James McGinniss and business partner Barry Zucker met at Tom's Diner in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn one day last August to sip cherry-lime rickeys and hammer out the details of their long-shot plan to start a literary agency.
On Dec. 27, the realization of that dream will be in their hands as the first book sold by McGinniss Associates hits the shelves nationwide.
When the two young men took the leap and decided to work for themselves, McGinniss, 27, had recently left a two-year post as an assistant for top book agency Vigliano Associates, and Zucker, 26, had just completed an MBA and was working at an admissions office for a third-tier Connecticut college.
In other words, they had little to lose, and even less to spend. They put together a hundred bucks for a domain name, threw up McGinnissAssociates.com and began recruiting clients.
I was either going to go back to school to become a writer or do this. I was at a crossroads in my professional life, McGinniss said. Rather than wait in line at another agency passing the time and running down the clock on my twenties, I decided to take it on myself.
When they first started out, McGinniss mostly worked out of his sunny third-floor apartment on a leafy corner in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Takeout food and Diet Coke sustained him through many of the first post-launch days, but McGinniss spent long hours researching authors and speaking via Skype with Zucker, who now lives in nearby Hoboken, N.J. Full partners in their endeavor, the duo - who became good friends while working together as summer camp counselors in 2005 - executed their plan with the confidence of the hungry.
Zucker had the business acumen and McGinniss learned the ropes of the publishing industry during his time at Vigliano, but they never anticipated the rapid ascent his company, now based in midtown Manhattan, underwent in its first year.
Within a month we signed a client, and we later sold their book, McGinniss recalls. They were being pursued by the biggest names in the industry, so it was a major coup for us. We started [the company] as a lark, as an experiment, and when we signed them we really felt we were on the right path, we were meant to do this.
That first client was the anonymous architect (or architects?) of the hilarious website Christwire.org, and theirs is the aforementioned book being released two days after Christmas.
A blisteringly irreverent take on everything from politics to culture, the writers at Christwire - who call themselves the Christwire Flock - take the Stephen Colbert model of satire a step further, writing from the point of view of Christian Conservative extremists, and they get hundreds of thousands of pageviews for their efforts.
As the Village Voice puts it, [Christwire is] so good-and people on the Internet are so insane that no one gets it.
That bodes well for the Flock's book, which McGinniss talked them into writing and sold for between $50,000 and $100,000 to Kensington Publishing.
The book world was always the fated path for McGinniss, whose father is best-selling author Joe McGinniss and brother is novelist Joe McGinniss, Jr. He is also working on a novel of his own based on his experiences in the publishing world.
The road ahead is unclear as Zucker and McGinniss plan their next moves. But the work keeps coming, and McGinniss Associates has signed a string of major clients since Christwire, including its biggest deal yet, for an informant's tale of infiltrating a California biker gang, tentatively titled Gods of Mischief. The agency sold it earlier this year to Simon and Schuster for more than $100,000.