Thursday, January 07, 2010

Why I Am an Agent (Michael)

by Michael

I figure it’s my turn to explain why it is I do what I do, as Jane, Jim, Lauren, Chasya, and Rachel have—if only to satisfy the clients who keep asking when I’d do one of these!

It all started at the end of the last decade, December of 1999. It was my senior year, and I really needed a job. I had no idea what to do, and was thinking of finding something in retail, as I love a good discount. But my friend Jim McCarthy told me that the literary agency where he was interning was looking for another paid intern. Now, Jim had told me what he was doing, but frankly I never quite understood. These people were agents for authors? Why did authors need agents? And isn’t publishing for rich kids who want a hobby career? Though I didn’t think it was the job or industry for me, I figured it couldn’t hurt to go in and interview.

Like Jim, I was interviewed by Stacey Glick. If you talk to her, she’ll tell you that I had blue hair at the time. This is not true. I had bright, bleached-blond hair. The blue hair came later. (And the blue dye largely ran out of my hair when I had to make a delivery to one of our most important clients in the pouring rain that summer.) I believe she hired me on the spot, and I started working Friday of the same week.
I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. I did what people requested, paid lots of attention, and started asking questions. Slowly, but surely, I came to be very interested and involved in what was going on at the agency. I’d loved books growing up, but I’d not been the same kind of reader in college. It was great to get back to reading things that were fresh, new and contemporary. And, as I looked around, I liked what I saw: a group of smart, creative, engaged, interesting people helping authors manage their careers. Just a few short months later, I was hooked—on publishing, agenting, and DGLM. When Jane and Miriam offered me a job in September of that year, I was honored, and I jumped at the chance.

When I started full-time, I was doing much of what I did as an intern, along with managing royalties and helping Jane with submissions. But quickly, I took on new responsibilities. I began assisting the rights director, learning the ins and outs of the foreign and domestic rights markets. When she left the agency a few years later, I took over the agency’s rights, eventually attending the London Book Fair with Jane and selling rights around the world. At the same time, I was building a list of my own, something Jane encouraged me to do within my first year at the agency. I started representing children’s books at Jane’s suggestion, something I was unsure of at the time(!). But quickly I found that I had a passion for middle grade and YA books, and my career as an agent really took off then. Several years ago now, I became a full agent, and the talented Lauren Abramo took over as our rights director, freeing me up to focus on my own projects.
Last year I was very excited to be promoted to vice president at the agency, and just as pleased this past December when I moved to Los Angeles to open a West Coast office for DGLM. I tell people all the time—I’d never have had these opportunities at any other agency or in any other job, and I’m forever grateful to Jane for that.

Our industry is going through big, drastic, challenging changes, and I’m glad that Jane, Miriam, the rest of the DGLM staff and I are working together to attack them head-on. My ten-year journey with the agency has been full of amazing experiences and opportunities, and I am just as enthusiastic about the ten years to come.

11 comments:

  1. So...

    Michael, have you eaten, or held court, at THE IVY?

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  2. A rare thing in our industry: ten years with one employer. It speaks well for DGLM.

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  3. Thank you for writing this. I actually find it very encouraging to know more about what an agent goes through for authors and in order to be a part of the publishing industry. So many people have an opinion one way or another about agents but I feel that it is nice to know that an agent's career is based off of the work that they put into it. I feel you should be very proud of how far you have come and hope to see many more books added to your list!

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  4. The world needs people passionate about their work. Some people have a vocation since were kids but that's not as much important as being passionate. Specially when you work with children just because they can smell it!

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  5. Isn't it nice to do what you love for a career? Quite the blessing.

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  6. I always picture you with purple hair, a la your Mad Men icon. The blue hair seems about right to me.

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  7. I would pay to see you in brightly colored hair.

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  8. I, too, thought the hair in your Twitter thing was for a lack of options... ;)

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  9. I loved reading how you found your way to becoming the amazing agent you are today, Michael, awesome hair and all. Here's to the next ten years!

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  10. It's amazing what's meant to be is meant to be. You are one of my favorite agents - smart and a sweetie. Maybe we will see you at another SCBWI conference? Glad to hear you were given a promotion, but bummed you moved to the west coast. Hope you are enjoying the sunshine. It is freeeezing in NJ! Cheers,

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  11. I love a good story about odd hair and serendipity. Congratulations on finding your calling and helping so many others to find theirs!

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