New York Times and USA Today bestseller

I WAS HERE by Gayle Forman

formanforman

Winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith

smith_andrewsmith_andrew

Winner of the 2014 National Jewish Book Award

VIOLINS OF HOPE by James A. Grymes

grymesgrymes

New York Times bestseller

WORKING STIFF by Judy Melenik, MD and T.J. Mitchell

working_stiffworking_stiff

Wall Street Journal bestseller

TAKEN BY TUESDAY by Catherine Bybee

bybee_takenbybee_taken

New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller

Abbi Glines’ ONE MORE CHANCE 

glines_one_more_chanceglines_one_more_chance

New York Times Bestseller

Colleen Hoover’s UGLY LOVE 

hoover_ugly_lovehoover_ugly_love

Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Andrew Smith’s 100 SIDEWAYS MILES

smithsmith

New York Times Bestseller

Tammara Webber’s BREAKABLE 

webberwebber

New York Times Bestseller

Suzanne Young’s THE TREATMENT 

youngyoung

New York Times Bestseller

Colleen Hoover’s MAYBE SOMEDAY 

hooverhoover

New York Times Bestseller

Raine Miller’s RARE AND PRECIOUS THINGS 

millermiller

New York Times Bestseller

Molly Wizenberg’s DELANCEY 

wizenbergwizenberg

The 2014 Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction

Andrew Smith’s GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE 

smith_grasshoppersmith_grasshopper

James Beard Award Winner

James Ahern and Daniel Ahern’s GLUTEN-FREE GIRL EVERY DAY 

ahernahern

USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times Bestselling Series

Abbi Glines’s SEA BREEZE SERIES 

glines_seabreezeglines_seabreeze

The Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Dan Fagin’s TOMS RIVER

fagin_banner_2fagin_banner_2

USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times Bestsellers

J.C. Reed’s SURRENDER YOUR LOVE, CONQUER YOUR LOVE, and TREASURE YOUR LOVE

reedreed

WEEKNIGHT WONDERS by Ellie Krieger

krieger_weeknight_wonderkrieger_weeknight_wonder

DARK CURRENTS, AUTUMN BONES, and POISON FRUIT by Jacqueline Carey

carey_dark_hothousecarey_dark_hothouse

HOTHOUSE by Boris Kachka

hothousehothouse

New York Times Bestseller

FALLING KINGDOMS by Morgan Rhodes

falling_kingdomsfalling_kingdoms

“#1 New York Times Bestseller and Major Motion Picture

VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead

vampire_academy_movievampire_academy_movie

#1 New York Times bestseller, #1 Box Office Major Motion Picture

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

dashner_mazerunner_moviedashner_mazerunner_movie

Wall Street Journal Bestsellers

THE SISTERHOOD and WAR BRIDES by Helen Bryan

bryan_warbrides_sisterhoodbryan_warbrides_sisterhood
0

Fifty Shades: The Movie

So FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James finally hit the big screen this past weekend after what seemed like a million bumps in the road, including losing actors left and right. It made a splash in the box office just as it did in the publishing industry. The movie brought in $94 million its opening weekend: the highest-grossing President’s Day Weekend ever.

But how long will the film industry feel the ripples of this splash? The book was/is an absolute phenomenon. James’s Fifty Shades series has sold an absurd amount of copies—both when it was self-published and after Random House picked it up. Imitators and parodies of the books soon appeared on shelves and e-bookstores. It’s paved the way for other fan fiction and other self-published authors to have a chance to land with a big publisher and/or movie studio.

So will we begin to see more erotica made into films? Given the success of Fifty Shades on opening weekend, it’d be easy to definitively answer yes. However, reading is an intrinsically private experience, which lends itself to fantasy. Watching explicit scenes on a big screen in a room full of people is a different matter entirely. Could Fifty Shades be an exception?

Your guess is as good as mine: What do you think?

P.S. Saw American Sniper this weekend. The movie ended, and everyone walked out silently, somberly. No one said a word. A completely full theater, and not one sound was made. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. What did you think of this movie/book? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this one, too.

2

Go read a watchman?

Well, since none of my colleagues have blogged about it yet, I figured I’d bring up the big publishing news of the week…

And while far be it from me to turn down an obvious blog topic, I’m probably not the best person to write this, because, to tell the truth, I can barely remember TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I know I read it in school, and I also know I saw the movie at some point, but any memories are associated with Gregory Peck in that grey suit of his. It’s probably the cynic in me, but of all the school classics, CATCHER IN THE RYE stuck a lot more than MOCKINGBIRD.

But of course, the news of a new novel from Harper Lee is big news. And while there’s a lot of good-hearted excitement for GO SET A WATCHMAN, like a number of writers, I feel kinda weirded out by the whole situation. For one, despite the claims that WATCHMAN was started before MOCKINGBIRD, it’s still basically a sequel, and of all the books that need a sequel, MOCKINGBIRD would be one of the last I’d think of. And while I’m certainly not in the camp that thinks MOCKINGBIRD is untouchable either, (I wouldn’t be much of an agent if I did!) it’s just strange that in an age where everything gets a sequel and spun off and branded that MOCKINGBIRD suddenly has a companion piece.

Then there’s the nagging feeling that somehow this wasn’t the big surprise everyone claims it is. After all, Harper Lee has been in the news plenty in the last ten years or so, for better or worse keeping her name in the public eye. And again, it’s probably the cynic in me, but even with the reports of Lee’s infirmity, on the heels of her prior press I just can’t help feeling that a publicist couldn’t have played this much better–certainly everyone is going to read the new book, right?

Or are they? Are YOU? I’d love to hear what you think of the whole situation, what MOCKINGBIRD did or didn’t mean to you, and whether you’re excited to read WATCHMAN.

 

0

My 2015 Wish List

Jumping on the bandwagon to tell you all what kind of projects I would love to see fly into my inbox!

(Reminder: Submission guidelines here. )

  • Historical fiction with a believable voice like Vanessa and Her Sister and Euphoria. It’s not easy to get the dialogue right when you’re setting your story in a century you never saw. Even manuscripts with every detail perfect from shoe buttons to breakfast menu have lost me the second the characters opened their mouths (visit our archives for more from Rachel on this). So if you have a fantastic historical setting and you’ve really nailed your characters’ thoughts and conversations…I want to read it!
  • Narrative nonfiction with a personal angle like Brain on Fire, Full Body Burden, and Irritable Hearts. If you are the right person to explore a little-known story, expose an injustice, or explain something fascinating, and you can blend your expertise and careful reporting with the emotion and passion of memoir-type nonfiction…send it to me!
  • A smart, edgy literary thriller that I can’t put down and can’t stop talking about like Dear Daughter and The Weight of Blood. A story that will make me scream “whaaaaaaaaat!” or “NO!!!” when I’m reading on the train.  I’m a complete sucker for unreliable narrators, and would also love some more procedural but still twisty mysteries like the work of Tana French or Brad Meltzer. (BONUS: combine bullet points 1 and 3 for an authentic historical suspense like The Paying Guests and I will love you forever.)
  • Nonfiction on any of the following topics: feminism/gender politics, contemporary religion, little-known historical figures with a BIG story.

Of course, if you have an absolutely fabulous project that you’re sure is right up my alley, send it right along even if its category is not mentioned above.  Find me at spelletier@dystel.com.

 

I can’t wait to see all of your fantastic (and carefully proofread) queries!

 

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.

0

Two New Books

When Mike Hoogland wisely used his post to solicit feedback on our blog posts, readers responded with some good ideas, including Anthony Pacheco’s excellent suggestion to post cover reveals and new releases. I’m pleased to oblige.  Nothing is more exciting, in fact, than having the opportunity to trumpet news of our clients’ work.  And this last week has given me two terrific titles to tout.

Country western singer turned sustainable food expert Liz Carlisle has just published Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America.   A good while back I posted her pitch letter as an example of a successful nonfiction pitch, and now months later, amid celebrations, workshops alongside bestselling author Michael Pollan and wonderful food created by chef Claudia Krevat, her book is making its debut.   Her book trailer is above.

Another work of  narrative nonfiction is also just out, this by veteran reporter and journalism professor Joseph Coleman.  UNFINISHED WORK:  The Struggle to Build an Aging American Workforce is a smart, story-driven analysis of a quiet revolution that is even now underway—people are living longer and the social and economic implications are vast.  For better and worse, retirement is changing, and the stories of the men and women who are working into their seventies and eighties make for an eye-opening and provocative read.  Happily, agenting is a career that has no mandatory age of retirement, so my hope is to represent authors for the next forty or so years, when I can commute to the city by jet-pack.

 

51cYbu0koqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Although lentils and eighty-year old Japanese artisans might appear to have little in common, these two disparate books do provide a kind of snapshot of the projects I represent: narrative non-fiction that blends brainy, big-ideas with the human stories of men and women who are the heart of any good book.  I look for writing that can deliver both fine-grain, immersive prose about people and places and then back up to furnish context and analysis.  Finally, these books are excellent examples of unlikely or overlooked topics that have a great deal to tell us about the world in which we live.

0

Some thoughts on article pitching

How and when to pitch to magazines is a question that comes up often, from both my fiction and nonfiction authors so I thought it was worth a blog post to give some thoughts on the subject.

As with many things we do in book publishing, there isn’t always a right or wrong answer and each situation is uniquely individual. That said, having your work published in magazines and/or newspapers and/or reputable websites can be very helpful when it comes to both selling your book to an agent, publisher, or the general consumer. If you notice the authors who are the most successful are widely published across multiple media channels. Getting and keeping your name out there is useful.

Writer’s Digest brought up this topic recently, and it prompted the idea for this post. They were talking about whether or not to pitch word counts, which is a very particular subcategory, but it made me think about the idea more generally and what it means for writers in all different categories.

Short form writing is very different from book writing, but in terms of the number of people you can reach, sometimes it can be an effective bang for your buck. Whether you’re not yet published and looking to get some credits under your belt (and some better Google searches to come up, which can be important for agents and editors reviewing your work), or you’re already published and looking to expand your reach, there are many outlets to pursue, and you might even earn a few bucks in the process.

Key is to do your research and make sure that whatever you are pitching is appropriate for that publication’s audience. And you should explain why in your pitch. I have a client with an upmarket commercial women’s fiction novel forthcoming and we’re working on articles for her to pitch, to women’s magazines and Modern Love in the New York Times, not necessarily the most obvious places to target for what she writes, but certainly reaching a similar audience to what we hope to find for her book.

I did a further search and found an appealing article by a writer who decided in the UK to pitch every magazine listed in a market guide for writers he found – 642 total. I don’t recommend you do this, but there were some learning tools to take away here. I liked that he suggests “shaking oneself out of one’s comfort zone can be an incredibly good practice.”

Indeed, there was more to enjoy here: “One way to stand out is to pitch 642 magazines. Another is to develop your own voice—something that editors will recognize amongst all the other thousands of voices clamoring to be heard. Perhaps a way of developing this voice is to spend your time writing about things you don’t want to write about—until you realize what it is you do want to concentrate on.” This reminds me of the advice I give my kids. You have to try everything until you (hopefully) find something you enjoy.

Let us know where you’ve had success being published in these areas, and how you got there.

Tell us how we’re doing

A while back (a year, maybe more—my conception of time is shockingly horrible, bordering on nonexistent), Sharon did a blog post asking for feedback from our readers. What we heard was eye-opening to say the least.

snl gif

All of it was informative and very helpful—and I believe it led to a better year in blogging for DGLM and our readers. So I will do so again here. Let’s call it our year-end review.

What do you guys enjoy about our blog? What keeps bringing you back for more? What would you like to see us do differently, do better?

This is your chance for some input. Our readers are important to us, and we want to blog about what you want to read about. So please, don’t hold back. What’s on your mind?

1

The job of a literary agent

Last week I began thinking about what the technical responsibilities of a literary agent are compared to what we at DGLM do for our clients.  I researched the subject and I also asked our staff what they thought.  The results are interesting and I wanted to share those with you, our readers.

First, I found this definition of the responsibilities of a literary agent online:

Literary agents represent authors in the publishing world. Authors rely on literary agents to manage the business aspect of publishing for them. Agents negotiate contracts regarding publishing rights, advances and royalties. They represent authors to book publishers and other companies that may be interested in publishing an author’s work.

It turns out that this is a good definition but it doesn’t cover nearly all of the things we do for our clients at our agency.

This weekend for example Miriam and I have been working on amending an exciting movie/TV contract for one of our clients who had previously committed to this project without really realizing what she was getting into.  In fact, working with our clients on weekends and after office hours is something we do all the time.

We also do many things that other agencies do not do:

  • We send out  adult and childrens’ book  newsletters three times per year announcing the books we will be selling in the following four months and those we have sold in the previous four months.
  •  We have a digital book program with its own manager whereby we help clients self-publish their work—either new projects or those where the rights have reverted.
  • We have an extensive, informative website which we are constantly updating.
  • We have author social media guides for all kinds of situations.
  • We are very hands on in career management, advising our authors not just in the book space, but also in film/TV, newspapers and periodicals, and in whatever other career category they require our help.

We  also often go above and beyond, by helping clients with legal issues on for other parts of their lives, helping them to get mortgages or refinance their homes, even helping them to get jobs when we are able, and, perhaps more importantly,  providing a constant source of advice and support.

Above all else, and as I have said very recently in this space, we never give up until we really believe we have hit a wall and that it is best for our client to move on to the next project.  What is your experience and your expectations of literary agents?

I am sure I have overlooked some of the things we do that go above and beyond that tight definition of the responsibilities of the agent but this will give you a very good idea of the kind of agency Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is.

0

Reading the past

Channeling the sixteen-year-old in me (the sixteen-year-old that I most certainly was), when I saw a Buzzfeed quiz* today that would reveal which affliction of La Belle Époque would lead to my untimely death, I really had no choice but to click and take it immediately.

I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed with my result: broken heart. As a Moulin Rouge obsessed teenager, I thought it the height of elegance to die gracefully and beautifully of tuberculosis (or, as I like to call it, the galloping consumption) much like Satine, the main character. She coughed so daintily, looked so beautiful to the end and, of course, had Ewan MacGregor, the starving playwright, torn to bits at her demise.

Though I’ve since moved on from such childish fantasies (mostly), and I know that tuberculosis is not a pleasant nor desirable thing to contract, it did get my mind reeling on all the reasons why I love that era and the literary movements that go along with it. Second only to the English Romantics (hello masterful Wordsworth, arrogant Byron and poor, poor sickly Keats), the French Belle Époque is an era of literature that I love dearly and tend to forget about until I’m reminded. I thank the one comparative literature course I took in college as well as any French teachers who tried to get me to read de Maupassant and Baudelaire in their original forms for introducing me to realism, naturalism and even the little bits of Modernism (I’ve read one half of one book of In Search of Lost Time and I consider that an accomplishment).

Such literature strikes a real chord—telling of a world on the precipice of something so different and alive than had ever before been described. Giving heed to experimentation that had theretofore been snubbed and extolling the beauty in the smallest and most quotidian of objects or actions. It’s been years, honestly, sadly, since I’ve given my books from this era a real look, but even reading the names of authors and poets—Zola, Rimbaud, those already mentioned—elicits a visceral reaction that whisks me back to visions of Parisian department stores and muddy alleys that are described with such clarity and honesty by these writers.

I’ve been trying to avoid using the word “romanticize” since I’ve also referenced the Romantics today, but I can’t any longer. Sure, I romanticize the era, seen through the rose colored tint of artwork and nostalgic whims of a reader in today’s fast paced, technology-obsessed world, but there is also an inherent liveliness to the work itself. Filled with urgency and excitement (and not without a heavy dose of nostalgia of its own), the literature of La Belle Époque is at once dreamy and intensely relatable.

My musings aside, do you have any favorite literary movements that still get your heart racing and brain whirring even if you don’t read them regularly?

 

*stop panicking, the quiz is here.

1

Breakfast reading

When I was a kid, breakfast was a family affair, but a mostly silent one. Every weekday morning, my parents would read the New York Times, while my sister Jane and I stared bleary-eyed at the box of cereal between us on the table. At some point, though, we kids started to read on our own, and I distinctly remember a period of reading chapter books and novels over my Cheerios—Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice comes to mind, as do the Basil of Baker Street mysteries by Eve Titus. By high school, Jane and I moved on to the Times as well, and so the quiet was only occasionally interrupted by someone asking for a different section of the paper, which suited me fine—to this day, I’m hardly what you would call a Morning Person…

Now, for the past six years, breakfast at our house has been much more rambunctious, thanks both to my wife Julia’s early riser tendencies and the two motor-mouth sons I somehow ended up with. But while I can’t get away with hiding behind the paper, we mostly keep the peace by reading picture books and early readers aloud to the boys. Not a bad solution, but hardly ideal for a morning grump like me.

And so, imagine my excitement when I was able to snap this picture at the breakfast table last week: 

IMG_3724

Yep, that’s my son reading Harry Potter on his own. To himself. In silence!

Aside from the obvious parental pride here, plus my hope that breakfast reading helps develop his reading skills, I can’t tell you how nice it is to have the morning noise cut in half. I’ve even been able to sneak a peek at the paper once or twice while Julia reads to our younger boy! That said, I know the day of full independent breakfast reading is about three years off, but I can see the finish line in the distance…

Anyway, I’m curious—do other families read over breakfast like this? And if so, is it a conscious family activity or one born from a need to quiet down a noisy horde of morning people?