Monday, June 21, 2010

Guest Blogger: Agent Jim McCarthy

by Joan

Today I’m thrilled to introduce guest blogger, agent Jim McCarthy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Over the past few years, a number of agents have requested my work, but Jim is the only one who's read all three of my completed manuscripts! He's one of the nicest agents I've come across and any author would be lucky to be represented by him.

Here's Jim's take on dedication and why you should NEVER give up:

Depending on who you ask, I’ve either sold 21 or 22 books by Victoria Laurie. She insists that the novella she wrote for an anthology called DROP DEAD BLONDE counts. I think that’s crazy cheating. Regardless, since I signed her on in late 2003, we’ve signed a lot of contracts for a whole lot of books. So it amuses me all the more that our relationship began with a rejection letter.

Victoria’s first book, ABBY COOPER, PSYCHIC EYE landed on my desk in the Fall of 2003 when I was a brand spanking new agent. I had been with the company for a bit but had just started signing my own clients earlier that year. From the slush pile, I discovered a query from a professional psychic intuitive who was writing a mystery novel about another psychic, Abby Cooper, who became involved in a criminal investigation and got swept off her feet by one Detective Dutch Rivers. I read the manuscript and knew that Victoria had a voice—it’s the one thing in writing that I just don’t think you can fake. What I wasn’t as wholly convinced of was whether she had a publishable novel. She was funny, her characters were winning, and I just loved reading her writing. I didn’t think the book held together structurally, though. So after a bit of wavering, I decided to pass. I sent an email explaining how much potential I thought she and the book had, and I left the door open for her to resubmit.

Now, seven years is quite awhile, so I’m sure she would refute what I’m about to say, but I’m pretty sure she sent me a revised manuscript fourteen seconds later. Whatever it was, it was FAST. So I began reading again with some trepidation. No one can revise that quickly, can they? I was sure she was bluffing and had made the slightest cosmetic changes, hoping to con me into signing it on. The crazy thing is: the changes weren’t cosmetic. They were fabulous. So I signed her on, we did a little back and forth, and then the manuscript went out there and got snatched up in a hot second.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Victoria had been turned down by over one HUNDRED agents. When she told me that, I nearly choked on my Diet Coke. Let me say this—I never doubted that she was determined. But 100 people?! And it wasn’t even the first novel she tried to place! That’s some crazy ass dedication.

So seven years later, here we are. Victoria has three series ongoing—the Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter mysteries with NAL which keep hitting higher and higher on the New York Times extended bestseller list with each publication, and the middle grade Oracles of Delphi Keep series which debuted last year from Delacorte.

Over 100 people turned her down. Now she has 22 books under contract. These are enormous numbers. And I use them not to brag about the fact that I was the person smart enough to sign on this wonderfully talented writer who so many readers have fallen in love with (well…not JUST to brag), but to remind writers that the path to publication is almost never easy but that there are rewards if you can stick with it.

It’s easy for me to tell authors to keep trying. It’s a million times harder to actually do it. So I offer Victoria’s story as a hint of motivation. So in the bleakest of moments, when you can’t face another form rejection letter, remind yourself that there is still hope. You can still make it. You just need to find your one in a hundred.

Jim is open to queries and is looking for commercial fiction of all varieties. Make sure you let him know that you found him here!
Jim McCarthy
Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
1 Union Square West, Suite 904
New York, NY 10003

Jim's submission guidelines are here.


  1. Anonymous21 June, 2010

    Lovely story, lovely message. Just wish we could work backwards and hit #100 first ;o)

  2. Ciarcullun, I hear ya! Jim's words did give me a boost!

  3. Jumped over from the agency blog - and I see you talked a little about voice here!

    Thanks for sharing Victoria's 'call' story. Gives me hope and keeps me determined to succeed in this crazy career.

  4. Welcome to What Women Write, Janet! We're so happy that Jim shared Victoria's story!

  5. This is such a fabulous story!

  6. Thanks for this post. Perseverance indeed counts where it's needed most.

  7. This was a very cool and very inspiring post--congrats to Victoria--and to Jim for signing her!

  8. Great story! I'm still working on the idea of enjoying the time BEFORE you're published...

  9. Anonymous22 June, 2010

    Thank you. Reading this post was a good way to start my day.

  10. You know, you can find San Francisco criminal attorney <a

  11. Your posts are so uplifting. Jane Dystel spoke at the Geneva Writers' Conference in February and we were amazed by her energy and her passion. Her colleague Jim McCarthy reminds us that it only takes one yes. Thank you for this post.


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