Literary Agent Q&A: Denise Bukowski, Canada

In Global Trade Talk by Hannah Johnson

As part of our ongoing series of Q&A’s with the world’s leading literary agents, scouts and rights managers, Publishing Perspectives talks to Denise Bukowski of the Bukowski Agency in Toronto, Canada.
Denise Bukowski, The Bukowski Agency in Toronto, Canada

Denise Bukowski, The Bukowski Agency in Toronto, Canada

Which international markets do you think offer the greatest opportunities right now?

Germany, Russia, Brazil.

What specific advice or “best practices” do you implement in working with these markets?

I aim for simultaneous publication in the three English-language markets (US, UK, and Canada) to signal that a big book is coming and to make a big splash at publication time. This makes foreign markets sit up and take notice.

Over the course of the last five to ten years, how has the digital revolution changed the rights business?

If you try to hand a publisher a book, they act as if you are trying to give them leprosy – they want electronic files only, not even bound galleys are acceptable. Of course it is much cheaper to do business this way, but I think it is less effective – they never see the entire package, and their inboxes are crowded with ignored attachments. On the positive side, we are in much more frequent communication via email and Skype.

The biggest change from the perspective of the author is the increased need to be proactive in the success of your book. I now have second thoughts about taking on authors who don’t get that instinctively. And of course much of this takes place in the new digital realms: social media, websites, online publications. I emphasize to authors that it was only in the late 20th century that authors subscribed to the romantic notion of the writer in his garret: Chaucer walked from town to town telling stories, Shakespeare performed on stage, Dickens serialized his novels before publishing them and gave speaking tours. Writers formed salons, from the Bloomsbury group to the Algonquin round table.

Denise Bukowski has worked in book publishing in Canada since 1970, for the first 16 years as an editor and since 1986 as a literary agent. As a staff editor Denise worked for Holt, Rinehart and Winston, McClelland and Stewart (1973-79), McGraw Hill, the Art Gallery of Ontario (Head of Publications), and Douglas & McIntyre (Editorial Director). As a freelance editor she worked for just about every other publisher in Canada, including Penguin, Key Porter, Doubleday, HarperCollins, and University of Toronto Press.

The Bukowski Agency specializes in international literary fiction and up-market non-fiction for adults.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.