Monday, November 30, 2009

Even more to read

by Jim

Oh, jeez. The New York Times has released their list of 100 Notable Books of 2009.  As is always the case when this comes out, I feel a touch overwhelmed. It’s exciting to know that there are always more great books out there to be read, but at times it gets a bit daunting that you can never even hope to catch up. Or is that just me?

I already have Let the Great World Spin and The Year of the Flood set aside for my holiday break reading. And I want to read Half-Broke Horses and Wolf Hall. And Follow Me sounds fascinating. Ack!

Anyone else excited or frustrated by year end lists? See any titles that for sure should be skipped?

Cutting expenses effectively

by Jane

Recently I learned that a major publisher was severely limiting the amount each of their editors could spend taking agents to lunch. And then there was another major publisher who eliminated editor/agent lunches for a month at a time and cut all T & E expenses in a significant way. Finally, there are those publishers who have totally eliminated the editor/agent lunch.

I have to ask why, in a business that is really a “people” business they chose to do this? For decades the editor/agent, editor/author lunch was where real work got done. Ideas were exchanged and concepts were developed. Indeed, I know that many great books resulted from these relatively inexpensive forays.

At the same time as these lunches have been cut out (or cut way back), publishers still continue to:
  • Send significant contingents to enormously expensive international book fairs, some traveling first class.
  • Use town cars to travel to and from appointments.
  • Insist upon delivering signature contracts in the mail or even by messenger rather than electronically.
  • Send covers by hand rather than as jpegs.
  • Fed-ex documents and books hundreds of times weekly (a publisher I spoke to recently told me this).
  • Keep their lights on overnight.
  • Use messenger services to return proposals and manuscripts which have originally been e-mailed to them.
  • And, of course, cut very good personnel from their staffs.

My question is why? Why not change all of these things immediately so that exciting new book ideas and important relationships can develop again? Yes, over lunch. 
Can you think of any other ways publishers can cut current expenses to enable them to operate more efficiently and less expensively without costing them the creative exchange of ideas our business depends on?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A word to the wise

by Miriam

Jesse Kornbluth has some words of wisdom to share in this week's PW about the author's role in guiding his/her destinies in this brave new publishing world.  Check it out and let us know your thoughts....

(Happy Thanksgiving! We'll see you all again on Monday!)

A Crafty Thanksgiving

by Stacey

To keep it light before the holiday, I thought it would be fun to share a craft project using some of the many cans you're bound to be using for Thanksgiving (who doesn't love the jiggly cranberry sauce that retains its shape when removed from the can?). This one comes from my client and friend, Susan Beal. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Miriam's gratitude

by Miriam

It’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we’re busier than a trendy restaurant on Valentine’s Day. I keep wishing we could take a breather from the meetings and admin stuff so that we could catch up on our slush piles, our edit memos to our clients, our nice notes to authors whom we’re regretfully turning down, our blog browsing, etc. But, when I start whining, I am invariably told that I should be grateful that, in this poor economic climate, we’re busy and thriving. And, despite the fact that I will continue to whine, I agree wholeheartedly. So, today, I carry on Jane’s theme about gratefulness.

Like Jane, I’m grateful for the amazing staff we have here. These are people whom we’ve watched grow into their jobs and who have become like family to us. Like the championship Yankees of the ‘90s (you knew I had to get a Yankees reference in there), we are a great team. Sure, we bicker, lobby sarcasm at each other and, occasionally, call each other names (the kitchen melee when the breakfast order arrives is ugly), but we also support and give generously of our time to each other even when we’re drowning in piles of work. This is a group of smart, creative, and kind people who work very hard and who enjoy what they do.

I’m also grateful for our clients, who are the engine that drives this ship. With as varied and wide-ranging a client list, I’m always amazed at how many of these people we consider friends. Our clients allow us to be part of their lives as well as their creative process. They challenge us to be better--better communicators, better readers, better agents, better people--and they provide us with endlessly interesting, engaging ideas that make our jobs exhilarating. We are privileged to have the opportunity to serve our existing authors and excited at the prospect of forming new relationships with those we haven’t even met yet.

Finally, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Jane Dystel lo these many years (I was 12 when I walked into her office for an interview). She has taught me a tremendous amount about business, but the most important lessons I’ve gained from her have had a much broader impact on my life. She has been immensely generous with her friendship, support, and encouragement even when she disagreed with whatever crazy scheme I was hatching. She’s the Joe Torre of our team.
So, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have as much to be thankful for as we here at DGLM do.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chasya's Questions Corner: On Word Count

by Chasya


Does your agency set a limit on how long a work of fiction should be? Does it make a difference whether it's science fiction or historical fiction?


The short answer to this is no, there’s no limit. The number of pages it takes to tell your story is the number of pages the manuscript should be. In fact, a while back I did a blog post on this very question, and to paraphrase myself, which is kind of a weird thing to do but I’m going to do it anyway, what we’re looking for is material that we fall in love with, and that’s a pretty intangible thing that wouldn’t be limited by the length of a manuscript. That said, it’s also important to know your genre as well. Most commercial fiction runs between 80-100K, whereas epic fantasy, for instance, is 250K. I’m not going to lie, if you send in a query for your hard-boiled mystery and tell us your manuscript is 250,000 words, we will be taken aback since it’s unusual for us to see a word length that high for that type of manuscript. But at the end of the day, if the word count is higher than average and we like the query, we won’t balk at the length.

Please continue to send us questions at!

Why I Am An Agent (Jane)

by Jane

Looking back on why I wanted to be agent is actually fun for me.

I remember in one of my first jobs--that of permissions editor at Bantam Books--I wanted to learn more about what went on in the subsidiary rights department--“the rights department” as it is commonly known. But the woman who ran that department at Bantam at the time really didn’t want me to work for her and, of course, being who I am, that sparked my interest even more.

When I was thinking of leaving Bantam, I interviewed with a major literary agent who never even got back to me. (I still remember who that was, and I learned from that experience always to respond when anyone inquired about a position with my company.) I also interviewed with two publishers to work in their subsidiary rights departments, but because I was the daughter of the President of Bantam Books at the time, neither position was offered (the people interviewing me actually let me know this). Still, I grew more interested in the rights area of the business.

Finally, a while later when I had been a fairly successful publisher of popular reference books for a number of years, I began once again to explore the rights area, this time on the agenting side. I felt that I had done most every other job in book publishing (except perhaps being in the actual production department) and I was ready for a big change.

I began talking with a number of agents about the field and, interestingly, even then, over twenty years ago, most of them were very discouraging. They told me how hard it was, how much I would have to work and they predicted I wouldn’t be able to really get on my feet as an agent for three to five years. That didn’t scare me though and after talking with many people over a period of ten months or so, I met Jay Acton, a very successful agent at the time, who decided to take a chance on hiring me to join his company.

Moving to the “other” side of the desk, so to speak, was very scary in the beginning. I had been a big corporate Vice President and Publisher, and now I had no safety net at all--I was also a single mother with a young daughter to raise. But I wanted the opportunity to work with creative people as opposed to always doing budgets and carrying out administrative duties (which is what my publishing job had become). I had to learn entirely new skills: editing from a selling perspective, coming up with new book ideas, helping writers, and meeting acquisitions editors for the very first time, most of them, people I didn’t know. And I had to find projects to represent. With Jay’s encouragement and some great cheerleading from my father, I finally managed to sell 22 books that first year, although the money I actually brought in was very little. Slowly, over the next several years, my client list grew and I felt more and more confident in what I was doing.

I developed a bunch of systems to help my business operate efficiently and finally founded my own company in 1991. I have never looked back. Being an agent has often been difficult but it is always exciting and the challenge and serendipity of the job is what I love.

I am always eager to hear what our blog readers have to say about their feeling about agents and how we do our job. What do you all think about agenting?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Write or die?

by Jim

I’m glad someone finally found a way to effectively help writers meet deadlines: the threat of punishment.

Write or Die. Because sometimes encouragement just doesn’t cut it anymore.

(via Nathan Bransford)

What I'm thankful for

by Jane

It’s Thanksgiving and every year at this time especially, I think about what I am thankful for.

One of the main things I am thankful for is our team at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. They really are the best at what they do:

Miriam Goderich--Partner, Senior Vice President and Editorial Director: The foundation of our company, a great editorial and administrative mind with an awesome sense of humor. I am so thankful that she is my partner and very close friend.

Michael Bourret--Vice President: A tireless agent; an incredibly hard worker and a risk taker. Michael is setting up a California office of DGLM. I have such admiration for him and am rooting for his success.

Jim McCarthy: A brilliant editorial mind and a superb agent, Jim has incredibly good taste and a wonderful sense of humor. I am constantly astounded by Jim’s insights and so proud of his enormous growth over the years and his recent successes.

Stacey Glick--Vice President: A terrific agent with a growing list of practical non-fiction, Stacey has a very good nose and is incredibly persistent. I am constantly amazed at all that Stacey accomplishes in her increasingly busy life and thankful to have her as part of our team.

Jessica Papin: Jessica is a passionate and amazingly hard working agent who is building a very exciting client list; we are so lucky to have her back.

Lauren Abramo: Our Rights Director and in-house techie as well as an agent in her own right, Lauren is always on top of everything. With a small list of clients, which she is growing carefully, we are very lucky to have her.

Chasya Milgrom: Our Royalties Manager and newest agent, Chasya is building a list and growing beautifully with the agency. I am so thankful to have her with us and to watch her develop as an agent.

Rachel Oakley: My assistant and our newest staff member--I am thrilled to have her here and know she is going to be a huge and important member of our team.

Thank you all for your support, your tenaciousness, your good taste and your wisdom; you all add to my life and to DGLM in enormously important and meaningful ways.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Where has the week gone?

by Lauren

It’s been a busy week around these parts, with Sarah Palin’s book hitting the shelves; publishers ignoring potential breakout hits in a neverending search for obvious frontlist; and debate on Harlequin’s branching out into self-publishing territory. We answered questions on fiction credentials and platform building; admitted to guilty pleasure reading; explained publishing; practically wrote your letter to Santa for you; analyzed the reading habits of youth; asked for short story suggestions; and Chasya told you why she’s here in the first place.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog posted a covers contest so challenging that even previous winners Jim and I couldn’t get ‘em all. (Seriously, people, what are #2 and #4? They haven’t posted the answers yet, and it’s driving me a bit nuts.) They also interviewed a seriously awesome 4-year-old on his love of books and monsters. Everyone talked about the eminently deserving Colum McCann’s win of the National Book Award. Eric at Pimp My Novel pointed out that we’re writing a lot of books about people’s daughters lately. Michael Cairns at PersonaNonData analyzed e-book pricing. The author behind Belle de Jour, blog-turned-book-turned-TV-show about a prostitute in London, turned out to be a research scientist. And Nathan Bransford made a pretty compelling argument for the eventual supremacy of e-books because people gravitate toward efficiency (on the one hand, I dream about one day having a home library with rolling ladders to reach the higher shelves; on the other, I’m kind of an efficiency nerd).

And now I’m off to figure out how to efficiently fit a library large enough to require rolling ladders in a New York City apartment.

For the love of short stories

by Rachel

In an interview in today’s Wall Street Journal, Alice Munro talks about why she’s attracted to writing short fiction. “I used to write novels and I didn’t get anywhere,” she says. She then goes on to say that she’s now writing “some halfway in between sort of thing.”

Well, I love those halfway in between sort of things Munro writes. I’ve always been enthusiastic about reading short fiction because the author has to get down to business right away in developing the story, there’s no time to waffle on about unnecessary things and spend pages setting up elaborate scenes. I remember taking a short story class in college and finishing the course being amazed at how much effort actually goes into writing short fiction. So, short story writers are kind of like heroes to me. I always like to keep a collection of short stories on the side while I’m reading a novel--I have to keep my reading options open!

So, having said that, any suggestions for Thanksgiving short story reading?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roark and Baggins

by Jessica

Two recently published biographies of Ayn Rand have been getting a good deal of attention recently. It’s unusual that two so similar books have been published more or less simultaneously, and the net effect is to make it seem as if we are in the middle of a Rand resurgence. Thomas Mallon writes in the New Yorker that “most readers make their first and last pilgrimage to Galt’s Gulch....sometime between leaving for Middle Earth and packing for college.” Another reviewer (who it was, and the precise words he used, I can not now remember) said that Rand’s books have made it on to the mysteriously constituted but broadly understood unofficial reading list of adolescence. Both observations made me laugh, in large part because they seemed spot on. I read both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in early high school; who recommended them to me, I can’t, for the life of me, recall. Certainly not my parents, though they noted my choice of reading with some bemusement. I wasn’t in search of a political philosophy, and I emerged from my sojourn in Galt Gulch with no die-hard allegiance to Objectivism or snappy habit of wearing a cape. Ditto Middle Earth. I do, now wonder, where this unofficial reading list came from: for me in addition to Rand and Tolkien, it included generous helpings of Daphne DuMaurier (where is the gothic novel today, I ask?); Gone With the Wind; The Hitchhiker’s Guide; The Princess Bride; Down and Out in Paris and in London; Look Homeward, Angel; Lost Horizon. Note that I’m leaving off the books that were part of the official curriculum, such as Hiroshima, Death be Not Proud, A Separate Peace and assorted other death-related tales that I now suspect compose the reading-list-approach to undermining the adolescent sense of invincibility.

But I wonder what made it on to your unofficial list of adolescence? Did you read Rand? And what do Howard Roark and Bilbo Baggins have in common? Also, if anyone can tell me what article I’m paraphrasing, I’d be grateful.

Blurring the lines

by Michael

Yesterday, Harlequin announced their new Harlequin Horizons program, a joint venture with Author Solutions, “the world’s leading self-publisher.” Basically, you can now pay to have your unpublished romance novel published by Harlequin...Horizons. The reaction from authors, both aspiring and those published by Harlequin, has been fairly negative.

What seems to concern published authors the most is that this new venture actually uses the Harlequin name, and that associating Harlequin with self-publishing will hurt the brand. I’m not sure how legitimate this is, only because those self-published books aren’t going to be popping up at B&N or Borders any time soon. The Harlequin brand will still mean something to buyers. And as they’ve said, the books will have their own HH branding.

My personal concern, and one that is shared by unpublished authors, is about what seems like a conflict of interest. Are we moving to a place where authors will have to pay to play? In the follow-up FAQ to their original announcement, they say, “All standard/form/template rejection letters will include a short note about Harlequin Horizons as a self-publishing option for the aspiring author.” And in the first announcement, they describe Horizons as, “an innovative and original approach to discovering new authors to add to our traditional publishing programs.” It’s hard to say exactly how all of this will work until they start operating, but I’m very wary of this idea.

How do you feel about this? Is this just the future of publishing that we all have to deal with?

Harlequin has sent out an announcement that they'll be changing the name of their self-publishing program to something without "Harlequin" in the title.  The power of the internet at work.  Doesn't quite solve the conflict of interest problem, though...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Publishing explained

by Jim

Came by this hugely entertaining consideration of publishing in glossary form by way of Janet Reid’s blog.

Not to name any names, but I can think of at least one former pick for Oprah’s book club whose author photo is precisely as fictional as this suggests!

The best holiday present ever?

by Lauren

Just breaking in to your regularly scheduled programming to let you know what to add to your holiday gift wish list: the LA Times Jacket Copy blog reports on an audiobook version of the Bible coming out from Thomas Nelson. Perhaps you have no interest in listening to the Bible or you’re already pretty sure you know how it ends, but can I persuade you with the news that Luke Perry will be reading the part of Judas? Judas always did seem like the Biblical figure most likely to have awesome sideburns.

(via Combreviations)

Platform Building 101

by Stacey

I think there are some lessons to be learned from the Bill Simmons school of publishing. This recent article from the New York Times talks about how his unconventional (and relatively rapid) rise to fame might just become the most conventional approach to successful platform-building out there. And it also zeros in on at least one reason why he is so popular: he's just a fan like the rest of us, so he's very relatable. I am a big baseball fan (I don't want to mention I root for the Mets, but as a season ticket holder, I'm bound to be found out sooner or later) and represent a number of great sports writers. When it comes to selling sports books and nonfiction books in general, platform becomes a big discussion point. How Simmons has grown his in a grassroots way by blogging and using the Internet, and moving away from print, is pretty telling. And his rabid fans can't seem to get enough. It's amazing that his new book about all things basketball is a #1 NY Times bestseller (when was the last time a book about basketball hit #1, and it's over 700 pages?!), and really illustrates the power of a successful platform. This article also offers some good easy-to-know, but hard-to-follow advice on how to build your platform by blogging and how to keep people coming back once you get there.

Guilty Pleasures

by Miriam

Browsing’s Book section, I came across this and it made me think about my own literary guilty pleasures. Given that I take pride in being an eclectic (some might say schizoid) reader, I don’t generally feel guilty about many of my choices but every once in a while I find myself sneaking around with a book that I think will raise eyebrows on the train or lead to outright taunting by my rude friends and family members. Usually, this has to do more with the cover art--certain romance novels leave very little to the imagination--or provocative title than with the actual content, but I find that I tend to feel a little guilty reading certain pop culture blockbusters such as the Twilight series. It’s positively unseemly to be swooning over vampires, along with millions of teenaged girls. Or is it? What are your guilty pleasures?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I Am An Agent (Chasya)

by Chasya

Sick and confined to bed this weekend, I gazed aimlessly at the television during the few short hours I managed to stay awake hoping for some distraction from the painful knot in my throat. At some point I switched away from TLC’s Cake Boss marathon for a second, only to catch Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold screeching at someone or another (Kevin Connolly, maybe? I’m not really sure, in my Theraflu-induced haze I wasn’t processing much). Which gets me thinking, now that I’m less fuzzy-brained, about agents and why, despite the stress of it all--particularly during a difficult and uncertain time for this business--I became one myself.

First things first, let me dispel the myth that agents are screeching Ari Gold-like banshees. Obviously he’s a caricature of an agent (even if he is based on a real person). But aside from that, we in publishing like to think that the industry is a bit more genteel than Hollywood.

So if I don’t get to yell at people on the phone all day long, you ask, why did I become an agent? Well, it just started with an old-fashioned case of wide-eyed idealism and took off from there. As with many of the people you’ll find populating publishing, some of the most memorable moments of my life involved books. Those moments led me to define myself as an ardent book-lover. For instance, when I was five my neighbors would come over to my house, and I would feel very important as I read to them all aloud. We went through the entire Disney series that my mother had been purchasing one by one at the grocery store. When I was in the fourth grade and trying to plow through as many books as I could in Mrs. Rosen’s library, I was reading one afternoon on the bus ride home and was so absorbed that I kept on reading despite intense motion sickness and had to get off at another kid’s stop just to puke. I got back on after the driver nearly pulled away and resumed reading. When I first read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in junior high it almost made my head spin and fall off. I was enamored. I wanted to marry Jonathan Swift. Who would think an essay about eating babies could do that to a person? There are a multitude of these small, seemingly unimportant moments, but I won’t embarrass myself further by trying to relay them in any earnest sort of way. All I can say is that now, for many, many tiny reasons, I really love books.

And that love affair blossomed into a so-called useless degree in English literature. One that many students pursue, wondering “What am I supposed to do with this?”

I knew I wanted to do something practical. I knew I wanted to work in publishing and be a cog in the great machine that produced those things I was so impressed by. So I did what you do when you start out in publishing--I got an internship.

The business turned out to be far more complex and fascinating than I could have ever imagined and led me to want to stick around. Especially now, as it undergoes significant changes, it will be interesting to see how things progress. The things I wouldn’t really say aloud anymore (but appear to have less of a problem putting in print) are still there. But now what drives me is the added bonus of helping clients pursue their goals and guide them through the process. It’s rewarding and fun, even if it’s challenging.

But I can’t be the only one with these types of memories--and I certainly shouldn’t be the only one to admit them! What small moments led to your love of books?

Chasya's Questions Corner: On Fiction Credentials

by Chasya

One of our readers asks: “How important are previous publication credits to an agent? Do you prefer [to] receive queries from writers who were already published in a literary magazine/journal?”

Having really good literary credentials may get you noticed, but it’s not the only thing we’re looking for. As Michael pointed out in his post about queries, we’re looking for a great many other things. Among them a strong voice, an original idea, etc....

It certainly can’t hurt you to get your work placed in literary journals, but being published in one is by no means the deciding factor in who we choose to represent. We’re on the lookout for all sorts of fiction, and limiting queries to authors who have any specific type of credentials really restricts our ability to search for great projects in a broad range of categories.

We hope you’ll continue to send questions! Please send us an email at

Monday, November 16, 2009

Big books

by Jane

I don’t know why I still find it astonishing when publishers tell me they are "only looking for big books," that mid-list titles aren’t on their radar. How do they know what’s going to be a big book?

This last week, when I called an editor to follow up on a proposal I sent him--by a Pulitzer Prize winning writer no less--he told me how much he had enjoyed reading it. He then said that the new president of his company had told all of the editors there that, for the time being at least, all they should be looking for was "big, front list" titles. But how do they know what "big front list" is?

Think about it, there are literally hundreds of books that were seriously underestimated by publishers but that turned into huge bestsellers. Here is a brief list that I hope that editor and his new boss will note:

THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant
THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach
EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert
THE SHACK by William P. Young
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
LONGITUDE by Dava Sobel
THE NANNY DIARIES by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
SEABISCUIT by Laura Hillenbrand

Can you think of more?

All Palin's Eve

by Jim

Here we are on the eve of Going Rogue publication, and I know how excited we all are. Harper reportedly plunked down $5 million for the book, which I initially thought was crazy but now think was crazy genius.

Some people love Sarah Palin. I mean...well, I’ve heard that some people do. I live in New York where Republicans are mythical creatures that people report spotting but can never empirically prove the existence of. But the point is, the success of Palin’s book isn’t going to be based on whether the people who love her turn out to buy it. It’s going to have to do with just how much vitriol the people who hate her can muster up against the book.

Let’s face it: liberal columnists and bloggers looooove to hate Sarah Palin. She’s a go-to whipping post, and the articles lambasting the book are already hitting the web faster than you can say, “Gotcha!”

Tomorrow promises to be a full media pile-on, and that’s going to send thousands upon thousands of readers to the book store. Palin’s got an Ann Coulter-ish appeal. She’s brash enough that the people who love her admire her spunk and the people who don’t are terrified.

I don’t know whether or not I’m going to buy the book, but I know that I could be swept away by the media frenzy. Whether or not I actually read it, I do know for sure that I’m going to spend more time on the book’s Amazon page watching the frequently hysterical freak-outs from Palin’s most disturbed supporters and detractors. What can I say--I love a good fight.

So who already bought it? Who is boycotting? And better yet--who’s going to the book tour?!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is a story just a story?

Recently, former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, addressed the W&L Journalism Ethics Institute for its 48th anniversary. This prompted a debate around the water cooler and on blogs and made its way to discussions on news programs. For, if you remember, Blair resigned from the New York Times in 2003 following an investigation that found he had plagiarized and fabricated a lot of the stories he had written for the paper. Some of his reporting was on the Iraq war and the Beltway sniper attacks. It was understandable that people were surprised that Blair would be addressing the Journalism Ethics Institute because we trust reporters to tell us the truth. We don’t expect them to fabricate or edit stories to make them more entertaining, as Blair did.

What about memoir authors who fabricate stories? James Frey and the debacle involving A Million Little Pieces comes to mind. Frey received a lot of attention from his book when it was published--Oprah praised him, A Million Little Pieces was in a million little bookstores, everyone talked highly of this new talented writer. But upon investigation, Frey’s story was proven to be inaccurate in parts, and some readers who had once been fans of the memoir wanted their money back.

Some authors don’t really care about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. A story might just be a story. But is it unfair to truthful memoir writers when an author, such as James Frey, fabricates tales to sell books? Does it prove that Frey is a talented writer that we believed his tales? Or is it infuriating to have loved a book as a memoir and find parts of it to be complete fiction?

How much tweaking should be allowed in memoirs to make them entertaining these days, and do you care about the difference between fiction and nonfiction storytelling?


Query spam

Recently, Michael encouraged you not to sweat the small stuff in queries and to understand that it's more important to write a great query than to worry about individual agents' pet peeves or assume that one false move will get you deleted without being read.

That's excellent advice, and I fully support it. But I've noticed over the last year or so that there's been an upsurge in the number of queries that seem to come through some company or program, rather than directly from the author. And that these queries tend to be sent to every agent here (and presumably every agent in some large database) and also tend to get filtered out as spam by our junk mail program. When I check my quarantined email, nearly every query in there has formatting that suggests to me they're coming from the same place. Lately they've been emails that begin with a salutation, proceed to a block of text with title/author/logline, and then begin a letter below. At one point they were emails where the logline was in the subject of the email. I've discussed this with other agents here and at other agencies, and we've all had the same experience.

Will I reject an author on principle if they use such a tactic? No, not really. A great query is a great query, and they're not always so easy to find. But while I have no problem with authors querying multiple agents, I don't think this is a good way to do that. For one, if it's getting trapped in our spam filters, it's probably getting trapped in many other agents', and that's not a good way to get read. Beyond that, if I sense going in that all my colleagues and the entire rest of the publishing world has the same query, I'm already less inclined to get excited about it. But mostly, it suggests to me that the author hasn't done any research and likely doesn't understand that certain agents and certain editors and certain publishers work with certain types of books.

I do think it's important to know where your book fits and to figure out particular agents you feel would be right for your book. I think that part of being a successful author is understanding the market and how it works. Much like when I submit a book to editors I carefully consider to whom I'm going to send based on what they're looking for, I expect prospective clients to do the same.

I don't discount the possibility that some of the queries I've received in this way were carefully selected for me and not sent to the whole wide world since I don't actually know how they're being generated, but if so, why lump yourself in with those people who really are just spamming the publishing industry? As an agent who gets too many queries a day to count, I recommend you send your queries to the agents you've carefully selected one by one. (Not that you can't submit queries simultaneously, because we expect that you will and I don't know any agents who have a problem with it, but that each query should be sent in a separate email to a particular individual.) Sure it takes more time, but if your writing career is not worth investing time in, then why would you even bother? And, to be honest, why would we?

Or course, as Michael mentions in his post, I'm almost certainly preaching to the choir here! If you're actively learning about the goings on of the publishing industry, this may well be advice you don't need. But if you could shed any light on where these queries are actually coming from, I'm all ears!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nothing out there like it?

In working on prescriptive non-fiction, I’ve noted a phenomenon among authors that I’ll call the “there’s nothing out there like it” fallacy. Interestingly, it seems to affect a disproportionately expert population—physicians, nutritionists, psychologists, trainers, counselors, and attorneys—writers with professional credentials whose proposed book emerges from a considerable knowledge of their target market. Indeed, the fact that these people come in daily contact with their would-be book buyers should mean that they have a better sense than anyone of the information their patients/clients lack. In theory, these experts are ideally positioned to perceive a book-shaped hole in the market. But interestingly enough, this is not always the case.

There are a few reasons; because the general public may be demonstrably in need of information (or perhaps just reluctant to implement it) it does not always follow that there’s a dearth of books on the topic. In my experience, experts may know their audience inside and out, but they don’t necessarily have a clear sense of the competition. Acquiring editors, meanwhile, have an overdeveloped sense of the books in the field; usually they’ve published them. (Agents do too, which, apropos of the recent discussion, is another reason why we’re handy). Busy professionals, even those who assiduously keep up with the relevant journals, rarely have the time to read books aimed at a general audience. They do, however, hear their clients/patients complain that there is a shortage of reliable information “out there.” They field the same questions again and again. They rightly perceive their clients’ points of confusion, and may be especially gifted at untangling complex information, or perhaps they’ve created a program that gets amazing results. It is not so very difficult to therefore imagine that all this would merit, even demand, a new book.

Maybe so. But in order to test this premise, writers need to do significant research, not only on, B&, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, or Publishers Marketplace, but also in multiple bookstores and libraries. No single source is especially reliable: on-line searches may be too broad or too narrow; looking at the bookstore shelf may not give an accurate sense of all that’s actually on offer; libraries don’t necessarily reflect all the newest entrees. Ideally, aspiring authors should read, or at least skim, the likely competition, with a dispassionate eye (does the world really need another book on this subject) and in hopes of spotting an opening. If “nothing out there” really means “there’s nothing out there written by me,” bear in mind that publishing houses find this a persuasive argument only insofar as the “me” in question has one or more of the following: a national platform; a media profile; conducted groundbreaking research; a fresh approach to the subject at hand. It is this last aspect that is most tractable. It is true that most nonfiction is platform driven, but it is also concept-driven, and teasing out a hook—which is not so much a gimmick as a clever, easily-grasped, organizing principle—is essential. Finding a way into your subject that has not been done and done again is difficult, but not, I think, so difficult as acquiring the MD, MBA or PhD to begin with!


Cell phone novels in English?

There's long been a cell phone novel craze in Japan, and I've been rather fascinated by them. These are books written on cell phones, meant to be read on cell phones. Not even big iPhone or DROID screens, but on those little phone screens. Now, I know I'm the guy who loves gadgets and ebooks and all that, but this is one of those things I've never understood. And, I never thought they'd come to the English-speaking world. But lo and behold, I see an annoucement on Publisher's Marketplace the other day: "Joseph Nassise and Jon Merz's THE CERBERUS PROTOCOL - Book One in the HELLstalkers series, claiming to be the first English thriller series written exclusively for mobile phones..."

Is this the future of the novel? I don't know. From the partnership agreement with Vodaphone, this doesn't seem like something that'll be in the US straight off the bat. I wonder how it'll be distributed and how money will be made, and I wonder how large the audience will be. I'll be watching this one closely!

What do you think? Would you read some sort of serialized novel on a small screen? Would you pay for it? Or would you sign with a particular carrier to get such exclusives? Anyone want to try writing such a thing?


An open letter from Jeff Rivera

Jeff Rivera of Galleycat, who wrote the post that Miriam linked to yesterday and a response to Miriam's response, asked us to post the following open letter. Since our commentary on his post spurred so much interest here, we're happy to oblige:

Dear DGLM Community:

I enjoyed reading your blog posting on November 10, 2009, responding to my post on GalleyCat entitled, Literary Agents, bah! Who Needs Them? I thought your response was valid, respectful and you made excellent points in it. I read your blog fairly regularly and enjoy your other posts as well.

I also read through every one of your readers' comments, including those who referred to me or my post as "stupid", "idiot" or "horrifying".

I was rather taken aback by the stir my post caused on the internet on both sides of the fence as well as its follow-up piece yesterday entitled, Literary Agents React!. I received an equal amount of support letters as well as letters of debate.

I invite those critical of my post to re-read it and they may notice that not once in the post did I ever state my personal opinion was that literary agents were not needed. Rather, I only posed a question that I believe we ought to ask, a question many of my friends, both authors and literary agents have asked. I then asked for an open discussion which I believe is healthy for our community of writers, literary agents and other book publishing professionals to have.

The post provided two professionals who were pro and two professionals that were con. If I wanted to state my personal opinion, the post would have been entitled an op-ed piece.

My personal opinion, for the record, is that of course there will always be a need for literary agents. We need someone with a good eye for what is good and enjoyable literature, and who has keen sense of what readers really want to read.

However, I am open hearing from those who believe the opposite, that there will not be a need for literary agents. And, I would never refer to those who differ from my personal opinion as "stupid" or "idiot."

The title of the blog along with the illustration of Scrooge, and his coin term "bah, humbug", I hoped would clue readers in that the title was done tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously.

My job as a correspondent at GalleyCat is only to provide an open forum to question the way we have done business for over a hundred years and to ask the questions many of our readers have asked themselves but did not have an opportunity to ask in a public way.

I do apologize if some readers found the post offensive but once again, I invite them to re-read it with an open mind. I look forward to hearing all opinions and I thank you for this opportunity to respond to the DGLM readers, of which I am one.


Jeff Rivera

Correspondent at GalleyCat
(This note is a personal open letter, not representative in any way as the official word of Mediabistro or GalleyCat)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Children's Book Corner: Beware!

As a mother of four small children, I found this recent article from the New Yorker about today's children's books to be thought provoking, especially since I own many of the books he talks about and read them often to my kids. I don't think there's any question that reading to your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, but is what you read worth reconsidering in some cases? I tend to insert my own ideas into books that I feel conflict with my own parenting style (like in the first Olivia book, when Olivia doesn't want to take her nap, I always add "but she does it anyway," because the last thing I need is a nap strike in my house!), at least until my kids are big enough to read them on their own.

What are your favorite children's books? And after reading this article, do you have any new thoughts on what are your least favorite?


Who needs an agent? You do.

Do you ever feel like you want to take everyone involved in the publishing business--writers, agents, publishers, and the interns who open the mail--and shake them until their teeth rattle? Probably not, right? Well, I usually don’t either. But then I read a piece like this one in Galleycat and, well, you know....

At the risk of sounding self-serving, every serious author needs an agent. Not just any agent, of course. You need a good agent. One who is an advocate, who is willing to fight for you and who is able to tell you when you’re being unreasonable and doing your career more harm than good. You need someone who’ll tell you they believe in you when you think you’re the biggest literary fraud since James Frey (who is actually a very good writer despite his questionable morals). You need someone who asks about your ailing grandmother and vets your contracts. You need someone who will look at your royalty statements and make sure that the publisher isn’t holding a 75% reserve for returns. You need someone who is willing to try to place foreign rights to a book that is so hopelessly American that no one outside of the 50 states would want to read it. You need someone who will do battle with your publishing team and make sure they still like you despite the fact that you aren’t always discreet about them in your Facebook posts. You need someone who’ll see you through the process from idea to publication to the inevitable disappointment when the publicity for your book is done with before you noticed it had started. And, you need an agent because in these trying times, we’re sometimes the only people who offer continuity and stability in what everyone hopes is a long career.

So, how does the digital revolution change the fact that you need an agent? Not at all. Sure, you can upload your manuscript on the internet yourself and you can do all your own accounting when you start selling the downloads. But, if you’re serious about writing books, you’re still better served having someone else handle the business side of being published.

There is no question that agents, as well as publishers, need to get with the program when it comes to e-books and all things digital. There is a woeful amount of ignorance about this revolution and lots of needless resistance and hand wringing. In the end, however books get into a reader’s hands is irrelevant. The process by which they get there, who sifts through the good, the bad, and the absolutely unreadable, and who takes care of the administrative side of things while you hone your craft, should not change. I would argue that with so much content out there for the taking (or downloading), now more than ever we need agents and publishers to be better gatekeepers and advocates. Otherwise, I will begin to fear for the future of books, and not just because they don’t come in paper packages any more.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Queries: It's not about the details

In my agent travels, I find that most of the questions I get from aspiring authors are about queries. And that makes sense: everyone (including myself) will tell you that your query is an important weapon in your agent-getting arsenal. So, having been told that the difference between publishing superstardom and form-rejection comes down to one page, authors obsessively work on their queries. But that’s not quite right: what they do is obsess. And I think a lot of times they can’t see the forest for the trees. They ask agents what font or paper stock they should use, whether HTML email or plain text is better, or if their bio should be longer or shorter or more personal or more formal. They receive conflicting advice from different websites, agents, editors, author friends, and spouses. And then they have a nervous breakdown.

Ok, that last part may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but I don’t think it’s that far off. Writers, who tend to be obsessive anyway, get downright crazy about query details, and I really don’t blame them. We publishing professionals haven’t helped the situation, what with all of our dire warnings about doing it perfectly or else. So I want all of the writers out there to pay attention: if you’re reading this blog, if you’re paying attention when publishing pros give you advice, if you’re going to good, appropriate conferences, you don’t need to panic. This is the catch-22 of it all: when agents go on and on about bad queries and what-not-to-do, they’re preaching to the choir! Anyone savvy enough to be paying attention is probably doing it right in the first place. I don’t mean that all of you have winning queries that will score them an agent and publication, but I doubt any of your are going to wind up the cautionary query tale that you hear at conferences.

But, the question the remains: what am I looking for, if it’s not all of those little details? What I’m looking for is a unique idea and good writing. I’m looking for an authentic, interesting voice--yes, voice in your query. I’m looking to get a feel for your style in just a couple of paragraphs. I’m looking for you to describe your book, whether it’s commercial or literary or in between, in a way that makes me want to keep reading. In October, I linked to a great query example, the one that Lisa McMann had written for Wake that was recently in Writer’s Digest. It was exactly I’m looking for: it was unlike any query I’d received before (or since). How so, you ask? It was entirely unique to Lisa and her book. It didn’t follow any formula or template. It gave me the information I ask for, but it did so in a way that was different. And I can promise you, all of the successful queries I’ve read have done the same thing.

I’m sure this will spur many questions, but I’d like to have a saner, more humane query discussion with aspiring authors, one that focuses on ideas, narrative, and writing instead of on boring details like font and word count. A little common sense in putting together a presentable query, plus a killer idea and great writing, and you’re all set!

- Michael

Chasya’s Question Corner is live!

Thanks to everyone who sent in their questions! As I mentioned in my post last week, I’ll be choosing one or two of your questions a week and answering them here. There were a lot of really good ones and I hope to answer as many of these as I can, so if you don’t see yours here today it doesn’t mean that we won’t be responding to it later. What I mean to say is, stay tuned!

If you have a question, please send it to All questions will remain anonymous:

One of our readers asks:

“I have a novel (debut) that was read by 6 editors 5 years ago (2004).
They praised it but were also consistent in why they didn't want it.
I have (after have children, etc. etc.) fully revised it, and in
effect it is a completely different narrative, but with the same
characters, setting, tone. The agent who shopped it left the agency
and we parted ways--we had no formal agreement (the deal was, if they
weren't successful placing my novel we'd have no contract). My
question is, when querying agents now, do I mention the novel's past
in the query, or wait until the agent has had a chance to read it and
connect to it? I am afraid of turning them off....concerned that they
won't read the novel with the same eye if they are aware someone else
rejected it, even if it was five years ago and quite different.”


A quandary, indeed. How much does one disclose when it’s tough enough getting any attention as a first-time author?

The answer is actually pretty simple: It’s very important that you are completely up front about the history of your project when approaching an agent. The surest way of “turning them off” is by not being honest about the manuscript. And you don’t want an agent to think that you are being dishonest.

If you’re waiting until an agent calls with interest in the project to inform them of the history behind it, they will want to know why this didn’t come up in your initial query. Even if you mean no harm and your intention is to let the work speak for itself, it comes off as underhanded. We’re not just assessing if we’re interested in or in love with a book--we’re reading it to figure out if we feel we can sell it. If it’s been seen before, that’s an important factor. In some cases, it may help to know that a project was strong enough to get an agent once before.

If you are, in fact, letting the work speak for itself, then disclosing this information shouldn’t really matter. We understand that fiction is very subjective, and we know that a manuscript that doesn’t necessarily speak to another person’s taste is not any reason to not give it due consideration. We also understand the business, and can tell you that if your manuscript has been to every fiction editor out there and hasn’t undergone any changes, they most definitely do not want to see it again. Editors are swamped--buried in reading and juggling more hats than ever before. If they’ve turned something down it’s usually for good reason, and they don’t have the luxury of giving something a second read. A prospective agent will have to make a judgment call about whether they think that the number of editors who have seen something (and the kinds of changes) make a difference in whether or not they think they can sell. However, if an agent truly does see your talent, even if they don’t think they can sell that book, they might recommend moving on to another project first, and if that succeeds, going back and trying to shop the original manuscript.

We must rely on our authors to be forthcoming about their work in order to serve them best. Being evasive or holding back really only leads to feelings of mistrust and can put an agent in an awkward position. It’s not a good way to start, so be sure to provide these details from the get-go.

Another reader asks:

“This is probably a no, but does anyone in your organization represent children's book authors?”


In fact, the answer is a yes. Michael Bourret represents young adult and middle grade, along with a very select group of author/illustrators. Jim McCarthy, Lauren Abramo and Stacey Glick all represent YA and middle grade, as well.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Everyone's got something to say

Ah, NaNoWriMo. That time again already?

For those not already in the know, that stands for National Novel Writing Month. Launched in California ten years ago, it’s essentially a communal writing experience. Over the course of one month (no more!), people are encouraged to write a 50K word novel. The program emphasizes “quantity over quality,” which I find pretty delightful. It celebrates the fact that writers write, and for a lot of people, it’s the first chance they have to finish a novel. Because whether it’s good or bad, the act of completing a novel is, in itself, something to celebrate. I know a lot of NaNoWriMo participants past and present, and it’s always great to see the enthusiasm that comes out of the process.

Of course, there’s also something intimidating about NaNoWriMo: the aftermath. Apparently 676,900,348 have already been written by participants this year. Lord, December’s going to be a busy reading month...

So have you all already joined in the fun? Are you working your way through your 50K words? And if so, what are you doing on our blog? Get back to work!


Jane's dream

The Wall Street Journal on Friday the 6th reported that Borders was going to close 200 of its Waldenbooks stores. True these are mall stores only, but it seems to me it was only yesterday that the chains were springing up every where. It appears that one of the reasons this is happening is that internet sales of books have greatly increased over the last several years taking buyers from the mall bookstores. The Journal also postulates that another reason for the move is the deep discounting of the bestselling books that has been announced.

My dream is that the closing of these mall stores might encourage one or two--or hopefully many more--entrepreneurial souls to open new independent bookstores. With the new readers that I hope are being created by books available electronically and by this deep discounting, perhaps there can be a big enough market to once again support these wonderful outlets for reading.

Do any of you have a favorite independent bookstore?


Friday, November 06, 2009

Welcome to DGLM, Rachel Oakley!

I’d like to formally introduce myself to all our blog readers out there, as I’ve recently joined the team here at DGLM as Jane's assistant, and couldn’t be more excited about it.

I think a little information on my background is the best way to begin my first blog, so here goes...

I moved to the United States as a teenager, but returned to my home country of Australia to go to college. I started my freshman year in college thinking I was going to be a psychologist. In my second year of college I decided I was going to major in French. Then, in my third and fourth years of college, I decided it was time to follow the things I was passionate about and ended up as an English and Philosophy major.

During college I worked as an Editorial Assistant, and I occasionally wrote for the local women’s interest zine. I was always trying to get more than a foot in the door of publishing. So, moving to New York and working in publishing--particularly in a literary agency--has always been a goal of mine.

There was one question asked by a reader a few blogs ago about why agents do agenting, and I want to answer why I love working in an agency. Of course, I love books, and I like to write, but I think the one thing I truly love about working in a literary agency is that I get to see the entire process of publishing, from a rough manuscript to a finished book on the shelves. I have the opportunity to read things I wouldn’t ordinarily read and have different ideas presented to me--I find it all very exciting!

I’m looking forward to my future with DGLM, writing more blogs and hearing your opinions.

Over and out,

DGLM Poll-a-thon

Thanks to all of you for the great feedback in the comments on our post about changing things up around here. I've turned that feedback into some handy polls, so we can get a better sense of what all of you would like to see. And while we'll still have to decide how much of the feedback we're getting it'll make sense to run with, we are eager to hear from you.

And let me apologize in advance if these polls don't actually work--I'm trying some advice I found on a message board to put the polls in the posts rather than the sidebar, but as we've seen, when I get near HTML code, colors tend to go wonky. I'll fix 'em if this doesn't actually do the trick. Wish me luck!


Where should the DGLM blog live?

Which type of post would you like to see most often?

Show or Tell?

Give me more... (Choose as many as apply.)

Give me less... (Choose as many as apply.)

The new Oprah: Glenn Beck?

This New York Times article on Glenn Beck as the Oprah of the thriller community could have larger implications for the publishing business if Beck's popularity stays at a high (though hardly anyone has the longevity of an Oprah). But it strikes me as an odd and interesting mix of elements to have such a significant impact: one, because he's so conservative and publishers and authors tend to be more liberal, and two, because he focuses so heavily on one genre, thrillers. That said, in my mind, it's nice to see both sides getting along and any outlet that helps to sell books in this market is worth looking at very seriously, especially since we hear Oprah, who has had her share of ups and downs when it comes to book publishing, might be moving on in the next couple of years.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

California dreaming

As my clients know, and as many of you may have heard, I’m moving to Los Angeles at the end of this month to open up a West Coast office for DGLM. I’m really excited about starting something new, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for my clients, the agency and me.

I’ve had a few questions about how this will work, so I’ll try to address those here. First and foremost: I want to be very clear that I will continue to agent my amazing clients, and I remain on the lookout for exceptionally talented new authors. I’m a literary agent, and that’s not going to change.

Though I’ll be living and working in L.A., you can expect to see me in New York. Often. I’ll be back at the end of January for more than a week (I’ll be attending the SCBWI Winter conference to do the roundtables on January 29), meeting with editors, publishers and, of course, authors. There will be several trips like that throughout the year, so you New Yorkers can breathe easy (or not!).

I’ll be working New York hours, at my desk about 9:30 AM – 7 PM Eastern time, and I’ll be at my new phone number, 310-363-0252. That number is already live, so feel free to call me there any time (it’s forwarded to ring me wherever I am). My email remains the same: I’ll still be on Twitter, where I’ll try to be more active--computer issues have kept me off a bit that past couple of weeks--and you’ll see me blogging more than before.

Speaking of Twitter, I asked my followers there for questions they wanted answered about the move. Either they’re all comedians or already knew everything, but here are a couple of questions and answers:

Question: Is it true that people sparkle in LA? :)

Answer: I don’t know, but I’ll find out and will let you know.

Question: Could you cover submission guidelines and how to submit, if that's changed?

Answer: Great question! I’m now only accepting email queries. Please do not mail queries to the New York office. (Though all other official mail should still go to the New York office.)

Question: Do you remember driving? I would love to see how that's treating you.

Answer: I actually drive several times a year, and I didn’t grow up in NYC, so driving isn’t going to be new. Getting a car, however, is a very bizarre notion. I’m going to have to bring a friend because I have no clue how it works!


Driving sales in the long term

For the past several days I’ve been editing a fascinating proposal by one of my clients, an economist who specializes in analyzing global entrepreneurship. Despite working in the so-called “dismal science,” he makes an encouraging case that this is an era of singular opportunity. He warns, however, that “yesterday’s powerbrokers can be counted on to paint opportunity as threat and dig in their heels against change.”

Although his book focuses on more far-flung examples, I wondered how this lens might be applied closer to home. Indeed, book publishing, and more broadly print media, feels distinctly threatened (a theme Miriam took on not long ago). It’s not only the New York Times that reports that the sky is falling, when I meet with editors especially, conversations often circle a drain of dispiriting themes, including: diminishing readership for books, intense competition for a decreasing number of publicity spots, and no guarantee--even when the stars and media align--that a given book will sell. Certainly, it’s clear to see that most everyone in publishing is working hard on behalf of their projects, but traditional models, especially in publicity, are no longer yielding the same results. There are likely any number of reasons this is so, subject, in fact, for another blog, but the upshot is that many books never get the sought-after spot that throws open the door to bestellerdom, and in cases when they do get it, and an author lands an interview with Terry Gross, trades banter with Jon Stewart, or has a substantive review in the NYTBR, sometimes nothing happens.

It is a pervasive problem, damaging to houses but crushing to authors. Houses (must) turn their attention to another book, as the so-called publicity “window,” open for all too brief a moment, slams shut. But for authors, cutting losses is not so easy. So, I wondered, combing through Bookscan numbers, is anyone looking at this grim picture and finding opportunity? Inspired by my economist client, I decided to look for book-business examples of entrepreneurs who are adapting to, and not bewailing, the changing media landscape. For my first “case study,” I did not have to look too far.

The staff of DGLM met recently with Fauzia Burke, a former marketing manager at Holt, who some years ago began her own internet publicity firm, FSB Associates. Cognizant that traditional publishing houses don’t have the staff or resources to pursue internet publicity with the same energy that they pursue the more traditional high impact gets--TV, radio and print--she and her team pitch bloggers, web magazines, communities of enthusiasts to spread the word online, where book sales are only a click away. Burke made a variety of convincing arguments for why this is effective, but the one that struck me as most interesting is that internet publicity does not have to happen in the brief window of time--say six weeks after pub--while the book is “news.” Bloggers, much like the New York Review of Books, don’t care so much about publication dates. Which is important. Because, as Miriam pointed out--books are supposed to be around for the long-haul, not have the literary equivalent of a blockbuster opening weekend then end up in the remainder bin. The idea that on-line promotion can help drive long term sales, or breathe new life into projects whose sales were disappointing is not necessarily a new one nor is it a silver bullet. Connecting an author with communities of like-minded readers on-line requires about as much virtual legwork as finding these folks in the real world, but especially as traditional media contracts, it’s well worth exploring. On-line promotion does not necessarily rely on a rolodex of producers and editors. Anything that helps move the industry away from the blockbuster model, which makes failures of far too many books, is, in my eyes, welcome.


Attention, Authors: John Irving sympathizes

A word--via Big Think--from one of my favorite authors, John Irving, on the challenges of getting published today. Tempted to shoot yourself, John? Hyperbole much? In any case, writers, he feels your pain.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The present of the future

I like the idea that literature is a vehicle for exploring (and exploiting) our anxieties, both personal and cultural. I tend to agree with Cory Doctorow that science fiction has always been more about the present than the future. What do you all think?


THE HELP needed lots of help to get started

There were a number of things I found interesting in yesterday's New York Times piece about Kathryn Stockett's first novel, The Help.

It was Amy Einhorn's first book for her new imprint; it's sold almost 500,000 copies in hardcover, amazing numbers for a literary first novel; and it's a book written by a Southern white author that has two black protagonists. It's been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. But what really struck the agent in me was that the novel was initially rejected by almost 50 agents before it was picked up. That is a stat that should be inspiring to aspiring authors and probably a little frustrating for us agents who work so hard to find great material and wonder how we missed something that then goes on to be so successful. But that's the way the game is played: you win some, you lose some, and the take-away for me from this story for authors is that confidence in your work, persistence, and of course a good dose of luck and timing, can make all the difference. It's a great success story, and in a time where there are so many grim reports about book publishing, it's refreshing to see a story about a book that got it all right, even if it had some stumbling blocks along the way.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Introducing Chasya's Questions Corner

Whether it’s an inquiry about queries or curiosity about the publishing industry in general, we know you all have tons of burning questions. Which is why, once a week, I’ll be tackling one or two of your questions on the blog and answering them in a little segment we’re going to call Chasya’s Questions Corner (because who doesn’t like a little alliteration?).

So send me your questions at with the word question in the subject line and let us know what you want to know!


Monday, November 02, 2009

What to write next

I’ve heard of writers’ block, but it seems most of my clients are plagued by the question of which of their ideas to tackle next, not where to find an idea. But just in case others out there just don’t know what their next writing project should be, Colson Whitehead offers some suggestions (and a handy printable dartboard!) for novelists stuck in a rut.

Sure, he can be snarky (I balked at his assertion that thriller writers only know five adjectives), but damned if he isn’t funny. And as someone who has had some reallllly awkward dialogue written in dialect cross his desk, I admit I laughed out loud at his recommendation to “invent nutty transliterations of what you think slaves talked like.” He was kidding about that. Seriously. Don’t do it.


Rationing discounted books

Now, the Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that the big three retailers--Walmart, Target and Amazon--are rationing those selected bestsellers they have been deep discounting. This is ostensibly to prevent other retailers from buying from them in quantity and reselling these titles.

I believe that the only ones who are going to get hurt by the deep discounting and the rationing are those retailers who are doing it. First of all, they cannot continue to sell these books at these prices for a long period of time as they are losing a substantial amount of money by doing so; and limiting the number of copies per customer during the holiday season, especially, should discourage potential consumers and send them elsewhere.

In this poor economic climate for publishers and booksellers alike it would seem to me that working together to help our industry rather than undercutting each other would be far more constructive and productive.

What do you think?


The blog it is a-changing

As you may have noticed, the DGLM blog has begun to change just a bit. There’s been more activity around here, and that’s only the beginning.

We’re beginning a gradual process of changing the way we do things. First and foremost, there will be more entries, more regularly, from more agents. And we’ll be paying closer attention to which posts you guys seem most excited about and trying to give you the content you’re looking for. We’re aiming to link more, to post more multimedia, and to start more conversations with you fine folks.

Change will be gradual, but we’re hoping to get feedback from all of you and to incorporate as many of your ideas as we can to build a stronger blog together. We may not be able to take on every suggestion, but we promise to listen and consider what you have to say. And we hope you’ll continue to let us know as we go along as well--and let us know what you think of the changes you see!

So what do you think? What would you like to see from us that we’re not already doing? What should we do more of? Is there anything you see on other blogs, particularly publishing industry blogs, that you’d also like to see here? And which other blogs are you reading? Which subjects do we cover too much and which should we cover more (or at all)? We’re thinking of switching from Blogger to WordPress--yay or nay? Polls and contests would be fun, right?

We're looking forward to hearing your feedback and finding out how we can make this a more fun, helpful, and rewarding experience for us all! Let us know in the comments!


P.S. If anyone can tell me how to convince blogger to change the link color to what the Fonts and Colors screen tells me the link color is, I'd definitely appreciate it! I even tried poking around in the HTML, pretending to know what I'm looking for, and I don't see the bright blue and purple of the links and followed links in the settings anywhere. UPDATED: Thanks for the help! It's fixed now!