Elaine Koster, 69

Literary agent Elaine Koster dies; rescued Stephen King's 'Carrie' from obscurity

By Associated Press
Friday, August 13, 2010

Elaine Koster, 69, a publisher and literary agent with a knack for new talent who gave a second chance to an obscure horror writer named Stephen King, died Aug. 10 at a hospital in New York. The cause of death was not available.

As publisher of the New American Library in the 1970s, Mrs. Koster paid a then-enormous $400,000 for the paperback rights to King's "Carrie," which had sold poorly in hardcover, and she was later credited with helping to make a blockbuster out of Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying."

In 1998, she started the Elaine Koster Literary Agency, whose clients have included Monique Truong, Kimberla Lawson Roby and Julie Buxbaum. Her most notable find was Khaled Hosseini, whose manuscript for "The Kite Runner" had been turned down by numerous agents. It went on to sell millions of copies.

Born Elaine Landis in 1940, Mrs. Koster grew up in Manhattan and graduated from Barnard College in 1962. Besides working at New American Library, she was president and publisher at Dutton and worked with literary and commercial authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Eric Jerome Dickey and Peter Straub.

"Her ability to recognize well-written commercial fiction . . . as well as important literary fiction, was unparalleled," said King, who had been working part time as a teacher when "Carrie" was first published. "She may have been the key figure in the ascendance of the paperback in the marketplace during the 1970s and 1980s."

Survivors include her husband, Bill Koster, and a daughter.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company