Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Introducing Uber-Agent Danielle Egan-Miller!

Hi Ladies,
Thank you so much for welcoming me to Riding With The Top Down as today’s guest. I must confess: I am a virgin…a blogging virgin, that is. Somehow, this most modern communication medium has passed me by. I read a few blogs regularly, but I’ve never actually written for a blog or even posted a comment on one, so today’s venture is a big first for me.

Just a quick introduction. I am Danielle Egan-Miller, president of Browne & Miller Literary Associates, a full-service, independent literary agency founded in 1971 by the late Jane Jordan Browne and located in Chicago. I have worked in book publishing for (gulp!) 17 years now. I started, at this agency, as Jane’s assistant in the early 1990s. After nearly 5 years, I left to work as a non-fiction editor. In 2002, I rejoined the agency as Jane Browne’s partner and successor and I became president and owner of the firm in 2003, when Jane passed away.

My fabulous right-hand gal, Joanna MacKenzie, joined the agency in 2002, first as an intern and then as my assistant. Now an Associate Agent, Joanna manages our foreign, film and other subsidiary rights activities and she is actively involved in submitting new works—especially YA fiction --for publication. She also oversees the agency’s internship program. Joanna will be chiming in along with me today.

Browne & Miller represents a large clientele of authors writing in most genres of commercial adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as select young adult projects. We are hands-on and very editorially-focused and we work very closely with our clients on developing manuscripts and proposals for submission and sale. We have always sold romance and we represent several award-winning authors who write romances including Francine Rivers, Dee Henderson, Angela Hunt, Lyn Cote, Kylie Brant, Marta Perry, Shana Galen, Linda Hall, Bonnie K. Winn, Sherrill Bodine, and Jeane Westin. Please note that though we represent Christian/Inspirational fiction, our tastes are broad and eclectic and the majority of our clients write books intended for mainstream audiences.

As the holiday season is now officially upon us -- Christmas is only 3 weeks away!!!! – I thought I’d muse a little about what Browne & Miller would love to find under its Christmas tree (or in our query pile). Despite this week’s announcement that we have officially been in a recession for the last year (duh!) and despite the various harbingers of economic doom and the volatile stock market, book publishing will go on. Which means publishers will continue buying and agents like me will continue selling. Books remain affordable, (especially mass market paperbacks), accessible, available, attainable, portable, readable, shareable, givable, not to mention entertaining, powerful, and wonderful. As Sara Nelson reminded us in PW last month, “There are no gifts so satisfactory and lasting as well-chosen books, and none so flattering to the taste and intelligence of the recipient.” So said the New York Times, about books, in 1908. Isn’t it nice how some things never change?

Here are some gift ideas for Browne & Miller:
1. A killer YA novel. Joanna is our resident YA guru and her tastes run toward the “edgy but literary.” She’s a huge fan of John Green (Looking for Alaska), Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why), and Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games). Contemporary "coming of age" stories that explore the emotional pitfalls of growing up and which display an authentic, memorable voice are definitely high on our list.

2. The next Thorn Birds. Okay, who doesn’t love a sweeping and totally transporting epic romance ripe with star-crossed love, hidden secrets, and a totally hot priest being tempted to break his vows? 700-page “doorstopper” novels might not be economically in vogue right now, but I believe the challenges of epic length can be overcome if the story is fabulous, the writing is top notch, and the “icon” potential is there. I, for one, love to get lost in a giant book. And of course I’ll be seeing Australia over the holidays.

3. A Chicago-set literary historical mystery or thriller. What Caleb Carr did for New York City in The Alienist, some worthy and talented author needs to do for Chicago. Recent, excellent narrative non-fiction books such as Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott have examined episodes in Chicago’s colorful past. But we’d love to sink our teeth into a novel that marries the character of Old Chicago with a spellbinding and gritty crime drama. If it’s female driven, all the better. I am a 6th generation Chicagoan and I have a soft spot for Chicago history.

4. The next Sookie Stackhouse or Harry Dresden. Joanna finds it impossible to resist both Jim Butcher’s urban wizard and Charlaine Harris’s telepathic Louisiana waitress. Funny and engaging, these fast-paced stories are populated by twisted-yet-approachable characters who find themselves in the wackiest of situations yet remain grounded in a relatable reality. Not to mention both series have made terrific television shows .( Joanna was crushed that The Dresden Files was not renewed by the SciFi Channel).

5. I love time travel romances, especially Scottish time travel romances, and I don’t have any on my list. Note that I have made most of my staff and several of our interns read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, as it is a personal favorite. A superbly crafted and sexy (and possibly plaid-wrapped) time travel romance would be a most welcome gift…

6. Vampire romance. Yes, we know there is plenty of it already out there, but we still love it and we think we can still sell very well-written and original works in this genre. We recently sold a very smart and sassy debut that we pitched as “Angel meets Melrose Place.” The writing was tight and the voice was highly original (and really funny). We’re not game for urban fantasy, we don’t handle stories with “portals” to other worlds, and novels with chapters devoted to recounting the rules and mythology of an alternate universe are definitely not for us. But Earthly-set love stories between a mere mortal and a sexy nightwalker whose love is complicated by the temptation of immortality – not to mention daylight and bloodsucking – that sounds like us. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga has been Joanna’s most recent guilty pleasure.

7. Substantive women’s historical fiction with strong romantic elements. Stories that transport us to a long ago, faraway places and which feature strong female leads who are often scheming for power (but we understand why) and falling in love (often with unobtainable guys) along the way, are always of high interest. A little glamour doesn’t hurt, either. We love English history and are big fans of Phillippa Gregory, Amanda Foreman (Georgiana), Alison Weir (Innocent Traitor), and Diane Haeger (The Perfect Royal Mistress). But we’re definitely open to other settings and time periods.

8. I am currently totally into that show Fringe on Fox. Love the mix of bizarre crimes, fringe science, and global conspiracy…love that the lead is a complicated, strong woman…love that Pacey from Dawson’s Creek grew up to be so handsome…would love something similar in a novel!

9. The next big thing. Who knows what it might be, so surprise us! One of the best things about being an agent is stumbling across the unexpected treasure. If the writing is superb, the characters are captivating and relatable, and the story is masterfully executed, we’re willing to journey to a place we’ve never gone before…except through a portal (unless it’s to Scotland).
If you happen to have a perfect gift to send us, please visit www.browneandmiller.com for more information about the agency and detailed instructions on how to query us.

We’re here today to serve as a resource to you, the faithful visitors to Riding With the Top Down. Joanna and I will be checking in throughout the day, so please, ask whatever questions you like. Maybe you'd like to tell us what's on YOUR Christmas book wish list...or what you wish was available for your wish list? How about those questions you've been dying to ask an agent? Now's your chance! Or how about some book recommendations? I'm always looking for great new reads and as I will be gifting books to everyone on my list this year (like I do every year), some suggestions for my husband (I think I'm going to try The Dresden Files), my father-in-law (a retired engineer), my sister-in-law (a hardcore romantic suspense lover), and for my very good friend who's having a big milestone birthday in January, would be so appreciated! I look forward to chatting...and boy, this blogging thing is already kind of fun!

Merry, merry!
Danielle

28 comments:

Kylie said...

Welcome, Danielle and Joanna :) Thanks for blogging for us today!

I don't know how much action your husband and father-in-law like, my Lee Child (Jack Reacher) novels are the ultimate in suspense, IMO and I've recently discovered Robert Crais, whose books I'm currently glomming.

Deadlines prevent me from doing as much reading as I'd like for a while, but come February I have a to-be-read file I plan to work my way through!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Danielle and Joanna
Welcome to the convertible. We are thrilled to have you!
Like Kylie my writing has prevented me from doing much reading of late but for your sister in law, the romantic suspense reader, I might be able to come up with a suggestion. How about ..... ME!! :o)
Oh dear. Was that too forward???
Well, yeah, but what the hey...
A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
Have fun today

Michele Hauf said...

Welcome, Danielle!

I'll ditto your wish list, because I'd like to see all those things on the bookshelves to read.

Jim Butcher is AMAZING. He wears me out, he's so good. Have to take long breaks between his books. Have you tried Kim Harrison? She's another with a great UF series, similar to Butcher and Harris.

Arkansas Cyndi said...

Very interesting blog. For a virgin, Danielle, you did great. (I meant blogging. The rest of you get your minds out of the gutter)

I ADORE Dresden Files. I was CRUSHED when it went off the air. Butcher has build a very complicated world but he did it in such gradual layering that it flowed wonderfully.

Not so much into the epic anymore. I remember reading The Thorne Birds, but now, my life is too busy to get immersed into a long book. I confess to reading a lot of novellas and shorter books and contemporaries.

I look forward to the other book suggestions.

Helen Brenna said...

Hey Danielle and Joanna! Thanks for visiting today!

I'll ask a question for all our soon to be published writers out there. Can you explain your query/submission process? Do you accept email queries or unsolicited ms?

Danielle Egan-Miller said...

Thanks for the nice welcome and for the great book suggestions. Keep them coming! And Cindy, kudos to you for making a TERRIFIC recommendation :)

Helen, authors seeking representation can approach Browne & Miller Literary Associates via query letter and SASE directed to:

Browne & Miller Literary Associates
Attn: Submissions
410 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 460
Chicago , IL 60605

or a query letter by email to: mail@browneandmiller.com.

We do not read unsolicited material so we ask to see a query letter/email only at first. Note too, that we do not open email attachments, so a query should be included in the body of an email.

Our agency receives hundreds of queries each month and though all get read (typical response time is about 1 month), only the most compelling are given serious consideration. It is a daunting exercise for a writer to condense an entire book into just a few short paragraphs, we know, but that's how the game is played. Which means authors should spend ample time perfecting their query...

lois greiman said...

Thanks guys for riding with us today. And for all the useful information.

Cindy really does write a mean romantic suspense. I think your sister in law would be thrilled to see a little Gerard under the tree. :)

As for your own wishes, I have some friends who are looking for a good agent. I'll tell them about you and hope they chime in today.

Prairie Sunshine said...

Welcome! You mentioned Sherrill Bodine is on your client list--I just saw her book advertised on one of the political blogs I regularly read, Dailykos.

This week on Boston Legal, one thread was a lament there's so little for grownups to watch on teevee...it's all Gen Y or younger. That's my sense of publishing in recent years, too, that book publishing has skewed too much to younger readers and not well-served its massive baby-boomer market.

What do you think?

~ Sandy Huseby, MFW Fargo branch

Betina Krahn said...

Welcome, Danielle and Johanna!

I, too, would like to see some well-done boomer lit. Something upbeat and real. . . celebrating what we've accomplished but dealing with the problems we're encountering. I happen to have a manuscript. . . lol!

Keri Ford said...

Hi, Danielle. Great work as a first timmer!

An ohh...*shudder*. I was home alone one evening. House went off and a show called Fringe came on. I didn't change the channel because I wasn't watching it that much. I got completely freaked out by just having it on! It was the one where that chick got pregnant and had a baby all within half an hour because of some strange genetic thing.

I haven't watched it since. Evertime I think about it, the very activity required to make babies seems less appealing. I scare easy.

Danielle Egan-Miller said...

Prairie Sunshire, I have to do a little plug here. Sherrill Bodine's just released Talk of the Town (Grand Central Publishing) is a great example of a novel meant to appeal to more "seasoned" readers. Heroine Rebecca Covington is Chicago's resident society columnist and she is in her
mid-40s. How radical is that -- a romantic heroine who has actually lived for more than 2 decades! I find Rebecca - as decrepit as an attractive woman in her 40s is (ha ha ha) -- totally refreshing and I for one want to see MORE romances featuring grown-up gals who I can relate to! Rebecca is vibrant, alive, fully engaged in life and very sexy...and she still has a very healthy appetite (wink wink).
Talk of the Town is going to be excerpted in the Feb 2009 issue of Cosmo as their "Hot Read" which gives me further hope that there are many, many readers out there who KNOW that 40 is way better than 25 and who want to see that startling fact realized in well-crafted women's romantic fiction.

Kylie said...

Tell Sherrill congrats!

It's funny that people are chiming in with wanting to see older heroines. That's exactly what Harlequin was trying to do with their NEXT line. But I suspect bookstores just didn't know where to shelve them.

Lyn Cote said...

HI Danielle! and Joanna! And all!
Just stopped by to say hi!
I've been too busy writing to read much though I have been enjoying Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series. It is really different from her usual romances.

ANYWAY--Hi to all of you here--Cindy, Lois, Kylie Betina et al! I didn't know you blogged together.

I just started my personal blog
htpp://www.strongwomenbravestories.blogspot.com Drop by sometime and tell me your story of finding strength to be the woman you are today.

Finally!! Danielle is a GREAT AGENT and also a lot of FUN!
Lyn Cote

M. said...

I'm about to start shopping a comedic women's fiction set in home improvement reality television. What if I make the carpenters telepathic, the designers wear kilts, and send everyone back in time to a vampire's castle transported to olde time Chicago? *g*

Jane said...

Hi Danielle and Joanna,
I love "Fringe," too, but I still have a hard time seeing Joshua Jackson as a man. He'll always be Pacey to me. I read a lot of paranormals, but I haven't read an urban fantasy yet. Are those trends still going strong?

Danielle Egan-Miller said...

Jane, I think urban fantasy has a very strong following. Someone mentioned Kim Harrison -- and her The Hollows series -- earlier. I think Sherrilyn Kenyon is considered urban fantasy...maybe Krelsey Cole? I am not quite sure where the line is drawn in supernatural fiction between paranormal and (urban) fantasy...maybe it's those damn portals! I don't have anyone on my list who is writing this, which means I am not actively reading in this genre. Not that I wouldn't or that I won't, but I just haven't gotten into it yet...any recommendations?

Debra Dixon said...

Danielle-- Welcome!

THIRTEEN REASONS is amazing. Your play list is pretty much a carbon of what I love.

I'm a recent convert to YA after being tapped to do a story for a DAW anthology set in a high school for witches. I simply fell in love with the genre.

Jill James said...

Hi Danielle, Fringe and True Blood are my new favorite shows. I think it is the strong, but vulnerable female leads. My Christmas wish list would be more 'out of the box' books to go with some of the wild, out there tv shows this year. Something new and unique.

debbsmith said...

Danielle
Thanks for a fascinating column! Deb Dixon and I were just discussing the appeal of edgy, literary YA and, like Deb, I've become a big convert to the YA genre. I have to say, in terms of bookselling, YA seems far more open to new authors than other genres do. I just don't see the level of marketing or enthusiasm on pubs' part re: to reach the mature audience. The major publishers don't seem to know what to do other than the tried and true promotions that mature readers generally ignore. The great new world of ebooks holds a lot of promise for aging boomers who want to upsize their type size, but we're not seeing those readers in significant numbers yet -- our small press has put a slew of our books into e-formats, so I can report that our YA ebooks immediately kick butt saleswise while women's fiction is far more modest. All in all, I think the market for older heroines and big fat epic novels not starring teenage boys with magic wands is a really tough sell. And I say that sadly, as a women's fiction author.

lunaticcafe said...

If your looking for a great read to give as a gift- aside from the RWTTD authors- try Katherine Neville's The Eight and the new sequel The Fire. I read The Eight years ago on my husbands recommendation and loved it, so I was thrilled when the sequel came out a month or so ago. I bought it for my husband for Xmas. It's a little bit Da Vinci Code, with puzzles and riddles, mystery, thrills, and compelling characters- the story is amazing!

Sandy said...

Hi Danielle and Joanna,

You did a great job for the very first time.

I would recommend any of Barry Eisler's books for men or women. He writes the John Rain series.

Also, I would like to recommend my friend, Carla Cassidy. Her book, Broken Pieces, was excellent.

catslady said...

I like a huge variety for reading - right now I'm into Jodi Picoult and I'm planning on trying the Twilight series and any historical and the new Stephen King and, and, and ... I also recommend The Shack and The Last Lecture. I'm currently reading The Pillars of the Earth and really enjoying it.

Christie Ridgway said...

Hi, Danielle and Joanna! Love your list. All sound good to me.

Idea for a male reader: James Rollins. Like Dan Brown with more science-y ideas. I've read most of his books and I'm not science-y at all, but was still sucked in. Sent them on to my dh's AP Calculus high school math students and the brainiacs love them too.

flchen1 said...

Just wanted to say hi, Danielle! If your husband enjoys funny, anything by Dave Barry (he's done a couple fiction titles, too, which are hilarious). And my husband read a bunch of Christopher Moore, which seemed kind of paranormal, but funny. Happy bookshopping!

Lina Gardiner said...

Danielle,
Wow that is a wonderful wish list! There isn't one genre on your list I wouldn't want to read!
Thanks so much,

Lina Gardiner

Danielle Egan-Miller said...

Hi Riders -- Thanks again for the opportunity to guest on your site today. And thanks to all who chimed in with some FABULOUS recommendations! Tomorrow I am sure I will be surfing amazon while eating my lunch, trying to fill out my Christmas book shopping list. My lucky, lucky family and friends are certain to receive some excellent books as gifts. :)

Just an fyi: Browne & Miller's Christmas wish list will be going strong long after the holidays. We're always looking for talented authors who have powerful, original voices and great stories to share. Joanna is especially interested in growing our YA list, so if you have a project that you think might appeal to us and if you're looking for an agent, we'd love to hear from you. I won't lie: we're very picky, we have very high standards, and we pass on a lot of things. But if we find something that we love, if we respond to the story, to the writing, to the potential, AND if we and the author prove to be a right fit for each other, we then become passionate, dedicated champions for that work and do our absolute best to deliver the desired results. We're fortunate to represent some amazing authors and their successes speak for themselves.

Wishing you all very happy holidays and here's to more great books in 2009!

Joanna MacKenzie said...

Hello Riders,
I just wanted to add my thanks to you for allowing Danielle and I to visit with you. I had so much fun reading your comments this morning. I did want to address Debbsmith's comment about publishers getting on board with marketing YA to a larger audience. Most YA sales are in the library market, so it is hard for some publishers to see outside of that. Luckily, more and more YA authors are breaking out of this mold and are garnering fans among mature readers which is making publishers take notice. When I recently placed two YA titles with Random House, I made sure to discuss the publisher's plans for marketing and made sure that they were focusing on retail sales as well as library sales. Ultimately it's about making the right match and finding and editor who wants to reach and wide audience for your work. I look forward to hearing from those of you with YA projects in need of representation. Happy Holidays!
Joanna

TL Boehm said...

Giggles at "blogging virgin" as I am active at three different sites - at least, I wonder - no I shudder at what that makes me. As a blogaddict and YA writer - I found this post refreshing and informative. Peace.
TL Boehm
http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BethanysCrossing.html