MARK GOTTLEIB OF THE TRIDENT MEDIA GROUP AGENCY
Today I am very pleased to introduce Mark Gottleib from the Trident Media Group literary agency. Mark represents a friend of mine, Andrew Buckley. Below is a short bio and the ten questions I set. I hope you enjoy this insight.
Mark Gottlieb attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature & publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s VP. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was EA to Trident’s Chairman and ran the Audio Department.
Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on publishersmarketplace.com in Overall Deals and other categories.
1. Why did you become a literary agent?
Unlike many people who choose book publishing as somewhat of an accidental profession, it was always expected of me that I would one day work at Trident Media Group, a family-owned and operated literary agency. I think it comes as a comfort to many of my clients that I’m not leaving the literary agency, nor book publishing anytime soon. Anyway, you could say I was sort of groomed for the position at a young age. That’s why I chose Emerson College in Boston, as they were one of the only schools at the time offering an undergraduate study in publishing. My company bio expresses my professional journey from my time at Emerson College, onward.
2. What do you not like to see in a query?
There are many mistakes that I’ve seen in query letters, but I will name just a few that would absolutely deter me from requesting the manuscript from an author.
-Submitting queries for novellas, short story collections, poetry or textbooks will usually turn a literary agent off, as most literary agents do not represent such things. Publishers tend not to buy from literary agents in those areas in the first place.
-Word count is also very important. Traditional book length is 80-120K, and commercial fiction tends to be in the 80-90K-word range. Going outside of normal book-length will not produce good results for an author querying a literary agent for a shot at going into major trade publishing.
-Writing within struggling genres such as cozy mysteries, erotica, or urban fantasy is also another way to turn a literary agent off in the querying process. We tend to be weary of that at Trident Media Group.
3. Do you always read the attached material?
Our query letter submission policies, listed on our website’s submission/contact us page, first dictate that the author must send us a query letter, only. If the letter appeals to us, we will then request a manuscript: http://www.tridentmediagroup.com/
4. How many queries do you receive in a week and of those how many, would you say, result in a request for material?
I receive hundreds of query letters per week, but I give each letter its due. Of those letters, I might request only a few on a slow week, maybe several on a week where there’s a big influx of query letters. If you think about it, that’s very good odds of getting your material read, since most of what’s submitted is simply unpublishable. If the material speaks to me, then I’m quick to read and offer representation from there. Of course getting published is an entirely different matter, although representation through the Trident Media Group literary agency certainly increases an author’s odds of getting published.
5. How hands on, editorially, are you with your clients?
If interested in a manuscript, I tend to offer representation upfront, with the expectation that an author will remain open to editorial discussion, if need be. Every manuscript is different; I have read manuscripts that read very tightly and needed few if any editorial comments from me. In those instances I might provide just a few bulleted points or so for the author to keep in mind. In other instances I have written ten or twelve-page editorial letters. While that may seem like overkill, it expresses my firm belief in an author’s career growth.
6. What is on your wish list at the moment?
An ideal project would carry an important social message or moral to the story, and while not only being beautifully written, it should be accessible or have some aspects of commercialism to the writing, even if it is literary fiction. We represent all genres, generally excluding poetry, short stories, novellas, and textbooks. We are always seeing a high demand for commercial fiction, genre fiction, thrillers, women’s fiction, romance, YA, literary/general fiction, high-end nonfiction and health books written by authors with major platforms in the areas of history/politics/current affairs, business books and celebrity nonfiction.
7. What qualities would your perfect client possess?
The ideal client should be patient, since book publishing can be a slow process, but at the same time they should be curious about the book publishing process, and how their role fits into it/how they can help as a central figure in the success of a book’s publication. An ideal project would carry an important social message or moral to the story, and while not only being beautifully written, it should be accessible or have some aspects of commercialism to the writing, even if it is literary fiction. I also look for authors that have good writing credentials such as experience with writing workshops, conferences, or smaller publications in respected literary magazines. Having awards, bestseller status, a strong online presence/platform, or pre-publication blurbs in-hand for one’s manuscript is also very promising in the eyes of a literary agent.
8. If you could interview a favorite character, who would it be and why?
I think that the protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN, an unnamed African American man who considers himself socially invisible, would have loved to see the day where a black man walked on the bare Moon. I’d throw a party with him in space on the white face of the Moon and get to know him there. I would invite all of the heroes of jazz and blues, especially the ones who were popular in the days of Ralph Ellison. I’d probably invite the poet Langston Hughes, as well as the biggest names of the Harlem Renaissance. We’d all have crazy spacey costumes, so the party would resemble the French silent film director Georges Méliès’s “A Trip to the Moon” (the 1933 hand-colored version of the film print, rather than the 1902 black and white version).
9. Favorite food or drink while reading queries and manuscripts?
I usually get most of my reading done over the weekend, laying down on my couch with a pot of coffee.
10. Favorite book and/or movie?
My favorite book is Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN as it helped me through a difficult time in my life and made me feel as though I had a friend in that book.
Andrew’s thoughts on Mark:
When Sam and Frodo needed to get through the Dead Marshes, they needed Gollum. Captain Jack Sparrow has that magical compass thing. A certain young wizard has a magical map for marauding. Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan. Arthur Dent had a very informative book that encouraged people not to panic. That’s what an agent, a good agent, represents for an author. It’s great to have someone in your corner who is willing to represent your work and help navigate the murky publishing landscape. Mark Gottlieb is my Obi-Wan/Gollum/Compass/Map/Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it comes to the publishing world. And he’s exceptionally good at his job!