Q&A: Literary Agent Michael Bourret

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Michael Bourret is a literary agent at the fabulous Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency. He has wide-ranging tastes, and a special fondness for YA fiction and serious nonfiction. Here, he answers 5 questions about the state of the industry and what he likes in a pitch.

Mark your calendar: Michael will be visiting the Editor Unleashed forum for a live chat, Wednesday, March 11, 1-2 p.m. (EST).

1. What kind of work are you looking for right now and are you open to submissions from new writers?
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. I do not handle sci-fi, fantasy, or poetry. YA is really my great love, and I love gritty, realistic stories, as well as paranormal and horror.

2. With the state of the economy and the industry in general, have you found that publishers are slowing down with acquisitions?
Not really! Things are proceeding more normally than one would expect. As I discussed recently on a panel at the SCBWI conference here in New York, I look at the challenges in the industry more as an opportunity. While I’m certainly sad to lose colleagues, I think publishing is finally starting to address some of the underlying causes of these recent problems (of which the economy is only one part). We’re definitely in a transition, but change can be very good.

3. In your opinion, what is the most important trend in publishing that writers need to know about now?
I’m not one for trends, really, but I will say that authors should be ready to be their own marketing machine. In many cases, authors understand the market for their book better than the publisher and can do a better job of reaching that audience. But they first need to understand that it’s now part of their job to do that, and they need to embrace it. Marketing can be fun!

4. How much manuscript editing do you do (if any)?
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.

5. What is your preferred means of being contacted by a writer?
Email! mbourret@dystel.com. You can also check out our blog (which we’re trying to update more regularly), dglm.blogspot.com, and you can find me on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelbourret.

-Maria Schneider

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