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Nov 19, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series - Felicia Eth

 CritiqueMatch welcomes literary agent Felicia Eth to our next Agent Spotlight Series article! Felicia Eth Literary Representation is a one-woman full-service literary agency dedicated to handling book properties comprised of strong voices, intellectually stimulating storylines or discussions, flavorful narratives, books which make a unique contribution and the occasional quirky book that is just too difficult to resist.

Though Ms. Eth prefers a small and selective list, she continues to search for new clients and new properties, primarily in adult fiction and nonfiction. The agency’s contacts are primarily with major commercial houses, smaller reputable presses and university presses with trade lists.

Felicia Eth
CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Felicia: 
I was once mistaken for Cher by photographers at an event I attended.
I had an offer to publish a collection of my submission letters. (This is the lie, though I had an editor suggest she'd be willing to try if I submitted them formally.)
A client of mine once made me dinner and surprised me by making tongue.  

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Felicia: Recently we’ve seen a plethora of dystopian novels, dependency memoirs, and lots of historical novels attempting to redress racial and multicultural issues.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Felicia: Honesty, respect, and friendship have a lot to do with a great working relationship. When I handle a property, it’s about much more than the book, though, of course, that’s what I’m selling. It’s about a commitment which both the author and I have made to each other. Representing projects can be stressful, and a really solid professional relationship built on these qualities makes the process more of a joy than a burden.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Felicia: The answer here varies from project to project but on the whole, I am quite hands-on. Rarely does a project get sent out by me where the author hasn’t gone through one or two revisions, and I can recall one project which was a first book, where the author revised the proposal 8 or 9 times, but I did end up getting him a $100,000 advance.  But honestly, I’ve worked just as hard with books that sold for $7500. 

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Felicia: Terribly important. Lots of people write good queries for books that often sound similar to other projects being pitched. But a query that jumps out from the others foreshadows a book that might jump out as well, and that’s the one I’m likely to invite a submission on. That doesn’t mean something that’s gimmicky, but something that has all the necessary components plus that something extra.

CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing? 
Felicia: I am a small one-person agency, so I’m not hiring on new people. But I have always had an interest in broadening the perspective of books available to the reading public, going way back to when I first worked at Writers House and sold Octavia Butler’s earliest books including Kindred, to Carolyn Scott Brown’s Black Woman’s Guide to Menopause, to my most recent sale of Keenan Norris’s forthcoming The Confessions of Copeland Cane. 

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Felicia: People often think we lead a glamorous life, and are only interested in giant commercial novels. In my experience, neither could be further from the truth. 

CM: Should every book have an agent?
Felicia: Not necessarily. There are many different ways to sell books these days, and Big 5 commercial trade publishing is not right for every book. Many options exist, including specialized presses, digital-only houses, small independent publishers, Christian publishers, self-publishing, etc. The criteria that agents and major houses have for what to take on aren’t only about a book’s worth, so you need to be aware of that when looking for representation.

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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Literary accessible fiction, historical and suspense novels with a literary bent that transcend genre, novels with a magical realism and/or a multicultural element.
  • Narrative nonfiction including memoir, journalism, unusual travel books, popular science, psychological and social concerns, women’s issues, fresh parenting ideas, culinary writing.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Genre fiction, including romance novels, sci fi and fantasy, westerns, anime and graphic novels, mysteries. 
  • Poetry, academic or technical books. 
  • Picture books or chapter books for the juvenile market (except where the author is also a writer of adult books which we are interested in). 
  • Christian books, humor or how-to books. 
  • Screenplays.
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2 Client Examples
Ten Speed Press/Random House - 2020
Ballantine Book/ Random House - 2012
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Query Tips

Dos:
  • Brief, well-written, definitely include your credentials and any past history re submissions as well as previous publications. 
Don'ts:
  • Make demands. 
  • Forget to mention it’s a multiple submission.
  • Presume to know it’s exactly what I’m looking for. 
  • Query on books in areas I say I am not looking for. 
  • Send a complete manuscript or pages unless I invite submission.
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Submission Guidelines:
Submissions are preferred online to feliciaeth.literary@gmail.com or if necessary by hardcopy to: Felicia Eth Literary Representation, 555 Bryant St., Suite 350,Palo Alto, Ca. 94301. All hardcopy submissions should include a s.a.s.e. with postage.

For fiction: 
Please write a query letter introducing yourself, your book, your writing background. Don’t forget to include degrees you may have, publishing credits, awards and endorsements. Please wait for a response before including sample pages. We only consider material where the manuscript for which you are querying is complete, unless you have previously published.
For non-fiction: 
A query letter is best, introducing your idea and what you have written already (proposal, manuscript?). For writerly nonfiction (narratives, bio, memoir) please let us know if you have a finished manuscript. Also it’s important you include information about yourself, your background and expertise, your platform and notoriety, if any.