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Blogs to Books
Searching for Signs of Literary Life in the Blogospher

Kate Lee

In March of 2003, Kate Lee, C’99, assistant to a literary agent at NYC’s International Creative Management, sent an e-mail to Elizabeth Speirs, then the editorial web mistress of a popular media and entertainment blog called Gawker. Lee liked the writing and wanted to know if Speirs had ever considered doing a book. A year later, Lee would be dubbed “agent to the blogosphere” in a New Yorker article about her success at representing bloggers.

Blogs can be anything from personal online journals to highbrow compendiums of and commentaries on art, politics, culture, or the media. They’ve become one of the fastest-growing segments of the Internet and a lode of undiscovered writing talent, but sifting through the multitude of blogs in cyberspace is a monumental task. When Lee finds a blogger whose voice she thinks would translate into a book, she gets in touch. If all goes well, she gets a new client and the blogger becomes an author.

Lee’s client list reads like a who’s who of the New York blogging scene. There are writers from the satirical Black Table and Low Culture websites and the creator of the political blog Instapundit. The unusual niche she has carved out in the agent business is what first caught the eye of blogger and New Yorker contributor Daniel Radosh.

At an April launch party for Kinja, a blog that’s basically a guide to blogs, Lee met Radosh, who told her he wanted to do a sketch about her for Talk of the Town. The piece was published in the May 31 issue, and Lee’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing.

“My work life has changed,” she said recently over brunch in Alphabet City, a neighborhood where she lives adjacent to New York’s East Village. “I’ve been inundated by writers and bloggers with queries. I’ve been called by editors from all over....I have much more material to sift through.” And that’s on top of her day-to-day responsibilities as an assistant—reading the mail, answering the phone, scheduling appointments for her boss.

Lee got her start in the literary world at US Weekly, a job she was tipped off to by classmate Dave Kalstein, C’99, who also worked there. In an example of everything-comes-full-circle, Lee is now Kalstein’s agent and sold
his first book, the novel Recess, to St. Martin’s Press.

When it came time to leave the magazine job, Lee spoke to editors
at Wenner Media, publishers of US Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Men’s Journal, who put her in touch with International Creative Management. Thus began her long ascent from agent’s assistant to the summit of ICM, which still seems far off in the clouds. It typically takes from three to seven years of assisting to become an agent, and the climb, especially at a top agency like ICM, is brutally competitive.

“ I have no illusions that this is an easy business,” she said. “People might think that because this [New Yorker] article came out that I’ve made it. But I’m still at the bottom of a long climb.”

So Lee keeps scanning the myriad worlds of the blogosphere, searching for signs of intelligent life. With the explosion of blogs on the Internet, it’s a task that grows bigger each day. But the payoff—for both Lee and her clients—could be huge.

Copyright ©2004 University of Pennsylvania
School of Arts and Sciences
Updated September 17, 2004