Category Archives: Lauren

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Ten Years

As of tomorrow, I’ll have been at DGLM for ten years.  Since that’s such a pleasingly round number, it feels like a good time to name ten of the best things about the last ten years at DGLM.  In no particular order:

  • We’re not in midtown.  Union Square is pretty much the ideal publishing location.  Between agencies, publishers, and scouts there are enough of us congregated around here, lots of great restaurants, a solid subway hub, and we’re nowhere near Times Square.  If you’re not a New Yorker, this might not resonate for you, but I’ve gotten to spend the last decade below 23rd street, which was more or less my life goal as an NYU student.
  •  I used to work in bookstores.  I have stood in those same places where I used to stock the shelves and read my own name inside books.  I have also made my family members endure this ritual of narcissism pretty much any time we’ve been in a place that sells books.  Given that they’re all book nerds, too, it’s kind of huge.
  •  I spend time on every vacation playing Spot the DGLM Client in foreign bookstores.  About 1/5 of my vacation photos are books I sold in translation.  I have almost no shame.
  • This is an office full of people who actually like each other.  From what I gather from friends, family, and years of sitcom watching, that’s kind of rare.  Our office meetings are usually way more hilarious than office meetings have any right to be. We work collaboratively, and even though we’re pretty ambitious, any internal competition is motivating rather than cutthroat.
  • Okay, so “reading books for a living” is much more the fantasy of agent life than the reality (I’m pretty sure I answer emails for a living, if you want to boil it down to one thing), but I do get to excuse myself from having a budget for books.  Buying books with reckless disregard for personal finance is just the responsible thing to do.
  • bookcasesAnd on a related note, I finally achieved the bookcase wall of my dreams.  (Goal for the next 10 years: rolling ladder.)
  • I get to turn the things I’m most excited about into my job.  If something’s been occupying my attention, there’s a way to publish a book on it.  Whether that’s putting out the call for a novel on the subject or tracking down a writer to cover it, from Serial to soccer, I get to make my passions my work. That’s even better than being able to make your favorite indulgences tax deductible.
  • I’ve learned from some of the best agents in the business.  If there’s anything the DGLM team can’t figure out about publishing between them, I’ve never encountered it.  There is always someone to learn from on every subject.
  • I’ve gone from Jane’s assistant to Subsidiary Rights Director, and I’m empowered to sign up anything I want.  That’s an amount of encouragement, opportunity, and support that I could only have dreamed of the day I shot my resume off to Michael, and I’m so incredibly grateful for it.
  • I work with amazing authors.  Sometimes I get to be the first person to tell an author she’s hit the New York Times bestseller list for the very first time. Someone I once made laugh on the phone is now president of this country.  On my last birthday, I had dinner with an author the week a movie adaptation of his book opened at #1 at the box office.  I tell extremely talented creative people what I think of their work, and they actually listen to me.  On a regular basis, I get to give people news so good it makes them cry.  I get paid to bring the most important tool of entertainment, education, enlightenment, and empathy the world has to offer to as many people as I possibly can.  Was that overly sincere?  I don’t even care.  It’s an extraordinary privilege to help shepherd books into the world.

And for those keeping track, yes, every person that worked at DGLM on my Day 1—Jane, Miriam, Stacey, Michael, & Jim—is still here on Day 3652.  Thanks to them and everyone else on Team DGLM for a fantastic 10 years.  Here’s to 10 more!

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Friends in Unexpected Places

FGI’ve mentioned my love of Book Riot’s Book Fetish column before, but this might be its most exciting week yet.  I’ve also probably mentioned my love of infographics.  So it’s no surprise I’m a huge, huge fan of Pop Chart Lab.  I spend time every year browsing their booth at the Union Square Holiday Market, hoping they’ll create a new design that’s just right for me (or, okay, one to buy as a gift, but let’s be honest, I’m there for me first and foremost).   Their work is fantastic, but I’ve never found the right one.  UNTIL NOW.  Thanks to Book Riot, I know they’ve created a Fiction Genres chart!  (Pictured here, but check out their site to see it close up.)  I excitedly clicked over, while simultaneously reaching for my wallet.  I already knew I was definitely going to buy it but I thought I should at least pretend to do my due diligence and started zooming in on the poster.  And that’s when I spotted it: hanging out by the Romance marker, right by D.H. Freaking Lawrence, is “On Dublin Street (Young).”  Now if you’re not a student of my personal client list, you might not realize that On Dublin Street by Samantha Young is a book that I represent.  Just sitting there on the poster of my dreams, waiting for me to urgently buy two copies so that I don’t have to decide whether to put it in my home or office. (Obviously I did that before typing this blog entry.  Priorities!)

That might be the loudest I yelped (and the most ALL CAPSedly I declared my excitement to my DGLM colleagues via IM), but it’s not the only time recently that I’ve come across one of our own in a not-so-bookish place.  Just yesterday I discovered, to the delight of my inner twelve year old, that the film adaptation of The Maze Runner was nominated for an MTV Movie Award.  You can say there are more important prizes to be won in the worlds of books and movies, but I have a totally unreasonable nostalgic soft spot for that golden popcorn statuette.  I know what I’ll be doing on Sunday, April 12th.  (Trying in vain to convince a friend who has cable that they want to watch an awards show they haven’t cared about since they were 15, if ever.)

BL PosterFortunately, I discovered those in the privacy of my office and home, respectively.  Not so for coming across this fantastic ad for Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series in the subway station.  I might have yelled “Oooh!” so loud I startled a stranger who was walking beside me, earning myself quite a dirty look.  Not that I’m sorry: if that’s the most alarming thing she heard in the New York City subway that week, it was a very good week indeed.  Plus, book ads in the subway are totally Oooh-worthy.

I work and live surrounded by books, and as Rights Director have a constant flow of DGLM client news coming through my email account and Twitter feed, but it’s extra exciting when our clients’ work jumps out at me from the places I’m not expecting them.  Now to go order myself the perfect frames for those posters…

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Page to screen

Oscar weekend is upon us, which has me thinking, as it inevitably does, about book-to-film adaptations, so I polled the office on this dreary winter day about their favorites (excluding DGLM titles, because that’s just cheating).

Sharon went for literary classics: Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, the recent musical film of Les Miserables, and Jane Campion’s take on Sense & Sensibility.  (For Baz Luhrmann adaptations of literature starring Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m personally much more partial to Romeo + Juliet, but I’ll allow that maybe you had to be a certain age when that came out to actually have found it appealing.)

Mike Hoogland will vouch for Fight Club, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Sniper.  I definitely have feelings about all of those choices, so I guess those movies are doing something right!

Rachel’s more up my alley, though: The Virgin Suicides, The Commitments (seconded by me!), and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Jim and I also both picked good old Bridget Jones.  In fact, my taste in book-to-film adaptations overwhelmingly runs toward the contemporary update of literary classics: the Brit Lit curriculum makes great fodder for high school comedies.  For example, Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You are two of my favorite movies.  I prefer Clueless to Emma, but Taming of the Shrew is among my preferred Shakespeare plays (and I also love, love, love it in musical form in Kiss Me, Kate).

WakingthedeadMy all-time favorite book-to-film adaptation is Scott Spencer’s Waking the Dead starring Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly.  I love the book and I love the movie, which is pretty rare for me.  I even love the soundtrack.  I think the movie is criminally underrated and the book should have been read more widely.

Jim was on a roll though, so he picked many more, most of which I heartily agree with: Adaptation, American Psycho, Apocalypse Now, Rebecca, The Godfather, Silence of the Lambs, Leaving Las Vegas, Election, Precious, and Children of Men.

I could name so many more, too: Jurassic Park, Stand By Me, Trainspotting, Brokeback Mountain, The Princess Bride…Basically, if you’re looking for a memorable movie with strong characters and a compelling story to tell, it probably started life as a book.

And now I have to head home for the weekend, because writing this post has made me want to build the Netflix queue to end all Netflix queues and stay curled up in doors away from the arctic chill of February till Monday.

What are your favorites?  Least favorites?

9

You like me! You really like me!

“That the question of likability even exists in literary conversations is odd…Certainly we can find kinship in fiction, but literary merit shouldn’t be dictated by whether we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.” – Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

In reading Bad Feminist recently, I nodded my head so vigorously on so many occasions that I’m lucky I didn’t sprain my neck.  Among the calls to arms and insights and gems was the above quote, perfectly summing up my distaste for the prevailing wisdom on “likable” protagonists.  I mean, sure, there are books I don’t like and that I don’t recommend because of it.  But to reject a book because you don’t like the main character?

It’s an absurd objection to literature—often shorthand, I suppose, for “this book didn’t resonate with me and I need a thing to pin that on”—and totally irrelevant to whether or not one even likes a book.  If the book isn’t working, the unlikeable protagonist is going to stick out like a sore thumb to be sure, but I find it pretty hard to believe that anyone has never loved a book where they didn’t like the protagonist.  Gone Girl isn’t a massive bestseller because we all think Amy seems swell and Nick like the husband of our dreams.

I like my friends.  I like my family.  I like my colleagues.  Perfect to have brunch with, certainly, but you want to know a secret?  You couldn’t pay me to read a book about nearly any of them.

Likewise, I’m happy to read about a serial killer, but I’m not going to buy any BFF heart necklaces for us to wear.

So I’m with Ms. Gay–let’s stop talking about the likability of protagonists as if that’s what really matters.

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Hooray for picture books

I represent very few picture books, but in my personal life I’m deeply indebted to them.  As I’ve mentioned countless times, my nephews are my favorite people on this planet, and at 6 and 3, their primary bond with me these days is over reading bedtime stories.  The older one started associating me with reading pretty early on in life, and through an aggressive campaign of reading fun things loudly in his vicinity (often while lying on the floor so he’d be tempted to come over and torment me by climbing onto my back), I’ve gotten the little one on Team Aunts Read Books as well.  Now thanks to a couple strategic buys by my mother in advance of our gathering at her house this past weekend for her birthday, the kiddos are begging for some videos I’ve promised to send of me reading their two favorites from the bunch.  As they were leaving to head back home on Monday, they were devastated to cut our last reading session short at only two books, so I promised to combine their two favorite things about me: reading fun books and watching videos on my phone.

But while I was very excited to discover This Book Just Ate My Dog! this weekend, which very cleverly uses the physical book and encourages interaction, one thing I did find myself wanting was some more children’s nonfiction.  When Martin Luther King came up with my older nephew, he was sort of familiar with him from some things he learned in kindergarten last week, but pretty confused about the role of water fountains in history.  As we discussed, I realized I was struggling to explain Dr. King’s legacy to a child who doesn’t understand race much less racism, or to get him interested in anything beyond the fact that he won the Nobel Peace Prize (which both children were very excited to learn they could watch a video of on my phone.  Injustice and civil rights fly above their head, but they know all about prizes and medals from the absurd number of sports the 6 year old plays).

Fortunately, I realize that there are experts out there who know how to talk about historical figures to children without getting caught up in attempting to explain what a dream is metaphorically.  Next time I see them, I’m determined to be better prepared.  So I turn to you: does anyone have any favorite nonfiction books for young children?  I’d love to be able to teach them more about not only Dr. King, but other important figures and historical moments.  Any pointers?

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Sublicenses, the Matryoshka of Publishing

One of my favorite podcasts is Stuff You Should Know, from the people at How Stuff Works.  Each episode hosts Josh and Chuck give a primer on a different subject, on topics as varied as Jim Henson, gambling, sea monsters, cinnamon, boomerangs, The Hum, and leper colonies, and that’s just in the last month.  Sometimes they’re serious.  Sometimes they’re ridiculous.  But they’re nearly always fascinating.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

While I can’t promise to ever be quite as entertaining, one thing I can do is explain how some of the facets of publishing work.  I’ll start today with sublicenses—something I’m called on to explain fairly regularly—but if there are any other things about publishing you’d like to understand better, give me a topic in the comments and I’ll do my best to explain it or ask a colleague to take it on.

As with most things, there are exceptions to every rule, but here’s how sublicenses typically work:

So what’s a sublicense?  Basically, when you sign a deal with a publisher, you grant them some rights and reserve others to yourself.  (Those others are the ones that your agency would represent for you, which is where my job as Subsidiary Rights Director for DGLM comes in.)  So let’s say you sign a deal with Random House, and in that deal you’d generally give them print book rights and e-book rights, and you’d generally keep multimedia and film/TV rights.  Other things will be a part of the negotiation your agent is doing, like audio rights, translation rights, and the breadth of the territory granted to the publisher in English.  So let’s say you grant translation rights to the publisher as part of the deal.  That means that the publisher is the party empowered to sell those rights to another publisher.  When you do your deal with Random House, that’s a license.  When they sell your French rights to, let’s say, Hachette, that’s a sublicense.

That part is relatively straightforward. The thing that tends to trip people up is the money.  Now in your contract with Random House, terms will be set for how you earn money on that sublicense. Typically, Random House is going to get to keep 25% for their efforts.  The other 75% is for you, but it’s not really going straight into your pocket.  When Hachette pays Random House, 75% of the money goes into your royalty account and works to earn back your advance.  Advance with RH already earned out?  Great, then that money is coming your way soon.  Advance with RH still left to earn back? Then the money isn’t going to leave Random House. The French rights are part of what they bought from you in that advance, so they can use their French deal to earn back that investment.

Think of sublicenses like Russian nesting dolls full of coins:  your deal with Random House is the biggest of the dolls. When that dolls is full of coins—meaning once your royalty account has earned as much as they advanced you—the coins that don’t fit (aka, the amount above the amount previously advanced to you) come spilling out and get paid out to you!*  But inside your deal with Random House is Random House’s deal with Hachette, and that doll starts off empty, too.  Hachette paid an advance to Random House, which added to the coins inside the larger doll, but then the Hachette doll has to fill up with earnings from the French sale of the book.  Once the Hachette doll is full, coins spill into the Random House doll, and if the Random House doll is full, they spill over to you.  And yes, there can be a third doll inside the Hachette doll, where Hachette sublicenses, say, French audio rights.  As you might imagine, the French audio nesting doll is pretty tiny and doesn’t always exist.

So, does that make sublicenses clearer?  Or are you now just wondering why I think nesting dolls have coins inside them?  Any other questions about sublicenses?  And what topic should I tackle next?

*We don’t really pay our clients in coins.  But if they chose to withdraw their money from the bank in coins so they could Scrooge McDuck it up, we would never judge.

 

2

Reading in a Winter Wonderland

snowy water towersEarlier this week, as I watched snow fluttering by my office window, I took a moment to daydream about curling up by a fireplace with some hot cocoa or wine or hot whiskey, reading an appropriately wintery book.  Naturally I then had to think about exactly which books might fit the bill, and the first that came to mind was Little Women, with its general vibe of New England Christmas.   Though on reflection I don’t think it’s true, in my mind every key scene in the book happens in front of a fireplace (where Amy does burn Jo’s manuscript) or frolicking about in the snow.

On the bleaker side of things, I also thought about the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire,” which is definitely not how I’d like my winter to go.

When I polled the office, Sharon reminded me of how much winter plays in to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books:  “I am fully prepared to navigate blizzards with a clothesline or twist hay into braids for the fire among other traumatizing winter survival skills.”  Now I know if we ever set up an apocalypse emergency system here at the office, I should pick Sharon as my buddy.  And bonus points for the venerable LIW, one of them is even called The Long Winter.

Jane voted for our very own David Morrell’s The Spy Who Came for Christmas.  Miriam picked The Cider House Rules and Snow Falling on Cedars, plus Holidays on Ice, while Michael thought of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which Intern Elie also cited).  Jessica came up with The Corrections and James Joyce’s “The Dead.”  John’s vote was for Russell Banks’s Affliction.  Jim chose The Shipping News, which Stacey seconded, and Frankenstein.  And Intern Jordan made a strong case for Rachel Conn & David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares that made me want to run to the store after work and pick it up.

There were two votes for Snow—but for two different books by that name.  Jessica went with Orhan Pamuk, while Jim picked Maxence Fermine.  And there were two for Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, including Sharon and Intern Francis, who is reading it right now.  Plus three for the Harry Potter books, from Interns Tatiana, Amy, and Elie.

A few people came up with books that might not be quite winter books, but have a winter feel to them nonetheless, including Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (Miriam), Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Mike), The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Into Thin Air by Jon Kraukauer (both Stacey).  On a similar note, Intern May Zhee reads a lot of Russian novels that feel wintery even if they’re not, like Anna Karenina and Doctor Zhivago.

So now that I have such a long list of wintery reading options, all I need is some snow days to curl up and give them a go.   What are your favorite winter reads?

0

Want it.

Clearly I’m late to the party, but I’ve just come across Book Riot’s Book Fetish series, and now I know where I’ll be doing my gift shopping this holiday season.  (I operate firmly on the one for them, one for me rule.)  Union Square has started assembling its holiday market, so ready or not, it’s that time of year!  But this year, I’m feeling prepared:

This Shakespearean insults poster is going to come in very handy.  And there are some tedious rogues in my life who might love it, too.

I might just buy a new bookcase so I have an excuse to use the Clampersand, which is genius.

Plus the many, many literate lawyers I know would look great in this t-shirt.

And this vintage library cart bar cart combines two of my very favorite things and would be a fine addition to my home.  Who do I know that’s crafty enough to make it for me?

My book-obsessed nephews will for sure be getting some of these.  And their mom loves socks almost as much as books, so I’ve gotta get her these.

24x36-Little-Women-column-SDBook Fetish aside, my favorite lit paraphernalia is PosterText prints:  prints made of the text of books, where the negative space forms an image.  I have Little Women in my office and The Great Gatsby at home, and everyone is always amazed when they look closely.

So, my fellow book nerds, where else should I be shopping this holiday season?

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Tension

It’s no secret to anyone who follows me on Twitter (or works here or has seen me in the last couple weeks), that I’ve become completely addicted to a new podcast called Serial (serialpodcast.org).  It’s a spin-off from This American Life, focused on one murder case and the possibly wrongful conviction of the victim’s ex-boyfriend, who has been in jail for 15 years.  It unravels in thematic episodes, following the course of the investigation not quite in real time.  The narrative arc of the “season” isn’t fully known to the producers, or wasn’t when it started airing at least, so those of us who are listening weekly with rapt attention have no idea where it will end up—or if there are even really satisfying answers to the questions it raises.  I’m completely and totally hooked, and I’ve managed to get Sharon, Miriam, Michael, Jim, DGLM client Catherine Whitney, my mother, and many of my friends addicted, too.

So for today’s blog entry, a plea to you from me:  I want to represent the book that feels like this podcast feels.  I want that tension.  I want that slow unfolding and conversational reportage.  Fiction or nonfiction is fine, but I’m not looking for a run-of-the-mill mystery or true crime book.  I want something that feels huge and also intimate.  A book where every answer raises more questions and then explores all those paths looking for the truth.  I want a book where I’m dying to get back to it and desperate for friends to read it to so we can talk about what we think is happening as we read.  I want to be certain and then confounded and certain again and endlessly curious.  I want something that grips me from the first sentence and maybe won’t ever let me go.

So if you’re the author of that book and you’re looking for an agent, please query me.  And if you want to just talk about Serial, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter (@laurenabramo). (Though let’s try not to spoil it below for anyone who’s just diving in.)

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Spoiler alert!

I’ve been thinking a lot about spoilers lately.  You can’t really talk about them without citing them, so if you’re really averse and somehow magically haven’t had Gone Girl ruined for you yet, you might want to click away.

With all the book-to-film adaptations* this fall—perhaps not more than usual, but more than I usually have any interest in—I dedicated my vacation reading to finally getting to two books I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while, before the movies could ruin them for me.  I might just be the last person to read Gone Girl, and I wasn’t exactly early to the This Is Where I Leave You bandwagon.  Fortunately, my experience with the latter was spoiler free—the only thing I’d been forewarned about was that it was really, really good.

Now, this isn’t me getting on my soapbox about spoilers, because I tend to think that if you aren’t passionate enough to prioritize something you don’t get to quell the conversations of those who are.  (I’m almost always the late one, so I’ve come to this via zen-like acceptance of my own bad impulses to get angry at someone for talking about something they care about, as if talking about something you care about isn’t a fundamentally important part of the human experience that I value highly.)  I know there was also that whole thing about how people actually like spoilers, contrary to what they think, but I’d argue that it changes your experience anyway, in a way that’s interesting but not ideal.  I know I get distracted by spoilers, and it takes me out of the experience of really enjoying the thing in the way I otherwise would.  To each their own, of course, but I’m not going to start seeking them out, and I’ll still probably have to ban myself from social media on Sunday nights when all the good TV is on for the rest of eternity.

But sometimes—like when you’ve put off reading one of the buzziest books of the last few years until the eve of the release of a film adaptation and you work in publishing—spoilers are not entirely avoidable.  To be fair, I wasn’t totally spoiled with Gone Girl.  I somehow made it all this time without finding out exactly what the twist is. When Stacey read it for DGLM book club, I fled the room.  But I can’t imagine it’s possible at this point to have heard of Gone Girl and not know there’s a twist.  And like all books (or films) that are built around a major plot twist, knowing there is one is pretty much spoiler enough.  It didn’t take me long into the book to realize that there was really only one option people would actually have been impressed with in the way I knew people were.  Unfortunately, while I found it clever and admirably crafted and insightful—that “cool girl” diatribe is everything—I missed my chance to have the opportunity with the novel that so many others did.

The thing about thrillers, or mysteries, or other twisty types of fiction is that I really enjoy the puzzle of trying to figure it out before I’m meant to, but I don’t like it when I win.  I want the author to best my whirring brain and catch me by surprise.

So having finished Gone Girl with quite a bit of like and admiration, but no love, I’ve made a pact with myself:  next time a big buzzy, mysterious novel comes along, I’m reading it right away.

*Like The Maze Runner, based of course on DGLM’s own James Dashner’s novel of the same name.  I know I’m biased, but I thought it was a perfect adaptation.  Exactly what you always hope book-to-film can be, but it almost never is.