Category Archives: changes at DGLM

0

Hello World!

Thank you for the introduction, Jane. It’s a pleasure to be here at DGLM. I am looking forward to working closely with all the wonderful people here at Dystel & Goderich as well as our many talented clients. My goal has always been to find a job that I would look forward to going to each and every morning, and I’m lucky enough to have found exactly that. If you want to learn a little bit more about me and  how I got here, feel free to check out “Who We Are and What We’re Looking For” for a short bio and personal essay.

 

2

Welcome, Yassine Belkacemi!

Since its inception, our digital publishing program has been happily growing, both in the number of authors participating and in the number of titles published.  Currently we have 40 authors and 133 books in the program.

I am delighted to announce that we have now hired a full time project manager for this program who, in just a few short weeks, has already increased our percentage of growth.

Yassine Belkacemi was born in Scotland where he did his undergraduate studies at University of Edinburgh.  He then received a Master’s Degree at Columbia University here in New York.  He has been interning for us since May of 2011, and I have been eager to find a permanent place for him on our staff.

I hope you will all join me in welcoming Yassine as the newest member of the DGLM family.

Hello World!

It’s my very first blog entry as a full-fledged DGLM employee! However, I’m not totally new to the office and have been around for quite some time. I’ve been working in the office as the Project Manager for DGLM’s digital publishing program, and before that I was an intern in the office. Until recently, I was focused solely on developing the digital program, but I’m branching into agenting now, and I can’t wait to get started.

As a reader, some of my favorite books have been historical fiction—Les Miserables, Atonement and Gone With the Wind, to name a few. But I also love a book that challenges me, like Lolita, the His Dark Materials series or Last Exit to Brooklyn. For more about me and what I am interested in reading, check out Who We Are and What We’re Looking For.

My very first experience with a literary agency was here at DGLM, and I am so grateful to have been able to turn my internship into a position at the company. I’ve always wanted to work in publishing and I am very excited to be a part of this team.

1

Welcome, Brenna Barr!

It is always a pleasure to welcome someone new into our company.  Today, Brenna Barr is joining us as our shiny, brand new royalties manager.  In time, we are hopeful that she will build her own list of authors as well.

Brenna graduated from Northeastern University and has financial, marketing and some agenting experience.  We are very excited to have her with us.

I hope you all will join me in welcoming Brenna to the Dystel & Goderich family.

Welcome, Morris Shamah!

I am delighted to welcome Morris Shamah as the newest member of  the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management team.  Morris joins us today as our royalties manager. He is also going to begin building his own list of clients.

Morris graduated from New York University and previously interned at two literary agencies where he acquired some well rounded experience in our business.  He is interested in thrillers, mysteries, men’s fiction, mainstream super hero illustrated novels and up-market graphic novels.  He is also interested in Judaica.

Please join me in welcoming Morris to our “family.”  And be on the lookout for his first blog post which will be up later this week.

4

As these things go

It’s time for the one blog entry I have dreaded writing (well, okay, dreaded more than the others).  I’m sad to say that this will be my last blog post, coming at the end of my last week with DGLM . I’ve decided, after much consideration, to pursue a new opportunity elsewhere in publishing. It wasn’t an easy decision to make—I love the people I work with and I love my clients. I’ve spent the past two years learning from incredibly talented and hard-working individuals, and I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in an industry that continues to interest and fascinate me.

I often think about what would’ve happened if Lauren had never hired me as an intern (i.e., ignored my pestering) or if Jane and Miriam hadn’t extended the offer of a full-time position to me. I’m deeply indebted and grateful to the three of them—they each gave me the opportunities and tools necessary to put my career in motion.

I’ve always said that when moving forward, it’s crucial to remember where you came from and where you’ve been. And I intend to do just that. As I move on to a new challenge, I’ll take with me the lessons learned and the memories shared—DGLM will always be the place where it all started for me.  Finally, thank you, blog readers, sincerely, for the lively discussions, funny comments, and most of all for faithfully reading.

How many publishers is enough?

So one of the questions that we have been getting a lot with regard to Monday’s announcement is this:  “How do you define the point at which you stop shopping a MS to publishers and go for this option?”

For us this is an easy question to answer.

First of all we take on projects that we truly believe we can sell traditionally and sell well.  As many of you know, we work hard with our clients to get their material to where it should be for submission and then we send it out to publishers.  There are times when we sell books quickly and then there are those times when we go many, many rounds.  This year alone, I went to well over forty publishers with each of two different novels before I found them a home.

There are those times, though, when we cannot find a buyer no matter how many houses we go to.  Sometimes, after a number of rejections, I might see what the publishers are saying—if there is a common theme in their comments—at other times we simply run out of viable publishers.

When we get to that point, I would now be able to give the author a choice.  Up until now, actually, there has been no choice. We would simply tell the author we can’t go any farther, give him/her the complete list of where we have been with his/her work and send him/her all the comments we have received and hope we’ll be able to work together on the next project.  Now, though, we would tell them we’ve struck out with traditional publishers and then ask if they would like us to help them publish their manuscripts online or simply put the project aside and move on to something else.

This decision is obviously one we will discuss in-depth when/if the time comes. Our clients will have the option not to do this at all or even not to do it with us.  And, in some cases we might even advise against digital publishing.

The point here, though, is that our intention is to exhaust all traditional publishing possibilities before we suggest the self-publishing route.  I hope this clarifies the issue.

Thank you

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the response to our announcement has been both gratifying and challenging.  We appreciate your questions and your interest and we are taking your suggestions and comments very seriously.  In fact, many of you have raised issues that we think need further review.   This program is in its infancy and so we have the opportunity to take your feedback and consider incorporating some of it into our business plan.  Although we’re not prepared to discuss specifics at this time, we will be keeping you updated on our progress as we go.

Answering questions

And we thought that in the sultry days of summer no one was reading our blog.  Well you are and we’ve gotten a tremendous reception to our “Announcement,” not just on this site but in several industry publications.  So, instead of blogging on Wednesday (my usual day) I thought I’d address some of your comments here.

Most of the feedback thus far has been very positive.  But there has been some confusion as well and, of course, some folks have accused us of being money grubbing ambulance chasers.  We love the supportive, kindhearted folks who are rooting for us to make this work, and you all know we also relish the snarky naysayers who call us names because they challenge us to keep it real.

Again, we don’t see a conflict of interest in this opening up of our business.  We provide services for our clients that have always gone far beyond selling their books to a traditional publisher.  As we have said time and again, selling is the easiest part of our job.  Making sure your book is published well, that you get paid (accurately), that you’re not signing away your hearth and home in your agreements, that there is someone who is willing to listen and advise you on your creative (and sometimes personal) dilemmas; selling rights and following up on those sales—ask Lauren Abramo if trying to get a $500 advance from a foreign publisher who refuses to answer phone calls, e-mails, or carrier pigeon messages isn’t a soul-crushing job; cajoling and browbeating when necessary to get you to join the 21st century and start blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc.; being the voice of reason when you think that the genius idea for a novel about a poultry farmer with a phobia of chickens is going to make you the next John Grisham (even if we know you’ll scream, cry, and curse us when we tell you it won’t work).  These are just some of the other things agents do every day.  So, helping our clients get their books published electronically, if that’s the direction they choose to go in, with all of the above still part and parcel of what we will continue to do for those clients, seems to us a natural extension of our roster of services.  If we don’t offer this service, our clients will either miss out on the opportunity, go it alone (which some may do, but many will not want to), or be forced to seek out another company that might not have their best interests at heart, as we know we do.

So no, we’re not running out on to Fifth Avenue to yank unsuspecting writers posing as bicycle messengers off their rides and force them to e-publish and pay us 15% for the privilege.

We will also not be forcing any of our clients who want to self-publish to work with us on it, and if they do choose to, we will not be forcing them to choose our cover designers, copyeditors, etc.  Because, as some of you have pointed out, this is self-publishing (and, again, we are not publishers) the client has full control over these issues if s/he wants it.  We have a project manager whose job it is to coordinate, advise, and make sure that the process goes smoothly with minimal work on the part of the author.  This, because we want our authors to write, not have to engage in a 47-e-mail exchange with someone about font size.   Everything is subject to the author’s approval.

Which brings up the question posed by several of you, both here and on Joe Konrath’s blog: what are you people doing to earn that 15% commission?  Pretty much what we do now to earn that 15% commission.  Our commitment to this is more than just uploading and watching the dollars trickle in.  In addition to all we do as agents, managing self-published properties will be part of our job: updating metadata, copy, next-book excerpts, etc.  It’s not just vague managerial duties, but concrete tasks that we will be adding to our other duties.

For some authors it will be the beginning of building a publishing career which may eventually include a traditional publisher because of the success generated by the e-book.  For others, it will mean making worthy books available that are out of print and which still have potential readerships.  And, we will want to try to exploit subsidiary rights whenever possible, with the understanding that even with traditionally published books some of these rights do not get picked up.

If you don’t think an agent’s services are worth that fee, this post will not change your mind.  And we sincerely wish those of you the best of luck doing it yourself or with another kind of company.  Really.  We never begrudge an author success and we can’t represent everyone.

The last question everyone seems to be asking is whether they can terminate their agreement with us if they’re not happy with the job we’re doing.  Yes.  Of course.  With proper notice, we can each go our separate ways with, hopefully, no hard feelings.  (In that event, we will continue to collect our commission on properties we still manage.)  We’re counting on people wanting to keep using our services not just because we make their lives easier but because we have a lot of experience and know-how and we’re hoping that the books that we represent in this way will reflect that level of professionalism.  Some of you have accused us (and our publishing colleagues) of being “gatekeepers.”  Yes.  We will not be representing anything and everything.  We will continue to do a certain amount of gatekeeping.

As this new electronic publishing world evolves (at the speed of light, it seems) we will continue to find ways to earn our 15% commission.  As many of you have rightly pointed out, some self-published authors don’t make a ton of money and so neither will we.  But, you know what? Some of our traditionally published clients don’t either.  That doesn’t keep us from going to 40 publishers with their proposals/manuscripts.  Or from working on their projects on our evenings and weekends.  Or from writing encouraging notes to their sixth grader who wants to be a novelist when he grows up.  You get the idea.  Most of us didn’t get into this business to get rich.  We did it because we love and believe in the written word.  Whether it’s on vellum or an iPad, the written word is still our stock in trade.  All we can vouch for is our effort and our hard work.

Announcement!

Word gets around the publishing industry pretty quickly (which is not surprising since we’re in the communications business).   So, we wanted you to hear our news from us first rather than pick it up through inaccurate scuttlebutt in seedy back rooms on the web.

As those of you who’ve been reading this blog for the last few years know, we have been following developments in e-publishing with great interest.  As an agency that has  prided itself on being a bit of a maverick among the stodgy old guard, we have always been more intrigued than scared about this new world of e-books.  The consensus among us, even after listening to the doomsayers, has been that e-publishing will re-energize our business and create more readers.  That’s right, instead of bemoaning the death of publishing as we know it, DGLMers have always felt that e-books and electronic media offer a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach and that of our authors.

That said, we have been very clear all along that we are literary agents.  We are proud of the job we do, the services we provide, and the help we’ve given to countless authors over the years in fulfilling their dreams of publishing their work.  We are also more cognizant than most of the superb work traditional publishers have done and continue to do in producing beautiful, lasting, quality books.

Over the past months and years we’ve come to the realization that e-publishing is yet another area in which we can be of service to our clients as literary agents. From authors who want to have their work available once the physical edition has gone out of print and the rights have reverted, to those whose books we believe in and feel passionately about but couldn’t sell—oftentimes, after approaching 20 or more houses—we realized that part of our job as agents in this new publishing milieu is to facilitate these works being made available as e-books and through POD and other editions.

Right now, you’re thinking, oh, DGLM is going to be another of those agencies that has decided to become an e-publisher and charge clients whose books they can’t sell 50% of their income for the privilege of uploading their work.  Some of you may be mumbling, “Uh…that’s a conflict of interest.”    We get it and we understand how that can be the perception.  However, we have no intention of becoming e-publishers.  As we said above, we have too much respect for the work that publishers do and too much respect for the work we ourselves do to muddy the waters in such a way.

Again, what we are going to do is to facilitate e-publishing for those of our clients who decide that they want to go this route, after consultation and strategizing about whether they should try traditional publishing first or perhaps simply set aside the current book and move on to the next. We will charge a 15% commission for our services in helping them project manage everything from choosing a cover artist to working with a copyeditor to uploading their work.  We will continue to negotiate all agreements that may ensue as a result of e-publishing, try to place subsidiary rights where applicable, collect monies and review statements to make sure the author is being paid.  In short, we will continue to be agents and do the myriad things that agents do.

Our intention is to keep on trying to find books we think we can sell to traditional publishing houses, to negotiate the best deal (always), and to give our authors as many options as we can.  Because we will continue to be commission-based, we will not be automatically pushing authors into e-publishing.   Again, we want to give our authors options and empower them to do what they set out to do all along: have their work read by the largest possible audience.

We are excited about this new part of our business and hope you will be as well.  We welcome your thoughts, comments, and concerns.