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How does an author know whether to sign with a particular agent?

April 9th, 2012

A business book author just asked me whether he should sign with a particular agent. I turned the question back to him by responding:

Basically your decision should be made on a combination of (in order):

1. Her recent sales (whether she is doing the job now as evidenced by recent book deals to publishers you admire);
2. Her client list (whether she already works with people with whom you want your career associated);
3. The quality and success of the resulting books (how you feel about the final outcome… what is published and how it does);
4. How you feel about her personally… whether you communicate well and enjoy working with her.

All literary agents should be willing to give you an exact list of deals they have done in the past couple of years, and also a list of whom they represent. These are tangibles… they are quantifiable, and you can learn much about an agent just from them. However, the last two points are more intangible. How do you feel about the books that resulted from those deals? Are they bestsellers? Midlist books? Do they reflect your vision for your own career?

I listed how you feel about the agent last, even though many authors place it first. Some authors go on and on to me about how much they love their agents, even if those agents haven’t had a deal in many months. Meanwhile, I personally care more about results than how much I like an agent. There are abrasive ones out there, though, and although I try not to weight the personal factor too much if the agent is making successful deals, there are some agents I have put on the “Do not query” list because the personality issues just aren’t worth it. Fortunately there are many successful agents who are also highly professional–the best of both worlds!

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More about “Buffett Beyond Value”

April 28th, 2010

Buffett Beyond ValueMore from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business author Prem Jain:

Most authors describe Warren Buffett as a value investor alone in the tradition of his professor and mentor Benjamin Graham. The most important part of the book is in my argument that Warren Buffett is not a pure value investor. Buffett has incorporated ideas from others as well, especially from Philip Fisher. In other words, he does not emphasize historical numbers alone as Benjamin Graham did. He combines value investing with growth investing in the sense that he invests only when he is comfortable about a company’s growth prospects for a long term, say for 10 years or more. So, he looks at the future carefully.

This is the reason I label chapter 6 as “Buffett Investing = Value + Growth.” Prior to this chapter, I use one chapter each to explain value investing and growth investing. This thinking on investing for a very long term sets him apart from other growth investors who invest in high-tech companies for growth and hope to make a quick profit. Instead, Buffett invests in companies such as Coca-Cola and American Express which may grow more slowly, but for a very long term. He holds on to his investments for a long time, usually longer than 10 years.

Why is it that other managers think that investing in high-tech companies equals growth investing but Buffett does not? My conclusion is that he emphasizes the importance of managers who engender growth even in the so-called traditional low-growth industries. His success in long-term investing, especially for growth, can be attributed to people (rather than investing in high-tech companies) who manage his companies. Without doubt, he emphasizes the quality and integrity of people more than any other financial metric. Yet I do not stereotype Buffett as a particular type of investor, and I explain why it is important to consider a multidisciplinary approach by not forgetting the importance of other fields such as psychology.

In this environment, when Wall Street has been affected by many scandals, Buffett’s emphasis on slow and steady growth should be a good lesson for investors and CEOs.

Here are two links provided by Georgetown author Prem Jain.  The first is a review, and the second is a Q&A conducted by the same blogger, private investor and writer Ravi Nagarajan at Seeking Alpha.  Please also see the video from TheStreet.com in the post below.



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Georgetown author Prem Jain on TheStreet.com

April 28th, 2010

This is great — Dr. Prem Jain from the McDonough School of Business on TheStreet.com: Warren Buffett as Growth Manager — TheStreet TV.

Dr. Jain’s new book, Buffett Beyond Value, is new from Wiley.  He knows Warren Buffett, who has come to Georgetown as his guest to speak to business students, and he takes students to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

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