Dawn Frederick and Jennie Goloboy, Red Sofa Literary
Red Sofa Literary was established by Dawn Frederick, previously of Sebastian Literary Agency. Frederick brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table—with multiple years of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores; an editor for a YA publisher, a published nonfiction author, and an agent associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency in 2002 (before Red Sofa Literary was established).
In addition to her literary agent duties, she extensively volunteers with her local library system, while still finding time to spend quality time on her “wheels.”
She carries a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences from an ALA accredited institution. “Not only do I know what people like to read and are currently reading; I also have the experience of working one-on-one with authors, book distribution centers, and literary organizations.”
In Fall 2011, Jennie Goloboy joined Red Sofa Literary as an Associate Agent. Jennie Goloboy has a PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard. She is also a published author of both history and fiction, and a member of SFWA, RWA, SHEAR, OAH, the AHA, and Codex Writer’s Group. Her funny, spec-fic short stories appear under her pen name, Nora Fleischer.
LS: How is your relationship with your writers different from other agencies?
Jennie & Dawn: We are a boutique agency, and choose work with a smaller number of clients. This allows each of us to work collectively with each of our authors, thereby being able to help develop their overall writing career vs. just focusing on the singular goal of getting a book published.
LS: Your website has numerous resources for aspiring writers – why?
Dawn: In all honesty, all of us are in this together. It’s better to share any valuable resources and information with writers. By approaching the publishing process with an understanding that it’s a team effort, all parties involved will walk away with a positive experience.
LS: What was your inspiration with the Red Sofa Chats – interviews with other agents?
Dawn: Several years ago, my former intern Kimberly helped me realize a need for something along the lines of the Red Sofa Chats. I immediately knew it had to be simple, fun, and focus on a consistent theme. We both agreed that theme was Twitter, as both of us were already enjoying the increased levels of interactivity with publishing co-horts via Twitter. The overall goal was to put a name and face to a publishing professionals who actively participate in social media. So far it has been fun. Many different viewpoints, a plethora of smart and book savvy individuals, and an even longer list of books on my reading list now.
LS: I see that you are involved with your community. How does being involved with the community benefit your agency and/or your authors?
Jennie: The Twin Cities has a great literary community, and Dawn and I are committed to helping nurture it. We’ve both taught at the Loft (our local source of amazing workshops for writers) and appear regularly at local conferences. We’ve met a lot of talented writers, editors, publishers, and other literary types that way!
Dawn: I truly, madly believe that every human needs to participate with his/her community in some aspect. For the greater good and to find that sometimes evasive happiness that makes one get up every morning. As booklovers, we bring a passion for reading that could be shared with adults and children alike. Reading is one of the most powerful things one can do, it opens the eyes to worlds beyond one’s comfort zone (and even our current realities). The more writers and publishing types can contribute to literacy, the more our communities will benefit.
LS: How did you get involved in the publishing industry, specifically becoming an agent?
Jennie: I was working as a writer, and I decided that it was time I learned more about publishing as a business. I began as an intern for Dawn, going through her slush pile, and one day I found a marvelous book. Dawn said, “Why don’t you represent it?” And so my career began…
Dawn: I realized upon getting my first publishing job that it wasn’t “what” I wanted. I didn’t want to be an editor, and there was no desire to become an author. All I knew was that I wanted to work with writers, to help grow their careers, and see their books “birthed” into the world. Literary agenting came to mind, but I had no idea how one became an agent. Being the world is a small place, and sometimes things are meant to be, it turned out that a friend knew Laurie Harper. And here I am today.
LS: What do you enjoy most about being an agent?
Jennie: I always say that if I weren’t an agent, I would be a matchmaker! I love finding great books and figuring out where they should be published.
Dawn: Working with my authors. Each and every one of them is amazing. Sometimes I pinch myself at being so fortunate to work with such an amazing crew.
LS: What qualities do you look for in a writer before signing?
Jennie: The writer needs to have written a wonderful book, from beginning to end. This book needs to be almost perfect in every way, but the author still needs to be responsive to my suggestions for revisions. I feel that this is kind of a tryout– will the author work well with editors?
Dawn: Where do I start? Obviously the book idea needs to be a fresh, smart, new idea. And idea that I can get excited about, and know that editors will be excited about too. On the front end, I need my authors to be prepared for a collaborative approach; in that neither of us is the other’s boss. It’s a partnership; one where I hope my presence will help further their careers, with more time freed up for what they love to most – write. This is a team effort, and with any agent/author partnership, both parties need to be ready to participate 110%. Last but not least (but worth mentioning), is writers who bring a good head to the publishing process. By doing the necessary homework (as I call it), this should a given before even querying agents.
LS: What advice can you give for an emerging writer in their search for an agent?
Jennie: Please be patient! Also, QueryTracker is your new best friend.
Dawn: Just go to the Red Sofa Literary website, I talk about this in depth on a regular basis. The short summary: Do your homework. Can’t emphasize it enough. Well over 50% of all our queries don’t even fall within our representative categories. Secondly, be prepared. If you don’t have all the materials ready, or a well-developed author platform, it’s a better idea to slow down and work on those aspects beforehand.
LS: Has using social media been beneficial to your career as an agent?
Jennie: Absolutely. Twitter and Facebook have been crucial to introducing me to the writing community, and I love being able to say things like “I wish someone would send me some really great urban fantasy” and “I want to focus on funny novels” and have people respond. By the way, I wish someone would send me some really great urban fantasy, and I love funny novels.
Dawn: It has been a godsend. I remember the days of only being able to keep in touch with editors by mail or phone. Now it’s easier to stay in touch, to share in life’s celebrations, and to have some fun shared moments – all because of Social Media. I couldn’t imagine going into the publishing business without this tool now. On a personal note, just looking at the success of the MN Publishing Tweet Up (where we meet in real life off of the social media grid), I realize it wouldn’t have happened without Twitter existing in the first place. I’ve met many amazing local writers and publishing folks due to it and I couldn’t’ be happier.
LS: What type of books do you like to read for pleasure?
Jennie: I just read Simon Green’s entire Nightside series, with great enjoyment. I buy Terry Pratchett in hardcover. I love P.N. Elrod’s anthologies.
Dawn: My reading tastes vary. For my representative categories, I read books within them on a regular basis for fun. Plus, I have a M.S. degree that focused heavily on children’s and YA literature. You can guarantee I’m reading several books in those categories at any time.
I’m especially a fan of the odd and irreverent books. Odd histories, fractured fairy tales, and more. Granted there’s something to be said about curling up with a book by Paula Fox, Jonathan Franzen, or Eliot Perlman to “just be” and reaffirm my love of good writing.
Thanks to Dawn and Jennie for chatting with us! If you’re interested in querying the folks at Red Sofa Literary, check out their submission guidelines here.