Background: Scott Mendel, a former academic and magazine editor, switched to the agency side of the business in the mid-'90s, getting his start in the late Jane Jordan Browne's Chicago-based company. In December of 2002, he moved to New York and opened up his own firm. Mendel represents some commercial fiction (mainly contemporary thrillers and women's fiction) and a bit of literary fiction, and has built up a client list of serious nonfiction projects that mostly center around biography, history, politics, science, technology, entertainment, business, economics and religious topics.
Because of his academic background -- he was an instructor at both the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois in Chicago -- Mendel says he particularly enjoys working with professors who may have established their academic chops by publishing with university presses and earning tenure, and who are now ready to write a definitive work for non-academic readers. He also represents several professional journalists: "In addition to having to worry less about journalists meeting their manuscript delivery deadlines and writing strong prose," he says, "the contacts and savvy media professionals bring to their projects can't be topped by most authors."
Mendel advises that clients come in with the best-written, most thorough work they can produce, but he does work closely with each client, giving editorial input to polish their proposals. "Every agent likes to say his client wrote every word of the proposal or manuscript that lands on an editor's desk," Mendel says, "but most people realize that agents these days are the constant in our clients' careers in ways that editors rarely are any longer."