Category Archives: agents



Yesterday was #AgentsDay, one of those fun faux festivals that spring up to give people a theme for their tweets. It made for an encouraging Monday here at the office as many of our amazing clients were inspired by the hashtag to share what they appreciate most about Team @DGLM.

Browse through the hashtag and watch for a familiar name…and don’t forget to follow all our agents on Twitter while you’re over there!

If you’re still querying, #AgentsDay is also a helpful resource for finding agents to follow – many happy authors tagged their agents in their tweets, so click on over to their Twitter profile to start getting to know their lists and personality.

There are a lot of benefits to following a bunch of agents on Twitter! For one, it helps you jumpstart your agent research, which is an important part of the query process. Agents often tweet about new releases from their lists or genres they’re particularly eager to see, so you can narrow down the best match for your manuscript. Sending materials to an agent who doesn’t represent your category wastes your time and theirs! An agent’s Twitter feed is also a good sneak peek of what an agent’s personality is like; if you find someone who seems like the perfect fit for you, you can put extra time and energy into crafting the perfect personalized query to catch their attention, or even find out about opportunities to meet them in person at conferences or workshops. And a lot of agents tweet editing tips and query feedback, from general dos and don’ts to specific feedback on (anonymous) queries as they go through their inbox.

So get to following! We won’t even be mad if you follow agents other than #TeamDGLM. (Just remember: when it comes time to query an agent or follow-up with them, keep it professional and do it through email! )


Who are your favorite agents to follow on Twitter? What’s the best writing/querying tip you’ve gotten on Twitter?

Some Things I’m Looking for:

While developing my list, I keep having these desires for books I’m not seeing. Although my interests aren’t limited to this list, I wanted to give a few examples of the things I’d like to see:

  • YA/MG where the character is growing up in a foreign country, whether he or she just moved or lived there all his or her life. I’m particular interested in settings where the character lives in a rural village or town. I’d love to know how difficult it is to milk cows or use an outhouse every day of your life while simultaneously trying to understand the ins and outs of a new country.
  • YA/MG fantasy with human characters set in rich worlds not anything like Earth. I’m very fascinated when an author can create an understandable world with its own physical rules and composition. Think Dune and some of the worlds described in His Dark Materials. I grew up reading these books and would love to see more of them on my bookshelf!
  • Mystery novels with atypical detectives. I want characters that by all means should not be a detective, but against all odds they’re actually really great at the job. When I was younger, I loved The Cat Who… series. I thought it was hilarious that the cats did all the work. Whether it’s adult, YA, or MG, I’m all in.
  • Women’s fiction where the conflict lies outside of marriage or kids. I’d love the family unit to be the crutch the wife/mother relies on. Perhaps this is because I’m newly married and want to believe in all the good of it!

If you have a book like any of the above, please query me. You’ll have my full attention.


What makes us tick

A couple of years ago I attended a very lively and work-intensive but fun conference in Las Vegas. My lovely and talented client, Nicole McInnes, had been invited to sit on a panel to discuss the author-agent relationship and when she asked if I could join her on the panel, I jumped at the chance. Not only would I get to see her, but I’d get to spend some time in Sin City!

When I got there, I met several terrific editors and agents and we bonded big time. One of those agents was Carly Watters, a charming and smart young agent based in Canada who works for PS Literary. I’ve since followed her on social media and she has some nice insights to share about books and publishing.

I found this recent piece about navigating social media particularly compelling as we are always trying to encourage our authors to learn more about social media and using it in a positive way to build name and brand recognition. Carly interviews a successful “bookstagrammer” who is now an editor at a major publishing house who also runs a blog, website, and manages several social media accounts. She offers some tips for writers that you might find useful. I like when she says:

“Be authentic – your personality and style will make your platforms sing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be original with your words and ideas. Know your audience – every platform will attract different types of readers. Be honest with your content – if you are passionate about your work, it will show and people are more likely to appreciate your honesty! Lastly, remember that if reading and sharing your love of reading with others is something that you adore doing, then you are in the right place! Books are what bind us together in this community – don’t forget that we are all just readers finding our place in this online bookish world.”

Enjoy and check out Carly and Book Baristas to learn more about books and what makes us all tick.


Jim suggests questions to ask a prospective agent!

I had a chance to lead a class at the SDSU Writers Conference this past weekend on the five questions to ask an agent before signing with them. To be fair, I forgot what the title of the class was while I was outlining, and I ended up with this list of 20+. Regardless, the agent/client relationship is a close one, and (ideally) it will be the most consistent one in your publishing career. So you want to make sure that you’re entering the partnership with your eyes wide open, gathering as much information as you can to find out what the working relationship will be like. Even if you only have one offer of representation and know you’ll sign with that agent no matter what, ask some questions—get to know the ins and outs of how this whole shebang will work. Here are the questions I proposed, along with some annotations on my reasoning.


What about my book did you respond to?

–The most important quality in an agent? They connect to your work on a real level and will be your passionate advocate. They’ll probably tell you why they like your book before you ask, but just in case: find out what about it most resounded with them.


Do you have editorial feedback?

–Now, I don’t give notes until a client has signed on the dotted line. That’s to protect myself so that the author can’t revise according to my suggestions and then take it somewhere else. That said, what I can (and do) give new authors is a rough estimate of how much revision there should be and what kind of work I am expecting. It’s helpful to know whether you’re jumping on board with someone who wants minimal changes versus someone who will ask you for major rewrites.


What’s your editorial style?

–Likewise, is this an agent who will go through draft after draft with you? Is their editorial feedback frontloaded? Will they be telling you changes you have to make? Will they just make suggestions? I’m a strong believe in the idea that there’s no single right way to edit a manuscript, but it can be very helpful to simply know what you should be expecting.


How long have you been with your agency?

–First note: there’s nothing wrong with signing with a brand new agent. Young agents are often the hungriest in the business, and that can be a deeply wonderful thing for their clients. Some of the first clients I signed back in 2002 are still among my most productive, bestselling authors. That said, if someone IS new, you want to then find out how much support they have within their agency. How are their connections? Do they know what they’re doing? Let’s take the flip side: an experienced agent might simply have less time for you than a new agent. If they’ve been doing this forever, try to get a sense of whether you believe they have adequate time to dedicate to YOU. Which brings me to:


How many clients do you have?

–This is another one with no right or wrong answer. Use the information to get a general feeling about someone. If their numbers sound very low, maybe ask if they are still building a list. If they’re very high, dig in a little and ask what kind of support staff they have or how much time they feel they can dedicate to each individual. You’re not looking for a specific number here. It’s more about hearing how agents discuss and think about their lists and their authors (and their time).


What is your typical response time to email/phone calls?

–For real, there is nothing I hear more complaints about regarding agents than how bad they are at communicating. This drives me completely insane. Yes, things occasionally go missing. Yes, some times are busier than others. But routinely making your clients wait for responses from you for a long time (or worse, not even responding) is wildly unfair and insanely unprofessional. Okay…stepping off my soapbox. Point is: ask the question. And really listen to the answer. Not just what is said, but how it is said. Does it sound honest? Does it sound reasonable? Also: fact check. This is something I’ll come back to later on.


How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during a submission?

–Again, there isn’t a right answer here. I’m an email guy mostly, but some clients prefer the phone. My take on submissions is that I’ll be in touch only as necessary, but you’re always encouraged to check in for updates. If someone who is more of a phone person wants scheduled, regular updates? That works too. This is just about knowing what to expect and being able to prepare yourself for it.


What happens if you don’t sell this book?

–Sad fact: not every project an agent signs sells. I suspect this is true of every single agent. If there’s someone out there who has sold every book they’ve ever signed, let me know who it is so I can start making my dart board of their face. But the point is: if this book you’re going to work with an agent on doesn’t sell…then what? Do you revise? Do you try something new? Do you part ways? There are lots of valid answers—you’re looking for one that feels comfortable for you.


How many editors do you go to before giving up?

–I’ve heard people say that their agents submitted material to four editors and gave up when it didn’t sell. That is mind-blowing to me. Like…why even do the work to get a book ready to sell if you’re not going to really try? Regardless! Find out how their submission process works—how wide they go, what steps might occur along the way, etc.


What percentage of projects that you sign do you sell?

–I’m loath to include this because seriously, none of us want to talk about the books we weren’t able to sell. That said? It’s an entirely fair question.


How long is your average client relationship?

–I think the best agents are the ones looking to build long-term working relationships with their clients. Get a feel for how many authors they’ve worked with for long stretches and how much career-building is an important part of their process. Hope the answer to that last part is: “Very.”


Who do you work with to sell foreign/film rights? What is the agency’s support staff? Do you handle contracts? Rights? If not, who does?

–Again, every agency works differently. At DGLM, we have Lauren as our Rights Director, so she handles foreign sales (among many other things), but each agent negotiates their own contracts. At other places, your agent might be handling your translations but will have an in-house contracts person. Neither is “wrong,” but this is a good opportunity to find out who all at the agency will be working on your behalf, how much of your contact is with your agent directly, and how things will look moving forward.


What does your agency agreement look like?

–To me, the most important things are this: an agency’s commission is 15% and no money is ever paid by you until your book has been sold. If those two things are true, you’re starting at base level. After that, the most important question I have is what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out: can you get out of the agreement after the first project if you and the agent aren’t a match. It happens. It sucks, but it happens—being as close a relationship as it is, sometimes there are bad fits even when both sides are great at their jobs. And that’s okay—just make sure that you aren’t promising every piece of work you ever write to an agency ad infinitum.


Can I speak to one or two of your clients about their experiences working with you?

–SO important! And this is where I come back to what I said in the communications question—fact check us! Talk to some of our clients and find out if we’re telling the truth. Maybe even ask to speak to a specific client. Or reach out to a client on Twitter. I mean…chances are anyone we put you in touch with will be the person with the best things to say. Don’t be afraid to use the interwebs as your resource to find out more about us. And ask these clients specifically for any criticism of their agent. Everyone probably has SOMEthing they wish their agent was better at. And that’s okay. But what they choose will likely be telling.



[Specific to any author who wants to work in more than one genre]: Are you open to authors who work in multiple genres? And are there genres/age groups/etc. that you don’t represent? If I write something in one of those, what then happens?

–So important! If you want to write middle grade in the future and this agent doesn’t do that…what happens?! Can you look for another agent? Is there someone else at the agency you could work with? Are you just plum out of luck? This is a good chance to discuss the future—your plans, their thoughts, and all that fun stuff.


And lastly, I have a very brief what NOT to ask:

How much can you sell my book for? How long will it take to sell my book?

–This is such a fickle business sometimes. Advances are all over the place. Editors’ response times are subject to time of year, how many projects are being submitted at any given time, what their relationship with the agent is. I think anyone who gives you a definitive answer to either of these questions is guessing. I have goals for how much I want for books and how long I want the sale to take (a million dollars and a single day, for the record), but whatever my expectations are, I don’t think it’s my place to share them. Because if the advance is any lower or the response time any slower, you’re automatically disappointed. An agent can give you some general thoughts (“It feels like a really big book”) and estimates on response time (“We’ll likely start hearing back in two weeks”) but I’d be deeply suspicious of anything more specific than that.


So there we have it. To anyone who has occasion to use this list: congrats on your offer of representation! Now dig in!


Books I wish I’d sold

New Year equals New Books. I generally start the new year feeling a bit overwhelmed at all there is to catch up on, but also excited and motivated with renewed enthusiasm for fresh starts and what’s to come. So many books, so little time to sell them all.

In addition to bestseller lists and book reviews, I like to read Publisher’s Marketplace and look over the recent deals. I am often amazed at how good so many of the books sound, so instead of making a general “wish list” of what kinds of books I’d like to see in my in-box, I thought it might be more useful to see a few examples of books that were recently published or recently sold that resonated with me for one reason or another.

This book that was written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist explores the story of a set of adopted identical twins (anything having to do with identical twins as the parent of a set is of interest to me), one of whom transitions their gender identity. It sounds fascinating and wonderfully researched and written over the course of four years, and it looks into a very important subject that is still underexplored.

Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt

Media personality and leading voice in brain health Max Lugavere’s COGNITION NUTRITION, a roadmap to optimal brain health and performance using what the latest science has discovered about food and diet recently sold and taps into two areas of interest – science and the brain. It’s an area that’s well covered (including my own upcoming title THE DISTRACTED MIND by neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Larry Rosen), but a new angle is always of interest.

Author of The ADHD EXPLOSION and THE TRIPLE BIND, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley Stephen Hinshaw’s STIGMA: A Father and Son’s Journey Through the Mark of Mental Illness, which explores the burden of living in a family “loaded” with mental illness, with all the potential for insight and creativity as well as despair and isolation that entails, and in which he reveals his father’s (the distinguished philosopher Virgil Hinshaw, Jr.) and his own lifelong struggles with mental illness, the associated shame and stigma, and his evolving understanding of the social and public health dilemmas involved in the exploding mental illness crisis in America today. I’ve also had a strong interest in mental health issues and have books on my list which include PERFECT CHAOS, by Linea and Cinda Johnson, a powerful story about a daughter and her mom dealing with the daughter’s bipolar breakdown.

Finally, I’m having a love affair with children’s books at the moment. Both books I’m selling and books I’m reading with my girls. Sibling writing duo Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski’s debut LAILU LOGANBERRY’S MYSTIC COOKING, following the youngest master chef in 300 years in her efforts to open a restaurant where anyone, not only the wealthy, can feast on her fantastic cuisine including everything from kraken calamari to dragon steak; all the while she must help her absentee mentor pay back a vicious loan shark and avoid the notorious Elven mafia before the escalating conflict costs her the restaurant and possibly her life. Sounds unique and mixes my love of food and kids!

I could go on and on, but I’m hoping this gives you an idea of my interests and hoping I’ll see some project submissions from you in the near future. Feel free to reference this post if you contact me so I know you’ve been reading our blog!


“So, uh…what do you do, anyway?”

Thanksgiving is coming up, which means (for many of us), the inevitable Questioning by Relatives and/or Friends begins. This also means that I have started preparing my Working at a Literary Agency 101 speech for my extended family, who really are genuinely curious and interested in what I do.

One of the things that attracted me to interning and later working at a literary agency in the first place was the array of things I got to do with my day. Everyone I spoke with hemmed and hawed when I asked them what an “average day” looked like. To tell you the truth, there is no real average day at an agency. Sure, there are tasks that you may do every week, but there’s always something different to tackle or get your hands on.

I was lucky enough to see a few different areas of work at DGLM—first as the royalties and subsidiary rights assistant, and now as Jane’s assistant. When I thought about literary agencies and publishing in college, I didn’t consider publishing as a business, per se. Like many people (young and old), I regarded it as a mythical place where people chose and read books they liked and turned them into the things that we saw on the bookshelves of our local Barnes & Noble.


How wrong I was. Naturally, we read. We read a lot. We edit, we comment, we do all the expected things. But what I didn’t expect was the whole business side of an agency: from the financials and contracts that keep the agency moving forward, the administrative side that makes sure everything is running smoothly, to the foreign deals that get authors more recognition in an ever growing global market.

On a less glamorous note, we also email a lot. Dear authors, who are worried about the status of their manuscript or making sure that we’ve received it: we are desperately trying to get back to you. We’ve probably seen it, marked it, and are trying to fight through the swelter of our inboxes to get back to your lovely query. We’ll get there, we promise.

One of the things that keeps me so excited about coming to work every day is knowing that my day will never be quite the same as the day before it.

What were your conceptions of publishing/literary agencies? What other things are you curious about?


A new member of our team

Amy BishopIt is always exciting for me to welcome new members to our team; inevitably they bring fresh perspective, energy, and creative ideas.

I am delighted to welcome Amy Bishop as our new administrative assistant. She joins Miriam, Michael, Jim, Stacey, Lauren, Jessica, John, Eric, Mike, Rachel, Sharon, Erin and, of course, me.

Amy is a graduate (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from the State University of New York at Geneseo and was an intern at DGLM during the summer of 2014.  We very much enjoyed having her with us then and so when this job opened up, she was a natural choice to add to our staff.

I hope everyone will join me in welcoming Amy Bishop.


Right Behind You

Yesterday I had an interesting–and rather bracing–exchange with a writer whose work I read, admired, and ultimately, after much time and consideration, decided not to represent. I’d sent her a note that was well-meaning but bland; I wrote that I’d not “fallen in love” with the material, and without the ability to be a wholehearted champion for the work, that I didn’t feel I could represent it. I got a civil but pointed note back, urging me to reconsider–not my decision–but the very pat “didn’t fall in love” phrase that has become the book world’s answer to “it’s not you, it’ s me.” This writer pointed out that it’s patronizing and more or less reviled by authors. I agreed that it is an easy shorthand, the catch-all diagnosis of the publishing business. But perhaps we who work with words have a certain responsibility to be a little less lazy when stringing them together.

Still, turning people talented people down is never easy, and we agents are often wrong. I’m at a writer’s conference now, and every editor and agent here has a tale of the book that got away—or more precisely, the book we failed to see.

Taste is apallingly subjective, and sometimes it’s hard to put a fine point on exactly what drives my reservations. More often than not, it’s a combination of factors; undeveloped storyline, characters with whom I’d rather not pass 350 pages, utter lack of editorial vision for how to place it. Sometimes I read the testaments of lives of people far braver and more extraordinary than I will ever be, but I worry that the telling does not match the tale, or the story is suited to a smaller circle of readers than most publishers would wish to reach.

I grumble and occasionally rail at the rejection letters I receive as well, but is there a way to soften the blow? Many notes I send are form rejections. We try hard to craft one that is professional and respectful, though it is by definition impersonal. It would be impossible to respond to all the mail that we receive. But know that despite all the maladroit notes and form letters, the late responses and the missed chances, most agents really do get it. We get the frustration, the disappointment, we respect your efforts and exist to support them. True, the works in question are not our own, but they are our livelihood, a reflection of our taste, our ideals, and often long collaborative efforts. It would be absurd to imagine that my emotional stake in a book is as great as that of its creator, but we agents are right behind you.


What I’ve Learned as a Writer Working at a Literary Agency: The Essential Elements of a Pitch

On the last day of my MFA program, I attended a lecture about how to secure and work with an agent. The lecture was very informative and covered a lot of what I’ve learned since starting to work at an agency; however, as a writer, I wanted to know more about query letters. She didn’t quite get into the importance of pitching your novel. She merely said, “write a short synopsis.” This was so vague! How short is short? What details should you give? What does an agent need to know about your novel, and what can you leave out? Luckily, this got me thinking, and I made a list of the items that I want to see when reading a pitch in a query letter.

Main character(s) – You should include your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s), along with their roles in the novel.

Relative age – Whether directly stated or implied through action/conflict/setting of the story.

Genre – This can be stated before you pitch your novel. You can say it directly (e.g. “In this fantasy novel…”), or you can imply it in the pitch (e.g. “Jamie wants only to be king, but can he defeat the Lord of the Dragons?”). Just make sure it’s clear somewhere in the query letter.

Inciting event – What starts the conflict of the novel?

An idea of the direction in which the plot goes – What can I expect to read about?

Promise of emotional payout – Probably the most important to make sure you’re including. Why should I care about this novel? What can I expect to feel? Though, this should NOT be directly stated (e.g. “You’ll cry when you find out how his daughter was murdered.”). You should imply it (e.g. “When his daughter is sacrificed by his religious leader, he has to choose between loyalty to the religion that will make him king or vengeance.”).

You do not have explain the conclusion of the book—this isn’t a true synopsis, but a pitch. You want to use the query letter to draw your reader in and make them want to read more. If you spoil the ending, what’s the point?

What do you think? Are there any other essential elements that will make a pitch perfect?


What I’ve Learned as a Writer Working at a Literary Agency: Creating Captivating Pitches

Creating a captivating pitch is arguably one of the hardest parts about getting an agent. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, agents are busy and read unfathomable amounts of queries every year. It’s difficult to stand out amongst the masses, but you would be surprised how easily a carefully crafted pitch can hold our attention.

Throughout my time reading queries, the ones that have stood out always followed these simple rules:

– Be reflective of what your book is and use a similar tone.

  • If you’re writing a middle grade novel about a blundering superhero, it’s okay to use goofy words (though, don’t go overboard and remember you’re querying an adult). If you’re writing an adult thriller, you shouldn’t use infantile language.

– Be concise.

  • You should be able to tell the summary of your story in 100-200 words. Any longer is likely to bore the agent, any shorter and you’re probably leaving out necessary information.

– Be clear.

  • Give the agent enough information so they’re not led on to think your book is something that it’s not. This will work against you when they read your manuscript or proposal. If they think they’re getting one thing and they actually get another, it will turn them off to whatever they’re reading. It’s similar to the idea of someone making you close your eyes, saying they’re going to feed you candy and then actually feeding you steak. You’re going to be repulsed. You may even seriously love steak, but because you were expecting candy, your tastes are off.

– Be exciting.

  • What makes your book interesting? That should be the center of your pitch. Don’t say in plain form, “My book is different because…” Make sure the distinctiveness of your novel is portrayed in your summary. If your character is a going to a magical school in a unique setting, make sure the characteristics of the school are mentioned in a way that makes it stand out from every other magical school out there.


I hope these tips help you make the best of your queries. I look forward to reading your captivating pitches!