Local author turns rejection into successful literary agency
AAA Books Unlimited literary agent Nancy Rosenfeld at her home in Deerfield. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2013 8:14AM
DEERFIELD — After helping save Jews — including a wrongly-imprisoned scientist — from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s, Deerfield resident Nancy Rosenfeld and the now-free scientist, Dr. Yuri Tarnopolsky, decided to write books about their experiences.
“Two People, Two Worlds: From Tyranny to Freedom” is Rosenfeld’s offering and Tarnopolsky, who Rosenfield said was wrongly arrested and held prisoner from 1983-1986, titled his book “Memoirs of 1984.”
But Rosenfeld said after a slew of rejections from publishers, citing that “no one is interested in a country that is ceasing to exist,” she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I fired that [book] agent,” Rosenfeld said. “At that time, I had learned the [book agency] ropes and I sold both books to the University Press of America, and the next thing I knew, there were the books [in print].”
Some 20 years after that, Rosenfeld launched her own literary agency, AAA Books Unlimited, from her home. She has since represented authors from all around the world.
“I figured that if I could write two books about a country that was ceasing to exist, I should open up an agency and devote my attention to debut authors like myself, to give them an opportunity,” Rosenfeld said. “So, I did.”
Rosenfeld said her role as an agent is to screen book proposals and manuscripts from authors, then decide if she will represent them and make proposals to some of the world’s top publishers.
“I was flooded immediately with inquiries [after starting the agency], and I did very little advertising and before I knew it, I could no longer offer my services to too many debut authors,” Rosenfeld said. “Now, I accept only less than 10 percent of the inquiries I receive.”
Rosenfeld said she sets her standards for authors “very high,” and puts each manuscript through a strict approval process.
“I look at them very critically,” Rosenfeld said. “They have to have something to sell; they have to be recognized in their fields, and their stories have to resonate with me.”
Rosenfeld also said that she is careful to send only the best proposals to her publishers, which include Random House and Oxford University Press.
“If an author comes to me and I see a red flag, I don’t care who it is, I don’t accept that person,” Rosenfeld said. “Publishers rely very heavily on literary agents to screen the authors that we send to them.
“Nothing, but nothing leaves this office unless it meets all standards of excellence.”
To date, Rosenfeld said she has represented authors from as far away as Australia, and that she is currently reviewing 50 manuscripts, no matter how busy she may be.
“People say to me, Nancy, why don’t you get a life because you’re always working,” Rosenfeld said. “I couldn’t imagine a better life. I love my profession because I meet the most interesting people from all over.”