Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Adina Kahn explains why she became an agent

Ever since I joined DGLM, many friends and colleagues have wondered what convinced me to become a literary agent after having worked for the past few years in film development. The truth is that many people who lack direct contact with the publishing world do not have a clue as to what an agent does, and therefore do not even know that this rewarding profession even exists.

I gained exposure to the field when meeting with literary agents during my time at Sony. Filmmakers in New York have strong ties to the publishing community, and I would take meetings with literary agents to find out if they had any material suitable for film adaptation. In fact, a few years ago I found myself sitting in a meeting at DGLM to hear about the fantastic books they represented with film potential. As I gained more exposure to the world of literary agents I began to realize how exciting and rewarding it could be. After all, what could be more thrilling than coming across an entirely original and brilliant manuscript and being closely involved in making sure it reaches bookstores?

When I worked in film development, the most inspiring thing for me was finding quality stories. But finding a good story is only one aspect of filmmaking, and sometimes it frustrates me to watch a movie and know that the story was not the filmmakers’ top priority. Books appeal to me because the writing is the priority and the focus.

Reading a book is a different experience than watching television or films. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge movie buff and I love watching both good and bad television (unfortunately, I think I may like watching bad television a little more). But books affect me more and stay with me longer. There could be a number of reasons for this. Perhaps it’s because a novel allows you to visualize everything for yourself, and forces you to use your imagination. Or maybe it’s because you tend to read a book over a stretched out period of time, and therefore may associate a book with a certain event in your life (that reminds me, some advice: don’t bring THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion on your honeymoon, that’s a mistake I wish I hadn’t made).

Finding intelligent non-fiction is equally as exhilarating as discovering good fiction, and I love that I can offer writers the chance to share their work and possibly enlighten people who are eager for some new ideas to contemplate and discuss. I appreciate the opportunity to meet writers with all sorts of backgrounds and build a partnership based on mutual enthusiasm for a given subject matter.

I see the role of a literary agent as being similar to that of a film producer, and I have been able to apply lessons learned from my previous experiences to this job. Like a producer, a good agent will oversee a project from start to finish and make sure to solve any problems that come their way. Ultimately, I became an agent because I simply wanted to help talented writers fulfill their dreams of becoming published, and I try to make the rocky road to getting their work to a bookstore as smooth as possible.


  1. Adina,
    great post. I agree that part of the allure of books is that experiencing them can stretch over time--always looking forward to stealing a moment here or there to catch up with my favorite characters. And movies--I adore them as much as books but they serve a more immediate purpose. My home is littered with books I love and have learned from. My kids have stacks of books and though they love certain TV shows, there's nothing like the time before sleep when we all tuck in for a little bit of Hardy Boys. That experience can't be duplicated. Thanks for the insightful post--clearly you've picked the profession that suits you best.

  2. Nice peek into these two worlds (film and book development). Thanks, Adina. It sounds like you bring an interesting (and fairly rare?) skill set to agenting.

  3. Adina,

    Thanks for your take on agenting and the process that you went through -- it's great to hear your story!

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  5. Hi Adina,

    Thanks for your post!

    With your background in film development prior to becoming an agent, I wonder if this makes a difference in how you read fiction that has been submitted to you - if, in other words, you might see it differently in your mind's eye as you are reading than you would have otherwise, without your background in film.

    If so, does this makes a difference in the type of fiction you like to receive?

  6. Adina, I loved your take on how books require an investment of our time. You are so right! It brought to mind where I was when I read several of my longtime favorites.

    I fondly remember reading Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone by the pool in Hilton Head with one child at the beach with Dad, one in the bassinet beside me, and one on the way. Warm, warm memories, Adina. As a writer, I hope to similarly fill readers' worlds. Thanks!

  7. Adina,
    Really enjoyed your post. It sounds like you are the consumate agent!

    Thought if you are looking for interesting blogs to read, you'll try this one:


    I'm one of the co-authors...I hope you enjoy, I think it is the first time a book is being marketed while working on the finishing touches. It gets alot of traffic and I would love your feedback.

    Thanks and have a great day,
    Taryn Simpson

  8. A literary agent? I had never heard about it, so the way you became an agent was incredible, actually I feel identify with this because I remember when I became an porno star people told me it was immoral, so I think every one should do what they want, for example I'm so happy with my profession even other think the opposite.m10m