How long have you been an agent,
and how did you get your start, Ken?
Well, to begin with, I'm NOT an agent, although half
the world calls me one. I'm a literary manager and
producer, which allows my company, Atchity Entertainment
a much wider purview and operating plane: We develop
literary properties, sell them to publishers (like
agents do), then set them up as films or multimedia
franchises. It's been a nearly 20-year evolution to
where we are today, following my first career as Professor
of Comparative Literature at Occidental College (Yale
Ph.D., Georgetown B.A.), Fulbright Professor to the
University of Bologna, Instructor in Screen- and Novel-writing
at the UCLA Writers Program, and regular contributor
to the Los Angeles Times Book Review.
My second career was founded on my first. I wanted
to move on from analyzing and critiquing stories to
helping storytellers create them for publishers and
the big screen. As an author myself, with 15 books
to date and a half dozen or so screenplays, I thought
I should “put my money where my mouth was” and focus
on creation instead of deconstruction. Turns out,
the latter serves the former, and has continued to
do so. In fact, I formed a second company, www.thewriterslifeline.com,
as a kind of farm team for my management and representation
company - a company that mentors writers not yet ready
for representation, and also ghostwrites for individuals
and companies who want to get a story or information
into the world, but don't have time to be writers.
Some of AEI's biggest successes have been incubated
in the Writer's Lifeline, including Dracula: The
Un-Dead, a novel AEI just sold for nearly $2 million
and will produce as a film in '09.
What makes your agency different from any others?
Primarily, that we think outside the box and focus
on storytellers instead of screenwriters vs. novelists.
Our ideal clients are ones that want to be paid for
their intellectual property on both coasts, publishing
and entertainment, and in the global market.
What are you looking for, specifically, that
you wish you would see more of?
We've just launched the Brand Management division
of AEI, for projects like Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt's
Dracula: The Un-Dead, Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not!,
Royce Buckingham's Demon Keeper, that can be
branded in all media - book, film, television, internet,
music, merchandising and licensing. We'd like to see
more high-concept and/or blockbuster novels to set
up as films (like 3 Men Seeking Monsters, which
we're producing at Universal, Demon Keeper
at Fox 2000, Sex in the South at Lifetime,
and High Voltage, which we're producing with
Baror International and just about to make the rounds
with). When it comes to screenplays, we're looking
only for high-concept action, broad comedies, successful
comic books or graphic novels, high-profile fantasy
(based on underlying properties) and ones based on
high-profile true stories. And we're also looking
on the constant hunt for film financing, because we've
decided to take our clients' fates into our hands
by financing independent movies as a more realistic
supplement to the original business of setting up
big studio films. Does that mean a screenplay with
money attached gets our attention? Yes indeed.
Ken what are you tired of receiving?
(a) Books that have too narrow a market; (b) children's
picture books (we can't make a business of them unless
they're already successfully published); (c) nuclear
war stories - arghhh!; (d) childhood abuse stories.
I could go on…
How can a new writer get your attention in a
Sending me a two-line email about their project, and
two lines about themselves. When the email gets longer,
I forward it to my staff to answer. Don't worry--if
I'm interested in the four lines, I'll ask for more.
How can a signed writer stay in your radar without
driving you insane?
Great question. My fantastic staff is there to answer
their everyday questions, and to handle the flow of
the business required to get them into the marketplace.
The clients we tend to retain are those that work
with the whole group - including my long-time partner
Chi-Li Wong. Those that demand my attention for every
little thing that pops into their mind tend to drift
away. I focus on creative thinking and marketing (sales!),
and hope my clients understand that's where their
best benefits lie. My radar is my company, and when
I hear good things or nothing, I'm aware the client
is working well with us. When I hear about them too
often, there's usually trouble brewing. The busier
we get, the more we turn away from trouble. But I
have to say we've gotten better and better at selecting
people we work well with. we're pretty happy these
What do you wish more writers understood about
you as an agent, Ken, that they don't seem to?
That I'm much more than an "agent". Because of my
prior experience, I'm a writer, editor, producer,
manager, psychologist, teacher - and, above all, a
determined enthusiast who will go to the ends of the
earth to sell a story once I decide I love it - and
have done so long after a client has lost hope!
What's the best way for a writer to reach you?
Because we continue to serve unknown writers, as well
as mid-career writers wishing to up their success
ratio, my email has been and will continue to be public