Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode 23 · 1 year ago

WB S1E23: Mary Kay Andrews with Pam Dorman and Stuart Krichevsky

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK: Mary Kay Andrews speaks with Pam Dorman & Stuart Krichevsky about life in publishing as Agents, Editors and Publishers.

Yeah, it's always the voice. It's always the characters. Stewart has watched me many, many, many times when I start something and I get both incredibly excited and incredibly anxious because at base I'm a very inquisitive person in many arenas. And as soon as I start reading something I like and you know, sometimes it is just a few pages and I think, Oh, my God, Oh my God, I really love this. Okay, I'm shutting my door. I'm going to just read this, You know, I'll ignore emails somehow, and then I start getting anxious because I think how am I going to get it away from all those other editors? Sometimes you're just not the right agent or editor to bring a book into the world if you can't get there. And you know, I will tell you that any time I've taken on an author or a book and my heart wasn't in it, but I did it because my head said to do it. It's been a mistake. Something has the the adrenaline has to be there. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast for New York Times. Bestselling authors, One rock star librarian and endless stories joined Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patti Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block as novelists, We are four Long time friends with 70 books between us and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Hi, everybody. I'm Mary Kay Andrews, and this is the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. Today's episode. We could call it the Living a well lit life. Our guest today are Pam Doorman and Stewart Trochowski, who are a dynamic married publishing power couple. That's hard to say. I'm going to ask them today about their work roles and where they intersect, how they're very individual taste shape, the clients they take on and the books they published and whatever else comes to my squirrely little mind. First off, because I decided to do this, I had to give it some thought. I'm doing this alphabetically so as not to cause any marital strife. Pam Doorman is vice president and publisher of Pamela Dorman Books Viking In her more than 30 years at Penguin, she has acquired and edited the multimillion copy number one Bestsellers. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Me Before You and the Giver of Stars by Joe Joe Moye. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman, which was a selection of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club. An option by Reese says Hello Sunshine for feature films. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding. The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacqueline Bouchard, Which was the first selection of the Oprah Book Club. She founded Pamela Dorman Books in 2008, where she has focused on fiction especially well written, accessible debut fiction. It could go on and on and on. Jay Ryan straddles New York Times bestseller kitchens with a great Midwest and the logger Queen of Queen of Minnesota recently. Richard Osmonds, The Thursday Murder Club. I'm pretty annoyed by that one. Pam The Push by Ashley Aw Drain, which was a Good Morning America Book Club, and Ellie Brazil's Queen Sugar, which premiered on September 26th on the Own Network, which is produced by Oprah. Pam publishes market suspense fiction There's so much more stuff that we're not even gonna go there, because now it's Stewart Stern. Stewart Kosowski represents a wide ranging and distinguished list of best selling and award winning authors, but he was originally a solo operation. The agency has spent it into a team of eight literary agents with a growing reputation for urgent work. I'm going to ask you about that, Stuart. URGENT Work All genre fiction and nonfiction books. The women are passed and eliminate our present showcase excellent meeting and reach a wide readership at home and abroad. His clients work regularly appears on The New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into over 50 languages, has served as the basis for major award winning motion pictures, television series and documentaries and received literary awards, including The George Polk Award, the Governor General's Literary Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Prize, the National Book Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Wyndham Council,...

Campbell Price and, Oh yeah, the Pulitzer Prize. Oh, I forgot to tell you that Pam lives and knits in New York while Westchester County and she lives with Stuart Kostovski. Pam Pam is There's so much I could say, Pam is a cynical loudy. Graduated Wesleyan, and Stewart is a native New York City. A graduate of N Y. U and I together last I heard they have two Children. Still have two Children, a dog and a dog. Cosmo the Magnificent. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit to you that Stuart is my literary agent of 20 years and counting. Is that right, Stewart? It is 23 years because cam was just just newly pregnant with with our kids. Yeah, just dating was just stating. Exactly. And so was my career. And they've all grown magnificently. Let's talk about the roles of publisher editor, an agent where they intersect and why our listeners should be interested. Okay, Stuart, since Pam's lengthy bio went first, you get to talk about what does an agent do or not do because it's so much more than just making a deal, right? Yeah. Thanks so much, Kathy, for for having us on and and this will be great fun. You know, the question is, what doesn't agent do so many people out there think Well, you send your book in and the agent helps you sell it like It's a transactional kind of thing, but it's really a ideally a career long relationship. And an agent tries to look at a good agent, tries to look at a writer and say, What are this writer strengths? What do they do? Well, how can we use those strengths in a way that will create the best results, both creatively and in the marketplace? Um, and, uh, you know is really there for, you know, from the conception of the idea, through editorial development through every bit of the publishing process. As the authors advocate translator, um, guide, um uh and, um, shoulder to cry on. And even better to celebrate with when things are good. Right? All right, Pam, talk to us. People have a broad idea. I think of what an editor does, but you're also a publisher. And I wish you would talk about both of those roles. Thanks, Cathy, because I run a small imprint with my name on it. I have I would say a little more discretion in terms of what I take on and how we publish it. Then I would just as an editor. That does not mean I get to make all the decisions. It means I go and beg for money to my bosses to acquire books and, you know, cajole the marketing team just like anybody else. But it means that I have a responsibility to look at our our imprints list as a whole and see how we're balancing it. Which books, you know, we're publishing when to make sure they don't, uh, interfere with each other to make sure we have a good range of, you know, commercial women's fiction and suspense and some nonfiction. So it's a It's a broader view than just I'm buying this book, and I'm going to both acquire it and edit it as I would as an editor. On the other hand, is an editor, which is still the thing you know, that I kind of loved the most. What I love is finding a new voice, getting excited, going and getting that book before anybody else does. Ideally and then both working on the manuscript with the author and then doing my own version of cheerleading as we get into the publishing process, Yeah, there's so much more to it. Here's the big question for both of you. How do you know, how do you know what makes you think an author or a book idea or, uh, synopsis or a pitch? What is the little spiky sense that tells you this has the potential to be a success? Stewart, Maybe you go first and talk. Maybe do a little case study of something that you thought Okay, Yeah, yeah, yeah. This this this sure, you know it is Malcolm Gladwell wrote a whole book about this called Blink, and it opens with an anecdote in which the director of the Metropolitan Museum looked at a statue...

...and instantly said, It's a fake. And then when you said when they asked, Well, how do you know he had to stop and think? And it really turns out to be the result of kind of years of experience. But because we see so many works in progress and hear from so many authors, when something is good and speaks to you, it's a very personal and actually visceral reaction. You know, you know, the heart beats faster that you know your heart rises in your throat. And it's not that different from that moment that every reader experiences and says, Oh, my God, I love this. Okay, let me stop you for a minute. Let's talk for I think a good example of this might be Piper Kerman. Orange is the new black, which absolutely hyper your client. And, of course, everybody knows the huge show. But talk a little bit about because she she hadn't been published before, right? No, she hadn't. I met Piper, threw her, threw her husband, Larry Smith, a terrific writer himself at the time of magazine editor. And he told me about Piper when she was just about to be released from prison and, um said, You know, the dirty secret is that my wife is not a writer, but she's the best writer in the family. And, um, it was very sweet of him to say, Larry is a terrific writer and we spoke shortly when she got out of prison and she knew that she wanted to elevate the stories of the other people who were there. This was not going to be about her. This was going to be about the woman who knew she had some privileges that the women she was incarcerated with did not. And I said, Well, just write me a scene, and this scene didn't make it into the book, but it told me that she had one in her. It was a scene of three women talking about their upcoming weddings, and it was all the details of the bride's maid and the fight with the mother in law and fight with sisters and details of how they wanted to be in the dress and all of that. And then she had assumed out, and you realize that they were in the coffee break room in prison. So it was just like any conversation among three soon to be brides talking about, you know, what was in their hearts and their anxieties and their hopes in a way that was real and you knew how they were all from very different backgrounds. And then you realize, Oh, mhm. These are real lives of real people in circumstances that we don't always hear about. And so that was what I knew is Then we talked more and she wrote more scenes. So we talked more and she wrote more scenes, and eventually we figured out what the arc of the story I wanted to be and was that an easy sell when you went to sell it, it was not an easy sell. So this was long enough ago, so that it was not yet common for is not yet common for you to hear stories from lesbians. And it was a time when publishers, you know, we're I'm sure that they could sell a book that was set in prison because they just have not been a commercial thing. And the world has really changed now, and this will get here earlier. Question about books that are urgent. Kathy Piper had a mission. She wanted to talk about who is incarcerated in this country and why. And many, many many of the women were there because because they had a boyfriend who was selling drugs and they'd get roped genomic conspiracy charge and sentenced because there were a lot of narcotics involved, not because their role was anything significant. They might have just been cooking dinner. Well, women talked about feeling and, you know, that was an important agenda to get out, and she was smart enough. And this is something we all worked on. We knew we had to tell a good and entertaining story in order to get that message across. If she was going to get on her soapbox, it wouldn't work. So we focused on story and character and humanity. And, you know, that was what made the book said Terrific and, you know, later creates so much potential for the show. I think that's that's such a great case study. All right, Pam, your turn. What? I mean, you have been such a taste maker and publishing, you know, published bringing Bridget Jones diary. Yeah, to the U. S. And, of course, Eleanor Oliphant. And so many more. Now Richard Osmond. What is it about a book or an idea that grab your...

...rockets? Oh, it's always It's always the voice. It's always the characters. Um, you know, I Stewart has watched me many, many, many times when I start something and I get both incredibly excited and incredibly anxious because at base I'm a very inquisitive person in many arenas, and as soon as I start reading something I like and, you know, sometimes it is just a few pages and I think Oh, my God. Oh, my God, I really love this. Okay, I'm shutting my door. I'm going to just read this. You know, I'll ignore emails somehow. And then I start getting anxious because I think how am I going to get it away from all those other editors? And Stewart Stewart always says that's what it brings out the inner schnauzer and me. Can we talk about the meme? I don't know, Cathy. We do. We have four letter words on this podcast. Well, you can. You can say them whether or not they make it. No, I've said many times that the biggest books Pam has published have all started with her getting that sense of just being unstoppable. I can tell you there is no peace, um, for anyone around Pam and most especially the agents she's dealing with until she owns that book. And I sent her once a meme that I created, which I will offer to share with friends and for fiction, followers of a very cute little schnauzer puppy. But it says, Do not fun with me, so we call it the Do Not funk with me schnauzer. And yeah, so Pam, Homo is look out. Yeah, Momo is real, huge, huge. It's a driving motivator, but it's also that You know one thing I've had to learn and it's still hard for me and my boss is still remind me of this. Sometimes there are books that I mean when there's a book I want. I absolutely know it when there's a book that I think is commercial could sell a lot, but somehow I'm not getting that gotta have it vibe. I I still have a hard time saying It's a great book. It's going to be somebody's big book, but it's not going to be my big book. Some friends once, uh, a birthday toast said one of the questions that I'm commonly asked is, I don't really like this book. Should I buy it anyway, which is, you know, am I gonna miss out on something? So I have to tamp that voice down and remind myself that I really know. And what's really interesting is that I work for two wonderful people Brian Tart and Andrea Schultz at at Viking Penguin. And they both know Brian particularly gets out of the way when I come at him. Um, but they say to me, I know when you really want something and I'm not hearing that in your voice about this book, but I think what it is always is it's a voice that I love. It's a character that I fall for. Recently, I bought something that was not really voice or character driven, but it was this incredibly intricate and twisty plot that I hadn't really seen before. And it tickled me the way certain kinds of movies do. And I I thought, I really get this. This is something new. So it's all this. What was it? Can you tell us? Sure. I mean, it's a ways off, but it's a first novel, the first adult novel, I should say, by an author named Ashley Elston. It's called First Lie Winds, and it's about a woman who works for a Mr Smith who basically sends her on various missions under various aliases, and she always has a job to do. And then this book starts and she's on a new job, and she doesn't know that, really. The one who's being played here is her, at least not at the beginning. So well, talk to me. Give me a case study for a book that might not have appeared obvious to someone else but was exactly the right wavelength for Pam doorman to snatch it up. Well, I'll tell you most recently, Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club, which has been enormously successful all over the world, particularly in England. And we It's a national New York Times bestseller here, USA Today bestseller. I read that title and I said, I want to read this book...

And it turns out that it's about four septuagenarians in a very posh retirement home in England who you know for their spare time, solve cold cases. And then, of course, somebody drops dead and there's a live case on the ground. And as soon as I started it, I was in his world. These four characters were so adorable, so funny, so smart. And as he has said in other in interviews, you just want to know you're in a safe pair of hands and I started to like I had two pages. I was like, Oh my God, I love this and I knew that I bought this before the pandemic, but I knew that people were going to want to be comforted by a book like this. And boy, was the timing great. So We've now published the Thursday murder Club and the second one, the man who died twice. And I mean, I just want to be I just want to live at Cooper's Chase with those four and see what's gonna happen next. Kathy, the that world reminds me a little bit of the world of your old Callahan mysteries. Um, you know how you just want to be with these people. They are, you know, easy to underestimate. But, boy, do they have it all over everybody around them. So it really is grateful. That's great to hear. Um, are you ever wrong? Both of you, Peter, on a book that you can't do you a case study my wife. I wonder if there's, uh, an author or a book that just it didn't strike you. And then when you look back and go, what was I thinking? Why did I pass on that? There are so many. I once worked with a very successful editor who had his own imprint, Richard Marik, many years ago, and he told me that you weren't a successful editor until you passed on the best seller. His was a classic Jonathan Livingston seagull just date myself. You know, he thought it was a piece of dreck and he said no thanks and then sold millions of copies. I'm not telling you the biggest book that I have passed on, but there have been many recently, Um, and it's very, very hard to deal with. I'll tell you mine. I'll tell you mine, um, and and and will stand by my statement that I wasn't wrong mind was mutant message down under, and I didn't. It's a story anymore. I'm sure it's still out there. And it was the first person book by a woman who went to Australia and American woman who went to Australia and was kidnapped by Aboriginals or got lost and was taken in by Aboriginals And, you know, kind of went native and had this spiritual experience. And I thought it was absolute buck. I didn't believe a word of it, um, and flash forward three years, and I was reading my New Morning New York Times for the physical paper back then and read that HarperCollins had acquired it for a million dollars and my head hit the breakfast table with and a few months, and it hit the nonfiction bestseller list, and several months later it turned out that it actually was bunk. Um and so it moved on over to the fiction bestseller list. And there you go. But you know what? I don't regret having passed on that book. Sure, it made a ton of money If it wasn't for me, sometimes you're just not the right agent or editor to bring a book into the world if you can't get there. And, um, you know, I will tell you that any time I've taken on an author or a book and my heart wasn't in it, but I did it because my head said to do it. It's been it's been a mistake. It really something has to. The adrenaline has to be there. And that's not something that you're I mean. I think it's something that you acquire over years of experience. I mean, you start with some instincts, right? Or you wouldn't be in the business or you wouldn't be very long. Yeah, let's talk about how your tastes have changed over decades in the business. Um, and I know that from personal experience. Stewart, when I first came to you, you were you repped quite a few mystery authors, and that's changed. I think I'm am I still Am I the lone holdout? I I probably probably are probably are. So talk about talk about how your tastes have changed over the business and also because you're...

...running a business. How you extract contracted and expanded over the years. Yeah, thank you. Tastes do change. And, you know, I think you and I got together in the late nineties when mysteries have been booming, um, for several years and, you know, particularly cozies and particularly, um, you know, books from women. Mystery Raiders were really, um, you know, vibrant back then in the days of Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton and, um, you know, and and Martin Miller and so many other terrific writers who I love. And, you know, I think actually, what may have happened for me is less a matter of taste changing, but the but the market shifting. And, you know, suddenly it wasn't as easy to sell mysteries, and at the same time, some of my you know, best nonfiction books came around and took off the perfect storm in 1997, um, in the heart of the sea in 2000, you know, And so and so I think my attention shifted in that direction a little bit. And you know, you and I, of course, um, you know, moved you from from Kathie Hogan Trocheck writing mystery novels to Mary Kay Andrews writing women's fiction. And, um, you know, we shared that story with friends in fiction before, but you had bigger ambitions and writing a certain kind of book, and you asked what you needed to do. And, um, you know, and I said, Well, you know, you write such terrific character driven books, they don't have to be mysteries. You can work on a larger canvas. And we created Mary Kay Andrews. And, you know, she has risen to become the Queen Queen the queen. So so tastes do change. And in the last five years, we've expanded the agency, and I wanted to have people who have tastes and interests that are different from mine because mine is not the last word by any means or the only word by any means. And, um, you know, we all keep each other interested. So, um, you know So Melissa Natcho is doing some terrific commercial fiction book by Amanda Giambattista called My Sweet Girl that came out recently where you know, Melissa had a really intense editorial relationship, you know, in working on that and has just sold a book by a wonderful writer named Gabino Iglesias, who is kind of horror adjacent but is just such a terrific patron ng story. And he's writing about, you know, it's sort of supernatural, Um, Story called The Devil takes You Home that's set at the Mexican border with some real horrors that are present at the border, but also some horrors from the imagined world that he's created so again that is, you know about bringing diversity to the to the office. My colleague Ross Harris, who came up with me, has a novel out now from Astra House, um, called God of Mercy by a Kenyan writer named Ocasion Mocha. You know, which is a terrific, uh, you know, sort of almost mythological world that's been compared to one of the first three years. Called it a new, uh, you know, which is terrific. So it's, um, you know, we're at a moment when there are all sorts of different voices that people want to hear from. And my colleagues have been pretty amazing in bringing that in. Pam, let's talk about, you know, your reputation for a while was for upmarket literary fiction and commercial also. I mean, Bridget Jones diary was nothing if not commercial, and you still do that. But I'm fascinated with your recent acquisition. So would you talk a little bit about your personal taste? Well, you know, I'm not sure my taste has changed at base all that much. I, um let me just think for a second. I think that I still really gravitate towards books that I think largely women are going to relate to. They're not all super commercial. I mean, cmon kid is pretty different from Helen. Fielding is pretty different from Richard Osmond. Very different from Gail Honeymoon with Eleanor Oliphant. But I think right now what I have sensed in the market and in myself is a desire for books that in some ways are uplifting. I mean, I'm a...

...sentimentalist at heart, and people, I think, sort of think of Eleanor Oliphant is an uplifting book, although it's quite bar. Yeah, that was exactly the book that came to my mind when you mentioned that word, because I you know, when friends in fiction we have this enormous Facebook Following of over 52,000 people. And it's interesting how often Eleanor oliphant comes up and people talk about. I couldn't get into it. And I keep saying, Just keep reading. Just Eleanor is amazing. So I love the idea that that's the kind of thing that appeals to you. But what else? Well, I think on the heels of that, and it's interesting. I mean, Eleanor is a very quirky character, and that's what I liked about her. But I published, uh, last year 2020 Clara Pulleys debut novel, The Authenticity Project, which is about a an aging artist, kind of an eccentric who writes in a little green notebook and says, Basically, I'm lonely and leaves the notebook in a cafe where upon somebody else picks it up, and soon they go from having a little green notebook full of people writing about themselves to an actual group of people in a cafe who becomes a new community. And I think that sense of of people, uh, touching each other, especially during the pandemic, you know, It's something that I've gravitated to. I think it's commercially kind of right with the zeitgeist, and I find myself looking for books like that. I got a completely different note. I bought two books that I think you'll see are, um, they're united by character, but totally different in form. Um, I have a debut novel called Yenckel. Where Is your Husband by, uh, British Nigerian author Lizzie Damilola Blackburn coming out next year? And it's It's as if it was a British Nigerian woman living in a Jewish American daughter's life, surrounded by all these aunties and a mother, and all they want to know is, when are you getting married? And you think is a totally independent woman and you know she's going to find the right person. But within her culture, this is the operative question, and it is completely delightful. So I fell for it because I felt for Yinka, and I knew that that kind of world is a very familiar one, whether you're Nigerian or American or something else. Um, on the other end of the spectrum, you know, I don't really I published suspense fiction, and I have certainly published lots of mysteries over over the years. But now I really mostly published. He spends novels. Well, I fell for a jar, a quote unquote genre novel in the genre I don't even read, and it's called A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin, and the setup is a Regency setup. It's about a woman with no money who must find a husband, and it is completely delicious. And I fell for it, really knowing almost nothing about the genre. So you know, once again I felt for a woman character I fell for, you know, a setup. And I think it's going to be absolutely wonderful for anybody who likes historical fiction. So But you also now you do. Sherry. Is it Latina? Latina? Latina? Okay, tell me, what about her? Because those are Those are some pretty thrillers thrillers, right? Oh, yeah, I mean, in fact, it's interesting. Sharry interviewed Richard Osmond yesterday, and they were talking about the differences in their book, and and she said, I love all your characters, Richard and he said, I know and we want to murder all of yours. Her books are really dark, um, domestic suspense novels, but about situations you could completely imagine yourselves in the first one. The couple next door is about a couple whose baby disappears and, um, you know, that's like the primal fear of every parent. Um, I fell for Sharis books because I can still remember myself walking on the Metro North train platform from the train car up the stairs. And I was reading the manuscript on my Kindle as I went. I couldn't stop reading it. I mean, she's so good at plotting and pacing, and so there's this whole different thing going on there, Um, but that's what I loved about it. But the common DNA strand would be character and voice. Well, not in that book. I think what...

Shari really has is the ability to set up a classic suspense situation and then just keep you really glued to your seat. We we coined the term once it read when we published the couple next door, and that has been true of all of her books. Yeah, that's something to aspire to, isn't it? You know Well, okay, let's talk about longstanding publishing relationships, and I guess marital relationships too, So ours might have almost ended when you know one of the first big options I had when Pam was the under bidder. And, you know, it didn't get the book and burst into tears. And my boss was may have been one of the most generous things he ever did for me. He said, why don't you take him to dinner tonight and and and and send me the bill? Uh, and we did so without that, it wouldn't have happened. But, you know, Pam and I do different kinds of books, and, you know, uh, we don't do business together directly because I believe firmly in an author's God given right to complain about their editor. Um, and, you know, it would be uncharitable of me to join in if an author were to complain about him. You know, I can't say she said that. Tell me about it. Yeah, right. I also, uh, you know, over the years, have I hope, gains the wisdom you know, not to try to negotiate with, you know, with it within a marriage. Um, and, you know, instead of you know, we'll have it Another 200,000. It might come out like, you know, don't talk to me the way you talk to your mother. So yeah, we we we just just don't go there. We we support each other from the sidelines. We help each other solve problems. We talked through all sorts of things and we have a whole lot of fun. I should say that I should admit that I've told Stuart on more than one occasion. If he gets hit by a bus and he's no longer my agent, can Pam published me? Yes, Absolutely. Love. No, I mean, I love my publisher, Jenn Jennifer Enderlin. I love and adore Pam. Probably. I don't think my books would be Pam's taste anyway, but that's just sort of the jokey thing. And the other jokey thing. I always tell there's another agent friend that I've always told Stuart, if you get hit by a bus, I'm going out. I'll be calling. Generally, we have many reasons to be staying away from Busses. All right, Pam, let's hear your side of this discussion about the longstanding relationship and also not just about your relationships, your personal relationships, but how an editor and an agent over the long haul helped shape and grow an author's work. An audience Because Pam, both of you have had long term relationships with some some others, right? Sure. Well, and and and in fact, stew. I thought you were going to talk about your relationship with Mary Kay. I'd love to talk about my relationship with Mary Kay and her editor. Um, and you know, we always have three way conversations about, you know, about the manuscript when they come in about the idea when it starts, you know, there's a terrific collaborative process in there and, you know, ideally, an author, an agent and the next ER are always having a three way conversation about every aspect of it. Yeah, you know what? What? Some writers who are not published yet might not understand is that your agent is kind of your buffer so that I don't have to. I don't have to put my editor in a bad place. Our relationship is about the book, the work. It is about the career, too. But it's not about what you didn't do this or you gave somebody else that that I I wanted. It's always about the project and the book, and it's not about those discussions. Stewart and my editor have. I'll have. He gets to be the bad hat all the time. I get to be the bad hat. But I also do not antagonize editors. There is a It's a collaboration we are working to, you know, to raise the queen to ever higher platforms. And, you know, when there is something that needs to be handled differently, we try to, you know, I try to have a constructive conversation. You know that conversation when it begins. When your parent says to you I'm not mad, I'm just very disappointed. That's the kind of Yeah, exactly. We love those conversations. We love the conversations that make the editor say, your agent is so nice. He made me do this. He was right. I'm not telling you what happens on the other side of the...

...phone or the death. We look at the results campus. Yeah, give us the editors side of that equation of working. I'm really interested in. Maybe it's because I have had a long haul relationship with two editors and with two agents and that have been varied to me, successful in fulfilling in different ways. So I'm interested in hearing about how how you feel about a long term relationship with an author and how you can help grow and and increase the work and the audience well, I think I'm just thinking about various people with whom I've had long relationships. I mean, right now I think the person who comes to mind is Jojo Moyes and I published a book of Joe Joe's that was not her first. It was about her eighth called The Last Letter From Your Lover, which was recently made into a Netflix movie. It was not a breakout book for her in the U. K. And her agent happened to give it to me when I was on a buying trip in England, but I fell in love with it, and after that, Joe Joe knew that she wanted to write something different. She was tired of being a mid list author, and she had an idea that was really not typical and very atypical of her. And fortunately, her new English publisher, who are my colleagues, said to her, This is great. You should do it, and I have to admit that when I heard she was writing about a quadriplegic and the person who took care of him. My heart slightly sank. And then I started reading me before you, which up until the giver of stars has was her biggest book today. And it sort of didn't matter. Like anything you thought about a book that was going to be commercial fell away when you read that book, and she has one of the most wonderful agents I know. Besides my husband, Sheila Crowley, a Curtis Brown, Sheila is the ultimate cheerleader and support for Jo Jo. She is wonderful about the books, but what she's really wonderful about is being a partner with the publisher and taking care of her author. And we have a wonderful collaboration, I think, because ultimately we both want to make sure that Jo Jo's career is growing, that she's well taken care of, that we support her. And, um, in that case, her role is not primarily editorial. They're actually three of us who edit Jo Jo, uh, UK editor and her German editor in me. And, um, in that case, Sheila is not so much part of the editorial conversation, but she's all about the publishing conversation, and I rely on her so much for somebody like Joe Joe who's now so big and doing so many things. Um, you know, as a team, I hope we work together to help, you know, maximize her career. I'm interested in I'm just stopped for a minute. About three different editors editing a manuscript, which makes me want to go to hell. Mexico. Want to go hide under the bed? You know, it's so interesting. I I publish a lot of books by English authors and happily, many, Many of them have been very successful here over the years. Recent years, Um, and as a result, I worked very closely with, um, a lot of them. And right now, actually, I'm working, uh, with an American author, a colleague of mine named Jenny Jackson, whose book, Pineapple Street. I bought, um, my colleague in the U. K. And my Canadian colleague. All three of us edited the book, and I have to say we sent her a 19 page editorial letter and she did not fall over and die. Um, so I give him great credit. She thank you. Now it was I think what's interesting is I learn a lot from my other colleagues. And if the author can if we can present a I sort of united front, the order can pick and choose suggestions. It works very well. Yeah, I I have to say, there's, um, one of the terrific things about you know, having you know, my agent colleagues is that there's just no question that we are smarter together. Um and I mean, we had a lengthy conversation or staff meeting on Monday about, you know, a novelist at a crossroads and how to navigate that whole situation, and it was really, really productive to have, you know, sort of other brains and other people's experiences to draw on. But what I what I was thinking a minute ago, as you were talking about that Pam and Cathy, It reminds me of something...

...that I like to say to to aspiring authors out there who are looking for an agent and who are so eager to quote unquote get an agent that I think one of the remind everyone that you know when you hear about how intimate these collaborations can be over a long period of time, to really trust your heart. And if an agent offers the representation, spend some time with that person. Get to know them. Say, do I like them? Do I trust them? Am I happy putting my career in their hands? Do they get me? Do they get my book? Do they know how to do this? That chemistry is just so, so, so important. And, you know, I always like to say that, you know, don't focus on getting an agent, focus on choosing an agent. And, you know, if you have someone say, they'd like to work with you, you know, you know, please say, Hey, can we get on the phone? Can we zoom If you know, if you were able to get to New York or to where to where they live? Say, can I come sit down with you? I'm talking to other agents to I'd just like to hear, just like to talk more about. You know, what I hope to accomplish with my career? Might go what we should do with this book, all of those things. And just make sure you really feel that they are. You know, they had that sense in their gut that they want to commit to you into your career. You know, it when it's there and you know it when it's not there. Yeah, and I think 11 thing as an author. If I were advising somebody getting started in the business, I would say, Ask the agent about their long term author relationships. I know, Stuart, you've had. So I mean Sebastian Younger you've had for so many years and Nathaniel Philbrick and myself for 20 three years and counting counting. Unless you fire me. No way. Let's move on to the last question. And it's the most important one to anybody writing who's listening, which is What are you looking for? Yeah, let's start with you. What are you looking for? I hate this question. Okay, Stuart, you answer it. I hate the question, too. And you know, what I'm really looking for is good writers. And it is about voice and character and point of view and sensibility and seeing something new. Um, and that is a hard way to guide. Um, you know, to guide, you know, any given any given Writer. Um you know, I don't say send me this. I have never chased trends. I think trends are beginning to be over by the time you recognize them. I've been proud to, you know, work with authors who have started trends of their own. And that's because the book is so generous and the writer is exceptional. And and when the stars align and we all do our jobs well, you know, the audience recognizes that So, you know, sends me your best work. Send me something fresh with character and voice. And if I don't like it, I might have a colleague who does. And we go from there. Pam, do you want to throw any thoughts in there? Well, I think just along the lines that we've been discussing, which is my taste is relatively consistent. I mean, I always like books that have strong, interesting women in them. I want a voice that the minute I read it on the page, I can hear it again in my in my head, and I want to listen to it some more. I want books that the other thing that is really, really still true for me is that I want books that are going to be great book club books. I I mean, that's become a kind of cliche, but I mean the Jackie Machar's book The Deep End of the Ocean was the first Oprah Book Club pick, and I bought books that people want to discuss. I mean, Ashley Adrian's book, The push that I published earlier this year. People finish that book and they can't wait to talk to other people about it. So I want books like that, and then I want the pleasure books. Then I want the Thursday murder clubs where you just say, I mean, I'm reading a submission right now that I started reading it on Sunday afternoon. I wasn't feeling that well, and I just sat there and read through it because it was fun. Um, and I'm still a sucker for those. Yeah, and, you know, you know, we have to say that, you know, we've been so happy to see that the Santa suit was New York Times bestseller. And, um, you know, again we talked about books about urgent books.

Right now, there is an urgent need for that kind of escape and and feel good, inspiring story. And, you know, and boy is the audience recognizing that that's true. Good to hear Pam, are you going to buy that book that you just talked about. I don't know. I'm talking to the author later today. I hope she likes me. How could she not? How could she know? We are going to leave on that note. But again, we were chatting today with Stuart Kosowski of the Stuart Trochowski Literary agency and Pam doorman, who has her own imprint at Viking. And we can't wait to see what what books will have coming from both of you. Thanks. Thanks so much so much. This was fun. Remember, you can always find all the books by every friends and fiction writer's block podcast guest past and present in the friends and fiction bookshop dot org shop. All sales place there helped to fund friends in fiction, and a portion of each and every sale goes straight into the pockets of indie booksellers nationwide. Since its inception, bookshop dot org has raised More than 16 million for indie bookstores, shops, small shop, local from the convenience of your screen with bookshop dot org and tell them friends and fiction sent you. Thank you for tuning in to the Friends and Fiction writer's block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on Facebook or YouTube, where our live friends And Fiction Show Airs at seven p. M. Eastern. Standard time. We're so glad you're here.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (236)