“Publishing is unfortunately not a meritocracy, it’s a market! And publishers can be fairly reactionary in the way that they think about books– they’re looking to emulate successes they’ve seen before. Failing to connect with a publisher often says nothing about an author’s talent, but rather what the market is looking for at that particular time.” -Caroline Eisenmann, Frances Goldin Literary Agency
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings 20-25 literary agents and book editors to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 29th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 24 – 26, 2022, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our visiting agents and editors here.
An Interview with Caroline Eisenmann
Caroline Eisenmann joined the Frances Goldin Literary Agency in 2017 after spending four years at ICM Partners. In adult literary and upmarket fiction, Caroline gravitates towards novels that engage with social issues, speculative elements (especially those used in the service of an emotional truth), stories about obsession, ruthless narrators, and work that centers around intimacy and its discontents. She’s looking for intensity and stakes on the page, whether that takes the form of visceral prose, a vivid consciousness, or a driving plot. In nonfiction she is drawn to idea-driven work driven by expansive curiosity, especially projects that render the hidden structures of the world more legible. She’s also looking for deeply reported narratives (particularly those that take the reader into the heart of a subculture), literary memoir, cultural criticism, and essay collections. Her areas of interest include science, technology, nature, social justice, psychology, culture, and the slippery workings of capitalism. Authors represented by Caroline have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list and been short or longlisted for the National Book Award in fiction, the National Book Award’s 5 Under 35 Award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Caroline Eisenmann: I aim for warm but candid; I like to think my clients find me pretty approachable. I tend to have strategic conversations with my clients throughout the process while gauging their own preferences and desires. I’m also pretty editorial, and enjoy that side of the work.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
CE: A great pitch or premise and an assured voice on the page. In nonfiction, author platform (authority, expertise, professional and personal connections, audience) is essential– but it’s increasingly helpful in fiction, too, and always appealing when a debut novelist brings that to the table.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
CE: Publishing is unfortunately not a meritocracy, it’s a market! And publishers can be fairly reactionary in the way that they think about books– they’re looking to emulate successes they’ve seen before. Failing to connect with a publisher often says nothing about an author’s talent, but rather what the market is looking for at that particular time.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
CE: We still have a ways to go on this front, but we’re seeing a shift away from the industry’s previous default assumption that the general reader is a straight, white, cis woman who only wants to read about other straight, white, cis women. A real effort has been made to diversify not just authors published, but the makeup of the publishing industry itself, and I think that’s a long overdue shift for the better.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and want everyone to know about?
CE: I worked recently on a fairly experimental memoir by the model and activist Cameron Russell, a book that subverts so much of what we might lazily expect from a model memoir. She’s a ferociously thoughtful and gifted writer, and the book is one of the most interesting pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered on beauty, speechlessness, and what it means to fight for a better world. I can’t publicly speak further yet about the publishing outcome at the time of writing this, but I’m proud to be working with such an utterly remarkable person on such a stunning book.
Click here for more information on the 2022 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.