Category Archives: goals



It’s become a hallowed day-after-Halloween tradition. No, I’m not talking about eating tons of leftover candy (or hitting up candy sales at the drugstore, in case you don’t have any leftovers!). I’m talking about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.

The goal is to write a novel – at least 50k words – in one month, and many aspiring authors have embraced it as a way to stay on track and finally get the book they’ve been dreaming of down on the page. Other writers use it to structure their time on an intimidating revision, or even get a headstart on manuscript already under contract.

While it got started as a personal challenge, many find that committing to the challenge on social media and tracking their progress on the NaNoWriMo website is a great way to stay motivated – a community to celebrate good writing days and persevere through rough ones. All day long I’ve been seeing funny/heartwarming/rueful/encouraging tweets from writers embarking on NaNoWriMo, or even contemplating it. Here are a few of my faves:

And of course, DG&B tweeted some encouragement of our own (make sure you’re following us on Twitter – we’ve got a new name and everything!)

I’d love to know if any of our blog readers are drafting a novel this month. What are your best tips for sticking to a writing schedule, whether a spring like NaNoWriMo, or a year-round marathon?



Each quarter, Jane Dystel asks all of the employees of DGLM to outline their goals for the coming months, then look back at the previous quarter and see how our projections matched with reality.  It is an exercise that I find a bit wrenching; goals are always due at some moment when I’ m deep in the trenches of an edit, dashing between meetings, or returning phone calls. Taking time to step away from the computer/Kindle/phone and study the big picture—my performance and the “portfolio” of projects I represent— is always a little jarring.

But inasmuch as I find this difficult or sobering,  it is nevertheless tremendously useful to look at my efforts holistically, to stratagize about stewarding my time more wisely, whether it’s tackling my e-mail inbox in designated periods (because I could spend all day, every day, answering e-mails and never do another thing) or the distribution of the conferences I attend (I should avoid doing three in the same quarter; to that end, I apologize to all those patient writers who pitched me in Atlanta, Boston and Austin and are still waiting to  hear back—I am working my way through. )  I’m not much of a subscriber to The Secret-style philosophy that writing something down will magically make it so, but writing down goals helps force me to clarify them, and looking backward over the previous quarter helps me note what’s working (or not) and adjust course accordingly.

I adore my clients and their projects—there’s a multitude of reasons I signed each one—but the exercise in goal-setting also calls attention to the deficits in my list, the genres and projects I don’t often do. For example, I’d like to take on more love stories.  It need not be a romance novel  (I represent a work of narrative history, Bill Lascher’s EVE OF A HUNDRED MIDNIGHTS, that captures the whirlwind romance and perilous honeymoon of two WWII correspondents.)  I’d also like to do more literary mystery in the vein of books I already represent—Beth Hahn’s THE SINGING BONE or Christopher Yates’ BLACK CHALK—but also a proper detective novel,  think Tana French.  I’d also like to see more humor/pop-culture like Therese Oneill’s UNMENTIONABLE: A VICTORIAN LADY’S GUIDE TO SEX, MARRIAGE AND MANNERS.  My appetite for science, history, women’s issues and big-think economics is constant, but I’d like to expand my palate with outdoor adventure narrative, graphic or comic novels or grounded fantasy….in short, I look forward to hearing from you!


Glossy Pages

Recently Mike blogged about his New Year’s Reading Resolutions, and I was inspired. I’m going to make a read-olution of my own, and mine has to do with the pile of magazines next to my bed! I only subscribe to a handful of publications – Elle and Elle Décor, New York Magazine, Vogue, with the latter about to expire – but somehow can’t quite read them as fast as they come! That’s going to change in 2015; I am going to vanquish the stack before it crashes through the floor of my apartment and gives my landlady a concussion. And there are a couple other practical reasons as well…

Magazines are great for commuting. Flip through an article or two if you’ve just got a couple stations to go and don’t want to get lost in a book and miss your spot. And they’re certainly a lot easier to tote around than a book – I’m currently reading the second book in the Outlander series, which clocks in at 743 pages.

And staying up to date with magazines is important to our work as an agency too. Publishing every week or every month, magazines keep you in touch with the latest lifestyle trends, emerging political or economic thought, fascinating little-known stories, scandals waiting to explode – all potential book ideas, whether we pursue the writer of the piece or share a story idea with of our clients or promising At our bimonthly ideas meetings at least one person mentions “Well, I was reading in the New Yorker” or “I saw this thing in The Atlantic…

So in 2015, I gotta keep up!

Ever seen an article and though that should be a book? Any tips for keeping up with your subscriptions? Or magazines I should check out?


March Madness

It’s started, folks. The Morning News Tournament of Books kicked off yesterday. As you may remember, at the start of the year Jim set himself the goal of reading all seventeen books on the list; never one to avoid a challenge, I jumped right on his band wagon.

Well, I won’t ask Jim to report publically on his results, but I’m proud to share my success! So far I’ve read eleven of the books and by the end of this week I will have finished two more. Additionally, three books I read at least a hundred pages of before letting myself move on to the next title on the list (life’s too short and all that – though I won’t tell you the books that just weren’t working for me). So if you’re keeping up with the math, that makes sixteen TOB candidates under my belt, with just the second half of The Luminaries standing between me and (semi)victory.

I’m glad I co-opted Jim’s challenge, because I’ve discovered a few new favorites I might never have picked up otherwise! And because the TOB is, well, a Tournament, I decided to fill out an official bracket. Well, that was harder than I expected! After much agonizing, erasing, re-writing, second-guessing, here’s my prediction:


Yay, I already got one right! (Don’t worry – I filled this out before the first judgment was posted yesterday.)

If you want to play along, check out the Tourney website and download your own bracket! (We can meet back up here in a few weeks to second-guess the judges’ opinions and gloat about our brilliant guesses. Maybe I’ll even tell you which ones I actually liked best!)

Do you agree with any of my choices? Which book do you think will be the ultimate winner?


Stalagmites of Books

This morning I was browsing Twitter while waiting for my coffee to kick in, as usual, and this tweet caught my eye:

“I am making a very important New Year’s Resolution for 2014: read more books and own fewer of them.” –@doughtylouise

— Book Keeping (@FSGBookKeeping) 

I’m totally on board with the first half of that resolution, but own fewer books?? This I gotta read.

So I clicked the link and read on to discover the author describing a very familiar predicament:


“All around my house – in the bedroom, the spare room, the sitting room – there are interesting geological features.  This is nothing to do with the fact that I live in a Victorian townhouse in North London, nor to do with the clay soil on which it is built.  It’s because I don’t have enough shelves.

These interesting features consist of stalagmites of books – great wobbly pillars of varying heights constantly threatening to come crashing down.”


This is a problem I can relate to. Books are stacked on every surface in my apartment, two rows deep on the actual bookshelves, taking over endtable space where normal other people have framed pictures of loved ones, and fighting for position on top of cabinets that more rightfully belong to wine glasses and board games. Like the blog post author, I too can blame my mountains of books on my career – but perhaps it would be more honest to blame my career on my greedy love of books?

It doesn’t help that I’m an inveterate producer of marginalia. Sure, I could check out more library books, or borrow from my friends with similar bibliophilic afflictions. But I love scribbling all over my books – asterisks and exclamation points in the margin, long rambling (and obviously brilliant) thoughts and comparison on the back pages at the end. They frown on writing in library books, I’m pretty sure. And if I start marking up my friends’ books, well, soon I’ll find myself with no friends, just tons of free time on my hands to read…hmmmm, on second thought, that doesn’t sound so bad.

Anyway, you should read the whole blog post, because the author offers a nice and logical plan for accomplishing her read-more-own-fewer book resolution. Have you ever tried to cut down on your own book collection? Any success stories to share?

If all else fails, you can always loan your unwanted/unwritten-in books to me!


It’s that New Year’s resolutions time again

It’s hard to realize that another year has passed and it is that time again—t he time to make my New Year’s resolutions.

To be totally honest, I have always believed in writing down goals.  In fact, I do this every quarter.  I review my quarterly goals every month and then at the end of the quarter, I actually do a written comparative of what I achieved against the goals I set.  And it works!  It really does.

New Year’s resolutions though are another kettle of fish.  They never seem to be achievable and perhaps that is because we (I) don’t take them as seriously as the goals I do four times a year.

Just the other day I read this piece about goals, and found many of them inspirational.  So I have put together a list of my resolutions which I am sharing here.  Hopefully, I will be able to stick to them—at least for a while:

  • Learn to read faster.  There is so much to read and I am always running out of time.
  • Explore at least one independent bookstore a week as opposed to a chain store and buy a new book when I do so. It is important to support the independents.
  • Try to stop working after 10:30 every night.  I usually wake up at 5:45 so going to bed after 11:00 or so really doesn’t allow me to get enough sleep.
  • Get better on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumbler.  I know I should be using these social media tools more but I find them intimidating.  I need to get more confident in my abilities.
  • Continue to work out daily.  I always feel better after using the life cycle, weight training, or taking a yoga class.
  • Go to more movies!  Movies are a part of our business and last year I think I only saw two—I  need to get out more.
  • Stop letting my kids drive me crazy.
  • Try to eat a more balanced diet—I am a poor eater and I know it.  At 90 pounds I really should be more health conscious.
  • Finally, look forward to the year ahead, developing books with my super stable of clients and finding new and exciting projects as well.

Resolutions are personal and many don’t like to share theirs; if you don’t mind though, I would love to know what yours are.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF OUR READERS! May yours be filled with good health, much laughter and peace.




It’s a new year, so what else would I write about but New Year’s resolutions?

I know, I know – New Year’s resolutions sound  soooo  boring, but I have found that making them, and checking them monthly and keeping them in mind is very important to moving forward in life and in work.

Putting together a written list—and I do think these should be written down in order to cement them in our minds—takes time and it should take thoughtfulness.  What do we want to achieve this year, health wise, relationship wise, business wise and in our efforts to give back to the universe?

A few of my clients this week presented me with their lists of what they wanted to achieve in their book publishing careers this year, and I am so happy to have these.  It will help me to focus my efforts in helping them.  In fact, I plan to encourage as many of the authors I work with as possible to do the same thing in the coming weeks (a goal should be to have all New Year’s resolutions completed by no later than the middle of January, I think).

And of course, I have done my own set of resolutions in all of the above areas.  I plan to review them very regularly and refine them when necessary (resolutions should be as specific as possible, I find).  Then at the end of the year, I will do an overall evaluation of how  I’ve done in each area, and that will enable me to put together next year’s resolutions that much more easily.

So, what do you think of this whole idea of setting New Year’s Resolutions?  Do you plan to do them for yourself?  I am eager to know your thoughts on the subject.


Magical things are afoot.

In case you weren’t aware (and I wasn’t until just yesterday), we’re going to have a blue moon tonight. There are actually a couple of definitions about what a blue moon really is, but the most commonly accepted refers to the rare occurrence when there are two full moons in on month. So rare that the next one won’t happen until 2018!

Full moons are, of course, already overloaded with folklore and superstition—crime rates going up, babies being born, accidents and, obviously, werewolves. But what about a blue moon? Being a vaguely superstitious kind of person, I had to do some poking around and supposedly any plans you make under a blue moon are fated to come true. Sowing the seeds of long-term goals during a blue moon are meant to be particularly fruitful, though erratic.

Regardless, there’s a reason people use the phrase “once in a blue moon,” and I think that tonight is the perfect time to set some goals for yourself, creativity and writing-wise. Even if it is all just superstition, sitting down and actually coming up with a comprehensive, achievable scenario for your book’s progress towards completion, can only help,  right? Real or imagined, use the rarity of tonight’s occurrence to make some concrete plans and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be rewarded tenfold.


Establishing goals

I used to hate thinking about and writing down goals, probably because when I first had to do them it was as part of a budget plan I was assigned to create annually when I was a Publisher. That all changed when I first became an agent, though. One of the very first authors I worked with was writing an unusual book on achieving one’s dreams. In order to do that, the author advised, you had to write down ten goals that you were reaching for – things you never thought you would achieve. He demanded that I as the agent on the project go through this exercise just as a reader would. At the time, I was a single mother of a young daughter beginning a new career and not in the mood for dreaming about anything. But I went along and wrote down things I just knew would never happen: increase my gross book sales threefold by the end of the year (in terms of dollars); meet and marry the love of my life within the next two years; buy a house in the next three years; have another child in the next five years…. And every week, he demanded that I review my goals.

Well, the upshot is that I never sold that book (that actually wasn’t one of my goals). But, incredibly, I did achieve every other goal, and within the time period I had laid out. I did sell that amount in advances and more; I did meet the love of my life and we are about to celebrate our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary; I did buy that house in the country; and my handsome son has just turned 20.

So, when I began my own company, I asked everyone I worked with to set short term goals each quarter; these were almost wishes – they should be reaches – and they should be reviewed monthly. Recently, Miriam told me that she has always hated doing goals “with the burning intensity of a thousand suns,” but she has become a believer because the process really does work.

I have now begun asking my newer clients what their goals and wishes are. It’s an exercise that is energizing many of them and they are realizing that setting short term goals enables them to strategize about their entire career.

I wonder whether you set goals for yourself already. And, if not, don’t you think you might begin now?