Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Follow the (Twitter) leader

Yesterday the pop culture blog Flavorwire published this list of The 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet. It’s a nice list, so if you’re looking for some new bookish folks to follow, click on through.

But clicking through the list got me thinking about how the internet is at once enormous and very cliquey. We have a world of information at our fingertips, and many of us broadcast details of our lives via one, two, three, or ten social media platforms. Yet, I bet most of us actually interact with a rather small and repetitive group on those platforms. And we are creatures of habit in our internet consumption, just as we are in our daily coffee shops and lunch orders, Netflix binges and Pandora stations. I read the same handful of blogs every day, rather than venture on to new ones. My Facebook field adapts itself to my “Like”ing habits, and I can’t remember the last time I followed someone new on Instagram.

So I wonder if Influencers lists like these actually influence the Literary Internet in its entirety, or if they merely reflect a certain corner of it? I ask this because I already follow so many of the folks on the Flavorwire list – my book club is reading Emily Gould‘s new novel this summer, and I loved Roxane Gay‘s debut AN UNTAMED STATE so much that I’m counting the minutes until her essay collection BAD FEMINIST comes out next month. I even follow the guy who compiled the list, for crying out loud. And many of these folks are constantly tweeting to each other, which is fascinating to digitally eavesdrop on, but also suggests there may be a lot of overlap between their circles of interest. So are we missing vast swatches of the Literary Internet? What if there are bookworms and aspiring authors out there reading totally different pop culture blogs,  and RTing a set of passionate writers that I’ve never come across? Who runs the Literary Internet in Australia? Or does John Green actually rule the world?

Who are your favorite literary people on Twitter? Any tips for making room in your internet habits for new discoveries?

 

6

Single Star Blues

 

I’m late to the game with this post from satirist Andy Borowitz, “Hillary Considers Dropping 2016 Bid After Reading One-Star Reviews on Amazon, but it made me laugh aloud. “Secretary Clinton said that she was “shattered” to discover that dozens of people had apparently purchased her book on its first day of publication, read all six hundred and fifty-six pages in one sitting, and judged the finished product so unsatisfactory that it only merited one star on Amazon.”

Clinton, of all people, must be thick-skinned by now (she’s been a cherished target for decades) but authors of all sorts, successful, struggling, aspiring, award-winning, do take those one star reviews to heart–even when it’s pretty clear that the review has little bearing on the work at hand.  Or is part of a “vast right wing conspiracy.” But, as we all know, an unjust attack is not as bad as a trenchant criticism that fillets a work on reasonable grounds.  Those are worse, and writing demands a baseline conviction that what you’ve produced is worth sharing.  Bad reviews and rejections can shake that conviction, but writers know (or must remind themselves) they need to soldier on.

So, what’s your best advice on dealing with a bad review? Would a lascerating review prompt you to give up your run for the nation’s highest office (or similar dream?)

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Intern Guest Post: Fan Fiction

Today we’re excited to welcome a guest contributor to our blog: one of our fabulous DGLM summer interns, Morgan Rath! Stay tuned after Morgan’s post to learn a little more about her.

Is fan fiction finally going to get its time in the spotlight? Fan fiction, a.k.a. fanfic, has been populating sites around the Internet for years. It gives writers a chance to create new stories involving some of their favorite people and existing characters. But following a new publishing deal from top publisher Simon & Schuster, fan fiction authors may have their chance to share their stories beyond just the Internet community.

Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint made a six-figure deal for worldwide and audio rights to a One Direction fanfic piece called After by Wattpad writer Anna Todd. The first book in the trilogy is expected to hit shelves in November, with the second two following in January and March of 2015. The series is about 18-year-old Tessa Young who falls for band member Harry Styles’ handsome looks and love of Jane Austen. The book also features appearances by the other four members of the internationally renowned boy band.

Adam Wilson acquired the series for Simon & Schuster. He said that the publishing house will have to cut out some sections of the book due to its length; however, they are going to try to keep the story as close to the original as possible, while still making modifications to attract traditional readers.

After reading through slush-pile submissions that make you wonder if the writer ever paid attention in high school English classes, I can’t help but wonder if there is some potential in looking to fanfic for the next big hit. The stories, about people and characters that a large readership already loves, will surely have a sizeable potential audience and revenue base. Todd’s trilogy alone has gotten over 800 million reads on Wattpad.

But on the opposite, more realistic side of my thinking, fanfic is not always too well written. I have a very hard time with the notion that fan fiction will become a regular source of new publishable material.

In addition, is it right for an author to capitalize on an already established celebrity? Todd did not personally create One Direction or any of the boys’ personas. But she did dream up the story and supplemental characters surrounding them in the trilogy. And after all, aren’t characters in books generally based on some aspects of the author’s life experiences and acquaintances? We all find ourselves identifying with characters in books. If people were not familiar with the band members, or if the names in Todd’s trilogy were changed, they would just come across as normal characters.

I guess all the fanfic aspiring authors will just have to wait and see how well Todd’s trilogy does in the big leagues. In the meantime, what do you think about the Simon & Schuster deal? Do you believe that fan fiction has potential in the publishing world? Do you think it’s wrong for authors to write about characters they did not solely create?

Morgan Rath is from western New York and currently studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She may be pursuing a journalism degree, but Morgan’s true passion lies in the publishing world. For as long as she can remember, Morgan has loved to read. While most kids would go to the mall to look for clothes, Morgan would find herself spending hours in the Barnes & Noble browsing through all the shelves. When Morgan discovered that she could turn her love of reading into a career, she vowed that someday she would make her way into the NYC publishing scene.

Morgan is particularly drawn to Young Adult novels and Women’s fiction. She also loves a good romance, but nothing too cheesy. However, like any bookworm, her interests expand to all genres. It is safe to assume if you put a book in her hands, Morgan will read it.

If you’re interested in interning with DGLM this fall, or if you know of someone who is, contact Mike Hoogland.

 

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Of Mice and Franco

franco5

…and the crowd goes wild.

Last week I attended the current Broadway production of Of Mice and Men and was a little skeptical going into it. I love Steinbeck. And I was skeptical of whether Mr. James Franco – Hollywood hotshot, Gucci model, MFA-addict, director,  novelist, selfie apologist  – could bring to the role of George the gravitas and subtlety it deserves. I mean, the man is stepping into Gary Sinise’s shoes. And no one can compare with Sinise, not in my book (and not in the audiobook, which he narrates. I digress).

But maybe I should’ve given young James a little more benefit of the doubt. After all, a common literary thread runs through a lot of his endeavors, random and egomaniacal though they may seem – Faulkner is not for the faint of heart. Perhaps maybe pursuing other creative interests is of benefit to a writer’s abilities. Perhaps directing a movie develops a writer’s understanding of narrative pacing. Maybe taking on different roles as an actor enhances a novelist’s ability to bring different characters to life on the page.

Who I am I to look askance on anyone who runs whole-heartedly after their interests, even if those interests don’t seem to line up neatly. Maybe our culture is learning to appreciate Renaissance men – and women – and in future we won’t be so eager to identify people (or ourselves) with “doctor” “poet” “teacher” “painter, sticking them inside a box labelled with one vocation.franco4

And I have to admit – the show was great. Franco conducted himself admirably as one of a very talented cast. Maybe the real reason behind my anti-Franco bias is that I’m jealous of him for having more than one talent! The only thing I’m good at is selfies. At least we have that in common.

What do you think? Does it make you a better writer to pursue other creative outlets? Or do you view that as time that could be better spent on your writing?

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Critique Part 2

Thank you all for your enthusiastic responses and interest in having the first page of your WIP critiqued. I picked at random a page to review from one of our loyal blog readers, and have now done that and am ready to share the results with you. Bear in mind this is completely subjective, and only my opinion. There is no right way to write a novel or critique one!

Regarding the material itself, I thought there were a lot of nice elements that set up the story well. I tried to be specific if there were places where I felt things could be done differently to better explain the situation or maximize the impact. Every word counts so choose each one carefully. You can click on the screen below to increase the size and take a look at my notes on the first page, or click this link for a PDF. Hope it’s helpful.

Despite some technical difficulties in figuring out the best way to share the feedback with all of you, I hope this is a valuable exercise. I certainly enjoyed hearing from so many of our readers who are eager for feedback on their work. We will definitely offer this kind of thing again since it clearly struck a chord with so many of you.

 

5

Bigfoot

I recently had to break the news to my seven-year-old son that some of information obtained via the Internet is not, in fact, true.  He looked thunderstruck. “What do you mean?” he cried. “People can just make stuff up and pretend it’s real?  Don’t the people in charge of computers control that?”

Notwithstanding Edward Snowden’s recent revelations regarding surveillance or the fact that my personal data is owned not by me, but by the cloud, I tried to explain that there is no central regulatory agency for The Computer.

My son’s reaction: “Well that’s wrong, and when I grow up…” He set his mouth in a determined line. “That.Will. Change.”

So much for freedom of expression. Before my kid grows up to head the Ministry of Truth in his Orwellian state, I asked him to consider that the people posting to YouTube might be making stuff up. Or playing a joke. Or be mentally disturbed. Or getting their facts muddled.  In this case, the “facts” in question revolved around cryptozoology, which is the “scientific field” devoted to the study of creatures like the LochNess Monster, the Chupacabra and Bigfoot.  Over the Christmas break, my teenaged nephew had helpfully shared some Youtube videos of Sasquatch sightings on his newly acquired tablet computer.  I probably should have checked to see what the two boys were doing more quickly, but after just a few minutes, my son summoned me to his side, triumphant.

Surely now, having seen footage of Bigfoot and Sasquatch, I would have to believe–as he does–that these creatures are real. But instead of conceding and lacing up my hiking boots for our monster catching mission, I called into question the veracity of the Stuff We Read on The Computer.  And to add insult to injury, I said that not all books are trustworthy.  This just about blew his mind.

“Then how do you know,” he demanded, “when books aren’t telling the truth?” I gave a rambling, mom-ish sort of answer that discussed fiction versus nonfiction, good judgment and the meaning of the word skepticism. (Yawn, I know), but of course, the answer is: sometimes we don’t know.  Sometimes we’re fooled.

What made me think of this conversation, which took place a couple weeks back, was a far more recent  instance of my own credulity.  I was looking for a book-related subject to blog about today, and several of my Facebook contacts had shared an infographic about reading that featured the following “facts”:   33% of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives;  42% of college grads never read another book after college;  80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.”  Yikes.  (As a publishing industry professional, I am one susceptible chicken little to these sky-is-falling-style statistics).  But just before I posted that infographic to this blog, I did a little digging.  Turns out the guy who created the infographic had got his data wrong.  None of that stuff is true. The retraction that he posted on his blog did not, however, go viral.  I’m sure he wasn’t trying to trick anyone, but the information is out there.

Just like Bigfoot.

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For the person who’s READ everything…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…the season of the holiday gift guide. Now if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that a book is the perfect gift. And it’s kind of easy to buy books for readers like your neighbor who loves tear jerkers (Nicholas Sparks, I’m looking at you), or your father-in-law with a collection of 500-page-minimum presidential biographies. But the hardcore bookworms on your list can be a little bit more difficult, because they read, well, simply everything! Don’t worry, I’m here to help. These bookish gifts are likely to delight everyone on your list, from your librarian cousin to the IT guy you drew for your office Secret Santa:

 

Pulp the Classics

 

Ryan Gosling as Dorian Grey? SOLD, SOLD, SOLD. And that Marilyn-Tess of the D’Ubervilles is pretty fantastic, as well.

 

Obvious State

 

Full disclosure: I own the T.S. Eliot poster from the first collection. But I’m dying for the Gatsby one, and this notebook set is perfect if you have a poet on your list…or a scientist!

 

Out of Print

 

Oh, the delicious irony of a 1984-themed case for a 2013 iPhone! Or if you’re not quite ready to disrespect Orwell by forcing him to clothe Siri’s voice, this vintage library card design might be more your speed. And I think this Poe-ka Dot design speaks for itself.

 

Okay, so maybe this list is less a holiday gift guide than a personal letter to Santa. Am I missing anything? Comment below to tell me what bookish goodies I should be asking for buying for friends and family this year!

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Living Books

When you really love a book, do you protect the way it lives in your imagination? Or do you want to bring it to life as much as possible?

I’m not just talking about movie castings, though I happily argue about this as much as the next bookworm (loved DiCaprio’s Gatsby; undecided about the identity shifting in Cloud Atlas, and don’t even get me started on the disaster that was Russell Crowe in Les Miserables).  The wild wacky world of the internet transforms reading into a nearly 3D experience, from playlists curated by authors to book-inspired recipes. There’s even a community called Small Demons that aims to collect, well, everything, that appears in a book – if I’m ever late replying to your email, look for me in their happiest of rabbit holes, Books Mentioned in Other Books.

But it looks like Donna Tartt may have trumped the internet once and for all. Her new and much-anticipated novel The Goldfinch is published today, and shares a title with a painting by Carel Fabritius, a 17th century Dutch painter who studied with Rembrandt… Well, it just so happens that this very painting is included in a new Dutch Masterpieces exhibit that opens, you guessed it, TODAY. So if you’re in the NYC area, head over to The Frick Collection and bring the book to life, no wifi needed.

 

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On the Fence

Because it has come up a few times for me lately, I wanted to chat a bit about the difficult moment when I find myself waffling on a manuscript.

I get a lot of questions about how I decide what to represent, and it’s difficult to answer because so much of it is just a gut response. There are outside factors, of course. Sometimes a genre is wildly overpublished, and I think, “I just can’t read another (fill in the blank) right now.” Inevitably, as soon as I think that, something in that category comes along and bowls me over.

Other times, I’ll be reading something and enjoying it, but there’s that piece of me deep down that feels like SOMEbody should sign the project on but it probably isn’t me. This is one of the trickiest areas, and it grows trickier as you amass a larger group of clients. Starting out, if a book seems like it’s saleable, you sign it on. That’s simple math. You’re trying to build a client list, and you grab things up big and small. As you hit a point where you can sign new clients but don’t HAVE to, you start to look at whether you personally add anything to the project—do you know the perfect editor for it? Do you know exactly what edits would make the book sing? Can you simply not say no to the chance to work with an author?

All of those situations come up sometimes. And sometimes they don’t. I read two novels over the weekend that just made me keep thinking, “This ALMOST feels right.” One was very polished, and all of the pieces worked together, but I couldn’t fall in love with it, and I wasn’t sure why. That one I passed along to another agent here. Another novel was unpolished, but I kept reading. And reading. And reading (part of the lack of polish was that it was WAY. TOO. LONG.). That one, I sent the author extensive notes about how they might improve what they have. I wasn’t ready to sign it on yet, but I had hope for it. And I connected with it.

What ran through my mind before I made a final decision on either was what someone told me the first day I read slush for DGLM: “If it isn’t a yes, it’s a no.” It sounds like such a harsh way to go through things, but it has helped me time and again. I could sit on something and waffle forever, but if I don’t know that I can bring something to project, I’m not the right agent for it. It’s as simple as that. And it has to be. Otherwise, nothing would ever get done.

So while I always hem and haw when asked what makes me sign on certain projects and not others, it’s ultimately as simple as that: in my gut, it was a yes, and it couldn’t be a no. And we do want it to be yes. We always want it to be yes. Because yes is always the most satisfying answer for everyone involved.

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When to stop reading

I am a person who stops reading books constantly. I have whole shelves of books that I started reading and then forgot about because something else more exciting came along. They’re my, “I’ll go back to that eventually” books. I almost never go back. There are too many new books!

It’s not like I’m reading much of those books before abandoning them either. I’ll get a chapter in and then think, “Hey! Wait! I have the new Colum McCann here somewhere!”

The point is, I’m not precious about books, and I have never been and will never be the sort of person who feels that he must finish every book that he started. So I was surprised that when I found an article on BookRiot.com about “deal breakers” that readers have, I got a little bristly!

The article lists “inappropriate treatment of suicide” as a reason to stop reading a book. Which to me sounds like, “I have very specific ideas about how and when this issue can be discussed, and I would not like to be challenged on this point.” Another reason to stop reading a book is because a female character cries all the time. I get that they’re suggesting they don’t like misogynist books, but say that. Don’t say you don’t like depictions of weepy women; say you don’t like ALL women being depicted as weepy. Most bizarre is the suggestion that one stop reading because a book doesn’t acknowledge LGBTQ relationships. Au revoir, Dickens. See you later, Austen…

I get it. Mostly the list is saying that these folks quit reading if they’re offended by something. Me? I like a bit of provocation, but maybe that’s just my thing. More upsetting to me was the comment from someone who said they don’t like reading about characters they don’t like. That is a frequent criticism, and it’s one that drives me a little crazy. It’s so limiting! The last two books I read were Alissa Nutting’s peek into the mind of a female sexual predator, TAMPA, and Peter Stenson’s meth addicts in the post-apocalypse novel FIEND. Not a likeable soul in either book, but both were fascinating, discomfiting, challenging reads.

I think it boils down to this: I abandon books all the time if they don’t grab hold of me. Once I’m invested, though, I’ll stick with something. The idea of a checklist of reasons you might stop reading, though…that just seems limiting.

But maybe it’s just me. What about all of you? When/why do you give up on books?