One of the Planet’s Top Literary Agents (Yfat Reiss Gendell of Foundry Media) Shares How to Start a Business During a Nuclear Winter

Show Notes

Yfat Reiss Gendell, the co-founder of Foundry Media, the literary agency of choice for Elon Musk’s biography, Ready Player One, Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee’s books, The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F$%#, and You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life shares how she successfully started her literary agency during a nuclear winter, how the publishing industry works, and much more.

On today’s show we interview the co-founder of the literary agency of choice for Elon Musk’s best-selling biography, the best-selling Ready Player One, the legendary Marvel Comic genius  Stan Lee’s books, the smash hit The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F$%#, and book that just keeps on selling You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, etc. countless book titles that you know. 

Today, Yfat Reiss Gendell shares how she successfully started her literary agency during a nuclear winter, how the publishing industry works, the habits that make her success possible, how authors get paid their royalties, how she keeps of track of all of the royalty payments owed to her, why she likes to start with the “crazy” idea when working with authors, why she believes that you need to always focus on operating at your highest and best use, the role book publisher’s pay, why you must be uncompromising with what you want out of your career, her advice to female business women about staying proactive, and much, much more.

Yfat represents practical nonfiction projects that helps productive people gain that sliver of an edge – be it in health and wellness, useable science and neuroscience, parenting, business and self-improvement in all of its forms.  

She also represents narrative nonfiction in history and science that teaches readers through incredible storytelling.  Yfat looks for fiction that embraces unique people, places, and times. Her titles include number one New York Times bestsellers Ready Player One and the forthcoming instant bestseller Alliances: A Trick of Light by comic book legend Stan Lee, along with New York Times bestselling Sh*tty Mom, The Girls of Atomic City and The Last Castle.

Yfat’s clients and titles sell foreign translations all over the world and enjoy adaptation into film, television and merchandising. She understands what her authors go through, because she is one, herself. Yfat has published eight nonfiction titles with major publishing houses. Prior to becoming an agent, Yfat worked as a lawyer and small publisher. She attended Brandeis University and The UCLA School of Law and has served on the executive board of WIN (formerly Women in Need), one of New York’s largest providers of homeless services for women and children.

    1. Yes, yes, yes and yes! Thrivetime Nation on today’s show we are interviewing one of the planet’s top literary agents. Ms. Yfat, welcome onto the Thrivetime Show, how are you mam!? (“EE-FOT” – “RICE” – “GEN-DELL” (soft “g” on Gendell))
    2. Can you Name Drop for us:
      1. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
      2. The Girls of Atomic City – Janet Beard
      3. The Last Castle – Denise Kiernan
      4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** – Mark Mansion
      5. You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
      6. Elon Musk Biography – Ashlee Vance
    3. Yfat, I know that you’ve had a ton of success at this point in your career, but I would love to start off at the bottom and the very beginning of your career. Yfat, what was your life like growing up and where did you grow up?
      1. I spent 3+ years on my school papaer.
      2. I loved learning from other writers and writing with them.
    4. What does a Literary Agent do?
      1. The connector between someone who has something to say with someone who needs to hear that information.
      2. My job is to help connect you to a professional who can help you get your book out.
      3. There are plenty of people who don’t participate with traditional trade publishing who are successful and have a successful following.
      4. We help new authors get through the confusing hoops that might get in the way of being productive.
      5. My job is to stay ahead of the new ideas and be able to bring them to my clients.
    5. Yfat when did you first figure out what you wanted to do professionally?
      1. You never really have to choose. We do a gut check with yourself in the moment to figure out if we are putting our efforts in the right place.
      2. We have to check to make sure we are contributing to the best place possible.
    6. Yfat, how did you first get started in the book writing business? 
      1. I began as a lawyer.
      2. I started a small press that focused on Fiction.
      3. That press had success in the beginning.
      4. We were feathering a nest in the beginning. We educated ourselfs as to what our best possible home would be for the business.
      5. We created the physical plans that we knew we needed.
    7. How would you describe your office?
      1. We have fun things like the Millennial Falcon around
      2. The office is designed to be a canvas
    8. Yfat, was the first book that you worked on that REALLY gained traction?
      1. We started the business in 2007 and that was really the start of the most recent nuclear winter in publishing.
      2. We could have looked at this as a negative but we looked at it as a positive. We were starting from scratch whereas all of our competitors were already established.
      3. We had to Hustle. That nuclear winter provided us opportunities. We were able to pick up new clients because a lot of our competitors went out of business.
    9. How do you get paid and how do authors get paid?
      1. This is for the Trade Published Books
        1. Those books have a “List Price” on the cover (Gross)
        2. The author gets 15% of that Gross Price
        3. They get 7.5% on a paper back
        4. I get paid how the author gets paid.
          1. I get paid 15% of what the author gets paid with domestic deals
          2. I get 20% of what I get with foreighn deals
          3. I get paid when I deliver money to you.
        5. I am lucky that I have a wonderful controller and a great finance team here.
        6. We are independent so our sole purpose is working with authors.
        7. We are focused on making money for you.
  • Yfat, what mentor has made the biggest impact on your career thus far?
      1. I believe that you can really learn from anyone.
      2. There may be an unsuccessful person, in their own life, that can teach you something.
      3. My parents were business and life mentors to me.
      4. My commercial landlord from our building has been an invaluable resource to me.
        1. He taught me that, in transactions, if you want it and they do as well, you can find a way to work out the details to make it happen.
    1. Yfat, what is the story behind the name of the agency?
      1. Foundry is a place where steel is forged.
      2. We didn’t want our names on the door
      3. We wanted a place where our clients ideas would be turned into enduring products.
    2. What has been your competitive edge?
      1. We try to create a home where our authors can bring their ideas and we help them understand which part of their idea works in commercial trade publishing.
      2. We encourage our clients to 
        1. Go to the next level of their idea. We want to start at crazy. What if crazy is possible?
        2. Find their highest and best use of time.
  • Yfat Reiss Gendell, for our listeners out there who are aspiring authors, I would love for you to share how the book industry fits together. Let’s start with the literary agent, what is their typical role in the book writing process?
    1. They are someone who bridges the gap between you and the General Trade Publishing.
    2. My job is to remind you of the path that will keep you consistent with your everyday life.
    3. My job is to be an advisor.
  1. Yfat, what role do book publishers play?
    1. Publishers provide a professional editing job. They lend their name to your book. They pay to produce your inventory and pay to feed their distribution system.
    2. The publisher doesn’t perform your core competencies.
    3. A general trade publisher hires people who are experts in editing all categories of books. There is a tastemaker to the job of the publisher.
    4. The names you see on the book spines represent a large publisher with an imprint that is specialising in a specific category of book.
  2. Yfat Reiss Gendell, what has been the biggest adversity that you’ve had to fight through during your career?
    1. Compromise in relationships with those around you is mandatory but not compromising with yourself is also mandatory.
    2. I represent the late great Stan Lee. I was approached by Stan and his Co-Authors of his first adult long form novel.
    3. Despite being a tremendous lover of literature, he had never written an adult long form novel.
    4. I was charged to make sure he had a great relationship with a publisher.
    5. This was very hard. I had to do something non-traditional. I went to Stan and his co-authors and suggested to first introduce, to comic book fans who already love Stan, an audio original that would bridge the gap between comic book fans and fiction book fans.
    6. I did that first deal and after that… Nothing. 
    7. It was still on my to-do list to sell the book.
    8. I knew I had to help the world hear Stan Lee’s long form book.
  3. Yfat, you come across as a very proactive person…so how do you typically organize the first four hours of your and what time do you typically wake up?
    1. I wake up at 6:00 AM
    2. I have to be downstairs at 7:00 AM
    3. My best days begin when I can start earlier than when I am expected to show up for my family or the office.
    4. I like to think ahead to “What do I want to achieve with my day?”
    5. I think about what I want to give and get out of every hour and every meeting.
    6. When I do this, my whole day is better.
  4. Yfat Reiss Gendell are a few of your daily habits that you believe have allowed you to achieve success?
    1. If you are going to treat yourself as a machine that you expect to get 100% out of, you have to keep up with it.
    2. You have to fuel yourself with the things that will keep you at 100%
  5. Yfat Reiss Gendell, we fight that most successful entrepreneurs tend to have idiosyncrasies that are actually their super powers…what idiosyncrasy do you have?
    1. The inability to listen to something without thinking “What If?”
    2. There is the kid inside of me who is asking “What if?”
    3. That is a trouble making squeaky wheel that likes to see the alternative road. That trouble maker continues to be my best asset.
  6. What message or principle that you wish you could teach everyone?
    1. One of my favorite things to do is to ask anyone what their advice is. It is up to me to determine if it is good advice or not.
    2. You already know. Most of us fail to listen and fail to honor the “knowing” inside of each of us.
    3. I realise that I had the answer all along.


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