John Rudolph recently joined Dystel & Goderich as an agent after a dozen years working as an acquiring children’s book editor, first at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, then Penguin imprint G. P. Putnam’s Sons, where he was Executive Editor. At Putnam, John worked on a wide range of young adult, middle-grade, nonfiction, and picture book titles. Among the authors and illustrators he's worked with are Pete Seeger, Jack Higgins, Padma Venkatraman, Brenda Woods, Pete Hautman, Royce Buckingham, Phil Bildner, Richard Michelson, S.D. Schindler, Barry Moser, and Mary Azarian. Here he talks about his move, what he's interested in, his agenting style, more.
If you'd like to meet him, John will be among the agents and editors critiquing manuscripts at the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference Writers Intensive. Click here to register.
Why the move from editing to agenting? And will you be a hand-on agent when it comes to working with your clients' manuscripts?
Well, as much as I loved being an editor, after 12 years in that role I felt like I needed a new challenge. But, as I cast my net around in the job market, I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t qualified to do much else! So agenting seemed like a way to gain some new skills and perspective in the book business, while still being involved with authors and artists, which was always my favorite part of editing anyway. And I was very attracted to the personal stake agents have in their clients’ careers—working at a large company, I sometimes found myself losing sight of that.
As for being hands-on, certainly my natural inclination is to work closely with clients on their manuscripts. That said, I’m leery of over-editing, because ultimately that’s not my job. But we’ll see how it goes—I’m sure there’s a balance in there somewhere.
Tell us about the types of books you worked out at Putnam and what you liked most about editorial work.
I was very lucky at Putnam to have the freedom to edit more or less whatever interested me. Hence, I worked the full range of children’s literature—young picture books, older nonfiction storybooks, middle-grade and YA novels and even some adult book adaptations. And as I said, the author/illustrator/editor relationship was always my favorite part of the job.
Since you just joined DGLM you certainly must be actively building your list. What types of submissions interest you most?
Right now, I’m open to pretty much anything and everything, though I will say that I’m not actively looking for picture book manuscripts unless they’re by author/illustrators.
What do you want in client? What don't you want? Could you describe your agenting style?
I trust that whomever I work with will have reasonable expectations about the marketplace, as well as a professional attitude toward their work—I’ve never had much patience for the "artistes" who need a lot of hand-holding and ego-stroking. As for my agenting style… as soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know!
Do you have any conferences or events coming up where writers could get a chance to meet you?
I’ll be doing a panel and critiques at the SCBWI New York conference on January 28th. And if anyone would like to invite me to other conferences, I’m game…
Can you offer some general advice on making a good impression on an agent? On writing a good query?
Again, professionalism goes a long way—with the volume of submissions I’m getting, it’s hard to spend time with someone who doesn’t take their own work seriously. And for writing queries, it always bears repeating: follow the submission guidelines!