The Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Dan Fagin’s TOMS RIVER

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The 2014 Winner of the William C. Morris Award

Stephanie Kuehn’s CHARM & STRANGE

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

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

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WEEKNIGHT WONDERS by Ellie Krieger

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DARK CURRENTS and AUTUMN BONES by Jacqueline Carey

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HOTHOUSE by Boris Kachka

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New York Times Bestseller

FALLING KINGDOMS by Morgan Rhodes

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#1 New York Times Bestseller, Major Motion Picture coming 2/14/14

VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead

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New York Times Bestseller, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

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Wall Street Journal Bestsellers

THE SISTERHOOD and WAR BRIDES by Helen Bryan

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New York Times Bestseller

THE EYE OF MINDS by James Dashner

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

THE EDGE OF NEVER by J.A. Redmerski

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New York Times Bestsellers

WAKE, FADE, and GONE by Lisa McMann

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USA Today Bestseller

T.E. Sivec’s A BEAUTIFUL LIE 

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#1 New York Times Bestseller

LOSING HOPE, FINDING CINDERELLA and HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover

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Winner of the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize

A.S. King’s ASK THE PASSENGERS

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New York Times Bestseller

YOGALOSOPHY by Mandy Ingber

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TOMS RIVER by Dan Fagin

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MURDER AS A FINE ART by David Morrell

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USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and #1 New York Times Bestsellers

FALLEN TOO FAR, NEVER TOO FAR, FOREVER TOO FAR, and THE VINCENT BROTHERS by Abbi Glines

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#1 New York Times Bestseller

Rhoda Janzen’s MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS

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New York Times Bestseller

Lisa McMann’s THE UNWANTEDS

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New York Times Bestseller

Tammara Webber’s EASY

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

Samantha Young’s ON DUBLIN STREET and DOWN LONDON ROAD

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New York Times Bestseller

Tracey Garvis Graves’ COVET and ON THE ISLAND

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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?)

0

Developing a nonfiction “slam dunk” book concept

We have many ways in which books become books. Each title we sell has its own history and path to print. I thought it might be an interesting exercise for you to hear about a recent project of mine and how it came to be.

I represent Amar’e Stoudemire, best known as an NBA basketball star, but also the co-author of the just-published  COOKING WITH AMAR’E, which he wrote with his personal chef, Maxcel Hardy. Max and I got together initially in February of 2012 to talk about book ideas that he and Amar’e could pursue together, and he was initially thinking about a Kosher cookbook. We went through a list of ideas and the one that seemed most interesting to me had the two of them in the kitchen together doing informal cooking lessons, Max teaching Amar’e how to cook for his family and friends. It felt very commercial to me, and very accessible for a broad audience.

After finding a writer, Rosemary Black, to help them develop the proposal, which was a process that took some time, we sent it to publishers and hosted a lovely cocktail party for interested editors with recipes and cocktails from the proposed book. We sold the book to It Books/HarperCollins just over a year ago and everyone worked tirelessly to produce the book in time for Father’s Day of this year.

The publication was a whirlwind of media events for Amar’e, including appearances on Today and The View, and several book signings in and around NY. A picture from a midtown B&N signing below of yours truly with Amar’e and Chef Max (good thing Amar’e was sitting down or we wouldn’t have fit together in the photo!).

So, what I’m trying to get at with this post in addition to showing you some fun behind-the-scenes insight into the publishing process, is that there are many ways to develop a book and no matter who the author is or what the book concept is, it is a process that can take many turns and a long time from soup to nuts. Being in the business of ideas allows for a lot of creative brainstorming and you never know when that next great one will present itself.

0

The reality of publishing

Yesterday we had yet another successful Q&A lunch with our interns. At least from my point of view it was a success, but I was curious to hear what the interns thought. Here’s their reaction, courtesy of Brianna:

Today all of the interns at Dystel and Goderich had lunch with the agents and we learned some very eye opening things. All of us came to the table with a romanticized idea of what working in publishing would entail. This idea included, but wasn’t limited to, having a wooden desk with piles of manuscripts to read at one’s own leisure, talking on the phone with authors, and dreaming up brilliant ideas that will lead to surefire future bestsellers. Today, however, the agents taught us that there is much more to the process, and it involves a lot of work one wouldn’t necessarily expect.

First, we learned that there is a big difference between being an editor and being an agent. An agent’s number one job is to represent the author, first and foremost. They read query letters and sift through manuscripts to find projects worth pitching to editors at publishing houses. In everyday life, they communicate with their authors, and essentially have no higher-level “boss.” For the most part, agents work independently and have the freedom to reject manuscripts if the story just isn’t for them, or they can choose to help authors edit their work if he or she thinks it will make the project better and more saleable.

On the other hand, an editor’s primary loyalty is to the publishing house. Sure, editors edit, but they also act as a liaison to the agent, who represents the author, and the publisher, who ultimately rolls the book out to the public. And that sounded frustrating. I never thought that one of an editor’s jobs would be to convince the right people in house that they should spend X amount of money on a book proposal.

In both positions, though, most of the day is spent on the phone, conversing via email, or completing paperwork. It is key to be organized in all fields. Regarding the actual reading of manuscripts, reading projects usually happens outside of the workday—nights and weekends. That came as possibly the biggest shock of all.

In the end though, whether you think you might be interested in agenting, editing, or another job altogether in publishing, gaining invaluable work experience via internships, publishing programs, and informational interviews is key. I learned a lot today, and for me personally, it has only solidified my desire to learn more and fully immerse myself in the industry.

12

So many ideas, but who will write them?

I am constantly thinking of ideas for books.  I read two or three newspapers a day, blogs, online publications, and several magazines weekly.  There are fresh and original concepts everywhere.  The problem, though, is who will turn these ideas into a book.

In fact finding a writer for many of our ideas is extremely difficult.  We start, of course, by talking to our own clients and, surprisingly, most of the time they turn us down.  They simply don’t see the idea as being material for a book, as we do.  Then, we go beyond our client list and ask our contacts if they know qualified writers (we mostly come up with non-fiction ideas as fiction is such a personal creative process) who might be interested.  Again, it’s hard to find any takers.

One would think that because we have all of these years of experience selling books it would be easier to find people who would be interested in taking our suggestions more seriously.  But, you would be wrong.  Most of the time writers want to come up with their own ideas.  It takes a long time to develop a book project and so rather than adopting one of mine, their ideas are “owned” by them.  I get that.

Still, though, I think many of my ideas and those of my colleagues (we actually have an ideas meeting every two weeks) are very worthwhile.  And so I thought I would throw out a couple here and see if there are any “takers.”  I would love to hear from you if there are.

The first idea is about the New York City Opera which collapsed last year.  This would be both a human interest story (there are some very colorful people involved) and a business story (the fate of this organization resulted from colossal mismanagement).  I have spoken to a number of writers about a book about its rise and fall but all have dropped out after considering it for a short time.

Then, there is a book about Friendship (with a capital “F”) modeled after Gail Sheehy’s Passages.  I believe that we go through many stages of who our friends are – they and we are different (sometimes sadly so) through the many cycles of our lives and I would love to explore how and why this evolution occurs.

So let me know if any of you want to pursue one of these or have any thoughts or opinions about  why this process can be so difficult.

2

New friends, old books

Last week I went on a great big adventure and travelled the farthest west I’ve ever been in my whole life. Which is only as far as Colorado, but sometimes adventures can be done in baby steps, right? Not only is it a gorgeous state with absolutely beautiful weather (at least while I was there), but I was attending a wedding that was equally gorgeous and beautiful and all those other nice adjectives combined. I was a little nervous, though—I’ll admit it—since I didn’t know anyone else in attendance besides the bride and groom and wow that’s a whole lot of people to meet in unfamiliar territory.

Luckily, people love bonding over shared interests and passions and when they’re even the slightest bit obscure, well then that makes for excitable, easy friend-making. I’ll be honest, I don’t quite remember the start to the conversation, but when I heard someone talking about one of my favorite, but rarely referenced books, I couldn’t help but jump in uninvited to animatedly begin extolling its virtues. The book itself is unimportant, and I’ve definitely talked about it on this blog before, but I’ll divulge anyway lest you die in the frustration of not knowing. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle is a well-enough known (I think) book, but continually under the radar. I never meet people who either have read or remember it, sadly.

However! This time I did! And from there, we all got to talking about various other books, books in general and then who knows what else. All I know is that it was the perfect icebreaker as I was left to my own devices at the time. There’s something really lovely about initiating a friendship (or acquaintanceship) over a love of a particular book. So much less dull than “so, what do you do?” or “oh, this is your first time to Colorado?” which can really get old after a while. Similar taste in literature, however, speaks to an entirely more personal, relatable aspect and you’ll either have a great person to bounce other interests and ideas off of…or someone with whom to engage in lively arguments with and both are pretty cool.

I even made another friend over liking another book, but I’ll admit that this other person was two and three quarters and the book was made almost entirely of pictures. And we both also had curly hair and were born in the same month and were wearing tulle skirts, so actually that was the best friend I made on the trip…

5

Duty calls

So, I got called up for jury duty about 30 minutes past the four-year mark of my last date of service.  Last time, I was in and out by lunch.  This time, I’ve been picked as a juror on a trial and as gigantic a disruption as this is in my already over-booked life, I do feel that it is a privilege to serve and to watch the legal system do its thing up close and personal.

 

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All this, however, means that my usually scintillating blog post is reduced to an invitation for you to tell me what your favorite books about the law (be they thrillers, literary fiction, or nonfiction) are.  And since I’m in need of suggestions for good tv series to keep me on the elliptical, feel free to throw in some suggestions for your favorite things to watch in the category.

 

3

Step out of your algorithm.

Did you know I used to work in a bookstore? It’s true, for about four years altogether I worked for Barnes & Noble – two years in a sleepy metro Detroit store, and two years in a huuuuge store here in NYC. And once you’ve been a bookseller, you really never quite stop being one. I still love recommending books to strangers, I’m an absolute whiz with comp titles, and I compulsively neaten stacks when I find myself in a bookstore.

But as many things as I loved about being a bookseller, I also came away from that career with quite a few pet peeves. So when I saw an Esquire article called “How to Shop in a Bookstore” flying around Twitter, I opened it with trepidation. Just what kind of bookstore behavior was being suggested? Then I was pleased to read a quite beautiful little essay on the joys of discovery in bookstores – on going in with an open mind, and letting yourself be guided by the brilliant, hilarious, sophisticated, and elegant bookstore employees. Or the article puts it, “I advise finding the man or woman with the weirdest glasses.”

So now that the readers of Esquire will be storming into bookstores eager for recommendations and serendipity, I decided I should to put a few comple

mentary bookstore Don’ts out there:

  • Are you looking for a specific book? Do your friendly bookseller a favor and try to remember the title or the author. Don’t just say “It was on TV.And it’s orange? Or red?” Though you’d be amazed how good a mind reader you become after a couple of weeks at the info desk. And Google will be your new best friend.
  • Do you see a book you’re interested in? Don’t wait – buy it right now! Bookstores change their displays all the time, often on a regular monthly or weekly schedule, sometimes on the fly in response to hot news topics or emerging trends. We’re BOTH going to be unhappy when you storm up to my counter grumbling “HEY where’s that book I saw on this table the other day.” Buy it when you see it! Or come in happy to discover whatever book took its place, as the Esquire writer suggests.
  • Want to dip into a book before you buy it? Go right ahead! That’s one of the beauties of a bookstore – flipping through the pages (and yes, that bookish smell) will always beat out the LookInside preview. But don’t forget that the book isn’t actually yours yet, and be respectful of its pages, cover corners, and spine.
  • Don’t take off your shoes in the bookstore. Seriously.
  • Don’t dismantle a display to create a computer desk for yourself (yes, this happened).
  • And please, for the love of all, do not use the children’s department for free babysitting. ‘Nuff said.

    Don't forget to appreciate  your hard-working booksellers!!

    Don’t forget to appreciate your hard-working booksellers!!

Okay, so maybe those last couple etiquette points are the kind of outlying horror stories that grizzled booksellers love to swap when they get together,

and not the kind of behavior any reader of THIS blog would engage in. And pet peeves aside, there’s nothing a bookseller loves more than meeting a reader eager for suggestions. No matter how you feel about Amazon, whether it’s your best friend or your Lord Vader, nothing quite matches the experience of wandering through a bookstore. The Esquire article puts it beautifully:

“Somewhere in there is something that’s entirely fresh to you, and will reward your soul by exposure. That’s what good books do, and good bookstores, too. They let you step out of your algorithm.”

Do you have a wonderful bookstore in your area? Or do you have any tips for serendipitous discoveries when shopping for books online? 

0

World Cup World Cup World Cup

If you don’t have World Cup fever, you might want to look away from this post.  (You might also want to reconsider, because not having World Cup fever is just wrong.)  I probably already love soccer too much—the 2010 World Cup reignited a passion I’d let dissipate a bit before it, and I’ve been in annoying-people-about-soccer mode ever since.  But with the tournament kicking off yesterday and how excited I am for the rematch of 2010’s finale that will be happening at 3 p.m. EST between Spain and the Netherlands today, I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to write a blog entry without writing it about soccer.

Happily for me, the fine folks at The Three Percent have made my job easy: with their 2014 World Cup of Literature I can combine the two things I love most in the world, books and soccer.  I like their strategy: books published after 2000 to eliminate the old guys who wouldn’t get called up for the squad and in some way capturing the spirit of the team.  Even if their David Foster Wallace/USMNT explanation stings just a bit.

It turns out I haven’t read any of the books in question, so I’ll just be pulling for the same “teams” here as I am in the World Cup itself: US, England, and Spain.  Which book do you think deserves the victory?

I’ll be watching Spain v Netherlands later with one of the refs—I mean, judges—so if anyone wants to offer her a bribe to honor the spirit of FIFA, please let me know ASAP.

4

Counterintuitive advice – what writers should not do

I mentioned a book I sold recently by Amy Morin based on her viral article 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, which resonated with so many people from around the world. One of the things that people mentioned was how she positioned the piece in the negative, from the perspective of things people don’t do, which highlights a different thought process than what we are used to when we think about things we should do to make ourselves better.

When I found this Writer’s Digest piece that offers advice with a similar interpretation, focusing on 15 things writers should not do, I thought it was worth sharing. In fact, there is overlap between Amy’s article and Zachary Petit’s. For example, Morin suggests mentally strong people should not resent other people’s successes, and Petit claims writers should not be spiteful about another writer’s success. Take those positive success stories and use them to motivate you, to try and learn something from them so you can apply them to your own work and eventual success.

Some of these traps are easy to fall into, like not wanting to give up on a particular piece that isn’t working, but if you can think about breaking the patterns, focus your energy on positive thoughts of looking ahead and learning and growing, you will be a better writer, and ultimately one with greater mental strength.

Are there any things in this piece that you struggle with? Personally I think there are many negative ideas in here that we’ve all experienced at one time or another. If you have any thoughts on how to take this advice to heart, please share. I’m sure there are other writers who would benefit not only from knowing what not do to, but learning more about how not to do it (therapists, feel free to chime in)!

2

Why writing and editing are not the same

Full disclosure: I do not claim to have mastered the editorial craft, but this blog post is in response to the many people I’ve spoken to who wish to break into the publishing industry in order to become writers. Many intern applicants have told me that they want to go into publishing because they want to be writers. They, like most, believe that writing and editing go hand in hand. If you are a good writer, you must be a good editor. And vice-a-versa. I don’t blame them. It’s a reasonable assumption, one I even made myself. But I quickly learned that this is not always the case.

Writing and editing require very different skill sets. Among other qualifications, great writers must have a voice, they must have a story to tell and be able to bring it to life. The dialogue must be realistic and the characters vivid, interesting, engaging.

What, then, is the editor’s job? What makes a great editor?

Editors must be able to assemble the writer’s story in a cohesive manner, must clearly see what the finish product should look like and know how to achieve that endgame, like a master watchmaker who sees how all the minuscule, intricate parts of a timepiece should fit together so that each one works in perfect concert with the other, so that the whole mechanism runs smoothly, flawlessly, beautifully. Move a chapter here, dissect some paragraphs there, control the rhythm and pacing of the book as a ship’s captain does the wind.

Yes, great writers can make great editors. And great editors can make great writers. But to confuse the two jobs is a common mistake that we should all try to avoid. Not only does it cheapen the arts of both writing and editing, but publishing houses and literary agencies aren’t looking to hire writers. In fact, it’s often frowned upon and seen as a distraction or conflict of interest.