Scary Stories

With Halloween just days away, I’m sure you’re already gorging yourself on candy and marathons of scary movies, skirting your reading list or half-finished manuscript to work on your prize winning costume. And that’s fine, but let’s admit there are more productive ways to get your spook on. Why not read a spine-chilling short story?

“A Collapse of Horses” by Brian Evenson is bound to freak you out. The narrator, recovering in a hospital, tied to the bed, tells the story of his mysteriously changing house, where light switches change locations, windows grow and shrink, and one day he has three children, another day he has four. After coming upon a paddock of horses lying as still as if dead, the narrator takes drastic measures to end the madness.

Or if you’re looking for a scary story with more of fun twist, check out “Royal Jelly” by Roald Dahl, in which a man attempts to cure his baby’s starvation by giving her the jelly meant to feed queen bees. Originally published in Twilight Zone Magazine, Dahl spins this weird and freaky tale with his usual hint of humor.

I hope you have a fun and frightening Halloween while using some scary stories to improve your craft. What spooky stories will you be reading this year?

The long and winding path to great writing advice

I think Forbes.com is a wonderful resource for so many things. A couple of years ago I discovered my remarkable client, Amy Morin, who’d written an article called 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do that went viral after it was picked up by Forbes.com. It went on to become one of their most viewed articles in history and I later sold the book version of the piece which has done very well.

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Through that connection, I also met another client. A dynamic author and career success coach named Kathy Caprino who followed her passion to find a career she loves and helps others to do the same. She is also a contributor for Forbes.com and writes about women, work, female empowerment and all of those great topics we love.

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When I spoke with Kathy recently about her column, I mentioned yet another client, a very talented and prolific author named Cecilia Galante whose first adult novel, THE INVISIBLES, had just been released. I knew from speaking with Cecilia and hosting a book club at my house with her where she inspired everyone in the room that she would be someone who might be of interest to Kathy and her column so I introduced the two of them and this compelling interview on Forbes.com is the result.

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There is a lot to digest here, and much of it is advice we’ve heard before because it works. But Cecilia has such a way with words that it feels fresh and important. Some of it I’ve even talked about here on the DGLM blog before. But not quite in this way: “I’d tell other writers that if they want to write, they need to sit in the damn chair every day and write.” Same goes for the realities of making a living as a writer: “Betting on a lucrative career as an author is like waiting for lightening to strike.”

What’s your favorite bit of advice from Cecilia? Anything else to add to her pearls of wisdom? She’s definitely doing something right because while the lightning bolt might not have hit just yet, she’s under contract for another adult novel and two more middle grades!


First Post!!

Hello DGLM blog readers!! I’m so excited to be the new financials and sub rights assistant here at DGLM, and I look forward to lending my voice to discussions about books, reading, and writing! Because this is my very first post, I thought I would share a little more about myself and tell you all about how I got to be here at DGLM–the road to the industry, you could say.

All of us have that one book that hooked us and refused to let us go. For some of us, it happened early (for a good friend of mine it was Junie B. Jones when she was 8), others find their book much later in life. It doesn’t really matter when, but that one book makes you who you are today. Mine came to me when I was thirteen and was just about to leave the heartache that was middle school. My father had just passed away that previous summer, and I was trying to make sense out of nothing.

In the middle of May, my 8th grade reading teacher assigned the last book of the year: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Instead of shoving the book into my backpack, like I had done all the others, I stared at the cover with surprising interest. The faces of four young boys stared back at me, and each one of them looked so lost- very much like how I felt. I decided to start reading it on the bus ride home, and before I knew it, it was bedtime and I had read past the assigned homework page.

By the end of the week I was finished.

My teacher was very impressed, mostly because I had never shown any interest in reading before. She gave me another book of Hinton’s, That Was Then… This Is Now. I ate that up, too. She continued to give me Hinton’s books to read until the last day of school, when she gave me her copy of Tex to keep. That summer, I found myself wanting to imitate Hinton. I think I wrote about six short stories, none of them any good, but I’ve kept them all as a reminder of the moment I made sense out of nothing. I started going to the public library, and when high school came around, I sometimes skipped lunch to hang out at the school library to read and write.

I’m not sure what it was about The Outsiders that got me. Maybe it was the instant connection I had with Ponyboy, because he, too, had lost a parent (both actually). All I know for a fact is that there was a magical instant that day in May when I had unconsciously chosen my path; somewhere between “Paul Newman… and a ride home.”

So, what about you? What book made a serious reader out of you, and when did you find it?




Gig economy not new to writers

I recently read a couple interesting articles about the rise of the gig or sharing economy, and conversation on the topic still seems to be very much alive. Regardless of how to define or categorize what’s happening to today’s economy, it’s a frightening thought—the idea of getting by without a reliable, steady paycheck. Where will the next check come from? When will it come and for how much? Most panic at the mere thought of having to live in such a way.

But writers (and their agents) have been doing it since Day 1. Plenty of professions base pay on unpredictable systems of compensation such as commissions, royalties, bonuses, etc. So how do you a manage to scrape by as a starving artist?

Tip 1: Plan. To the extent you can. If you usually receive royalty payments at a certain time of the month, try to align your bills in that window if possible.

Tip 2: Save. You’ll need to rely on savings at some point. If workflow decreases or earnings drop, you’ll have to adjust. Having a healthy savings account to rely on during the tough times will make it a whole lot more manageable.

Tip 3: Budget. Be realistic. If you typically receive around $10,000 in royalties, don’t spring for a new car based on pure optimism that you’ll rake in $30,000 in royalties this time around. In fact, don’t even count on the usual $10K. Play it on the safe side and set low expectations. Anything extra is found money as far as I’m concerned.

Tip 4: World Series starts tonight. Find a betting window and put it all on the Mets. Everything. Take out a loan if you have to. You’ll thank me later.


David Wright Pumped


Do our readers have any tips? I am going out on a limb and assuming most of you are writers. Care to share?


Uncovering ideas for books

One of the things most agents do is come up with ideas for books, and we come up with them in a bunch of different places.

HOTHOUSEThe first example of a book idea I just stumbled upon was a story I came across in the New York Times Obituaries a number of years ago.  Robert Giroux, one of the founders of Farrar, Straus and Giroux had died and the piece written about him was filled with colorful stories and  characters.  I immediately thought there was a book about the publishing business in that era and I approached Boris Kachka, who agreed to write it.  Boris made the idea his own, of course, and the result was HOTHOUSE: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art in America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House Farrar Straus.

DON'T PEEA number of years ago now, I was watching 60 Minutes (which I do every week) and I saw a family court judge profiled who was incredibly colorful, opinionated and somewhat outrageous.  I found out how to reach that judge and suggested she write a book.  That became DON’T PEE ON MY LEG AND TELL ME IT’S RAINING and the author became television’s beloved Judge Judy.

Then, last year when I vacationed in Kenya, I learned about how various animals are disappearing and I approached a science writer to do a book that might be titled THE WORLD WITHOUT ANIMALS.

I have found many true crime book ideas in the pages of People magazine or in the newspaper. One of the most recent LOST GIRLSand a book that is doing very well is THE LOST GIRLS by John Glatt, about the three young women who were imprisoned in a house in Cleveland for ten years.

Three years ago I went to Florence on vacation and learned for the first time of the great flood in the 1950s that threatened to destroy all of the city’s incredible art and how people came from all over the world to help save it.  While in Rome on that same trip, I met a journalist who is now working on a book about this fascinating event.

Finding ideas is like discovering treasure.  We are always looking for them wherever we go.  I wonder where you get your book ideas and whether you would like to tell me about them.  Maybe we will uncover something new together.


The Sticking Power of Harry Potter


My Twitter and Facebook feeds have blown up with the announcement that the new West End play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was going to be “a fullblown sequel” to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Eighteen years after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published, the Harry Potter fandom (which my generation was raised on) is still going strong. I’ve heard many accounts of parents saying that this was the book that finally got their kids to read and even friends who said they weren’t big readers until they discovered the Harry Potter series.


I remember many people being disappointed when they turned eleven and hadn’t received their letter from Hogwarts. The rush to every midnight premiere of a Harry Potter movie was insane and Pottermore is still going strong. Clearly, all these years later, we’re still enchanted by Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the promise of Hogwarts.

So I’m wondering: what makes a book this universally powerful? And even more so: what creates the staying power of a book through generations? What do you think, dear readers?



All the book’s a stage

Checking Facebook obsessively does have its benefits when it comes to blog ideas–a Facebook friend posted this great blog post  on writing picture books. And while the author has a ton of good advice, particularly in how to handle revision and practice one’s craft, the phrase that stuck out most for me was “think of it as theater.”

I first heard the idea of a picture book as a theater when I was an editor working with the great art director Cecilia Yung. Cecilia would often encourage artists to look at their canvases (at least in the pre-digital age) as stages, with characters as actors and background as scenery. In fact, a lot of her instructions took the form of stage direction–“blocking” and “beats,” entrances and exits. I found it fascinating that artists working in a static medium like illustration would respond to the movement language of art so effectively, and indeed, I saw numerous books transformed under her tutelage.

But the theater analogy also spoke to my roots as an undergraduate classics major. Waaay back in my early days as an editorial assistant, someone pointed out that a picture books are an excellent format for employing the Aristotelean unities of action, time and place. In other words, like ancient Greek drama, a picture book ought to feature a single action or plotline, it ought to take place in a single day, and it ought to be located in a single setting. Off the top of my head, I’d say Mo Willems is an excellent practitioner of the classical arts–pretty much every ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE does Aristotle proud!

So, for those who are looking to write (and illustrate) picture books, I heartily encourage you to take a theatrical view. Instead of a 32-page format, think of your book as 16 scenes to be filled with characters and setting. Find a single problem or action that needs to be resolved in a short amount of time in a limited setting, especially if you’re writing for younger readers whose experience of the world and concept of time are only just beginning to develop.

And if you need further inspiration, there are any number of children’s theater productions based on picture books these days–check out these guys if you’re in NYC. I can’t wait to see what they do with CAPS FOR SALE!



Work spaces

My son’s orchestra teacher sent him home with an assignment this past weekend: Film your practice space and tell me why it inspires you or helps you focus while you practice.  The resulting two-minute video showed my son leading a very limited tour of one corner of our den where his viola and guitar lessons and practices routinely take place.   Showing his teacher that the area was comfortable, brightly lit, teeming with musical instruments (my husband is a guitar collector), with enough room for his music stand, not to mention  easy access for our nosy standard poodle to hang out, earned him an A.  The point of the exercise, I believe, was to make kids aware that where they practice their instruments affects how much and how well they do it.

Given that I’ve spent most of my life looking for that perfect work space for my at-home reading and editing, I found this assignment charming.  My ideal situation would be a quiet, well-lit room, with little to no through-traffic, a comfortable chair—with ottoman for stretching out—a nice side table to stack papers and nearby shelves to keep supplies at easy reach.  The most important thing about this platonic ideal of a work space would be nothing that could create a distraction from the task at hand.  In my H.G. Wells moments, I envision some kind of force field that completely neutralizes iPads, Kindles, iPhones, laptops, televisions, etc., while in the room—basically the room equivalent of noise cancelling headphones.

My reality is a corner of my living room or my bedroom with multiple, every few minutes, interruptions from my husband looking for something only I know where he put, my son listening to the baseball game (or Sponge Bob) loudly nearby, the dog needing to be let out every time someone walks past our house so she can bark at them and then ask to be let back into the house again, my parents calling, texts making my iPhone buzz…. You get the idea.

And this is just me trying to edit, not write.  Which is why I really enjoyed this piece by Victoria Patterson in The Millions.  There’s nothing new about the need writers have for a space conducive to their writing—just ask Virginia Woolf—but these days, when our attentions are so under siege, it’s especially important to find that one place you can get down to the business of creativity.

What’s your writing space like?


Hello Instagram!

IMG_5811Introducing our brand new Instagram account: DGLMstagram!

You’re already following us on Twitter and Facebook, right? Now you can get an inside glimpse at all the excitement of the day-to-day life at a literary agency in pictures, as well as words. Expect to see book covers, author events, artfully arranged office supplies, holiday cupcakes, and more.

As you can see…we’ve already posted our first picture. What else do you want to see on our Instagram account? What are your favorite kinds of posts that other publishers, authors, or agencies share on Instagram? Let us know in the comments!


Lost in Translation

I represent a bit of literature in translation, but the only time that I am actually called upon to translate is when a client studies his or her royalty statement and discovers it may as well be written in Greek. Few documents are as unapologetically opaque as this twice yearly statement, which is why I found the recent Author Guild post so very—and so characteristically— spot-on.

Houses have no standard form or industry-wide convention for reporting their book sales. Each house makes up its own and decides what to include; despite the cultural currency of the idea of “transparency,” few statements are clear, user-friendly or easy to interpret. So much for buzzwords. Standards in royalty reporting vary so widely that it’s tough for even the savviest of authors–economists, statisticians, and entrepreneurs among them–to look at a statement and understand where and how their books have sold. Returns are partly to blame—books that appear to be sold need not remain that way, and as a result, the “net” (the number of books the publishers actually sells) can decrease over time. Counter-intuitive as this might seem (the longer a book is out there, the more it sells, no? No.) unsold copies can usually be shipped back to the publisher for a full refund. Books being sold on consignment is a nasty holdover from the Great Depression, when booksellers might have vanished altogether if merchandise was not returnable. Returns are an entrenched vestige of the bad old days and subject for another post, but royalty statements –these can be reinvented with far less pain and far more benefit. Would making them easy to interpret really be so difficult? Would closing the gap between statement and selling period prove disastrous? Statements are a snapshot of time, static and instantly outdated, but they need not be nonsensical, too.

What has your experience been?