Category Archives: Michael

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The I-Bet-You-Think-This-Blog-Is-About-You Burger

 

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably gotten a sense of my interests: cats, bran muffins, books, tennis, the Muppets, typos, fighting against Verizon, and, of course, my favorite TV show, Bob’s Burgers. Not only is it the funniest show on TV, it’s also a touching portrayal of familial love. For the uninitiated, it’s an animated show about the titular Bob, his family, and their burger restaurant. Economically, they’re barely scraping by, but they’ve got more love for each other than any family on TV (save for possibly Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt on Parks & Rec, but I digress).

You’re wondering what this has to do with books. Today, a friend pointed me to this article about an upcoming Bob’s Burgers cookbook, which is one of the best tie-ins I’ve ever seen. The show has a long-running gag with punny burger specials written on a chalk board. Some favorites: “Pepper Don’t Preach Burger,” “Olive and Let Die Burger,”  “Hit Me With Your Best Shallot Burger,” and “Blue is the Warmest Cheese Burger.” As someone whose sense of humor is pretty much the same as Fozzie Bear’s, the names of the special burgers are endlessly appealing. But some of them have also sounded really, really good. Until this article today, I was unaware of the Bob’s Burger’s Experiment blog, where Cole Bowden has been documenting his cooking based on the specials from the boards, which is a genius idea. It got the attention of the show’s creator, who loved the blog, and then led to the blog becoming a book with Rizzoli. It’s fantastic to see something fan-created turn into something officially sanctioned instead of shut down by lawyers, and I cannot wait to start making these burgers at home!

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What I’m Looking for Now

Happy 2015, everybody! (Though with everything going on in the news, maybe just “Let’s get through 2015, everybody!” But I’m a sensitive type.)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about what I’m looking for, in part because I haven’t been signing much up over the past couple of years. It’s been a great time for my authors, and they’ve kept me rather busy! But after a bit of a hiatus in signing new clients, I’m eager to find some fresh talent.

I continue to look for exceptional children’s projects at all age levels. Despite representing some of the best authors writing YA, I want more. What can I say? I’m greedy! I continue to appreciate challenging, convention-defying, inventive fiction. I’ve said it before, and will say it again: if someone has told you, “you can’t write that for teenagers,” then I want to see it. If you’ve got something that subverts expectations or thumbs its nose at YA conventions, send it my way. I think I best represent the kinds of books about which I can say to an editor, “You’ve never seen this before.”

That said, I do love “commercial” books, too. I love a high-concept page-turner, whether it’s contemporary, historical or fantasy. While it’d be tough to get me to take on anything with a whiff of dystopia, I wouldn’t mind seeing a more grounded ghost story or something—dare I say it?—paranormal. It still needs to be brilliantly written and executed, of course.

In middle grade, my tastes are quite broad, and my list is much less full. I’m still waiting to see something that comes close to capturing the feel of John Bellairs’s books, which I devoured as a kid. It’d be great to get something as terrifying as A House with a Clock in Its Walls, which had me sleeping with the lights on when I was a kid. The right combination of humor and horror is always great. And it would be good to see more exciting, adventure novels that can get kids interested in history. Little-known events, overlooked heroes/heroines, and underserved minorities (we do need books with diverse themes, characters, settings, etc.) are all subjects I’d be particularly interested to see.

On the adult side, I’m really hankering for some science narrative, particularly in the realm of space and physics. Scientists or science journalists who can explain complex ideas to the masses are some of the people I admire most. I believe that science education for the general public is one of the greatest ways we can improve the world in which we live. The more we understand who we are, where we come from and our place in the universe, the better we can make decisions about our collective future. So bring on the science books!

While this is what I’m currently jonesing for, that doesn’t mean I’m not open to other things. My tastes are broad and I love to be surprised by submissions. I don’t really handle adult Sci-fi or fantasy, and I’m not really a picture book expert. And though I am always on the lookout for good food narrative, I’m no longer representing new cookbook authors.

Remember, too, that if I’m not right for your work, surely there’s another great DGLM agent who might be, so be sure to look at everyone’s bios. Get to querying, authors!

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Soundtrack

It’s been a very crazy year for me, one that brought film adaptations for not one, but two of my clients’ books; Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. I can say that seeing books you know and love made into films is a very surreal and emotional experience, and I feel lucky that both authors wound up with movies that so perfectly bring their books to life. Music is a key component in any film, but in If I Stay, both the original music and pop songs were an huge part of the experience, while the orchestral score in The Maze Runner amped up the tension and excitement in each scene.

And though I didn’t represent the book (clearly), I’m so excited about Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of Inherent Vice. I’m a huge PTA fan, whose There Will Be Blood ranks in my top 5 movies of all time, and which features a fantastic score that anchors the film. I was excited when Sharon tweeted a link to the soundtrack listing for IV, and I’m listening to the songs to get ready to see the movie.  I’m fascinated by the selection, and I’m eager to see how they fit into the film.

Any movie adaptation or soundtracks you’re looking forward to this fall?

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Tumblr cults

There’s a fun piece over at Huff Post about surprising Tumblr fandoms for books. When I clicked the link, I was expecting something a bit different, maybe more obscure. But I’ve read all but two of the books listed, and I can see just how they’d inspire a cult following. I think we all know about my love of Donna Tartt (despite what Miriam says, The Goldfinch is a fantastic book that’s worth the time it takes to read it!) and especially The Secret History. It’s probably good Tumblr didn’t exist when I read the book in college, or I would have most likely had multiple Tumblr pages dedicated to the book. And I can’t even look at the pages dedicated to Sideways Stories from Wayside School or I’d likely lose hours of productive work. Because when it comes down to it, I’m obsessed with obsessives.

So, dear readers, what book would you Tumbl for?
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At year’s end

I’m finding it very hard to believe that 2013 is already coming to a close. It’s been quite the year, and I’m thankful to all of my clients, the dedicated editors and other publishing professionals with whom we work, and most of all my colleagues at DGLM, who always welcome me with open arms (and loads of snark) on my trips back East.

Though I’m sad to see 2013 go, I’m also looking forward to what promises to be a very interesting 2014. My clients have some amazing books coming out, and I’m eager to see the first feature film based on one of my author’s books.

So what’s missing from my 2014? Some new clients! Though I have a fantastic roster of authors who keep me busy, I’m always on the hunt for the new and undiscovered. As always, I’m on the hunt for middle grade and young adult books, the more challenging, daring, unique and spectacular, the better. If you’re flouting conventions and pissing people off, I’m in.

But I’d also love to see more narrative nonfiction submissions, particularly in science, technology and cultural studies. If you’ve got something on space or physics, that’s probably at the top of my list. I’m fascinated by the recent discoveries related to the Higgs boson, as well as experiments trying to prove that the universe is actually a hologram. If you can make my brain hurt but also teach me something, I’m in!

I hope all of our blog readers have a lovely holiday, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all again in 2014!

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What to expect when you’re expecting to be published

Having your book published is a dream come true, right? You’ve probably imagined what it will feel like since before you even finished a first draft of the book, and you just know that everything will change. You’ll be smarter, handsomer, more popular, and most certainly richer. Right? RIGHT?!

The truth of the matter is that for most authors, all that changes is that you’re now published. It doesn’t make your hair shinier, and it doesn’t address all of the other ills in your life. I actually speak about this quite a bit at conferences, because I think it’s important to have perspective and realistic expectations. But, you don’t just have to take my word for it! (Because really, I’m not an author—what do I know?) This fantastic post from author Alison Cherry is honest and real and, I think, greatly helpful for others suffering postpartum book launch depression. Go check it out now!

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I don’t know a book from countdown

People who know me well know that I’m a bit taken with David Bowie. The obsession began sometime in college, and hasn’t really let up. I’ve seen him live more times than any other act, and I was over the (serious) moon when I got to see the David Bowie Is exhibit at the V&A Museum in London earlier this year (thank you, Molly Ker Hawn!). And since my clients and co-workers know me so well, several of you forwarded me this piece about David Bowie’s Top 100 Must-Read Books. The list contains some pretty obvious choices for anyone familiar with the man and his work: Orwell makes three appearances (Diamond Dogs!), A Clockwork Orange is there, and The InfernoLolita, and On the Road. But I was especially tickled that the list also includes a few of my favorite books, including The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, The Great GatsbyThe Iliad and A People’s History of the United States. Though none of those books should be particularly surprising, considering his oeuvre, it’s always a pleasure to see what inspires one of your greatest artists.
I also now have my work cut out for me, as I haven’t even read half this list. If only I had the time to drop everything and get to reading!
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71% of people make an odd decision

I think I’m a bit of an anomaly in the book world, and I don’t even mean publishing, but the larger group of people known as “readers.” I was surprised to read that 71% of travelers at Heathrow said they’d prefer to bring a physical book on vacation. Which leads me to confess: I almost never buy print books. That isn’t to say my apartment isn’t overflowing with them. In fact, I have more than I know what to do with, but this may stem from my compulsive need to have each of my authors’ books in my home. And then there are my favorite books, which take up another bookshelf. And I do have a bit of an addiction to coffee table books; if I see a museum show and like it, I must have the accompanying book (which I do look at, despite what my partner thinks). But for novels and general nonfiction, I turn to my tablet, where I buy books from all the major retailers. I prefer the convenience of reduced weight and the fact that I can carry several titles with me at all times. I guess I’m more tied to reading than I am to books.

But, I don’t want this to turn into an argument about the merits of physical books over e-books or vice-versa. I think they both have their place, and people each have their preferences. If nothing else, it shows that both can co-exist somewhat peacefully. In fact, I must admit: I’m curious how many of the 71% actually read e-books in non-vacation settings. How many of you out there are hybrid readers? Are physical books saved for special occasions?

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Speaking of

When I was but an intern at DGLM, one of the things that most appealed to me about the agent job was the odd mix of the solitary and the social. For me, it satisfied two very different sides of my personality: the me who wants nothing more than to be left alone with a good book, and the me who wants to tell everyone how to think, act, dress, eat, and now, read! A combination of being left alone but also telling people what I think, and what they should think, is just right for me.

What I didn’t know, however, was just how often I’d be hitting the road to go speak in front of groups of people, both large and small. Telling people one-on-one what I think is one thing, getting up in front of a room of 50 or 100 or 1,000, well, that’s another story. I have awful, terrible, painful stage fright. Honestly, back in the beginning, I had a difficult time even speaking in front of 10 people. It brought me right back to middle and high school, giving reports in front of the class. I was absolutely petrified. I tried to hold out as long as possible, but conference invitations picked up, and I had to do it. I actually don’t even think about this all that often, but I read this piece on Life Hacker yesterday and it got me thinking. The advice is really great, and it mirrors my own experiences.

The first few times I spoke were a disaster. I am not exaggerating. One time, I just had to do a short introduction in front of a large room. Name, agency, what you rep–things I could have recited in my sleep, even then. But I had to hold a microphone. I had never done this, and for some reason, it terrified me more. My heart was racing, I was sweating, and I was shaking. I started to speak, lost my way, and wound up apologizing and telling everyone that I was terrified of public speaking. The crowd, mostly women over the age of 50, went straight into mother mode and started audibly comforting me. It was kind–and humiliating. There were other less dramatic but equally painful experiences.

So, I tried to avoid it. I would go to conferences where I only had to do critiques or one-on-ones. But eventually, there was no getting around it. I probably should have sought professional help, but that’s not really my thing. Instead, I started to pay attention to what bothered me most about it, and how I might be able to mitigate the issues. I noticed, early on, that being on stage with other people made me about so much more relaxed, so I first sought out panels. And I did a lot of them. It began to feel more natural, and even though they’re often unscripted, I developed an introduction and a few somewhat-scripted answers that helped me feel more confident.

Next, it was time to tackle talking on my own. Honestly, it’s still tough for me. I get nervous and clammy. But I am prepared. I make sure to practice my material enough (but not too much!) beforehand, so I feel assured in what I have to say. I have clear outlines that make it difficult for me to get lost. And, I remind myself, people actually want to hear what I have to say. I still feel strange up there, with all those people looking at me. It still takes a few minutes for my heart to stop pounding. I often finish speaking and realize that the time has flown by, and I don’t have much memory of it–I think I get a pretty big adrenaline rush as my fight or flight response kicks in. But whereas before I rarely heard from anyone after I spoke, now people come up to thank me for my thoughts, and more shockingly, compliment my delivery. I am not, by any means, a fantastic public speaker, but I’ve overcome the crippling fear I had, and I’m able to get the job done.

I know authors also have issues speaking, and my author Nova Ren Suma did a great, very helpful post about it recently. And my author Sara Solovitch is actually writing a book called PLEASE SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER, an investigative piece about stage fright and performance anxiety, told through the lens of her own battle to play piano in front of people. What about you all? I imagine the performers amongst you don’t mind, but what about all you introverted bookish people? How do you deal with stage fright?

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Comic Con!

For the second time in three years, I’m on my way to Comic-Con in San Diego. Thirteen-year-old me is very excited. Comic books? Movies? TV shows? Amazing! Thirty-something-year-old me is slightly more circumspect. Crowds? Crappy convention food? No comic books? That said, it’s pretty exciting that books are taking a center stage at the show. All of the major publishers have presences, and many of the movies being featured are based on books, as well. Even better, they’re based on YA books (including our own James Dashner’s MAZE RUNNER), so it’s all quite relevant to my list.

But the real reason I’m heading down is to appear on the Ask an Agent! panel on Friday with several other great agents: Brandy Rivers (a book-to-film agent), Barry Goldblatt, Sara Megibow, Jane Putch, Kate Schafer Testerman and Pam van Hylckama Vlieg. We’re literally just taking questions, so please do come and interrogate us, otherwise we’re going to be pretty bored. (Though knowing all of us, we could probably entertain ourselves for a lot more than an hour.) It really is your chance to ask whatever you want, and we’re a very direct group. What are publishers looking for? How do agents work? Why does it take so damn long for a book to come out? Whatever you want to know, come ask! Really hoping to see you there.