Thank you so much Jane for the kind introduction. It is fantastic to be here at DGLM, although I confess, these are familiar surroundings. As Jane mentioned, I began interning here in May 2011 while I was studying for my Master’s degree, so I am absolutely delighted to be a full time member of DGLM’s remarkable team. With e-books and e-readers continuing to offer us new ways to access books, it is an exciting time to be heading up DGLM’s digital publishing program. As a long-time lover of books, I feel incredibly privileged to have the chance to work closely with authors, the people who make us fall in love with books.
Category Archives: Jane
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.
The other night I had dinner with New York Post columnist Cindy Adams and I told her that I am always having trouble deciding what to write about in my bi-weekly blog entries and I couldn’t imagine how she came up with at least one interesting and fresh idea every day. Then, she described the column she had to do for later in the week asking people how they would spend their time if they could do anything they wanted.
So, (and this is related to the post I did two weeks ago) it got me wondering what writers wish they could write if they weren’t writing what they currently do? Would they switch from fiction to non-fiction? Would they go from adult mysteries to children’s picture books? Would they go from cookbooks to memoirs?
So I am putting the question out there. If you could write something different than what you currently write, what would that be?
So last Thursday I read this interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal and it got me to thinking (again) about whether being slotted into a category is a good or bad thing.
I say “again” because long ago when I was the publisher of World Almanac Publications and my employer wanted to branch out into areas far from our popular reference book line, I went to the book buyers – Dalton, Walden, and Ingram – and asked them their opinion. Every one of them opined adamantly that no matter how good these proposed books might be, they wouldn’t buy them from us. We were the publishers of popular reference books, they said, and that is the way it was going to stay, as far as they were concerned. Ultimately, the decision was made by my colleagues to go ahead with the new products. Knowing what would surely happen, I left the company and became an agent, and that publishing program ultimately failed miserably.
So, what about someone like J.K. Rowling and her foray away from the Harry Potter world into the adult nonfiction category? Notwithstanding the success of The Casual Vacancy, should she have taken this chance? And if the book doesn’t sell up to expectations, what will that mean to her career?
Many of my talented self-published clients ask this same question. They understandably want the ability to publish in more than one category, but the question is, always, will their readers, their fans, “follow” them? I often find myself advising that an author should build up his/her sales in one category, become a best seller and then do whatever s/he wants.
A terrific example of this is Mitch Albom. Michael Crichton is another author who mixed it up in his bestselling novels. And what about all of the thriller writers recently who have found their way into the children’s category?
So, I am curious as to what you think. Should an author, bestselling or not, publish in more than one category or would they be better served by “sticking to their knitting”?
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?
This last week, I found myself in a really heated conversation with a publisher about one of my clients. I called him to see whether they were going to act on my suggestion to help pump up the sales of her book and he jumped down my throat for what he said were all of my complaints about their not trying hard enough to make this title a huge bestseller.
When I pointed out that, in fact, I don’t work for him but for my client and that as her advocate it is my obligation to put forth as many ideas as I can on her behalf, he understood better where I was coming from. It is true that publishers often forget that the agent is working for the author and not against the publisher.
We talked about the various ideas I had offered and why he felt some might not work, and I understood better where he was coming from. He also admitted that his “heated tone” was coming from a place of utter frustration at not being able to achieve the sales that he and his colleagues had been hoping for.
In the end, we both realized that we are on the same team and working for the same goals – to build this author’s career. Later in the week, when I passed on another suggestion to him, he seemed to accept it from where it was coming from and he promised to address it quickly with his colleagues.
So, the bottom line is that agents, authors, and publishers are all working towards the same end – to increase book sales as efficiently and creatively as possible.
Has this been your experience with the publishing process?
Throughout the years that I have been an agent, I have represented writers who work in many different categories. And, early on, it became obvious to me that some authors are not at all supportive of those coming up in their category.
This past week, though, I experienced a situation which was quite the opposite. Brad Meltzer, a bestselling novelist, read the work of someone who approached him at a writer’s conference. He was so taken with this material that he spent time researching who might be the best agent for this new writer and he sought me out. When we connected over the phone, we had a good talk about this new writer, his work, and Meltzer’s reaction to it, and I now have two of his novels and am excited to read them. I might add here that I had never spoken with Brad Meltzer before and so was really blown away by the fact that he went out of his way to help a newbie.
This episode also reminded me of years ago when my client Gus Lee’s first book, CHINA BOY was about to be published. His editor introduced Gus to bestselling author Amy Tan over the phone. Amy read the book, loved it, and provided a wonderful quote for it. Subsequently, Gus and Amy became very good friends.
These two experiences underline how valuable mentoring others can be. Not only does the mentee receive help and support, but the mentor, I think, also gets a great deal of satisfaction out of it.
I wish there was more of this support among established authors and new writers. Our industry, I think could really benefit from this kind of thing.
Do you have stories of established authors who have mentored you or others you know that you want to share?
Recently I came across this interesting piece, and it got me to thinking about the value of publishing relationships.
It has long been felt that ours is a “people business,” and I strong believe this is true. Even with the growth of social media and e-mail, talking face to face always seems to get things done faster and more cordially.
And, in this age of such enormous change in our business, talking to each other about how we can all benefit from these changes is more important than ever. This goes for publishers and agents, editors and agents, authors and editors, authors and agents, and on and on. As these relationships grow and develop, they become more and more valuable to our clients and their books.
Recently one of my authors has faced some real challenges with their publisher where there is a great deal at stake. And so in addressing these challenges I included people who I have “grown up with” in the business – people who now are at the top of the publishing company. My younger colleagues who are directly involved in the issues involved have “slapped my hand” about this; they think I am going around them. But I don’t agree. I am simply using the fact that I know these folks at the head of the company can solve the problems and I am telling them directly how concerned I am. I know by doing this that ultimately these longtime relationships will help solve the issues.
Then there are always the points where there is a disagreement or misunderstanding between colleagues. Last week, I felt an editor had done something underhanded regarding one of my authors and when I brought this up a couple of days later at a lunch with the head of her company, we discussed it – each of us passionately defending our point of view — and ultimately agreed that we would put this behind us and move forward. Had we not had a long and solid relationship, this would not have happened.
I actually feel so fortunate to have made so many good friends over the years in this business; I have met and gotten to know some very smart, quite wonderful people. It is indeed one of the reasons why I love this business and have stayed in it so long.
Last week, I witnessed something I hadn’t seen in many years. It took ten days from the time the publishing agreement was signed to being handed a bound copy of Tracey Garvis Graves’ ON THE ISLAND. That is truly amazing and exciting in terms of future publishing ventures. But publishing instant books, as they were once called, isn’t new to many of us who have been in the business for years.
In fact when I held my copy of Tracey’s book in my hands, I thought back to many exciting titles that were published in this way back in the day. And when I looked back I found this New York Times article which describes some of what took place during that time.
This kind of publishing was inspired in the ‘60s , ‘70s and ‘80s by major news events. The most popular of the titles was The Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy; others included The Pentagon Papers, The Israeli Rescue at Entebbe and many, many more.
A publisher would usually team up with a news organization like one of the news weekly magazines or The New York Times and together they would produce a manuscript, often using material from the government which, of course, was in the public domain. They would work on this for a week, sometimes less, and then go through the production process, typesetting, printing, binding and shipping the books.
I was actually a part of one of these projects right at the beginning of my career: I carried a manuscript, after the writing and editing, were completed from our offices in New York to Chicago where I was taken to the printer in Des Plaines, Illinois, where the book was ultimately printed bound and shipped out. It was all very exciting and very hush hush – most of these instant books were top secret until they were published, which created great excitement.
The problem was that while the publishing company was working on these projects , all other work , especially in the editorial department came to a standstill and, ultimately this led to the demise of the instant book; the profits they were making didn’t justify what they were costing in terms of the loss of other business.
Now, though, with the change in technology, books can be produced much faster and efficiently – and even more inexpensively. So the possibilities are becoming very exciting and bode well for the future.
As I like to say, there are no totally new ideas, it’s just the way they are “presented.” What do you think about the whole “instant” book phenomenon?