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Pitching an Agent: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

This "nurturing" agency seeks well-formed queries for nonfiction, as well as literary and commercial fiction

By Blake Gernstetter - June 8, 2012
Number of agents: 10
Number of clients: Approximately 600
Notable clients: David Morrell, Judge Judy, Mary Doria Russell, Ellie Krieger, Tayari Jones, Scott Hamilton, Joy Bauer, Joe Bastianich, Jacqueline Carey, Bryce Hoffman, James Dashner, Sara Zarr, Richelle Mead, Lisa McMann, Victoria Laurie, Tracey Garvis Graves, Catherine Bybee, Dean McDermott. See the website for a full client list.

Amount of unsolicited material accepted: One percent
Fiction vs. nonfiction: 65 percent nonfiction; 35 percent fiction

Background: Jane Dystel worked as an editor and publisher before becoming a literary agent in 1986. In 1994, when she found her reputation and her roster of clients quickly growing, she started her own agency, Jane Dystel Literary Management. Fifteen years later, with partner Miriam Goderich (who serves as senior vice president and editorial director) and a new name, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is flourishing. Clients include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, bestselling novelists and a number of celebrities, as well as renowned experts in fields as diverse as food/nutrition, medicine and science.

As with any agency, it's difficult to get picked up from the slush pile if you're unknown, but it's not impossible. Even though a large percentage of their projects are nonfiction, DGLM is constantly looking for both literary and commercial fiction. One of Dystel's early successes involved contacting a young man named Barack Obama and shepherding his book, Dreams from My Father through publication and eventual bestseller status.

With 10 agents, including Dystel herself, DGLM is a medium-sized operation, which may be appealing to new writers. Dystel says that, while she has a reputation for being very tough with publishers, "I think my clients would say that I'm very nurturing. They all have my home phone number. I take very good care of them." If you're chosen to be represented by an agent at DGLM, you can also expect to be talked up in a newsletter that goes out three times a year to more than 2,000 people in the publishing world. In addition, DGLM staffers all contribute to the agency blog that aims to inform and entertain....

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