This week's Agent Spotlight features Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
About: "Michael Bourret joined Dystel & Goderich Literary Management as an intern while studying film and television production at New York University, and began at the agency full-time in 2000. After ten years as an agent in the New York office, Michael now works in Los Angeles in the West Coast office of DGLM. There, he continues to represent his own list of bestselling and award-winning clients while also aggressively pursuing new film and television opportunities." He also has a charming obsession with bran muffins. (More here and here.)
Status: Open to submissions.
What He's Looking For:
"Michael is always on the lookout for exceptional writers with unique ideas, no matter what the category. He is currently looking for middle grade and young adult fiction, commercial adult fiction, and all sorts of nonfiction, from practical to narrative. He's especially interested in food and cocktail related books, memoir, popular history, politics, religion (though not spirituality), popular science, and current events. And if you've got something on bourbon or tennis, even better." (Link)
"I'd love to see more humor. Not "humor books," but rather novels with humorous stories, especially in middle grade and YA. I like funny, and I don't see enough of it." (Link)
“I'm definitely open to submissions from new writers. I'm looking for the same thing I'm always looking for: quality fiction and nonfiction, both commercial and literary, ranging from middle grade through adult. While I do represent some picture book authors, it's not an area in which I'm looking to grow. [...] YA is really my great love, and I love gritty, realistic stories, as well as paranormal and horror.” (Link)
“I'm looking for paranormal (especially with a strong romance element) and most especially realistic, gritty, working-class-oriented YA. I'd really like more stories that reflect real life. For instance, I'd love the YA version of the movie FROZEN RIVER.” (Link)
“I very rarely see YA memoir, so that's one I’d really just like to see more of. It’s such a great category in adult books, and Tweaked has proven that it can work well for teens. As for middle grade, I just think it’s a tough category to write for, and I’m so picky about it. All I can say is, keep it coming!” (Link)
What He Isn't Looking For:
Sci-Fi and High Fantasy (wizards, dragons, set in another world, etc).
“I don't do high fantasy, but I do urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, whatever you want to call it. If it's got wizards, knights or dragons, it isn't for me. In sci-fi, it would depend. I do love sci-fi stories, I just don't handle the books professionally.” (Link)
He is also not interested in the following: Christian literature, Erotica, Poetry, Puzzles, Games, Romance, Textbooks, Dramatic Works. (Link)
His Advice for Writers:
“I suggest that perseverance and empathy are the two greatest traits an author can have. Authors need to be ready for rejection and disappointment, and they need to be ready to overcome it if they want to succeed. Without perseverance, I don't think any of the big names would have made it. Empathy is one of those skills we all need more of, and authors need to have it for themselves, first, their characters second, and the rest of the people in the publisher process, third. We all work very hard, and genuine recognition of that is invaluable.” (Link)
“The key, I think, is to establish yourself as a writer of something. I think it’s tough to establish a brand when you’re jumping from one category to another or from one genre to another. You want to give readers what they expect while still satisfying your own muse. It’s a balancing act, but being an author and having a career as an author are two different things.” (Link)
“I'm looking for writers who are courteous, professional, educated about the market and business, and who want to work as hard as I do.” (Link)
"Picking one query pet peeve isn't easy, but right now I'd say the most egregious offense at the moment is the forwarded query that still has the previous agent's name in it. That doesn't bode well for the rest of the query." (Link)
"I hate when my name is spelled wrong, I hate typos in the first sentence, I hate being queried by writers who haven’t done their research. But in the end, none of that really matters if the query is compelling. As I’ve mentioned on our blog, the details aren’t the most important thing, the idea, the narrative, the storytelling – that’s what hooks me." (Link)
Editorial agent? Found this:
"It depends on the project. Some manuscripts and proposals come in and need a few rounds of edits before they're ready, others only need minor work. We invest as much time in each project as it needs. And, I expect that authors are going to be ready to roll up their sleeves and work, if need be." (Link)
As of 03/10, Mr. Bourret is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 12 deals in the last 12 months and 56 overall. Recent deals include 7 young adult, 1 fantasy, 1 middle grade, and 3 non-fiction.Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (only).
Online Form: No.
E-mail: Query in the body of the e-mail. No attachments. Query only one agent at the agency at a time.
Tip on Status Queries:
“You're your own best advocate, so check away -- but only after the time the agent or agency says to expect has passed. For us, that's after 8 weeks. If you haven't heard from me after 8 weeks, please check in, as that most likely means I either didn't get or somehow missed your query.” (Link)
His response times can be anywhere from minutes to months, though the agency asks for 6-8 weeks. He admits that some do “fall through the cracks,” and I have read that he often takes one to three months to get back to a writer on requested material. If you don't hear back within eight weeks, do send the query again. He advises waiting a year before requerying something that has already come through the agency and been rejected though.
What’s the buzz?
There’s great buzz and a lot of it. A Google search will lead you to many a happy client extolling what a fabulous agent Mr. Bourret is and many a querier pleased with him despite rejection.
Of note: I received an e-mail from a writer who had a disappointing experience with Mr. Bourret. While doing his research, the writer found nothing but wonderful things about Michael. The writer knew that one of his clients was very pleased with him, and had heard that he's very good about giving constructive criticism on rejections. Naturally the writer was pleased when Mr. Bourret requested a full; however, when he did not hear back from Mr. Bourret after four months, he sent a follow-up e-mail. Bourret responded, saying he would get back within a couple of weeks, but nearly a year and four more follow-up e-mails later he still hasn’t gotten back to the writer.
After I received this report, I found a thread on AW where a few other writers have stated that they have had a similar experience. And after digging around further, I've found many mentions of queries getting lost in Mr. Bourret's spam. My advice is to keep trying or move on if you find yourself in this situation, and I hope everyone realizes it's the way an agent handles their clients and not their slush pile that matters most.
Worth Your Time:
Interview with Michael Bourret at Galley Cat (03/2010).
Interview with Michael Bourret at client Joelle Anthony's blog (02/2010).
Interview with Sarah Zarr by Bob Andelmen where Mr. Bourret calls in (03/2008).
Blog posts by Michael Bourret over on the D&GLM blog:
Make sure you check out the "Michael" label on the blog for recent posts.
Query Success Story featuring client Lisa McMann and Michael Bourret.
Please see the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 3/12/10
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes – 3/12/10
Reviewed By Agent? No – no response.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who represent children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.