This week's Agent Spotlight features Victoria Skurnick of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.
About: "Victoria Skurnick came to Levine Greenberg after being at The Book-of-the Month Club for almost twenty years. As Editor-in-Chief, she relished the opportunity to devour every kind of book, from the finest literary fiction to Yiddish for Dogs. Anne Tyler, John LeCarre, Amy Tan, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, Lee Child, Roddy Doyle, Alice Sebold, Tracy Kidder, Julia Child and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are just a few of the authors that make her deaf and blind to anyone around her when she's reading.
"Victoria's other addiction besides reading is music. She has sung in many choirs in New York City and spent a few ostensibly happy years singing rock in groups like Big and the Evolution. No, you haven't heard of it-if you had, she wouldn't be an agent. She also is the co-author (with Cynthia Katz) of seven novels written by 'Cynthia Victor.'
"Raised in New Rochelle, NY, Victoria went to the University of Wisconsin where she studied political science with an emphasis on constitutional law, a subject that still fascinates her. Neither adventurous nor peripatetic, she has remained within a 20-mile radius of home since her day of birth." (Link)
Status: Accepting submissions.
What She's Looking For:
Genres of interest: Literary fiction, historical fiction, women's literature, romance, comedy, humor, horror, mystery, narrative nonfiction, arts, cinema, photography, biography, memoir, cooking, food, wine, crafts, hobbies, DIY, health, diet, history, mind, body, spirit, parenting, family, politics, current affairs, pop culture, entertainment, relationships, family, religion, spirituality, inspiration, science, technology, self-help, sports, technical, how-to, true crime, YOUNG ADULT. (Link)
"She is looking for fiction—especially literary, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and politics. (Link)
"Thrillers, literary fiction, mysteries, narrative nonfiction, biography and memoir are among her favorites, but she has also sold books on everything from exercises for the soul to sumptuous recipes for the gastrointestinally challenged. She does not handle children's books, but will look at young adult." (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Comics, graphic novels, science-fiction, fantasy, textbooks. (Link)
"I like finding talented new writers, with fascinating and original material. This is similar to what I've liked best about all my jobs. But, as an agent, I get to edit people and then excite publishers about them. It's very satisfying to be in from the beginning, to unlock a world to a writer who has a load of talent, but might not otherwise have entry." (Link)
About the Agency:
"Founded in 1989 by author and academic entrepreneur James Levine, we have grown into a firm of thirteen people with offices in New York and San Francisco. We work in every category of fiction and non-fiction.
"We represent people, not just individual projects; more than selling books, we work as our clients' creative and business partners throughout the entire publishing process. Our goal is to develop and guide talent to its fullest expression across a variety of media-books, film and television, audio, and electronic formats.
"Most of our titles are published by imprints of the major houses-Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, etc-but we have also done business with almost fifty independent and/or university presses.
"Our strong foreign rights department works internationally with a respected network of co-agents to place our titles with leading foreign publishers, and we are regular participants at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, and Book Expo America." (Link)
Pet-Peeves / Dislikes:
"I'm old fashioned, and bad grammar really is deadly for me. Self-aggrandizement in a query letter, lack of pagination, sloppy writing, bad writing, unoriginal plot – all kinds of things turn me off." (Link)
Yes. "We offer service in four broad areas: editorial development, business representation, collaborating writers, and publicity & marketing strategy." (Link w/more info)
There is a list of agency clients on the website. Ms. Skurnick's clients include: Senator Tom Daschle, Harry Dolan, Robert Rotenberg, Alice LaPlante, Sasha Abramsky, Karen Bergreen, Rachel Brady, Libby Cataldi, Naomi Fein, June Breton Fisher, Daniel Friedman, Jennifer Hillier, Jess Lourey, Susan Elia MacNeal, Meline Nadeau, Debbie Mumford, Jude Polotan, Andrea Robinson, Danny Schechter, among many others.
As of this posting, Ms. Skurnick is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 10 deals in the last 12 months and 17 overall. Recent deals include 3 debut, 2 mystery/crime, 1 general/other, 1 inspirational, 1 history/politics/current affairs, 1 humor, and 1 young adult.
The YA sale is for Andrea Robinson's SOPHIE MCGEE, VAMPIRE QUEEN (Harper).
NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
According to her AAR and AgentInbox profiles, Ms. Skurnick does accept e-queries directly. Send a query and the first 25 pages. Send a query and proposal for nonfiction. You can also query via the group agency e-mail or online form, attaching no more than 50 pages.
If Ms. Skurnick wants to see more, she usually asks for the entire novel or nonfiction proposal as a single e-mail attachment.
"Turn-ons – obvious intelligence on the part of the writer, writing that has flair, a plot I haven't seen four hundred times, a short but to the point query letter, a sense of humor, again, just plain good writing." (Link)
The agency only responds if interested, usually within three weeks but sometimes more than. Ms. Skurnick tends to have rather fast response times with occasional instances of longer or no response.
What's the Buzz?
Ms. Skurnick appears to be a good, well-respected agent. She's a member of the AAR and has an established list of clients and sales. A couple of the other agents at the Levine Greenberg Agency are more specialized in YA, but Ms. Skurnick is accepting and considering YA submissions.
Worth Your Time:
Interview with Victoria Skurnick, Literary Agent by client Jennifer Hillier at Killer Chicks (10/2010).
Audio interview with Victoria Skurnick where she discusses John Hart's novel The King of Lies (couldn't listen, seems to be a subscription thing).
Around the Web:
Interview with Elizabeth Fisher, the Levin Greenberg rights manager at Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood (12/2010).
YouTube video featuring literary agents Victoria Skurnick and Michael Strong and Bantam Dell Assistant Editor Randall Klein (05/2009).
Levine Greenberg Literary Agency on PE (recommended).
Please see the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency website for contact and query information.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.