Interview with Literary Agent Harry Illingworth

Harry Illingworth is a literary agent at DHH Literary Agency, where he specialises in genre fiction and is actively building his list. He is also Marketing & Communications Manager at Goldsboro Books, an independent bookshop in Central London. Before that he gained experience in different departments of the publishing industry at Michael O’Mara Books, HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan. We interviewed him here.

1) How has your work in marketing and publicity informed your work as an agent?

It has helped hugely, allowing me to see what is selling in the industry, and what works for readers. I try and put all this to practice when I’m considering taking on a client as it allows me to compare and contrast with what is already out there. It means I’m also good at making a lot of noise about my authors’ books!

2) What do you look forward to most as your career progresses? 

I can’t wait to see the development of the authors I already represent and see what they come up with next, but also I just want to keep on discovering new talent as there’s such a thrill to reading a new and exciting manuscript for the first time.

3) What drew you to the crime/thriller and sci fi/fantasy genres?

They are what I like to read the most, so it made absolute sense to begin looking in these areas. I love being able to really escape into another world when I’m reading and these genres allow me to do just that. I only represent what I’m passionate about and these are the genres that really speak to me.

4) What’s the most common mistake you see in a pitch? How can it be avoided? 

I find that the most common mistakes are the most easily avoided ones. Submissions that say ‘Dear Agent’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern’ just mean that you immediately think the author hasn’t taken much care over the submission. Likewise, when you see 30 other recipients of the submission or there are spelling mistakes. It doesn’t take long to check these things and they are the kind of mistakes that cost you dearly.

5) What do you wish authors knew about the author-agent relationship before they establish one? 

That it’s a very close relationship, and you should really handpick which agents you think you’d like to represent. Make sure you’re sending your book to someone with the right interests, and remember that if an agent takes you on, they’re investing in your whole career. Getting an agent is only the beginning…

6) What would be your dream project to work on?

Right now I’d love to find a big genre-bending thriller that works in multiple markets, something with a really strong voice and original concept. And as ever, I’m also very keen to find a new epic fantasy project. I’ve just taken on a YA fantasy novel so, to be honest, you never know exactly what you’re looking for until you get it, but you can find more information on what I like on my bio page on the DHH website as I’d love to hear from you if you think your book is right for me.

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