, “the true story of US Navy SEALs who, seeking to bring home a wounded soldier, get caught in a ferocious battle with Qaeda forces trying to hold their position atop an Afghanistan mountain, told through the perspective of three young warriors, of whom only one survives.” (Bantam Dell, sold 2003; I believe he means al Qaeda and Afghani.)
YA: Brian Tacang (writing as Simon P. Binaohan), BULLY BE GONE: The Misadventures of Millicent Madding, the first in a series “about a young inventor who belongs to the Wunderkind – her school’s most ‘talented’ kids — who look to Millicent’s latest invention for help defending themselves against bullies, which leads to an even bigger disaster which only Millicent can mend.” (HarperCollins Children’s, sold 2003)
No, I cannot tell you why Mr. Veltre (or whoever inputs his sales into the standard industry databases for him) is so fond of putting things in quotation marks that are not in fact quotes. However, I’m inclined to forgive him — did you happen to notice how many first-time authors there were on this list? I may greet this guy at the airport with a fruit basket, on general principle… note, too, the number of vampire titles, those of you who write about bloodsucking creeps.
I do have some reservations, though, based on this list. In answer to our earlier question, I could not find any academic sales at all for the last three years — which, once again, reminds us that it is ALWAYS a good idea to check any agent’s stated representation categories against his recent sales. Nor could I turn up any historical NF, literary fiction, or mysteries. The only How-to book I found under his name was sold in 2001, and the only YA book I found was not particularly recent.
This does not mean that you should not pitch works in these categories to Mr. Veltre, of course — but you might want to do it in the hallway or after the agents’ forum, rather than expending your precious single agent appointment on someone who may or may not be interested in your area. Since he did not provide the PNWA with a blurb, it is probably best to err on the side of caution.
As I have said before, when in doubt, go to the agents’ forum and listen carefully. If you like what you hear from Mr. Veltre, introduce yourself and ask if you can pitch to him. In the past, the agents who did not post blurbs tended not to have all of their appointments filled, so it is always worth checking with the appointment desk about an agent who wows you at the forum.
What do I make of the fact that after so many successful memoir sales, Mr. Veltre is no longer listing memoir as an interest? Simple: it’s the worst period in my lifetime to be trying to sell a memoir, for a million little reasons. If I were looking to find an agent for a memoir at the moment, I would seriously consider sticking the book in a drawer for a year, until the publishing industry has stopped panicking about a few isolated incidents of fraud. If you do want to go ahead with a memoir now, be prepared for questions about whether you have signed releases from every living person you mention.
Oh, and speaking of embattled memoirs, in case you’ve been curious: to the best of my knowledge, my memoir (A FAMILY DARKLY: LOVE, LOSS, AND THE FINAL PASSIONS OF PHILIP K. DICK) was NOT released last week, contrary to Amazon’s assertions. That fine emporium’s website is now saying that the book will ship in 1 to 3 months — let’s hope that they’re right about that. My publisher has not yet given me a specific release date, for a whole slew of very complex and very boring legal reasons. (If you want to learn about the memoir’s blood-curdling saga on its road to publication, please see my posts of March 20 and April 18.) I shall keep you updated, though.
Tomorrow, on to the editors! Keep up the good work!
– Anne Mini