Category Archives: about us

4

The book made me do it!

I walked out at lunch time on this scorching, humid day in New York City, and immediately felt like I was in a tropical jungle—only this was the concrete kind.  As I tried to get my errands done quickly so I could scurry back to the relative coolness of my portable air conditioner (my office windows are of a vintage that makes standard units impossible to install)Air Conditioner, I found myself thinking of literary jungle settings—Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Lily King’s Euphoria, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, etc.  In part, this had to do with the sliced mango stand I ran across on the corner of Broadway and 14th Street…but I digress.

Back in the office, while eating my chilled pea and mint soup, I happened upon this piece in Galleycat about Riverhead soliciting essays for a collection about “how Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous memoir [Eat Pray Love] served as inspiration for readers to go on life-changing adventures” and, having just been thinking about her recent novel, I had one of those moments where I felt the universe was trying to tell me something.

I decided that what it was telling me was not to pack up my bags and head for the Amazon (where Jane will be in a month or so, btw), but that I should do a blog post about what books have inspired us to do things.  For instance, reading Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak in high school made me want to learn Russian in the worst way.  And, so I took three years of this beautiful, complicated language while in college (I remember nothing, in case you’re wondering).

It’s a great exercise, in my opinion, to consider how books have influenced our actions.  For those of us who are obsessed with literary works, it’s an exercise that can turn up some fascinating (and maybe disturbing) insights into our psyches.  So, have books influenced actions for you?  If so, what books…and what actions?

14

Holiday cards—our annual dilemma

 

It’s early June and while most of you are thinking barbecues and lots of fun outdoor activities, we at DGLM are having our annual debate about holiday cards.

holidaycard 2Every one of us has, in the past, personally signed each and every card.  At one time when there were many fewer cards to send (and fewer of us on staff) this was not so onerous.  We began in mid-October and were done in plenty of time.  These days, however, we have a staff that is significantly larger (13 by my last count) and we send out over 2,500 cards each year.  This necessitates us actually beginning the card ordering and signing process in June.

So, the question becomes what do we do this year?  We could send electronic holiday cards, as many are doing.   We could also send cards with just the name of our company and a seasonal greeting.    We could send cards with each of our names pre-printed on them.  Finally, we could continue to do what we have always done with all of us signing each card individually.

There is our quandary and we need to address it quickly given the timing of the alternative that will take the longest.  We are asking you, our readers, what you think we should do.  If you were us, what would that be?

I look forward to hearing.

3

WE ARE GROWING!

Today I want to welcome two new members to our staff.

I am thrilled to announce that Eric Myers joins us today as an agent after thirteen years at The Spieler Agency.   As you will see in our staff bios page, Eric is a graduate of UCLA and the Sorbonne, Eric entered publishing as a journalist and book author. His books include Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood, Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood, and Uncle Mame: The Life of Patrick Dennis, all published by St. Martin’s Press. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Arts and Leisure sections, as well as Time Out, Variety, Opera News, and Art and Auction.  As an agent, Eric has a strong affinity for Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, as well as adult non-fiction, especially in the areas of history, biography, psychology, health and wellness, mind/body/spirit, and pop culture. I know that Eric will be a great addition to DGLM.

I am also belatedly welcoming Erin Young who joined DGLM as assistant to Michael Bourret in our West Coast office in Los Angeles, where she is also working toward an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Previously, she worked as an editor at two prestigious literary magazines. Erin received her bachelor’s degree in zoology and loves all things about animals. She is interested in all forms of young adult and middle grade fiction, particularly fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism. In adult fiction, she likes weird literary and intellectual commercial thrillers. In nonfiction, she enjoys memoirs and biographies, sport and science narratives, and just about anything unusually original. I am so pleased that Erin is part of our team.

Please join me in welcoming both of these new members of our family.

2

Ten Years

As of tomorrow, I’ll have been at DGLM for ten years.  Since that’s such a pleasingly round number, it feels like a good time to name ten of the best things about the last ten years at DGLM.  In no particular order:

  • We’re not in midtown.  Union Square is pretty much the ideal publishing location.  Between agencies, publishers, and scouts there are enough of us congregated around here, lots of great restaurants, a solid subway hub, and we’re nowhere near Times Square.  If you’re not a New Yorker, this might not resonate for you, but I’ve gotten to spend the last decade below 23rd street, which was more or less my life goal as an NYU student.
  •  I used to work in bookstores.  I have stood in those same places where I used to stock the shelves and read my own name inside books.  I have also made my family members endure this ritual of narcissism pretty much any time we’ve been in a place that sells books.  Given that they’re all book nerds, too, it’s kind of huge.
  •  I spend time on every vacation playing Spot the DGLM Client in foreign bookstores.  About 1/5 of my vacation photos are books I sold in translation.  I have almost no shame.
  • This is an office full of people who actually like each other.  From what I gather from friends, family, and years of sitcom watching, that’s kind of rare.  Our office meetings are usually way more hilarious than office meetings have any right to be. We work collaboratively, and even though we’re pretty ambitious, any internal competition is motivating rather than cutthroat.
  • Okay, so “reading books for a living” is much more the fantasy of agent life than the reality (I’m pretty sure I answer emails for a living, if you want to boil it down to one thing), but I do get to excuse myself from having a budget for books.  Buying books with reckless disregard for personal finance is just the responsible thing to do.
  • bookcasesAnd on a related note, I finally achieved the bookcase wall of my dreams.  (Goal for the next 10 years: rolling ladder.)
  • I get to turn the things I’m most excited about into my job.  If something’s been occupying my attention, there’s a way to publish a book on it.  Whether that’s putting out the call for a novel on the subject or tracking down a writer to cover it, from Serial to soccer, I get to make my passions my work. That’s even better than being able to make your favorite indulgences tax deductible.
  • I’ve learned from some of the best agents in the business.  If there’s anything the DGLM team can’t figure out about publishing between them, I’ve never encountered it.  There is always someone to learn from on every subject.
  • I’ve gone from Jane’s assistant to Subsidiary Rights Director, and I’m empowered to sign up anything I want.  That’s an amount of encouragement, opportunity, and support that I could only have dreamed of the day I shot my resume off to Michael, and I’m so incredibly grateful for it.
  • I work with amazing authors.  Sometimes I get to be the first person to tell an author she’s hit the New York Times bestseller list for the very first time. Someone I once made laugh on the phone is now president of this country.  On my last birthday, I had dinner with an author the week a movie adaptation of his book opened at #1 at the box office.  I tell extremely talented creative people what I think of their work, and they actually listen to me.  On a regular basis, I get to give people news so good it makes them cry.  I get paid to bring the most important tool of entertainment, education, enlightenment, and empathy the world has to offer to as many people as I possibly can.  Was that overly sincere?  I don’t even care.  It’s an extraordinary privilege to help shepherd books into the world.

And for those keeping track, yes, every person that worked at DGLM on my Day 1—Jane, Miriam, Stacey, Michael, & Jim—is still here on Day 3652.  Thanks to them and everyone else on Team DGLM for a fantastic 10 years.  Here’s to 10 more!

Tell us how we’re doing

A while back (a year, maybe more—my conception of time is shockingly horrible, bordering on nonexistent), Sharon did a blog post asking for feedback from our readers. What we heard was eye-opening to say the least.

snl gif

All of it was informative and very helpful—and I believe it led to a better year in blogging for DGLM and our readers. So I will do so again here. Let’s call it our year-end review.

What do you guys enjoy about our blog? What keeps bringing you back for more? What would you like to see us do differently, do better?

This is your chance for some input. Our readers are important to us, and we want to blog about what you want to read about. So please, don’t hold back. What’s on your mind?

1

The job of a literary agent

Last week I began thinking about what the technical responsibilities of a literary agent are compared to what we at DGLM do for our clients.  I researched the subject and I also asked our staff what they thought.  The results are interesting and I wanted to share those with you, our readers.

First, I found this definition of the responsibilities of a literary agent online:

Literary agents represent authors in the publishing world. Authors rely on literary agents to manage the business aspect of publishing for them. Agents negotiate contracts regarding publishing rights, advances and royalties. They represent authors to book publishers and other companies that may be interested in publishing an author’s work.

It turns out that this is a good definition but it doesn’t cover nearly all of the things we do for our clients at our agency.

This weekend for example Miriam and I have been working on amending an exciting movie/TV contract for one of our clients who had previously committed to this project without really realizing what she was getting into.  In fact, working with our clients on weekends and after office hours is something we do all the time.

We also do many things that other agencies do not do:

  • We send out  adult and childrens’ book  newsletters three times per year announcing the books we will be selling in the following four months and those we have sold in the previous four months.
  •  We have a digital book program with its own manager whereby we help clients self-publish their work—either new projects or those where the rights have reverted.
  • We have an extensive, informative website which we are constantly updating.
  • We have author social media guides for all kinds of situations.
  • We are very hands on in career management, advising our authors not just in the book space, but also in film/TV, newspapers and periodicals, and in whatever other career category they require our help.

We  also often go above and beyond, by helping clients with legal issues on for other parts of their lives, helping them to get mortgages or refinance their homes, even helping them to get jobs when we are able, and, perhaps more importantly,  providing a constant source of advice and support.

Above all else, and as I have said very recently in this space, we never give up until we really believe we have hit a wall and that it is best for our client to move on to the next project.  What is your experience and your expectations of literary agents?

I am sure I have overlooked some of the things we do that go above and beyond that tight definition of the responsibilities of the agent but this will give you a very good idea of the kind of agency Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is.

3

What I’m Looking for Now

Happy 2015, everybody! (Though with everything going on in the news, maybe just “Let’s get through 2015, everybody!” But I’m a sensitive type.)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about what I’m looking for, in part because I haven’t been signing much up over the past couple of years. It’s been a great time for my authors, and they’ve kept me rather busy! But after a bit of a hiatus in signing new clients, I’m eager to find some fresh talent.

I continue to look for exceptional children’s projects at all age levels. Despite representing some of the best authors writing YA, I want more. What can I say? I’m greedy! I continue to appreciate challenging, convention-defying, inventive fiction. I’ve said it before, and will say it again: if someone has told you, “you can’t write that for teenagers,” then I want to see it. If you’ve got something that subverts expectations or thumbs its nose at YA conventions, send it my way. I think I best represent the kinds of books about which I can say to an editor, “You’ve never seen this before.”

That said, I do love “commercial” books, too. I love a high-concept page-turner, whether it’s contemporary, historical or fantasy. While it’d be tough to get me to take on anything with a whiff of dystopia, I wouldn’t mind seeing a more grounded ghost story or something—dare I say it?—paranormal. It still needs to be brilliantly written and executed, of course.

In middle grade, my tastes are quite broad, and my list is much less full. I’m still waiting to see something that comes close to capturing the feel of John Bellairs’s books, which I devoured as a kid. It’d be great to get something as terrifying as A House with a Clock in Its Walls, which had me sleeping with the lights on when I was a kid. The right combination of humor and horror is always great. And it would be good to see more exciting, adventure novels that can get kids interested in history. Little-known events, overlooked heroes/heroines, and underserved minorities (we do need books with diverse themes, characters, settings, etc.) are all subjects I’d be particularly interested to see.

On the adult side, I’m really hankering for some science narrative, particularly in the realm of space and physics. Scientists or science journalists who can explain complex ideas to the masses are some of the people I admire most. I believe that science education for the general public is one of the greatest ways we can improve the world in which we live. The more we understand who we are, where we come from and our place in the universe, the better we can make decisions about our collective future. So bring on the science books!

While this is what I’m currently jonesing for, that doesn’t mean I’m not open to other things. My tastes are broad and I love to be surprised by submissions. I don’t really handle adult Sci-fi or fantasy, and I’m not really a picture book expert. And though I am always on the lookout for good food narrative, I’m no longer representing new cookbook authors.

Remember, too, that if I’m not right for your work, surely there’s another great DGLM agent who might be, so be sure to look at everyone’s bios. Get to querying, authors!

2

What does a literary agent do?

It is no secret that few people outside of publishing know what a literary agent is, much less what we do.

Holidays, along with the requisite tree-trimming, gift-giving, sweet-eating and bubbly-swilling also involve some job explaining.  At every social gathering I attend, sooner or later someone asks what, exactly, it is that I do. Unlike astronaut, teacher, vet, major league baseball player or artist,  “literary agent” seldom makes the list of things kids wish to be when they grow up.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have a pretty firm grasp on the role the agent plays in selling your work, or at least the fact that you:  1) may need one of us  or 2) are presently working with one of us in order to get published.  Still, whenever I sign a new client, I spend a good deal of time explaining the path forward.  And since my “What is a Literary Agent” speech is burnished from recent use, I would be happy to address your specific questions about what we do, the way we work, or, as my son’s friend once asked me, if “our missions are dangerous.”

2

What I did on my vacation

2 collageOver the years, I have developed quite an adventure lust,  journeying to such places as Greece, Turkey, Venice, Berlin and Prague, Israel, Jordan  and Australia.  Wherever I go I come back with a fresh perspective on our work and many times I return with ideas which I subsequently help develop into books.

This year was no different although our trip was a bit more exotic and adventurous than they have been in the past.  In mid-September, we went to Kenya on the east coast of Africa and journeyed on a nine- day safari.  We flew all over the country, from Nairobi where we visited Karen Blixen’s  home  (Out of Africa), to the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, to the Mara and Mt. Kenya, and back to Nairobi.  We went on at least a dozen game drives, saw the great migration and experienced the thrill of a hot air balloon ride (with its scary, controlled crash landing).  Ultimately we returned with wonderful photographs and stories to tell.

3 collageAnd, as in the past, I came back with a couple of book ideas that I am actively pursuing—a book about what the world would be like without wildlife and another about giraffes.  I am really hoping that one or both of these come to fruition.

In the end, this vacation was restorative to my psyche and my creativity.  Vacations should do that for all of us—enable us to renew our energy, so to speak.

I’d love to hear your vacation experiences and what resulted from your time away.  I hope you will share those here.

Time’s winged chariot

About two weekends ago, I found myself—as I usually do on a Sunday—ensconced in my favorite chair reading manuscripts and proposals.   I was engrossed in a novel which, despite its numerous structural problems, showed a lot of promise.  As I might have mentioned on this blog once, or a hundred times, I’m not a speed reader, so if the fiction manuscript I’m reading is any good I can kiss a big chunk of my day goodbye.

After Jane and I discussed the pros and cons of this particular novel, we offered the author representation if she was willing to do some significant revising.  (We’d had the book for about a week at this point.)  The author promptly responded that she loved feedback and was not at all averse to reworking the manuscript but she had just accepted another agent’s offer.  Fair enough, of course, and yet….

It bugged me that having plowed through the review process in near record time we never had a chance.  It doubly bugged me because I could have spent a chunk of my Sunday hanging out with my husband and son, running errands, taking that nap I’ve been needing since 2005, going for a walk outside on one of the few decent weather days in what’s been an epically bad winter…you know, what normal people do on Sundays.

I love my job and I enjoy the “development” (reading, editing, brainstorming) part of it tremendously so I don’t generally feel sorry for my lack of Sundays.  But, I also don’t like to waste my time.

This is the longwinded way of responding to those of you who ask about multiple submissions and the etiquette involved therein.  Basically, I say common sense rules, folks.    You should let agents know when you query them that the manuscript is out with others.  And, if an offer comes in, you should give everyone who has your material the chance to finish their review.  If the offer of representation is just too good to hold off on, then you should immediately contact the competing agents and tell them that the project is no longer available so that they can move on to the next thing in their piles.

In these days of electronic submissions, no one will get mad because you’ve gone to multiple agents (unless you do one of those mass e-mail things where everyone is listed; then all bets are off).  But it would be doing us a kindness if you were to keep us in the loop as to the submission’s progress.

Does this sound right to you or do you guys hold the Darwinian view that it’s survival of the fittest out there and tough noogies if you aren’t fast enough?  And, is there something you wish we’d do differently during the review process (and why)?