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JABberwocky's History and Employee Information
Joshua Bilmes is the Proprietor of JABberwocky Literary Agency, which he founded in 1994.
His path to owning his own literary agency started in high school, when he sent monthly letters to the editor of Analog, the leading science fiction magazine, critiquing each issue. These letters impressed the magazine's associate editor so much that she offered Bilmes the chance to do freelance readers reports and other work when she left Analog to join new start-up SF publisher Baen Books. Joshua Bilmes and the publishing industry took an immediate liking to one another, he landed a job at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency after graduating from college (University of Michigan, BA in History), and started his agenting career in February 1986.
While his path to becoming an agent went through the science fiction genre, his interests were and are far broader. In the mystery genre, the Hardy Boys led to the Three Investigators, and from there to Agatha Christie, Perry Mason, the 87th Precinct and John LeCarre. He became a "Variety" junkie during high school, hasn't missed an issue in 20 years, and still has a fascination with the entertainment business. His college degree in history introduced him to The New Republic, though he now reads The New Yorker. He keeps up on pop culture with Rolling Stone and spends fifteen hours a week reading newspapers. There's always time for a good movie, and baseball and tennis are often his background music.
It was in fact a debut mystery novel, MARY'S GRAVE by Malcolm McClintick, which became Bilmes' first sale in the summer of 1986. It was also in the summer of 1986 that he reached out to Elizabeth Moon and discovered the extremely popular "Deed of Paksenarrion" trilogy, helping to launch the career of an award-winning and bestselling author. By the end of the 1980s he had commenced work with Charlaine Harris, Simon Green, Tanya Huff and other mainstays of the JABberwocky list.
But it wasn't just about building his own list at the Scott Meredith agency. Carl Sagan, Harry Kemelman, P.G. Wodehouse, Ellery Queen, these are just a few of the longstanding Meredith clients whom Bilmes worked with. After Meredith's passing, Bilmes was promoted to VP and got invaluable managerial experience holding the company together for several months pending the arrival of new ownership.
In 1994, Bilmes struck out on his own to establish JABberwocky Literary Agency. After ten years of growth, many milestones were reached in his 10th anniversary year. Among them: taking on the agency's first full-time employee to help handle the demands of a growing business and increasingly successful client roster; seeing one of his earliest clients, Elizabeth Moon, win the Nebula Award for Best Novel for THE SPEED OF DARK; watching Charlaine Harris climb to #22 on the NY Times hardcover fiction bestseller list with DEAD TO THE WORLD; going to the Chelsea Cinemas on a Friday night to see TESTOSTERONE, based on the novel by James Robert Baker and the first theatrical release based on a JABberwocky title, with a large and appreciative audience; topping 100 foreign rights sales for the first time.
JABberwocky's second decade has seen the agency go from high point to high point. After hitting the Times list with DEAD TO THE WORLD, the Sookie Stackhouse books climbed further and then skyrocketed when Alan Ball, of Six Feet Under fame, turned them into the HBO series "True Blood." The series could get people to buy one book, of course, but it's the novels themselves that saw a virtually unprecedented seven "Sookie" novels by Charlaine on the Times paperback fiction list. Tanya Huff's "Blood Books" vampire novels also became a TV series called "Blood Ties" for Lifetime. Charlaine also had company on the NY Times list. In 2008 original JABberwocky clients Elizabeth Moon and Simon R. Green hit the extended NY Times bestseller list, as did Jack Campbell, Brandon Sanderson and Tobias Buckell. Moon's SPEED OF DARK became a perennial with reading progams across the nation, from Baltimore, MD to Fairfax, VA to the Ohio State University and more. Sanderson, a JABberwocky discovery, was chosen to write the concluding novel in the 'Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan, accelerating a climb up the sales charts that was already happening on its own, and Bilmes was able to build on his success with Sanderson to turn Peter V. Brett into another young fantasy star. The agency continued to build on its success in overseas markets. Hitting 100 sales overseas became a routine occurence, and by the end of 2008, Charlaine Harris was selling in almost 25 markets, Brandon Sandersosn in almost 15, Peter Brett in 10, Elizabeth Moon's SPEED OF DARK in 15+, and all told we were doing some of the best business in translation client for client of any agency in the business. While the agency's first employee Steve Mancino departed in spring 2008, his first clients were becoming important contributors as Kat Richardson's Greywalker novels were hitting genre bestseller lists, Jim C. Hines was our biggest author in Germany and starting to hit the Locus list, and Jeri Westerson was getting stellar reviews for her debut novel VEIL OF LIES. In Fall 2008, Steve's successor Eddie Schneider started to take on his first solo clients, beginning with Eugene Myers. We anticipate many more good things for our clients as JABberwocky enters year 15. On a trivial note, Joshua ended 2008 with 197 Borders visited and regrets not quite making it to the 200th by year's end.
Other relevant links: Bookstore Splog (1/07), Oscar Splog (2/07), Joshua's Real Blog
I'm excluding work by my own clients here, but...
Favorite fantasy: LITTLE BIG by John Crowley
Favorite sf novel: HYPERION by Dan Simmons
Favorite mystery: THE SECRET OF THE OLD MILL by Franklin W. Dixon, because it was the first
Favorite director: Stanley Kubrick
Favorite movie not directed by Kubrick: Superman, The Movie
Other Favorites: Goodfellas, lots of Tom Cruise, Bull Durham, The Empire Strikes Back
Favorite movie theatre: Loews Astor Plaza (1974-2004) Obituary
Favorite film composer: John Williams
Favorite football team: Michigan Wolverines, and the Pats for as long as Tom Brady is QBing
Favorite NL team: NY Mets
Favorite AL team: Toronto Blue Jays
Current Tennis Player to Watch: Richard Gasquet
Favorite Metropolitan Area to Visit Bookstores: Washington, DC
Borders Visited: 198
Favorite bookstore hang-up: Snooty indies with crappy sf sections
Favorite Song: Hotel California
Favorite Ringtone: What's a "Ringtone"?
Favorite Groceries: Whole Foods Markets
Favorite Whole Foods: Bellevue, WA and Austin, TX
Favorite College Thing I Can't Stop Doing: Eating at Uno's
Favorite Drake's Cakes: Yodels
Eddie Schneider is a recent arrival at JABberwocky, and is actively building his client list (see "What I'm Looking For" below).
Schneider is a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he counted Yiyun Li, G.C. Waldrep, and Alan Drew among his many writing mentors. He is also a graduate of New York University, and holds an M.S. in Publishing.
Prior to his joining JABberwocky Literary Agency, Schneider worked for Folio Literary Management, where he assisted on a wide variety of different projects, including those by best-selling authors Garth Stein, Will Lavender, Robert Hicks, and Phillip K. Dick award winner Chris Moriarty.
He has also been, at various points in his life, a magazine editor, computer salesman, short-order cook, freelance graphic designer and archery instructor.
What I'm looking for in fiction
I am primarily looking for literary fiction, science fiction, and fantasy for adults, young adults, and middle-grade readers. I will also consider adventure, horror, parody/satire, and graphic novels, the last of these by author-illustrators only. Aspiring graphic novelists should include a standard query letter and one printed or photocopied page of artwork. More on what I like in my favorite genres follows.
Mysteries are best directed to Joshua.
Literary fiction - I'm looking for literary novels with both great writing and a strong narrative arc. Ideally, I'd like something that can both push boundaries and keep readers along for the ride. An example of a (non-client) novel I enjoyed that meets these criteria is Italo Calvino's IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER.
Fantasy - I'm looking for literary fantasy with one foot in the real world and one foot in the fantastic. I go for character-driven novels with intricate, imaginative settings that are internally consistent and have verisimilitude. An example of a (non-client) novel I enjoyed that meets these criteria is Susanna Clarke's JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL.
Other subgenres and special areas of fantasy that are of interest to me include: magical realism (e.g. Isabel Allende's THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS), steampunk, and urban fantasy. High fantasy is best directed to Joshua.
Science fiction - I'm looking for thoughtful science fiction with evocative writing, in which character and narrative have pride of place. An example of a (non-client) novel I enjoyed that meets these criteria is Ursula K. Le Guin's THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS.
Other subgenres and special areas of science fiction that are of interest to me include: dystopian novels, of which I am often fond (e.g. Octavia Butler's THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER), some space opera, and novels involving near-future space exploration and first contact (e.g. Robert Charles Wilson's SPIN). Hard SF and military SF are best directed to Joshua.
What I'm looking for in nonfiction
The nonfiction genres I'm primarily interested in are, very broadly, science, history, and narrative nonfiction, for adult trade.
More on what I like within these genres follows:
Science - I have wide-ranging interests here that include the physical, earth, life, medical, and social sciences. At present, I have a particular interest in neuroscience. Science books most likely to appeal to me tend to deal with specific topics, and sometimes unlikely ones. An example of a (non-client) book in this vein that I enjoyed is Daniel J. Levitin's THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC.
History - I am interested in histories that focus on a single subject, though they may deal with that subject's impact on its time or place. I particularly enjoy historical biographies, including those where the biography's subject is an artifact or commodity. An example of a (non-client) book in this vein that I enjoyed is Jack Weatherford's GENGHIS KHAN AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD.
Narrative nonfiction - Here, I'm interested in memoirs that take on issues that extend beyond those in the author's own life (one non-client example I enjoyed being Rory Stewart's THE PLACES IN BETWEEN), travel narratives that are socially engaged and possess an individual stamp (one non-client example I enjoyed being Bill Bryson's A WALK IN THE WOODS), and in 'nonfiction novels' (one non-client example I was disturbed by being Dave Eggers' ZEITOUN).
A maddeningly non-alphabetical list of favorite, mostly contemporary authors (who aren't clients):
Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, David Maine, Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, Miranda July, Susanna Clarke, Dave Eggers, Isabel Allende, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jonah Lehrer, Junot Diaz, Olivia Judson, Mario Vargas Llosa, Neil Gaiman.
Favorite film: The Seven Samurai
Favorite video game based off of a licensed property: Knights of the Old Republic
Favorite video game with highly flawed gameplay: Arcanum
Favorite genre of music: Garage rock
Favorite breed of dog: Swedish Vallhund
This area was last updated 12/10/09
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