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Agent Spotlight: Jim McCarthy

This week's Agent Spotlight features Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Status: Open to submissions.

staff_jimAbout: "Jim McCarthy interned for DGLM while studying urban design at New York University. Upon graduating in 2002, Jim realized he would much rather continue working with books than make the jump (as he had originally intended) to the field of city planning. As an avid fiction reader, his interests encompass both literary and commercial works in the adult and young adult categories. He is particularly interested in literary women’s fiction, underrepresented voices, mysteries, romance, paranormal fiction, and anything unusual or unexpected. In addition to fiction he is also interested in narrative nonfiction, memoir, and paranormal nonfiction. Jim was raised just outside of NYC and currently lives in Brooklyn." (Link)

About the Agency:

“Dystel & Goderich Literary Management was founded in 1994 by Jane Dystel, who has been a respected figure in publishing for over 30 years — first as an editor, then as a publisher, and finally as a savvy and successful agent. The agency is the product of her innovative vision of author representation as a full-service enterprise.

“DGLM was launched with a quickly growing roster of Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, celebrated experts in fields as diverse as parenting, women’s health, and cooking, acclaimed literary and commercial fiction writers, and an eclectic and exciting list of titles. The primary goal of the agency was and is to offer not just financial and contractual advice to its clients, but also editorial guidance and support.

“Being involved in every stage of putting together a non-fiction book proposal, offering substantial editing on fiction manuscripts, and coming up with book ideas for authors looking for their next project is as much a part of our work as selling, negotiating contracts, and collecting monies for our clients. We follow a book from its inception through its sale to a publisher, its publication, and beyond. Our commitment to our writers does not, by any means, end when we have collected our commission. This is one of the many things that makes us unique in a very competitive business.” (Link)

Web Presence:

DGLM website.

Twitter @JimMcCarthy528.

AAR Profile.

DGLM blog.

DGLM Twitter.

DGLM Facebook.



What He's Looking For:


Middle grade, young adult, literary fiction, commercial fiction, literary women’s fiction, underrepresented voices, mysteries, romance, paranormal fiction, anything unusual or unexpected, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and paranormal nonfiction. (Link)

Additional genres listed on his AAR profile and QueryTracker profile.

From Twitter (4-6/2013):

“We’re tweeting wish lists? Let’s start with big, fun commercial fiction a la Valley of the Dolls, Jackie Collins, Crazy Rich Asians. #MSWL” (Link)

“If you have ANYTHING like the movie Heathers, I’m your man. #MSWL” (Link)

“Novels set in West Africa, epic sci-fi, realistic family dramas with wit or pathos. #MSWL” (Link)

“As always, if you can make me laugh out loud or cry, I am IN. Mostly, I just want all the good stuff! Adult or YA, fiction or non. #MSWL” (Link)

“Gang members, professional eating competitors, world record holders, knitting clubs…unique communities. #MSWL” (Link)

“I’m into alternate history, anything theater related, anything about a subculture (from cheerleaders to Radical Faeries or whatever). #MSWL” (Link)

“Hearing a lot of folks asking for hook-driven contemporary realistic. I too would like to see that!” (Link)

From a Blog Post (08/2012):

“Let’s take a quick moment to clarify what it is I’m looking for: just about anything. I know, I know. That’s not helpful. So let’s say this: it seems I’m known for YA fiction and paranormal adult fiction. And I certainly am always looking in those categories. I’d also love to find some wonderful middle grade, more literary adult fiction, and any breathtaking narrative nonfiction. Just because I don’t do something all the time doesn’t mean I’m not game to try it out (note: this is not a rule that applies for ALL agents).” (Link)

From an Interview (05/2012):

“Like everyone, I suspect, I just want to find thrilling, vital, original, fresh projects. I’ve been on the lookout for some amazing horror fiction for awhile now. I love a good high concept YA novel. I’d like to take a chance with some breathtaking literary fiction. And I’d kill for something laugh out loud funny. I’ve always said that if you can make me laugh or cry, I’ll represent you. So really, anything that provokes a gut level reaction.” (Link)

What He's Not Looking For:

Plays, screenplays, poetry, picture books. (Link)

Editorial Agent?

“I tell people that I would never sign on a project that I wouldn’t be willing to send wide as is, but at the same time, I have never sent a project out as is. I love the editorial stage, and I want to make sure that material is in its best possible shape before editors have a chance to consider.” (Link)

His Advice to Writers:

"If you think you can give up writing, then give it up. If you can't ... if you know that no matter how much stress or rejection or frustration you face, that you can never stop writing? In that case, never give up. Publishing is too hard to face if you aren't in it for the right reasons. But it's not too hard to break into if it's what you need to do." (Link)


A list of Dystel & Goderich clients is available on the website.
Mr. McCarthy's clients include: Cyn Balog, Cynthia Ceilan, Alyssa Day, Mark Henry, Geoff Herbach, Philip Hui, Phoebe Kitanidis, Victoria Laurie, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Caroline Richmond, Michelle Rowen, Mindi Scott, Margaret C. Sullivan, Jessica Spotswood, Denise Grover Swank, Robin Talley, Julia Templeton, K.M. Walton, Suzanne Young, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (preferred).

Snail-Mail: Yes.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

E-mail: Query only; Snail-Mail: Query, synopsis, and sample chapter. (Link)

Per the  DGLM website:

“Enclose a cover letter, outline or brief synopsis of the work (with word count if possible), a sample chapter, and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for our response. Please type all of your correspondence and double space everything other than the cover letter. E-mail queries are fine, but keep them brief and make sure your cover letter is in the body of the e-mail. We won’t open attachments if they come with a blank e-mail. Please be sure to query only one agent at this agency. We will not review queries sent to more than one of us.”

See the DGLM website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

“The best queries specifically address why I’m the one receiving them, give information in a clear and concise way, and don’t waste time with bells and whistles. I really think queries are probably at once the easiest and the hardest things to write. On the one hand, you have to condense 80K words down to about 250. On the other, all you have to do is present the facts.” (Link)

“Two things I don’t like: queries that tell me how awesome a book is and queries that suggest that the author isn’t sure why their book is special, but they still hope you’ll love it. The query is a business letter more than an artistic expression. We’re looking for clean and concise descriptions that make us curious for more. Dazzling writing and impactful descriptions usually need to wait for the material itself.” (Link)

Response Times:

The agency's stated response time for queries is 6-8 weeks and 8 weeks for requested material. If you do not hear back within the stated timeframe, feel free to resend (Link). Mr. McCarthy has very quick response times ranging from hours to a couple weeks for queries and just days to a month or so for requested material. 

What's the Buzz?

Mr. McCarthy is top notch. He has fabulous clients and sales, a great work ethic, fast response times, a terrific sense of humor, and his clients really seem to love him.  I've heard nothing but good about him and DGLM. 

Worth Your Time:


Behind the Scenes with Agent Jim McCarthy at Night Owl Reviews (02/2013).

LitChat Interview: Jim McCarthy with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management at Lit Stack (05/2012).

A Q&A with Agent Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich at Writer’s League of Texas (11/2011).

Live Panel (transcript) with Michelle Andelman, Emily Meehan, Annette Pollert, Jim McCarthy at WriteOnCon (08/2011).

Interview with Agent Extraordinaire, Jim McCarthy at Caroline in Space (06/2010).

Lit Agent, Jim McCarthy — Wants Horror at GalleyGat (03/2010).

Agent Advice interview with Jim McCarthy on the Guide to Literary Agents blog (03/2009).

Interview with Jim McCarthy at The League of Reluctant Adults (2007).

Blog Stuff:

Mr. McCarthy’s posts on the DGLM blog, categorized here.

Of interest to queriers: Jim Opens the Floodgates (08/2013), Send Me Good Stuff! (06/2011), Why I Am An Agent (Jim) (12/2009), Jim McCarthy's Reading Process (04/2008), and much more.

Writing A Great Query Letter by Literary Agent Jim McCarthy at WriteOnCon (08/2011).

How to Grab an Agent's Attention in a Query, featuring a couple quotes by Mr. McCarthy, at the QueryTracker Blog (06/2010).

Guest Blogger: Agent Jim McCarthy at What Women Write (06/2010).

Around the Web:

Before querying, I recommend reading all the pages on the DGLM website, including About DGLM, a great FAQ, Recent and Forthcoming Titles, and a What’s New section.

Mr. McCarthy’s personal essay on the DGLM website.

Current and past DGLM newsletters are available here.

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management at P&E ($, Highly Recommended).

Jim McCarthy at P&E.

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management thread at AbsoluteWrite.

Mr. McCarthy and DGLM in the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents via Google Books.

An Interview with Robin Reed, a client success story at QueryTracker (08/2011).

Successful Queries: Agent Jim McCarthy and “Freefall” at Guide to Literary Agents (10/2010).

An Interview with Caroline Tung Richmond, a client success story at QueryTracker (08/2010).

2009 Agent Appreciation Day posts on Mr. McCarthy here, here, & here.


Please see the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management website for additional contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last Updated: 9/20/13.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 9/20/13.


Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's/teen 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.


  1. Thanks for another great agent spotlight. They are always so helpful. Someone on my Michigan SCBWI e-mail list was looking for info on an agent that you recently spotlighted and I referred her to your blog because you had recently spotlighted the agent. She found it really helpful.

  2. I'm a HUGE fan of several of Jim's clients and think anyone would be uber-lucky to have him for an agent. I love the links and intend to read them all -- thanks Casey!

  3. Great spotlight, Casey! You mange to make learning fun! :-)

    And I agree with the buzz, Jim is a fantastic agent.

  4. Hey Casey--

    Thanks for the "Agents that rep PB/MG/YA" categories. Those are great! Have they always been there and I've been missing them?

  5. Jim is my crit partner's agent, and she has nothing but praise for the guy. Definitely a top notch agent!

  6. They've been there awhile Thermocline. I should probably make them more visible somehow. I think they really help!

  7. Jim requested a full ms, and while he passed, he did say I was a strong writer. Just taking the time to send that little bit of encouragement meant a lot to me.

  8. Great and through post. I really like how you bring in everything out there on an agent. It's impressive.

  9. Casey, when I am ready for an agent, I will be sending you my synopsis and asking who you think I should submit to...

  10. Casey--You are awesome! I posted my first agent (Mark McVeigh) interview today. I aspire to be as good as you! :-)

  11. WOW! Great interview. Don't know how I missed this blog, but I am so glad to have found it. I'll use it for research when I start to query. Thank you, Casey!

  12. Mr. McCarthy reviewed his profile and offered a few updates 02/25/2010.