Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Response to "In Response to "In Response to [My Previous Post]""

First, my thanks to Cheryl for starting an interesting conversation that seems to be resonating with editors, agents and authors. I'm enjoying the discussion!

Last night, Cheryl responded to my response here.

I think my issue with the proposal remains the same, though Cheryl is quite right that this enterprising editor making an offer after a few days wasn't following the terms. Without every agent and every editor following these guidelines, I think we run into some major issues. Say I do give everyone four weeks before accepting offers. If another agent comes along with another great project without that limit, my client's material will fall to the bottom of the pile to accommodate the no-time-limit project. And again, unless everyone is participating in the proposal, procrastination will reign and the material won't get read until the end of week four. The fact that someone else might scoop something up is often what makes an editor pick up a manuscript in the first place. While I truly believe that Cheryl would give priority to such manuscripts (she wouldn't have proposed it, otherwise), I can't say that I think other editors would react in the same way.

Also, and I'd love to hear from other agents on this, sometimes we DO wait for editors. Sometimes the offer on the table isn't quite what we were looking for, or another editor pleads for more time. My experience suggests that the editor who needs more time usually doesn't wind up coming to the table. Their lack of speed in getting to the project often indicates an ambivalence or disinterest. Also in my experience -- only once has an editor told me they couldn't make it to an auction I held because they didn't have enough time. She explained that she'd really need to get someone from paperbacks to read, because the book was rather literary for them. And you know what? It was too literary for them, and they wouldn't (and shouldn't) have acquired it, anyway.

(It's important now to point out to the authors reading: most books don't sell at auction, and this isn't an every day issue. Most offers aren't made in 48 or 72 or even 168 hours! This is a rare, exciting, you-can-only-dream-of scenario.)

All of this said, I really do want all interested parties to have enough time to come to the table if they'd like to. I want an author to be able to see all of the options, to speak with the offering editors, and to make an informed decision about who would best publish their book. I do not want to generate a feeding frenzy based on hype, as I think most of us can agree that it's bad for both author and publisher. Though I'm going to continue to submit as always, I do hope I can hold out long enough to have a project land with Cheryl soon. As you've probably figured out, she's brilliant and thoughtful, and she cares deeply for the books she works on. (Speaking of which, please read Marcello in the Real World by Francisco Stork, which she gave me the ARC for some time back when we had lunch -- you won't regret it!) Thanks again, Cheryl!

- Michael

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In response to "A Modest Proposal Regarding Submissions"

In scanning tweets this morning, I came across a link to this, from editor extraordinaire Cheryl Klein at Arthur A. Levine Books. I was curious, when I saw her tweet, what her modest proposal might be. Instead of summarizing her points, I'll ask that you read it, as I don't want to be seen as putting words in her mouth. Finished?

And, as much as I'd like to help Cheryl and her fellow editors out here, this comes down to just one question for me: what do I tell the editor who manages to read the manuscript and get the in-house support to make a good offer on a book in 48 hours? Clearly, in that situation, the editor and the house are enthusiastic enough to get their ducks in a row very quickly. They want the book, and they want it badly enough to beat other people to the punch. Editors, would you be willing to let a preempt sit for weeks while I tested the waters with slower editors? I think not.

For me, finding the best fit means finding an editor with the energy and enthusiasm to make a book happen. Doing all of the work necessary to make an offer in a short period of time is one (though certainly not the only) measure of that. While I understand that sometimes outside factors (vacations, illnesses, sales conferences and other meetings) may negatively impact an interested editor, it's just an unfortunate reality that we all miss out on things because of timing. In an industry as challenging as ours, a bird in the hand is always worth more than vague interest.

Not that any agent worth their 15% would go around selling books to the highest bidder even when the highest bidder isn't a good match for the project. We carefully select the editors we approach for each project; I know there are times that I agonize over which editor at a house full of amazing talent I'll submit a particular project to. If you're in an auction for one of my books, you are someone I want to buy it. You wouldn't be reading it otherwise.

Now, this isn't to say that I entirely disagree. I know that editors are rightfully frustrated when agents call auctions for projects too early -- before they have the offers to truly justify it. I know that moving quickly can lead to a lemming mentality that then leads to unjustifiably high advances offered in the heat of the moment, and that helps no one. But I don't think putting artificial time lines on projects helps, either. In fact, for most editors, I think that will mean putting something to the bottom of the pile.

In the end, my interests are those of the client, not of the editor, and I don't think timelines benefit authors. So, I'll continue to operate without them.

- Michael

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who's who

Alright, you've been patient while we rolled out great book lists, and now is the time for us to stand by our choices by name!

Then we came to the end

If any of you have been waiting to see all the lists before placing your bets, your time has come! There's an uneven lot of us, so here are the final three DGLM-ers and the books they really think you ought to be reading. Check out 1, 2, 3, and 4, read the below, and then tell us who said what, where our taste is impeccable, and where we've gone horribly astray. We'll give you the answers later this week, so get your guesses in!

DGLM-er #9:

C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia

W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials

John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman

Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride

Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair

Ian McEwan's Atonement

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed

Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal & the White

Ian Pears's An Instance of the Fingerpost

Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God

Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet

Lorrie Moore's Self Help

DGLM-er #10:

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies

Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

J. G. Ballard’s Cocaine Nights

Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat

Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White

Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon

Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin

Sam Lipsyte’s Home Land

Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities

DGLM-er #11:

Tom Perrotta's Little Children
Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House
Annie Proulx's The Shipping News
Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes
Koren Zailckas's Smashed
Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha
Donna Tartt's The Secret History
Cormac McCarthy's The Road
Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking
John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany
Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone
Alice Munro's Open Secrets
Judy Blume's Blubber
Torey Haden's Somebody Else's Kids
Sloane Crosely's I Was Told There'd Be Cake

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The great book lists just keep on coming

New week, new lists of quality literature beloved by the staff of DGLM! Check out parts 1, 2, and 3, and then let us know who you think wrote the below, where they got it wrong, and where they got it so, so right!

DGLM-er #7:

John Cheever's The Stories of John Cheever
Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House
Italo Calvino's Difficult Loves
Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon
William Styron's Sophie's Choice
Graham Greene's The End of the Affair
Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot
Christa Wolf's Cassandra
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
John Fowles's The Magus
Homer's The Odyssey
Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's The General in His Labyrinth
Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago
Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

DGLM-er #8:

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange
Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake
Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried
William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying
Dave Eggers's What is the What
Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns
Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove
J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game
Joseph Heller's Catch-22

Great Books, Part 3

Just in time for the weekend, here are more amazing books that we here at DGLM (well, at least one of us for each list below) stand by. Why not pick one up to read before Monday?

And if you haven't already, don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!

DGLM-er #5:

Graham Greene's The Quiet American
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary
Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome
Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince
James Frey's A Million Little Pieces
Alice McDermott's Child of My Heart
J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye
Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain
Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring
Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper
Charles Dickens's Great Expectations

DGLM-er #6:

George Orwell's 1984
Colum McCann's Everything in This Country Must
Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway
Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One
Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children
Paul Muldoon's Quoof
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude
Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
Knut Hamsun's Hunger
John Milton's Paradise Lost
Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families
Patrick McCabe's The Butcher Boy
Judith Guest's Ordinary People

And the book lists continue

It's time for great books challenge part 2! You can read all about part 1 here. As a reminder, we'll tell you the answers at the end, so feel free to keep guessing on the first two lists as well.

So tell us, who do you think we've got today and which books do you love and hate from these lists? Be sure to give us your lists in the comments!

DGLM-er #3:

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead
Leon Uris's Exodus
James Michener's Hawaii
George Eliot's Silas Marner
Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls
Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint
Anita Diamant's The Red Tent
Sue Miller's The Good Mother
Anne Rivers Siddons's Outer Banks
Susan Isaacs's After All These Years
Dominick Dunne's People Like Us
Herman Wouk's The Winds of War

DGLM-er #4:

Lorrie Moore's Birds of America
Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
André Breton's Nadja
Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Charles Baudelaire's Paris Spleen
Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five
George Orwell's Animal Farm
Art Spiegelman's Maus
Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited
Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series
Cintra Wilson's Colors Insulting to Nature
Alan Moore's The Watchmen

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great and lovable books

Around the DGLM office, great book lists generally occasion complaints that however talented so-and-so might be, surely no one enjoys reading their work. And so we've decided to challenge ourselves--and you--with some DGLM-generated lists of books that are truly great, but also truly lovable. We decided there'd be no picking a 500 page tome we had to slog through, but begrudgingly admit is a seminal work. We've got to stand by both their quality and their enjoyability.

So over the next little while we'll be anonymously posting batches of lists generated by individuals here at DGLM, and we're challenging you, dear readers, to guess who created those lists. So in the comments tell us who you think posted each list, which of these books you love, and which you're amazed to discover anyone does! If you want to play along yourself, give us your own list in the comments.

Your choices are: Jane, Miriam, Michael, Stacey, Jim, Lauren, Chasya, Jessica, Alex, and--just to make things more challenging--our summer interns Stephanie and Zach. We'll tell you the answers once we've posted them all.

DGLM-er #1:

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five
Henry Fielding's Tom Jones
Joseph Heller's Catch-22
Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End
Nicole Krauss's The History of Love
John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany
Philip Roth's American Pastoral
Nathan Englander's The Ministry of Special Cases
Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote
Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True
Art Spiegelman's Maus
Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman's Good Omens
Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated
Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife

DGLM-er #2:

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty
Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
Joseph Heller's Catch-22
Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Cormac McCarthy's The Road
Donna Tartt's The Secret History
John Knowles's A Separate Peace
Robert Graysmith's Zodiac
C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
George Selden's The Cricket in Times Square

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Staying on deadline

Leon Nefaykh over at the Observer has some very good advice for authors: with publishers’ budgets increasingly tight, don’t assume you can just get an extension if you miss your contractual deadlines. As we’ve all been telling clients over the last year, now is not the time to take for granted that you’ll retain your publisher’s goodwill if you can’t fulfill your obligations. Deliver on time, and if you’re concerned that you won’t be able to, talk to your agent right away so that we can try to work out an extension for you before you’re in breach. (As with all contractual matters, it’s important to come to us with this problem, not your publisher directly.)

But don’t leave that conversation for the last minute: you don’t want to find out a week before your due date that you’re nowhere near finished and going to have to meet the deadline or find your contract canceled—and your signing payment due back to the publisher.


To ghostwrite or not to ghostwrite...

Interesting piece on NPR about ghostwriting as a means to support one's own creative writing habit. While not for everyone, if you're disciplined and able to work collaboratively (even with difficult individuals), it can be a source of good income.

-- Miriam