Lauren Galit began her career as a magazine editor for about a decade before transitioning into editing and agency work. She started with Gentleman’s Quarterly, she worked for advertisers, and later worked for Mode magazine, a plus size women’s magazine. She eventually landed her last job at Good Housekeeping. Lauren was a deputy editor at a magazine, where she was responsible for managing the entire content and was in charge of every word that went into the magazine. She worked with a team of writers, editors, and editors and was able to bring her ideas to life. However, Her passion for connecting authors to audiences and helping them craft their voices led her to switch from magazines to books. She realized that going longer form was a better way to nurture these relationships and nurture the writers’ voices. She went to an agency where she took a major pay and title cut and became an assistant.
Working as a Literary Agent
Lauren’s journey from magazines to books has been a journey of connecting authors to audiences and helping them craft their voices. She has learned to adapt her approach to different publications and agencies, focusing on building relationships and fostering a supportive environment for authors. Agency work involves generating book ideas, seeking out authors, and working with them to shape their proposals and sell the books to publishers. The agent works with the author to execute the book, executing contracts, shepherding covers, production schedules, and timelines. Lauren started working for John Boswell Associates, a company known for creating 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, and later worked on other projects such as What Not to Wear. The success of this book led her to start her own agency in 2006 and has since worked on various projects in categories such as parenting, diet, exercise, and fitness.
What a Literary Agency Does
As an agent, Lauren works with authors to shape and create their proposals, ensuring that they were well-researched and well-written. She helps them navigate the publication process, including negotiating deals and addressing issues with the editor. The role of the editor in publishing houses, particularly for nonfiction books, is crucial, as the author may have a vision of what the book should be, but the editor may have a different version of what will appeal to the market. The agency provides services based on the category and interventionist approach. For nonfiction, the agency shapes a proposal, which includes a table of contents, advice, tips, and anecdotes. The proposal, along with marketing and publicity sections, goes to the publisher to entice the publisher to buy the book. In fiction, the book is sold on a full manuscript, while in nonfiction, the book is sold on a proposal. Lauren explains the business side of the agreement between agent and author, the services provided, percentage of the deal, and what the publishing house covers.
The Role of the Editor and Relationship with the Author
Lauren explains that the agent, editor and author often have a phone call to discuss the concept, and if there are conflicts, the editor expects the author to deliver a different version of the book. There are various options for rewrites, and if they cannot come to terms, the contract can be dissolved. Lauren has represented the authors of many books around exercise, diet, and fitness, including books about eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, and getting fit. She has shifted her focus to children’s literature and middle grade literature for the last decade. She explains the importance of developing a hook and offers a few examples to illustrate how the hook works. Lauren discusses her experiences in the middle grade and YA fiction space, focusing on magical realism and contemporary books with hints of magic. She highlights the importance of casting a lens on children’s emotional lives and making them more consequential.
Exploring What Editors Want
Lauren discusses approaching publishers and the Rolodex process, which involves researching what editors are looking for and aligning interests appropriately. She suggests that there is a need for more middle grade fiction, as dystopian fiction is being burned out. Lauren talks about the gender imbalance in middle grade, with boys reading children’s books up until a certain age. They often switch to genre fiction, mysteries, adventure novels, and fantasy, but not YA books. She explains why editors don’t want to invest too heavily in YA books with male protagonists. Lauren’s advice for other authors in the middle grade and YA fiction space is to focus on matching interests and aligning interests appropriately, and to be patient with the process.
The Landscape of the Book Industry
Lauren explains how the book industry works and how it has been broken down into imprints, with each house having different rules. She touches on the decline of children’s imprints, such as Razorbill, which was decommissioned and merged into a single imprint. This has led to a significant downturn in the children’s market, with the famous imprint Ink Yard at HarperCollins being discontinued. As a result, the number of outlets and opportunities for book deals decreases. The shift in the book industry is driven by specialization, specialization, and the need for a diverse range of genres and formats. The book industry is a complex and evolving landscape, with authors often being upset about their intellectual property being trained by AI. This can lead to a lack of understanding of what people know or think about book publishing.
Lauren ruminates on the role of publishing houses in the future, the importance of an agent, and offers insight on advances for writers. For both fiction and nonfiction, there may be apps that can help authors create books for themselves, such as AI tools that can write books for specific topics or provide personalized advice. However, Lauren states that AI is flawed in its current state, as it is repetitive, clunky, and introduces falsehoods.
Influential Courses or Professors at Harvard
Lauren mentions Marjorie Garber as an influential professor.
04:13 Bringing out an author’s own voice
09:39 How Lauren started her own publishing company
16:03 The role of the editor at the publishing house
22:17 How Lauren got into parenting books
27:34 How to approach publishers for manuscripts
32:56 Boys and girls and YA?
37:08 Selling books with fewer and fewer big buyers.
41:23 The importance of having an editor who loves your book
45:47 Advice for aspiring writers
X (Formerly Twitter): https://twitter.com/LKGagency
Lauren Galit, Will Bachman
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host, will Bachman and I’m here today with Lauren Keller galette who some of you may remember as Lauren Keller in college. Lauren, welcome to the show.
Lauren Galit 00:19
Thank you for having me.
Will Bachman 00:21
So Lauren, tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.
Lauren Galit 00:27
It’s a pretty straight line have everything to do with the tutorial. All I ever wanted to do while I was in school and post grad was deal with authors and editing and reading and my journey professionally has been pretty much about finding different ways to interact that, you know, bring authors voices into the world. I started as a magazine editor for about a decade before I switched into editing and agency.
Will Bachman 01:01
Can you tell us can you tell us what magazines
Lauren Galit 01:05
my first job out of college was? Gentleman’s quarterly. Then I worked for a while in doing magazines for advertisers, I did a book for helped with a data with Cadillac with Mercedes Benz and whatnot. Then I went to mode magazine, which was for plus size women. And I landed in my last job in magazines at Good Housekeeping.
Will Bachman 01:37
Lauren Galit 01:40
So that’s why I always say I started at GQ and I ended up GH.
Will Bachman 01:46
And I normally don’t ask this part to later but I mean, were you in college? Were you involved in one of the publications on campus or
Lauren Galit 01:56
lightly involved with the advocate, I sort of started there and got more involved in campus called the lighthouse. While we were on campus, women’s focus magazines launched,
Will Bachman 02:13
right, yeah, remember the lighthouse? Like Women’s Studies? Women’s? Yeah, yeah.
Lauren Galit 02:17
And also the rag, which was sort of a bit more of a radical version, and I was on heritage team and the lighthouse for a while. So the answer is somewhat, I wouldn’t say I was deeply and massively invested the way some of like, let’s say, the people at the Crimson that was sort of their entire life and worldview, mine was a bit more, you know, touching, base contributing, going to meetings, but not necessarily spending 24/7.
Will Bachman 02:45
Okay, so I cut you off. But I do want to ask this. What some people I mean, as a more people you might encounter, who have this dream to be an author, right to write I want to grade the great American novel, or even like, a half decent American novel or American novel Lyptus cells. I have not met that many people who, you know, I dreamed of being an editorial, I dreamed of connecting authors to audiences and helping them craft their voice or whatever. Tell us like, what has it always been with you what was what was the driver of being that kind of person behind the scenes, helping authors shape their, you know, their, their work? Just talk to us about that a little bit.
Lauren Galit 03:31
I remember distinctly and he’ll probably hate me for saying it. But when my brother was applying to college, I remember actually helping my parents edit his essays.
Will Bachman 03:43
This was your older brother.
Lauren Galit 03:45
I have two older brothers. One I didn’t didn’t interact with him, but the other I did. Yeah, that was important to me for somehow listening to them talking about fixes changes they could make and it was a bit of a word walk a total nerd and wanted to participate and contribute. And yeah, so that’s how I ended up my fiscal years. And my mother had this horrible tendency to edit cliches into anything that was written that also drove me crazy. So I sort of always knew that I wanted to be able to bring out an author’s own voice as opposed to asserting my own and what was interesting for me was in magazines, that was the exact opposite, because many of these publications had a voice they wanted to put forward, you edit for Good Housekeeping you need to sound like good housekeeping, as opposed to having a Top Contributor. Sound like the contributor that was being showcased in Good Housekeeping. So that was a very significant push me pull you that bothered me quite a bit and push me more into books as As opposed to magazines,
Will Bachman 05:02
okay, cool. So, so keep going. And so we talked to give us an overview of magazines and books.
Lauren Galit 05:09
Then I got into books. And the idea again was the same thing because I wasn’t able to protect my writers and their voices in the way that I wanted to in magazines, it occurred to me that going longer form was a better way to have that relationship and nurture it, because I realized when I moved from magazine to magazine, that the most important thing I had with me was my rolodex far and away. That’s what I brought to every job that I went to. So if I wanted to invest in these people, why not do it on a sort of bigger, grander basis, one of the things I had loved in magazines was kind of becoming an expert in an article topic or concept or whatever, for a couple of months until publication, and then you move on, but again, with books that gave me an even longer engagement and even longer, deeper knowledge, but yet still the ability to be the total dilettante. I could, you know, become a expert in you know, this writers, you know, dieting advice, and that one’s exercise advice. And that one’s parenting advice. And this, you know, I never got the book published, but I became deeply invested in food waste because of some project that I was working on. So things that sort of, I was able to kind of dip in and out of the I cared about deeply, and kind of bring their voices and their ideas out. So I became an assistant. I took a major massive pay and title cut, I had been at that point, pretty much. mowed magazine, I was pretty much the deputy editor and was in charge of pretty much every word that went into that magazine, with the supervision of my editor in chief who was very incredibly visual. So we were a great team. And then I went to being an assistant at a agency.
Will Bachman 07:08
Wow. Okay, at an agency as not at a publishing house. And
Lauren Galit 07:13
as an agency, okay, it was right after the crash.
Will Bachman 07:18
And which one we’ve been through three
Lauren Galit 07:22
should have many. What was it was a big magazine crash, but it was right after Oh, eight. And the magazines just completely died on the vine. And there were science as did books. And there were so many really great, really qualified people looking for jobs, particularly in books, it would be virtually impossible for me to have shifted from magazines to books in that time. Because why would they hire me with my magazine background instead of hiring somebody who already had magazine SRE book experience? So agency work was the best thing I could get. But again, why I got the job was that Rolodex
Will Bachman 08:06
and I’m sorry, what does agency work mean? I’m not I’m unfamiliar with this industry.
Lauren Galit 08:13
Okay, well, in this case, I was working for a guy. His name was John Boswell and his agency John Boswell Associates, and he is best known for creating 365 ways to cook chicken, which was a multimillion copies selling project. And then he went on to create every iteration of that, that you could possibly humanly imagine seafood, beef, pasta, chocolate, whatever, what have you. But as an agent, he both generated book ideas as a packager and then went and sought out authors to draft his ideas and sell them to publishers, as well as getting queries in from people with their own ideas, and proposals, and then worked with them to shape their proposals and sell and those books to the publishers and then work with them on execution, executing the book, executing contracts, you know, shepherding covers, production schedules, timelines, etc.
Will Bachman 09:27
Okay, so you started as an assistant there and then keep going, what happened then?
Lauren Galit 09:32
So with him I was he, I was deeply invested in his categories, which weren’t necessarily mine. He was a business guy. So we worked on business books. He was a humor guy. We worked on humor books, obviously, he did a bunch of food books. And then I also tried to use as I said, my own Rolodex to bring in my authors and create projects, to one of my biggest projects that I brought In was the book for what not to wear. From my magazine days, I had been friends with Quinton Kelly, who was the host of what not to wear with his co host, Stacy London and the three of us, sort of scoped out what a book could or should be. And we sold it to record them. And it’s kind of after doing that, and kind of creating our own project, because Clayton came to me first, but it made me realize that I could sort of do some of this on my own. And I wanted to do it in categories that my boss at the time wasn’t invested in. I cared more about parenting as a new mother, I cared about diet, exercise, fitness, sort of all of the categories that I had been touching on actually, while I was a magazine editor, a lot of those nonfiction how to areas prescriptive nonfiction, basically. Okay. So I worked on that. So I jumped ship. And it was six. And I started doing that with elite. So then the crash couldn’t have been when I switched jobs, from magazine to books, it was after 911. Yes. We’ve been through way more since we’ve been through. Yeah, that would exactly you said that. But I was like, wait, no, it was the old one. But it wasn’t I switched on Mike the magazine, big calamity was after 911 That I shifted to my own agency in Oh, six.
Will Bachman 11:34
Okay. And so you started your own agency? What’s, what’s involved in that?
Lauren Galit 11:41
Um, a lot of cold calling. A lot of you sending emails to my authors from a magazine days and saying, What do you got for me? What are you thinking about? Are you looking to go long form? What if we did a book about this together? How can I help you? How can I guide you a lot of that I got very, very, very lucky though, because of my relationship with Clinton. He left John Bogle associates and came with me, and he created a series of books together. It was so much fun. He was he’s just a dream client above and beyond. And we did a whole series of books freaking fabulous, freakin fabulous on a budget, and things like that. And then he did a narrative essays book called, I hate everyone except you. So and then he also introduced me to other hosts at when not to wear so I did a few makeup related books with Carmen de. And I did a hair book with Nick Arrojo, who were the hair and makeup people from the show.
Will Bachman 12:49
Wow, amazing. Now, can you share with us not maybe a specific example that you know, but a sanitized example? How did the economics work for one of these? Like, how much does the author may cut? Much Does the agency make? And like? What are all the expenses involved in this? And do you have to, I mean, would your agency pay for the cover design and the copy editing and, you know, like, the legal stuff. So I just love to hear sort of just how the whole business side of this works.
Lauren Galit 13:21
agents get 15% of the deal. But as a consequence, they don’t earn any money unless the book sells. So classic example is do a small book $10,000 to a publisher, the author would get at 500, you as the agent would get 1500 Publishing House carries almost all the costs, they carry the cost of editing, the carry the cost of copy editing, they carry the cost of production, printing, distribution, cover design, Illustrator, etc.
Will Bachman 14:02
And then if that book does well and starts earning royalties, and so forth, is it selling?
Lauren Galit 14:08
Yep, then the agent gets 15% of all royalties produced, generally speaking, then there’s obviously other deals and relationships along the way, you know, if you sell foreign rights for that book, so foreign rights are perfect example, some houses battle and fight to keep foreign rights some authors battle or keep to hold foreign rights and the contract varies slightly and then the royalty split varies slightly based on that same thing with film rights, whether you hold on to production rights, which is film, television, etc. That, you know, involves certain royalty splits and keeping them versus selling them to the publishing house.
Will Bachman 14:54
So tell us a little bit more detail. Okay. So, for that 15% So what what are is the services that the agency provides?
Lauren Galit 15:06
Well, a lot of it also depends on what category you’re in and how interventionist you are. So when I was doing primarily nonfiction, it was shaping a proposal, which is a lot of heavy lifting, you know, kind of creating a table of contents. What does this look like? What does it not look like? What’s working, how’s the flow? You know, the advice, tips, anecdotes, etc, that go into creating the proposal. And then that proposal, including marketing, and publicity sections, all goes together to the publisher to try and entice the publisher to buy the book. When you’re doing nonfiction, the book is sold on proposal when you’re doing fiction, the book is sold on a full manuscript.
Will Bachman 15:54
So you sell it, you have the proposal, which is which is non trivial, right? It’s not two or three pages, these are what 5060 pages or Yeah, little mini books.
Lauren Galit 16:03
Exactly. And they have they’re pretty substantive. So as an agent, I used to work with authors to shape and create their proposals. And I would take that proposal, I would shop that around to imprints hold auctions and negotiate deals, should I be so lucky. And then handhold authors through the publication process, you know, this one pipes up and says, The editors mangling my voice, I hate it, you got to help me fix it, or say, I really don’t love this cover, can we talk to the editor, talk to the art team, etc. So it’s a front front to back full service.
Will Bachman 16:44
Now, talk to me a bit about like the role of the editor at the publishing house for particularly for nonfiction books. And, you know, the, the author may have one vision of what he or she wants the book to be. And the editor might have a different version of what’s going to be commercial and actually appeal to the market. And you also have your own perspective. So tell me about the the forces acting on the author, as is particularly nonfiction authors here on, you know, different kind of forces of, you know, pushing them in one direction or the other.
Lauren Galit 17:19
Well, realistically speaking, if they have a vision that doesn’t necessarily align with the author, they’re really not going to buy the book, right? So it has to be that it’s close enough. And then before the book gets written, the author and the editor would have a phone call, which the agent is often on the call to say, look, we’re interested in your concept, but we think it needs to shift left I have a very classic content based one on that one, I had a author who wrote a book that was basically a towel all of behind the scenes of gym culture, not unlike Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, he was trying to do a concept of that, like, gym culture, right. And it was like juicy, salacious stories about how gyms operated, how trainers operated what you know what was going on behind the scenes at the gym that you had no idea about. And then he was putting in these sidebars of exercises to do and hints and tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your gym membership. And I had a publisher come to me and say we’d like the sidebars we want the sidebars to be the whole book and kind of let’s mostly get rid of the anecdotes. If there’s something that’s positive, helpful or effective, that kind of will move with the book forward or make it more saleable, great, we can keep those but literally flipped the entire book. Again, you wouldn’t buy it unless the editor and author talk first and agree to that conceptualization. So they did and they agreed and so even though that was not the proposal that was written, that was the books that was written. So but the but they all have to be in sync for that to take place. If there are conflicts along the way, you know, editor expects X author delivers y despite whatever’s written in the proposal. And there are a bunch of different options that happen. One is there’s obviously options for rewrites. And if they can’t come to terms and the contract can get dissolved. Luckily enough, that hasn’t happened to me. Usually we’re able to find sort of solid middle ground on voice and content that both editor and author can be happy.
Will Bachman 19:44
Sounds like you’ve done a lot of books around exercise, diet fitness. And what’s your take on that whole category? I mean, to some degree. The books have already been written just like you know, eat fruits and vegetable bowls like less meat, lots less less carbs, no sugar and just eat a little bit less, and workout every day. And that’s pretty much you know, try to get some cardio and you know, some strength, you know, the actual advice, right? It’s pretty short.
Lauren Galit 20:19
Yes. First of all to clarify, in case, I don’t even know what year I’d have to take a look at my schedule, I shifted actually the bulk of my work to children’s ya and middle grade literature. So that’s mostly what I’ve been doing for the last decade. Okay, we got to get into that. No worries. But to answer your question, with all of these books, regardless of whether it’s nonfiction, or fiction, it’s all about hook. And hook is what makes it different than everything else that’s out there. And if you’re not offering something that’s different than No, it’s not gonna sell. So what did my exercise author offer that was different. His book was called beat the gym. And the whole concept behind the book was jitters exist, to take your money to promise you x to get you to spend more money with trainers and cetera. And then they want you to never come again. Right? Right. Right. That’s the reality, because then they want to keep charging your credit card monthly. And have you never come again, his whole book was, yes, I’m going to tell you how to exercise. But I’m also going to tell you how to get the most out of your gym membership, ways to get as many personal training sessions that work for you. And you can get them for free or discounted ways to use the equipment to max out in the amount of time you’re there and not necessarily have to spend hours and hours and hours to get the results you’re looking for times of day that were best how to navigate you know, classes, you get the positions, you want the sign up to all of that kind of stuff. The whole book was conceptualized around, you know, the gym doesn’t when you do that’s it, that’s a different book, right? Or diet book might be centered around supplements or a certain style of eating that works for you. And whatever the case may be. I might parenting books. There’s a big trend for a while to remember the tiger mom thing I do. Right, exactly. So it was a tiger mom. And it was all about these, like supercharged parents in the supercharged kids. And then there was bringing a baby, which was like the French version, you know, of these over culture, kids. And one of my parenting authors just looked at and said, Whatever happened to happy kids? Like, why don’t Is that what we really want? Do we really want to read these children are doing one raise happy children. So she created an entire book concept called the happy kid handbook. And it was social and emotional well being centered.
Will Bachman 23:02
Okay. Talk to us about your turn the last decade to more. Like you said, why a and Yeah, talk to us. But yeah,
Lauren Galit 23:11
my former associate, his name was Caitlin had written her own middle grade novel. And she came to me and said, I’d like you to represent my middle grade novel. And I was like, okay, you know, this is not my category. You know, I don’t know that people. She said, I hear you. But I see how you operate in adults. And I think you can bring that in. Because, you know, it involves a fair amount of cold calling, cold emailing, sort of just introducing yourself on the fly. And we sold her book, ordinary magic to Bloomsbury us. So Bloomsbury is the publishing house in the UK that did Harry Potter, Scholastic did it here. But the US branch of Bloomsbury bought her novel. And that was my first entree into middle grade, which is mostly categorizes books for children, eight to 13 or so. 14 To 18 tends to be young adult. And after we published that book, she said to me, Well, now that, you know, you’ve done my book, what about doing other children’s books, and then I sort of took off from there and I was doing at that time, both nonfiction and fiction. And I was finding the nonfiction to be harder and harder and sort of less enjoyable, and I was loving the fiction. It was so much fun to read these books that, you know, inspired me, sort of when I was a child and as a editor and as a, you know, English major, so it was exciting for me to be able to start working professionally in that category, and it’s just kind of only grown from there.
Will Bachman 25:04
Amazing. So tell us about some of your other adventures in the middle grade and YA fiction space.
Lauren Galit 25:12
Oh god, it ranges. I’ve done a decent amount of fantasy my fantasy tends to stray more toward magical realism just sort of books in our contemporary world with hints of magic, I really find magical realism does a great job of sort of casting a lens on what’s happening in kittens emotional lives and kind of making it more consequential. A perfect example is a book that I did with an author called God, not her first book, the frame up but her second book, my brain is going on off on the right now but the short version is Is she was a shapeshifter. But she couldn’t control herself as a shapeshifter. As she was going through puberty, she would find that she would spend time with people that she was emotionally connecting to or found appealing, or in some way wanting to be like, and she would find that her body would start changing and morphing, not in her control. And it was this wonderful, amazing metaphor, sort of about how adolescence is a time in children’s lives when they don’t really have control over their own identity. And they take on personalities and sort of aspects from those around them and sort of being in control of it themselves. And it was an amazing opportunity. And this incredibly well written book by Wendy muglia McKnight to kind of highlight that paradigm, but using sort of the magical realism to make it a little bit more appealing and less didactic for children.
Will Bachman 26:55
Wow. I think it’s so cool that you’re in this category. And I just, I’ll just mention listeners who have, you know, listen to other episodes of the show, will will know that we have some other classmates in this space. So Rajni Larocca. In episode four, was the Newbery Honor winning author writing middle grade books, and Jeff Rocky has written a whole series of middle grade books, and Tara alto, Brando has also been on the show. So
Lauren Galit 27:25
Jeff, and I connected because at one point in time, he was a rugby player at school, and my brother was a was a record as well. So they were they knew each other and they were friendly.
Will Bachman 27:34
We have the the YA and middle grade special interest group here for the Harvard look us up. What tell us about the part about approaching publishers and, you know, you know, are there some editors at publishing houses that you develop a relationship with over time, and you do like multiple book deals with them and, and just how that whole Rolodex and process works?
Lauren Galit 28:03
Absolutely titling completely. The most important thing is making sure you know what editors are looking for what projects and materials. To that end, there’s a wonderful website called manuscript wish list. It’s particularly robust in children’s, but it literally is listings of editors with them saying what it is that they’re looking for right now. Well, I have a lot of YA these days. So I’d really like to see more middle grade, or I feel that dystopian fiction is burned out. So please don’t send me that or I’m all about the rom com, send me the rom coms. Big calls for diversity, they called for queer fiction. And you’ll find this sometimes these editors will, you know, tweet out, God only knows when it’s going to be called now that x is being launched, but are threads and they’ll indicate an ROI. I have this idea, somebody write that book for me. And you’ll see these ethnical and MSW wells sort of populating all over and so the most important thing you can do when you is not necessarily to write to that book, that’s not what I’m suggesting. But when you have your book in hand that you’re going to sell is to do your research to find out if which editors want that type of book, there is no point in sending a, you know, a dystopian book to an editor who has worked on five different dystopian books already in fields, the categories burned out, you can’t. You have to match up interests and align things appropriately, in order to have the best shot at getting a sale, basically, and then once that happens, obviously, you send out to your list and hope and pray that you’re right and that you’re hitting the market correctly and you’re hitting the editors interest correctly and you’ve got a shot. It’s good Getting that project published. You know, unfortunately, I have an author in the YA contemporary space, who is the most extraordinary writer, you know Kirkus starred, who’s being told that, you know, contemporary issues books and why aren’t selling men, she asked to make a shift to rom com and she’s writing in rom com. And now she’s being told, sorry, I’m doing so well, it’s very hard.
Will Bachman 30:28
No, Jeff rodkey mentioned this to me. And subsequently, I think I’ve seen a New York Times article on it. And I’ve kind of paid attention to it. When I met Books of Wonder in New York City, as my kids are shopping there. And talk to me a bit about the gender imbalance for middle grade and why a it seems like 80% plus of the readers are girls. Like there’s, you know, if you look at all the covers of the Y A books at Books of Wonder in New York City, and you know, kids bookstore, it’s mostly books geared towards girls.
Lauren Galit 31:06
Well, you’re saying two different things. Um, that’s not true in middle grade. It is true and why. Interesting. So when you think about middle grade, who are two of the biggest protagonists you think about in that age category?
Will Bachman 31:19
Oh, yeah. Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson, right. And Harry Potter. Yeah, yeah,
Lauren Galit 31:23
exactly. So in middle grade. And let’s just call this broad strokes. And let me not get nailed for this. Okay, broad strokes, broad strokes, boys tend to read up until a certain age, they read children’s books, let me say specifically up until a certain age, and they’ll read that sort of adventure category, whether it is fantasy or not, whether it’s contemporary or not, that will read up until certain age. And then once it gets to a certain age, some will continue reading in general, but they often again, broad strokes here, don’t want to get yelled at, they will often switch to genre fiction, a bit adult genre fiction, they’ll switch to mysteries, they’ll switch to adventure novels, they’ll switch even to fantasy, but they don’t tend to read YA books as much. And then it becomes a vicious circle. Because what happens is, these editors don’t want to invest too heavily in YA books with male protagonists, because the readers aren’t there. But then the books aren’t there. So the readers aren’t there. So then we just keep got like,
Will Bachman 32:42
that’s so interesting. So the cycle. So then boys like that, what’s that age that they? It seems like they’re switching to the adult genre fiction, the thrillers tends to be it’s pretty much high school, high school interesting.
Lauren Galit 32:56
And maybe there’s maybe they’re stopped reading altogether. Or maybe they’re switching over and I can tell categorically, I have two teenagers. My teenage son stopped reading at 14, absolutely, totally completely. He does not read novels in any way, shape, or form. He only reads when he needs to read for school, and then obviously his own sort of internet based stuff. He’s also gotten very involved in financial stuff. So he picks up the occasional financial book, my 17 year old daughter is a voracious reader, and she reads wildly in ya massively taps into a little bit in adults, especially if I hand sell her something like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is probably her favorite book. But, you know, and I hate to gender stereotype, but I did watch it happen in my very own household, despite my best efforts. And by the way, when he was younger, he was a way more voracious reader than she was that kid plowed through the entire required and Harry Potter series in second grade. But it didn’t hold.
Will Bachman 34:05
It seems to be that it continues into a mean an adult, you mentioned that boys are stopped reading that. In the adult sort of fiction section at the bookstore and adult bookstores. You can go to the genre sections, and there’ll be like Horror, Mystery Crime, thrillers that, you know, men are buying. But if you look at the fiction titles, or just the covers of those titles, it seems like they’re largely also, you know, skewed toward appealed to a woman reader. And it doesn’t seem like that’s always been the case. Right? Like, if you go back to the bestseller lists, I don’t know 3040 years ago or something. It was very much not that like that. But what do you think has contributed to that?
Lauren Galit 34:47
Um, I definitely think specialization, which is I think like the boogeyman of our entire society probably is a lot to blame, you know, people a wonder Read in their bunkers and want to read what you know that obviously deeply interests them, they also want to read what they think might support them. My husband, despite, you know, being an incredibly smart, really educated person barely reads novels, he reads business books, is that because he’s interested in them? Is it because he thinks it will help them probably a combination, it’s actually has to be, you know, a really great page turner, or really be in the midst of a vacation for him to sort of stop and take up a novel and just kind of let himself go a bit. And, you know, it’s there’s a reason why Colleen Hoover is the number one best seller today. It’s immersive fiction for women. And it’s just like, it’s their version of letting go, but not easy.
Will Bachman 35:54
Well, I don’t know, it might be that to your point, you know, specialization, that sort of genres. You know, I’ve perhaps, I don’t know, 3040 years ago, but science fiction, fantasy horror, crime thrillers. But you don’t find a lot in sort of just the fiction section of the bookstore, naked in the dead, or, you know, a war novel or that sort of? Yeah, so it’s, I just
Lauren Galit 36:24
heard you talking that you’re talking about like a male oriented book? Yeah. Well, I mean, Jonathan Franzen is obviously a major player voice in that category, things names like that, certainly still dominate the bestseller lists and things along the way. You’ll definitely have your your people but yes, do I think that a lot of the people you’re talking about, you know, like, Justin Cronin is as good a writer as it gets. What does he is he is, is he literary fiction is an extraordinary writer. But it’s also genre fiction, because you’re doing things with a fantasy edge, you know, all depends on where you’re shelve it and how you position it right.
Will Bachman 37:08
Now, some of the big publishing houses have merged, right. And I’m only like, vaguely aware of this industry. But there was a good piece, I think, and I don’t know, Harper’s the Atlantic recently about this, and, and you’ve lived it tell us a little bit about what it’s like, you know, trying to sell books with fewer and fewer big buyers competing?
Lauren Galit 37:29
Well, we kind of lucked out for a really long time and that the industry got broken down and bifurcated into these imprints. So when you sell a book, you’re not selling to just Simon and Schuster, or just HarperCollins, or just Penguin Random House, each one of them has divisions, obviously, adults and children’s nonfiction section, whatever cookbooks, blah, blah, but also just these little fiefdoms called imprints, and each house, meaning the publishing house has different rules about how many of these fiefdoms you can sell your book to, and what the competition rules look like, and etc. So a very long time, Penguin Random House. And let’s say there’s just for example, six different children’s imprints within Penguin Random House, if your book is appropriate for all six of those imprints you can send to all six of those imprints and they can compete against each other.
Will Bachman 38:31
Wow. All right.
Lauren Galit 38:35
Great, but then with imprints getting sort of merged. Razorbill was was one of them just got decommissioned and merged into putting them all there, you know, what the industry not doing as well, children’s in particular is going through a significant downturn, very significant. There’s a famous imprint called Ink yard at HarperCollins, that literally just got discontinued in the past week or so. So those editors don’t continue to exist, the books that were supposed to be published under a yard got moved over to HarperCollins, children’s etc. But again, every house has different rules on how it works, and what you can send or not send. So in certain cases, they are playing off of each other, which is to the benefit, but then as the number of imprints shrinks, and obviously it’s a number of houses shrinks than your opportunities to make that a first of all, you just lose number of outlets right? Then additionally, you lose the ability to get them to bid against each other in whatnot. But realistically speaking, most book deals aren’t auctions. I mean, that’s a great sort of mythology of the book business but was that one other seven deals I don’t know what the statistics are, I’d have to go into like Publishers Weekly or Publishers Marketplace and do a research I just don’t know off the top of my head. But the reality is most deals are just an editor falls in love with your project, they make an offer, mostly end up with that editor, which is okay, because you want someone who wants your book, you want someone who feels so strongly about your title that they can’t imagine anybody else getting their hands on it, I have a project with a young woman who pitched me as an adult book, a story about her journey with OCD. As her onset was in her teens, and she had all these visions of going to a top Ivy League college, she was a major high achiever. But at her absolute needier, she couldn’t put on any clothes because all of her clothes, were going to give her cancer, she couldn’t use a calculator, a laptop, because they were, you know, those emitting death rays, and she was down to like a pencil. But again, once that pencils eraser ran out, she couldn’t use it anymore. And she you know, and she was down to nubs. It was it’s a most gut wrenching story, but she had originally published it or pitched it sorry, as a adult book. And I went back to her and I said, this should be a children’s nonfiction YA book. And she redid the entire proposal, I sent it to an editor who herself, like, had some of her own mental health considerations. And she literally the two of them were so in sync, that even if I had gotten more money from somebody else, I would never have sold it to them. This book needed to be this under because she understood it. So inherently. And when you have this level of shrinkage, you lose the opportunity to find those parents. That’s just the best feeling in the entire world. Would you have placed your author with an editor who loves everything that’s coming out of their hands and can shape it and make it the best book possible? Like, you know, ads just extraordinary. I had an editor I worked with my first three children’s books ever sold to this one editor at Sky pony. She since moved on. And she was tweeting about a book concept she had. And she literally named my author in her tweet and said, I want this book, Matt Landis, are you listening? And she reached out to me, and he reached out to me, and we’re like, Alright, we’re gonna put this together. And we literally created a series because the two of them to collaborate on. So they are reunited as an author, Editor team, and they are having the time of their lives. And we’re seeing covers right now. And he’s doing edits. And I get these emails from him saying, Alison nailed it. She has sharpen the plot. She’s on Earth, this character, she’s explained their arc. And together, we’re just we’re ramping it up. And we’re making this this death looking properly be and then they just agreed on title. And literally, you can see the joy sparking off the page, the emails between the two of them, and I just sit here and giggle I got another another author she’s also working with, they just got a Kirkus starred review. I’m not allowed to say yet. But just like the joy of it, it’s just so much fun.
Will Bachman 43:50
Tell us two or three things about the book industry that, you know, an educated literate book reader might not know but that insiders who have been in the space, you know, sort of maybe common knowledge or widely known just the how things work.
Lauren Galit 44:09
I don’t know. That is a very hard question. I feel a little bit time to spot okay. Oh, you’re gonna have to delete this. Well, I don’t know.
Will Bachman 44:24
Okay, well, we’ll move on. Yeah, well, it’s a Dunning Kruger right. So, you know, like it when people will move on. But like, it’s the expert effect where when you are expert at something and you sort of know space super well, it’s hard to reflect on and remember what it was like being naive to that space. So
Lauren Galit 44:42
I also think it’s you’re unaware of what people know or don’t know, or what they even think about book publishing, you know, was interesting though. I was in the park the other day and somebody was sort of, I wouldn’t call a mansplaining because it was coming from a woman. So that certainly was not the case. But so One of the issues about author’s being upset about their intellectual property being fed into AI to be trained. And I was like, Yeah, tell me about it. Like, it’s like, you know, but I just don’t know what people are aware of or what they think or let me know, therefore what they don’t know what would be surprising, if that makes sense. I also feel like most people sort of like, don’t care that much how the sausage is made, they just want the book in their hands. I don’t know.
Will Bachman 45:29
Well, let me rephrase it, let’s let’s different tack would be, let’s say a son or daughter of a friend of yours is in there. Let’s say you’re a skilled writer. They’re graduating from college, and they are thinking that they want to be a writer as their career. You take them aside, and you give them some friendly advice to tell them how the world really works. What, what sort of advice would you give that aspiring writer about what it takes to make a living and stay relevant and to pursue a career,
Lauren Galit 46:01
I came up with one that I think is very telling, everybody thinks that what you really want is the highest events possible, because advance in our world money tells you what the books worth is. However, getting the biggest advance out of the gate isn’t necessarily a an indicator of success, nor is an indicator of a long career. Oftentimes, if you have a high advanced and you don’t sell out your print run, you don’t actually make back your advance. And you go to sell book to publisher doesn’t want you because you’ve lost money. So ironically, to a certain degree, you might be better off in the beginning with a more modest advance, blows through your royalties, absolutely kill it, and build your audience and therefore earn your next book deal to earn your higher advance the next time around. I’ve had, because it’s COVID, I had so many authors that that happened to and it is just so hard. You know, there’s this fascinating thing. And if you look them up in the literary world, you think these authors, if I could just write a book I’d have it made, then they write a book, if I could just get an agent I’d haven’t made, and then they get the agent, if I could just get it sold to a publishing house and have it made. If I could just get it, you know, good reviews I’d have made. Oh, my God, if I could just get sales? I’ve haven’t made it just everything is a, an uphill climb.
Will Bachman 47:43
Make a case? Or or counter the idea. Will we still have publishing houses 10 years from now? And if so, why? Like today, anyone can go out self published people, you know, built a following on Twitter, you can or not x, I guess, or LinkedIn or Facebook or threads or wherever, you know, you can alert your followers to go by yourself published book, what’s the role of publishers? And will we still have them with us 10 years from now?
Lauren Galit 48:12
I suspect many things, they will still be around, but their power pole and persuasion will be diluted because of the sheer volume. But what did they do? They sort of they narrowed down what people consider to be quality, by which I mean, you know, their vetting, vetting stations, having an agent isn’t just to handhold you through your book process. It’s also to let the publishers know that these projects are worthwhile. Meaning, if you’re not able to get an agent, there’s no reason why a publisher wants to look at you that we are we’re the funnel, right? We’re the sieve we shake it out. So if a publisher looking at a project with an agent means that they’re at least worthwhile to look at whatnot. I think with the self publishing world, you know, it’s very hard for things to shake out and for them to reach any kind of degree of popularity, it’s, you know, it’s the rare book, it’s 50 Shades of Grey, obviously, those are few and far between for the most part, you know, those things don’t break out. So I think it will exist in 10 years, but I think it’ll just get it’s still gonna get harder and harder and harder.
Will Bachman 49:29
Now, I guess for both fiction and nonfiction, you could almost do it today with a bit of work a year from now, they’ll probably be some good apps to do it. Of, you could ask, you know, the AI tool to write the book for you that you want to read. You know, you want to read tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your gym membership. You know, say please write me a 50 page manual on how to get the most out of my gym membership and boom. Or you know, or Even a fictional book, I would like a book, you know, for a middle grade reader about, you know, overcoming OCD or something right? And boom, it’ll create it for you. That would be bad today, but a year or two from now, they’re getting better. Like, what’s your thoughts around that about custom, you know, publishing just created for an individual by artificial intelligence tools?
Lauren Galit 50:22
I think you’re not wrong, but I think it’s longer than a year or two. Okay. I just I think AI at this point is too flawed. First and foremost is you know that they’re introducing falsehoods into things, that’s not going to help if you’re creating a nonfiction book, where you want some actual, workable solutions. And as far as the fiction goes, it’s really not very well written much of the AI stuff. The sentence structure is clunky, it’s incredibly repetitive. I was reading an article from pop culture website, I like and follow. I was reading this piece, some review of something that was coming out, I remember what it was on, I don’t want to name the website, because I don’t want to get in trouble. But it was GARBAGE. did the same thing over and over again, just in different language. And it was so clear that it was aI generated, fairly big deal fight, I literally took a cut and paste the article, I put it into an AI detector and said 99% chance it was written by AI, you know, and I had a navy, I’m not the average reader, I don’t know. But when I was reading this article, it was so abundantly clear to me, it was boring. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t anything I wanted to read. And by the way, I’ve barely read that website anymore, because the more and more of their content is going to be regurgitated, like that. Not interesting or appealing to me. It’s not insightful, it’s not strong. So I just think it’s going to take a little longer the biggest risk to me generate the AI content, and then a real author comes in, fixes it. That to me is going to be one of the biggest impediments for the writing community going forward. Because, you know, it’ll shrink the output greatly. It’ll shrink your creative input greatly. And something I forgot, it’s been happening a lot with the Writers Guild strike. You know, you read about that episode of South Park that was completely I generated and it was real episode. It was not the beginning and the middle and an end, and everybody agreed it was watchable. But it wasn’t great. Write. It wasn’t that funny. Now imagine that they generated that and real writers went in and took it and workshopped it. So instead of an episode taking a week to write, and I’m just using this in general terms, because I know nothing about TV writing, so don’t whatever. And now you have an AI that is able to do the first half of the work in five minutes. And then real authors or real writers come in and workshop it, then they can get it together in two days. Well, you’ve just written yourself out of a job.
Will Bachman 53:14
Yeah. I want to make sure we don’t forget this question that we do at the end of each show. Lauren, so going back and dialing back to Harvard. Were there any classes or professors that you had that continue to resonate with you?
Lauren Galit 53:33
Ah, I was an acolyte of Marjorie Garber. And she introduced sort of gender fluidity and cross dressing to me as a concept back in the day, and I actually wrote my thesis on it, you know, 30 years ago. And as I look around at our world, it just is more and more and more relevant each and every day. And I actually chose to write on Virginia Woolf, who I still think is more relevant every day and Ursula K le with at the time I wrote my thesis on her. I was dinged by my scholarship committee saying that I chose a new genre writer, and that was not sufficiently scholarly. And now she’s one of the foremost women of letters. So I don’t think I would have ever gone anywhere near any of that if it weren’t for my interest interactions with her. And then my stewardship under her ta Jennifer Carroll, who actually herself went on to be a top author. So those they’re indelibly imprinted on me but I also realized as we have the whole conversation, did you have so many questions? I never even talked anything about my personal life and it makes it seem like I’m some crazy workaholic, but
Will Bachman 54:55
you share that.
Lauren Galit 54:57
Okay, then very happily married. Aida to my husband. We got married just after 911. Another big thing that happened. Actually, if it were not for him, I would not have made the shift from magazines to books because he said, Go forth. And do this because I know that it’s important to you. And I wouldn’t have been able to raise my kids as quite the readers that they are because I am able to have the fluidity of his support to start my own gig and to do my own thing. So I’m very fortunate.
Will Bachman 55:31
Good for him supporting you on that move. It sounds like it was, it was the right choice for you, and where you’ve really thrived and come alive. Where can people find out about you and your agency? Point us on?
Lauren Galit 55:47
www dot LKG agency.com And also on Twitter and Instagram. He is very much I’m more of a lurker. Okay, I read a lot. I don’t post a lot.
Will Bachman 56:00
So listeners that will be in the show notes. And if you go to 92 report.com you can get the full transcript of this episode as well as the transcripts of every episode. You can sign up for the newsletter we’ll let you know about the latest episode. Lauren, this has been such a fun conversation hearing the inside of the book industry. Thank you so much for joining today.
Lauren Galit 56:25
Thank you for having me, which I think is what I said to start it but it really was fun to talk to you and I hope you enjoy your project of getting to know classes 92