Jodi Reamer is a powerhouse. As an agent at the prestigious Writers House, she represents some of publishings most relevant, popular writes today, including Stephenie Meyer, Ally Condie, Tahereh Mafi, John Green and Jennifer Crusie. When I contacted her for an interview in 2009, I honestly wasn’t even expecting a response, let alone an interview! She floored me. And so did her answers to my questions. Smart, straight-forward and knowledgeable, Jodi Reamer is fantastic.
In the words of writing phenom Stephenie Meyer, “About a month after I sent in the manuscript, I got a call from Jodi Reamer, an honest to goodness literary agent, who wanted to represent my book. I tried really hard to sound like a professional and a grownup during that conversation, but I’m not sure if I fooled her. Again, my luck was tremendous (and I don’t usually have good luck—I’ve never won anything in my life, and no one ever catches a fish when I’m in the boat) because Jodi is the uber-agent. I couldn’t have ended up in better hands. She’s part lawyer, part ninja (she’s working on earning her black belt right now, no kidding), a pretty amazing editor in her own right, and a great friend.”
Here is my interview, taken from my 10 Most Fascinating People in Publishing archives. Enjoy!
AN INTERVIEW WITH JODI REAMER
You work for Writer’s House, one of the most reputable, sought after publishing houses in America, if not the world. How did you get your start there?
I was practicing law and decided to make a change and I was fortunate enough to be offered the position of assistant to Amy Berkower, the president of Writers House. She was a great mentor and it was the perfect way for me to learn this new trade. I soon became her associate and eventually developed my own list of authors.
What initially attracted you to become an agent? It seems like an absolutely lovely job, but one that requires a lot of tireless dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work!
Agenting isn’t all that different from practicing law, except that it involves a lot more creativity and is much more enjoyable. I quickly realized that not only would I get to review, negotiate and draft contracts (all of which I love), but I would also have the opportunity to read great manuscripts and offer editorial feedback. I had given up creative writing when I went to law school, so it was good to have that creative outlet restored.
You were responsible for finding Stephenie Meyer’s (our Number 2 Most Fascinating Person!) manuscript and taking it on. What attracted you to that manuscript? Furthermore, what made that initial query so exciting to you to even want to request more material?
First of all, you should most definitely revise your list and have Stephenie as #1. The phenomenon that the Twilight Saga has become is all because of her. I was very fortunate that my assistant, Genevieve, responded positively to the query letter and requested the manuscript. The manuscript was very similar to the book and was a brilliant read. The storyline was riveting, the characters were unforgettable, and the setting was described with such vibrancy that I felt like I was living in Forks for days after I put the manuscript down.
What is the number one mistake you see writers make when querying you? Conversely, what do you really enjoy reading in a query letter?
The biggest mistake to me is not sending sample chapters with the query letter. My decision is based solely on the writing. Not everyone can make a query letter sound interesting, so don’t take a chance–send the actual writing. If an agent insists that authors send only the query letter, then try to convey the tone of the manuscript or voice of the characters in the letter. But don’t write the letter as if sent from one of the characters. I think that’s been over done.
What makes you decide to either accept a story and represent it, or pass? Voice? Style? Characters? Or something more indefinable?
It’s really the combination of all the elements. You can’t have just one work very well. But I generally pass if there aren’t characters that grab me from the start. Authors can do a lot of revising, but I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to make uninteresting characters interesting.
You read tons and tons of queries and manuscripts every day. Any aspirations to write a book of your own?
Not any more. I have so much respect for my authors and I see the amount of talent that it takes to create a brilliant work of fiction. I’m not in their league.
Lastly, Ms. Reamer, can I ask you what an average day is like for you?
There is no average day. You never know what you’re going to spend your day on–it all depends on what phone call or e-mail you receive that day. That’s what keeps the job so exciting.
**Artwork for the featured image was created by Dan Santat. More information can be found at his website.