Meet the Agents: Mark Gottlieb (Trident Media Group)

Remain faithful to the original vision of what drew you to the publishing industry, which is ultimately a love of writing, literature, and publishing. That will be the fuel for the fire. Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group

The 2023 Agents Symposium is a year-long program of monthly events with literary agents – taking writers step by step along the journey to publication. We’re happy to share Q&As with some of our featured agents here. To register for Mark Gottlieb’s presentation on October 28th on “Publication Day and Beyond,” click here.

An Interview with Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb is a highly ranked literary agent, both in overall deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his client list of authors. Mark Gottlieb is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. Through his work at Trident Media Group, Mark Gottlieb continues to represent numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as major award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold books to film and TV production companies. He previously ran the agency’s audiobook department, in addition to working in foreign rights. In his free time, Mark Gottlieb tutors free English language classes to adults from low-income immigrant families, via the Literacy Volunteers program at Family Centers, a nonprofit organization offering education, health and human services. He is also the Founder and President of the Stamford Literature, Arts & Culture Salon (SLACS). Mark Gottlieb is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres and looks forward to bringing new and established authors to the curious minds of their future readers.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author? 

Mark Gottlieb: Given that I work at my family business, I view my role not simply as a job, a career, or lifestyle; rather, being a literary agent is a direct extension of who I am, like another limb. Therefore, I take a much longer view in evaluating an author’s career, rather than merely looking at authors solely in terms of book deals. 

Concurrently, in working at a larger literary agency with many services available to authors, I can focus more so on the individual authors I represent to make sure they have a good, happy, and highly successful publishing experience. 

This means not being just a journeyman literary agent– instead, it’s about helping authors and taking an active role in the publishing process, whether that be commenting and improving upon a publisher’s marketing/publicity plans or advocating for an author’s vision within a publishing house. 

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author? 

MG: I look for an author who has written an excellent story, both in terms of its entertainment values and high quality of writing. 

When it comes to fiction, the author will always become a household name by extension of good writing. Of course, no one ever said ‘no’ to the bells and whistles, though! 

When it comes to nonfiction, that tends to be more platform-driven regarding who the author is and what their following or potential reach is like. There are, of course, ways of building or conceiving a platform, though.

It is also refreshing to work with a debut author who is active and engaged in the publishing process. Authors need to realize that, ultimately, fans will want to hear from authors the most!

Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again? 

MG: It takes a lot of grit to be in the publishing industry. Those who have lasted the longest and done the best have stuck it out through adversity. It is, therefore, important not to be discouraged by rejection but rather to learn, grow, and ultimately flourish by rising above it. Remember that some of the most successful authors today experienced a lot of rejection when they were starting. 

At the same time, remain faithful to the original vision of what drew you to the publishing industry, which is ultimately a love of writing, literature, and publishing. That will be the fuel for the fire.

Lastly, tune in to what is happening inside the world of books in terms of what is working well in the marketplace and what the readership of a given type of book or genre has come to expect in their reading experience. Try to adhere to as many norms as possible, such as normal word count ranges and constructing author websites, since they exist for a reason.

Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?

MG: While there are many challenges in the publishing industry today, I have always liked a good challenge since it makes things more interesting. I also work at Trident Media Group, one of publishing’s leading literary agency, so I and my clients feel up to the industry’s challenges. We can accomplish many things with publishers, even in the hardest times.

At the same time, the publishing industry is on the precipice of something great in that the film/TV community is hungrier for book IP than ever before. The audio industry has evolved quite a bit and is now growing in interesting directions, with Spotify entering the audiobook landscape. I am seeing new publishing houses spring up all the time, even if they get absorbed into larger independent publishers or big five publishing houses. Speaking of mergers and acquisitions, many literary agents and authors were happy to see that the DOJ ultimately intervened when it came to the antitrust issue of the Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster merger, which would have caused too much industry consolidation.

I am also very happy to see the world reopening in terms of publishing professionals returning to their offices and in-person events, such as book fairs, workshops, and conferences. More in-person events spell good things for authors regarding readings and signings when connecting with readers. 

Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about? 

MG: In terms of fiction, I recently performed a six-figure+ deal for New York Times bestselling and three-time Edgar Award-winning author T. Jefferson Parker’s DESPERATION REEF, in which a big-wave surf star and her two sons confront murderous pirates off the coast while they train to compete in the same dangerous surfing contest that took her husband’s life. The book sold to Kristin Sevick at Forge Books in a North American English language deal.

In terms of nonfiction, I recently performed a six-figure+ deal for Professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Yale Godfrey Pearlson’s A WORLD OF THEIR OWN: MAKING SENSE OF MADNESS, illuminating the scientific landscape of the research and treatment of psychosis right now—when many foundational beliefs of that landscape are crumbling away—in order to reveal our current understanding of what happens when people “go crazy” and to describe exciting new models and treatment approaches for psychotic illness. The book sold to Karen Rinaldi, Publisher at Harper Wave.

Lastly, in terms of children’s books, I sold in a six-figure+ deal authors of THE AWAKENING STORM Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong’s THE JOURNEY EAST and UNDERWORLD, the next two books in the City of Dragons series; as dangers mount, the friends go on the offensive and wake the other dragon kings, but as they fly to wake the eastern king, miscommunication leads to disaster—dealing with death, grief, and healing as they search for the western dragon king, who moves between the land of the living and dead. These books sold to David Saylor, Publisher at Scholastic/Graphix.

Thanks, Mark!

Click here for more information on the 2023 Agents Symposium, an event that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.