Remembering Literary Agent Shari Smiley and Her Impact on the Publishing Industry
Shari Smiley obituary: The literary world lost a beloved agent and advocate this week with the passing of Shari Smiley at the age of 53. Smiley dedicated over 25 years to representing authors and brokering book-to-film deals, leaving behind a formidable legacy.
Smiley’s Extensive Career Spanned Multiple Agencies
Shari Smiley embarked on her career in 1993 as a receptionist at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), but she quickly progressed to selling more books than some senior agents. She spent 18 years at CAA establishing herself as a power player before moving to The Gotham Group for four years.
Most recently, Smiley had relaunched her own management company Smiley Management after a stint at 3 Arts Entertainment. Her strong relationships and reputation enabled her to restart her business and continue representing A-list authors.
An Advocate and Friend to Many Bestselling Authors
Over the course of her illustrious career, Smiley worked closely with an impressive roster of bestselling novelists. She represented authors such as Cheryl Strayed (Wild), Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), Jodi Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper), Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada), and Mary Kubica (The Good Girl).
Her authors describe her as a caring, compassionate advocate who supported their careers. She forged close friendships with many writers she represented and contributed to each book’s path to publication.
Skilled at Brokering Major Book and Film Deals
Beyond representing authors, Smiley also excelled at negotiating major book-to-film deals. She sold the rights to a number of buzzworthy novels that sparked bidding wars in Hollywood and went on to become successful movies.
Some of Smiley’s biggest sales included Wild, Gone Girl, The Devil Wears Prada, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, the Artemis Fowl series, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, and the HBO series Sharp Objects. Her deals demonstrated her savvy negotiation skills and keen instincts for viable adaptations.
Early Work with the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate
Before rising through the ranks as an agent, Smiley took on a unique role working with the estate of beloved fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien. As a consultant to Tolkien’s executor, she provided invaluable guidance regarding new releases and licensing deals involving his works.
This early experience equipped her with expertise in managing and protecting authors’ reputations and intellectual properties. It served her well as she later represented contemporary bestselling novelists.
Remembering a Passionate Advocate and Dealmaker
The outpouring of tributes from authors, colleagues, and friends demonstrates the immense respect and affection Smiley earned throughout her wide-reaching career. She leveraged her skills and passion to propel countless authors to success and broker adaption deals that introduced books to new audiences.
Her sudden passing at the peak of her career is a tremendous loss for the publishing world. Shari Smiley leaves behind a legacy of tenacity, business acumen, and devotion to the written word. Her legacy will live on through the thriving careers of authors she championed and the timeless books and films she helped bring to life.
Smiley paved the way for women agents and managers through her intelligence, work ethic, and skillful deal-making. Though she will be dearly missed, her impact on authors, publishing, and Hollywood will persist for years to come.