Rebecca Stead, 2010 Newbery Medalist for When You Reach Me, is adding a new chapter to her publishing career. The author has signed on as an agent for The Book Group, a recently launched, full-service literary agency in Manhattan founded by four veterans of the business: Julie Barer, Faye Bender, Brettne Bloom, and Elisabeth Weed. Stead will represent authors across the fiction spectrum, including middle-grade, YA, and adult.
Stead, whose latest YA novel, Goodbye Stranger, is due from Random House’s Wendy Lamb Books in August, reported that her affiliation with The Book Group springs from an opportune convergence of circumstances. She had earlier talked with Bender, who has been her agent for a decade, about her interest in the literary agency business.
“Probably because I really love this bookmaking and storytelling world, I’d been thinking for years about the possibility of becoming a literary agent,” said Stead. “I’d mentioned that to Faye a few years ago, and we talked about working together along those lines. And then that conversation changed a year or so ago, when Faye told me that she’d been talking to three fellow literary agents, who are really supportive of each other, about starting an agency. Happily, my conversation with Faye, and her conversation with Julie, Brettne, and Elisabeth, coalesced at the right time.”
Noting that she is “not rushing to fill a big stable of clients,” Stead looks forward to building her roster of authors at her own pace. What she is hoping to find, she said, is “beautiful writing and the kind of fiction that makes you aware of your own feelings, your own situation, your own relationships with others – and evokes a response emotionally.”
Stead’s fans will be pleased to learn that she will not abandon her own writing for her agenting work. “Anyone who’s familiar with my writing schedule knows that there is always plenty of time between books for me!” she remarked. “In so many ways, being a literary agent is an irresistible job to me. Not only does it involve all the things I love – being an advocate for others, problem solving, and going to meetings – yes, that’s true, I love meetings, though everyone says it’s bizarre! – but most importantly, I love working with people whose writing excites me.”
As a literary agent, Stead intends to tap into her own experiences as an author to help her clients navigate the publishing maze. “I feel I have an instinct to support my authors, having been through the process,” she explained. “I am hoping to work with writers publishing books for first time, since I of course remember what that experience is like. It’s all a bit of a mystery for new authors who don’t know what to expect. I’m as much interested in helping authors answer questions they might have, and in the creative collaboration with authors I believe in, as I am in finding the right home for each book.”