Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interview with Agent Michael Bourret

Our Co-regional Advisor Laurie Thompson interviewed Michael Bourret, one of the agents coming to our conference this weekend. Here's a taste:

Michael Bourret is an agent with Dystel and Goderich, and recently opened their brand-new West Coast office. I’ve heard Michael speak at a few of the national SCBWI conferences, and it’s always a pleasure. Don’t miss him at the SCBWI Western Washington conference this weekend!

L: Welcome, Michael! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me! Your various bios and market listings say you accept all kinds of nonfiction, and I know you represent adult nonfiction, but I don’t see any nonfiction for kids among your titles. Why is that? Please give us some insight on the juvenile nonfiction market from an agent’s perspective.

M: Thanks for having me, Laurie! And I’m excited that you’re asking about juvenile nonfiction, and I’ll be really honest: I don’t know much about it. It isn’t a category that I’ve pursued, aside from the amazing picture books of Anne Rockwell’s. I think that juvenile nonfiction has mostly been left to the academic publishers, in part because it isn’t as glamorous as novels. But that may well be changing, as is the very definition of category. I’m seeing a lot more innovation and new approaches, including more memoir and other narrative nonfiction.

L: Several children’s nonfiction titles received quite a lot of attention this year, especially Phillip Hoose’s CLAUDETTE COLVIN and Deborah Heiligman’s CHARLES AND EMMA. Do you think this will have any effect on the market?

M: Any commercial success will have an effect on the market, and the critical and commercial response to both of these books certainly got my attention. I’m not sure we’ll see a flood of nonfiction, but I do think we’ll see some smart books coming from major publishers better known for their fiction.

L: You don’t represent picture books, either—is that a personal preference, a matter of industry knowledge and expertise, or a purely financial decision*?

M: I do represent some picture books, actually, but it’s not an area in which I’m looking to grow. The market is difficult, especially for writers, and since they’re the ones I represent, it just doesn’t make sense for me to continue looking for new picture-book clients.

Read the rest of the interview here.

*This post originally linked to one on the Upstart Crow blog, but we summarized that long piece inaccurately. We're removing that reference to avoid confusion, but if you want to read the post, you can find it in the comments. -- Martha


Mikalroy said...

To sum up my 7,000-word post about picture books as stating that agenting them is "a purely financial decision" is such a blatant misrepresentation as to be verging on the malicious.

Seriously. This is an offensive reduction of a post that was far bigger than just talking about bucks.

Mikalroy said...

(Correction: 3,500 words. Both parts are 7K, but the other half I have yet to post.)

Martha Brockenbrough said...


I'm just seeing this comment now. I agree that your post was mischaracterized. I assure you it was in no way malicious. You know Laurie, right?

Sometimes things do get summarized inaccurately. When that happens, the right thing to do is correct the record ASAP.

Here's our original bit on your excellent blog post:

Anyone who hasn't read the Upstart Crow post should. It's terrific and will help you understand the publishing landscape and decide whether picture books are the right outlet for your talents.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I would never intentionally malign you personally or professionally, and I'm very sorry if my post misrepresented yours in any way. I only meant to say that you blogged about the purely financial considerations--among many others, of course--that play into an agent's decision to represent picture books or not. I didn't mean for it to read that those financial considerations are ever the only factor in making such a decision.

I've edited my original post to, hopefully, remove any misunderstanding and clarify my intent. Your post was fantastic and honestly answers a common question many picture-book authors have. I am truly grateful to you for your many contributions to children's literature and the generous guidance you provide to authors both in person and online.