All the best people in publishing have a story or two on how they decided to take a walk down this path in publishing. I have plenty of stories, mostly because I’ve been lucky enough to be involved during interesting times. I started my career as a part-time bookseller for B. Dalton #321 in 1988. After college I decided to stay in bookselling with the career plan of becoming a buyer for the chain, now owned by Barnes & Noble, Inc. Over those seven years I managed a few stores, worked my way into the home office, and became the youngest buyer (at the time) in 1996. The position that opened up was as a children’s book buyer during the dying days of the Goosebumps empire. Then the summer of 1998 came around and changed everything in children’s publishing with the successful release, in order of magnitude (at the time) of HOLES by Louis Sachar, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling, and SMACK by Melvin Burgess.
Suddenly novels written for children and teens were selling in hardcover at retail! This opened up many possibilities for writers, artists, publishers and retailers to grow creatively and financially. Being the children’s fiction buyer (ages 7 & up) for both B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble, Inc. I was in a very fortunate position to influence the market, a fact I took to heart with great responsibility. It was a wonderful time, and I was lucky to be there, in that seat, when the world changed for the better, and I helped to bring teen literature to the forefront, where it deserves to be.
After eighteen years with B&N I left to join the other side, and happily started at Houghton Mifflin as their sole Children’s National Accounts Manager. Then a wonderful opportunity to join Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as their Director of Paperbacks became available and I took it. There I worked on some fun projects and acquisitions, ranging from a board book series in conjunction with Marvel comics, to Charles de Lint, Paolo Bacigalupi, JS Lewis & Derek Benz, and Stephenie Meyer, amongst others. At all of these positions I learned, as my former boss at B&N calls it, the way the sausage is made. I loved my time at both houses, working with such wonderfully creative people, and then this path as a literary agent opened up before me and I decided to take it as far as I can as it combines what I’m good at, and what I love working on in publishing, namely sniffing out and encouraging trends, discovering and supporting writers and artists, and matching folks with like sensibilities up. Yet through it all I remain what I was when I started, a bookseller.
As an agent I’ll be focusing on children’s and young adult, or teen literature, as well as some adult genre fiction. I’m also very interested in working with folks who are writer-artists of graphic works, from graphic novels to picture books. Specifically I love a work that breaks new ground, a work that is subversive or enlightening by utilizing a different approach. Although I’m known for my work with teen literature, I do think that a smart middle grade novel is one of the greatest achievements a writer can accomplish. I’m also an unabashed lover of genre fiction, particularly fantasy and science fiction. I’m also looking for cultural diversity as I come from a mixed race family, and my son is even a bigger mutt than I am. And lastly, I’m a big believer that the widely held belief that “boys over a certain age do not read” is nonsense. Guys read, especially if they have a range of material to read from that interests and speaks to them.