Category Archives: Jane

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Romantic times

Every time I embark on a business trip to a writers’ conference, I feel a sense of adventure.  Who will I meet?  What have they written?  What new things will I learn while I am there?  And, as I believe I have previously written on this blog, I have discovered many writers on these journeys who have ultimately become bestsellers.

Never, however have I been to the Romantic Times Writers’ Conference, which this year is being held in New Orleans.  I am going tomorrow and I am really psyched at the thought of what I might discover.logo

One of the best things about my trip is that I will be spending time with many of my current clients, finding out what they are doing next and exploring new strategies with them.  Interestingly, I will meet many clients in person for the first time simply because they live far from New York –  and, as you know, I always love meeting new people.

I will also be meeting  clients who are represented by my colleagues at DGLM, which I am very excited to do.  As importantly, I will be meeting  new potential clients, which is always exciting to me.  The experience of discovering new talent is one of the biggest pleasures in our business.

Finally, I will be visiting a city I haven’t been to in many years – a city that has gone through enormous changes in that period of time.  I am eager to see how New Orleans has been transformed and continues to move forward.

I would love to know what your writers’ conference experiences have been, so please do share them with me.

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A crowning achievement

Monday,  April 14, was the day of the first Passover seder.  Because of that I was at home preparing food for my family and guests.  At around 3:00, I checked my e-mail  and saw that an amazing thing had happened.  My client Dan Fagin had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the category of general non-fiction for his astounding work on TOMS RIVER (Bantam Books 2013).

fagin 2

Of course, TOMS RIVER had received gushing reviews from The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, USA Today and many other publications, and it had won a Books for a Better Life award in its category. We (Dan and I), however, were not made aware that it was a finalist for the Pulitzer and so this win came as a complete surprise.  Both of us were simply stunned.

Over the years I have been fortunate to work with a number of Pulitzer Prize winning journalists on their books but I have never had one of the books I worked on from the idea stage on actually win this great American prize.  There is, in my opinion no one more deserving than Dan Fagin, because of his brilliant research, beautiful prose, and tenacity in telling a powerful and important story.

Dan worked on TOMS RIVER  for six years.  Through that period, for various reasons, he lost one editor after another, although he finally wound up with the very talented Ryan Doherty.  Dan’s winning this award proves more than ever that hard work pays off.  I have rarely seen an author work harder on a book.

I am so incredibly proud to have been a part of this project.  We here, at DGLM, are very proud of Dan’s incredible achievement.  I hope you will all join me in wishing Dan Fagin a well earned congratulations.

Bravo, my friend.  Way to go!

6

Conscious coupling

Recently, the term “Conscious Uncoupling” has become part of the zeitgeist.  It is meant to define the dissolving of a marriage.

Today, I’d like to discuss “Conscious Coupling” or collaborating on a book – in this case a work of fiction.

In Hollywood, collaborating on screenplays is done all the time and there are good reasons for that.  As I understand it, two people working together to write in that format can benefit from each other’s ideas, and the result can be that much stronger.

To some extent, the same can be said for two people collaborating on a fiction book.  There is no question that sharing ideas can add to the story and if the collaborators can blend their voices, the result can work.  But book collaborations of this kind can be fraught with problems for one or both of the participating authors.

If they are using their real names and then each wants to go off and write individually using his or her own name, could be limited by the option and non-compete clauses in their previous contracts.  If they use a pseudonym for the collaboration, they will not receive the credit they would want for writing the book and if the collaboration results in a successful book, it would not further their career when writing under their own names.

Many times in these collaborations, one of the authors is seen as the more important name, and then the other suffers both in the collaboration and when s/he wants to publish under his/her own name.

Finally, these collaborations can be used as a crutch.  They are comfortable and can be fun to do, but in the end, book writing—successful book writing – is a very difficult and individual task.  When the author completes a novel by him/herself and sells it, his/her future from a contractual point of view is clear and well defined.   S/he knows what s/he can and cannot do going forward as far as his/her option and non- complete responsibilities are concerned.  In the end, it seems to me this is the best path a novelist can take to grow his/her career.

I’d love to know what you think about these kinds of collaborations.  Do you like to read books written by more than one author?

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Book orphans

About two months ago, one of my clients turned in the manuscript for her new novel after having worked on it for several years.   She was a bit nervous but also very excited as this was the first novel she was publishing with her new publisher.  About a week after she submitted the material, I had a note from her editor that she was leaving the publishing house and, in fact, leaving publishing altogether.  She said that she would be editing the book on a freelance basis, but that the shepherding of it through the publishing process would not be her responsibility.

Needless to say, this was pretty devastating news to my client.  As I mentioned, this was a new publisher for her.  She had published five novels with her previous publisher and during those years had been edited by at least five different editors—each leaving the house or the business.  Now she was experiencing being “orphaned” again.

I made a couple of phone calls and as it happens the publisher of this particular house has promised me that he will be looking after my client himself.  Though he will not be doing the actual editing, he will be guiding the novel’s publication and so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that, with his help, this book will be a huge success.

It’s true, though, that the saga of the orphaned book is a real one and, in this age of downsizing and publishing mergers, it could well become a more frequent phenomenon.  This makes the agent’s job all the more important as we have to ensure more than ever that our clients and their work are well looked after and that their books are published well.

Last summer, another one of my clients had his book published after it had been transferred during the writing process to five different editors.  That story did have a happy ending.  The book’s final editor was totally devoted to the work and, in my opinion, his editorial suggestions made it even better.  The reviews have been phenomenal and the sales have been solid.  Equally as important, I have an author who was well satisfied with his publishing experience in the end.

But this is a tricky road to follow and it is important for the agent to be vigilant and take special care.  I found this piece in GalleyCat, which covers the topic and which, interestingly, quoted yours truly

So, I wonder, if your book were orphaned, what would you do?

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Where book ideas are born

The story this last week of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane is everywhere and, as I write this blog, the mystery surrounding what happened is still very much a mystery.  In fact, right at the beginning of this sad occurrence I said to Miriam that it would be an incredible premise for a novel.  And then there were the other events of this week that were top of the news–the explosion in Harlem that destroyed two residential apartment buildings and the deaths at the South By Southwest Festival due do a car going out of control.  Those too, it occurred to me, as awful as they are, provide fuel for book ideas both fiction and non-fiction.

I often get my book ideas from the front pages of the newspaper; other ideas come from personal experiences or those of my friends and colleagues.  And then, of course, there are other sources as well like the Ted Talk by Steven Johnson which I ran across as I was considering all of this.

So many of my clients – especially those who write fiction come up with wonderful book ideas one right after the other and I so appreciate their creativity.  This has made me wonder more and more where all of these ideas come from.  And so, I ask you, dear reader, where do you get your book ideas—are they from unusual personal experiences or are they torn from the headlines of the news of the day?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Oh, and one more thing, it’s Miriam’s Birthday today so everyone please wish her a very happy  birthday!

4

The informational interview

They say the economy is improving but, in publishing, it is still very difficult to get a job, especially at the entry level.  We are fortunate enough to have very little turnover in our staff  at DGLM so most of the interviews I do are “informational” – I am asked by friends or colleagues to speak to young college graduates about our business and advise them on how best to get an entry level job.

Last week I had just such an interview and it struck me afterward just how badly prepared the person I spoke with was.  So, even though this might not seem relevant to writers, I thought I’d share those things I deem important in interviews of all kinds.

1)      Dress appropriately.  Appearance matters, no matter what people say, and so wearing inappropriate clothes or outfits should be off limits.

2)      Research the company you are going to be interviewing at.  Know the kinds of books they represent or publish and be able to discuss a couple of them if at all possible.  In the same vein, try to research the person who will be interviewing you so that you are knowledgeable about their interests and achievements.

3)      Look the person with whom you are meeting in the eye.  There is nothing more distracting to me than someone who is talking to me and looking everywhere but at me.

4)      Express interest in whatever company you are interviewing at and in the job you are searching for.

5)      Ask appropriate questions both because you really want to know the answers and to show how interested you are.

6)      Finally, and this is most important, write a thank you note, preferably in long hand and mail it right after your interview.

As I said, this blog post is probably not appropriate for writers, but frankly, as I look over the above list, I think an author interviewing a new agent or meeting with a prospective publisher should definitely observe all of these rules as well.

Whether you are searching for a job, an agent, or a publisher, first impressions are most important and following the rules I have outlined here, I think, will serve you well.

6

Books for young (and very young) readers

For those of you who haven’t read my recent Facebook posts, I have a brand new grandson: Leo Daniel Stein, born on January 20th.   

Leo joins his six-year-old big sister Elena who is thrilled to have a little brother.

This, of course, got me thinking about what I will be reading to my new grandson (after all, it has been years since I have done this).  And, because I always want to bring Elena a book to read as well, I’ve been thinking about what titles she might like.

For newborns I have chosen the traditional and ever popular Goodnight Moon, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Guess How Much I love You, and Pat the Bunny and then Brian Fiocca’s Locomotive which just won the Caldecott Medal.  For my granddaughter who is a terrific reader, there is Where the Wild Things Are, What Does the Fox Say?, The Polar Express, I Want My Hat Back, Make Way for Ducklings and Mrs. Rumphius.

I would love to hear your suggestions for titles for each of these age groups.  There can never be too many books!

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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.

 

2

How those publishing roles have changed

In the good ol’ days, an author would sell his or her book to a publisher (often with the help of an agent) and  expect that the material s/he delivered would be edited by his/her editor and that the publisher would then publicize, advertise  and sell the book to the best of its ability.  Up until about ten years ago, all of these things did happen in for the most part – with some editors being far more hands on and some publishers being much stronger in publicizing, advertising and promoting the books on their list.

Authors  today are discovering that all of the roles have changed, and rather dramatically.  Agents often have to act as editors, authors have to be their own publicists and promoters, editors act as the overall publishers.  It is no longer enough that an author has written a strong proposal or a terrific manuscript –s/he must have a substantial platform and very solid credentials to be published.

All of this can be fairly depressing, especially for the author.  Recently though, I discovered this very clever piece which I think says it all, and I thought, “Well, at least we can laugh about it.”

I guess in the end, as with everything else, change is inevitable.  Over this last decade, authors and everyone else involved in the publishing process seem to be adapting to these  new roles and for the most part, making them work.  And so we proceed….

I wonder how you are feeling about your new role in the publishing process?  Have you noticed the changes?  Are you affected by them?

5

Giving thanks

It’s that time of year again—I can’t believe it’s here already—and I find myself thinking about all of those things I am thankful for.

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family – my husband Steve, my whip-smart daughter Jessica and her loving husband Brian, my handsome son Zach, and my darling  granddaughter Elena who always makes me smile.  Were it not for you, my life would be meaningless.

Zach and Steve; Jessica and Brian at their wedding, with Zach, Steve, and me; Elena

I am thankful for my dad who turned 101 on Halloween, who was my mentor, and who I now have the good fortune to be caring for.

Me with my father

And then there are the people I work with every day, each one of them so very special in their own way: Miriam Goderich, Michael Bourret, Jim McCarthy, Stacey Glick, Lauren Abramo,  Jessica Papin, John Rudolph, Michael Hoogland, Sharon Pelletier, and Rachel Stout!  You all make my life so much easier each and every day.  We are a great team and I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

Our clients, every one of them.  Without them, we wouldn’t exist.  I am constantly saying that we are what we are because of the enormous talent we represent.

My colleagues on the publishing side; the reason I have stayed in the business so long is because it is filled with wonderful, creative people.  Without you, doing business wouldn’t be nearly as fun as it is.

I am thankful for the books I have represented this last year, many of which have become bestsellers.  I am thankful for the ideas we generate, many of which eventually result in great books.

I am thankful for my friends, both within our business and outside of it.  Without friendship, I couldn’t exist.

Most of all, I am thankful for the blessings I have been given both in my personal life and my work life.  There are very few days that go by when I don’t think about how lucky I am to have all of this and more.

I’d love to know what you are thankful for – it’s that time of year after all.